Visual Mindfulness: Intuitive Meditation for the Senses

An unexpected visitor waves through the windows, into Book Arts. It’s just hardly after noon on a Wednesday…we’re open to the public, but oops, a staff meeting ran long (as they always do), and we pop up to unlock the door. Always in some composition of blue, gray, and flowing, Kate glides through the door, eager to have a conversation about her upcoming Visual Mindfulness Meditation Workshop. Patiently, she waits for me, taking in the work hung in the gallery–our Members’ Exhibition–as I scramble myself together. I scribble down a few points I want to be sure we touch upon…her artistry & expertise, (and just what is visual meditation?). Okay, ready.
A little bit about Kate Stapleton Parzych (from one point of view–mine)
I’ve always loved working with Kate…her patient grace and inquisitive nature, and the way her mouth pauses and eyes squint a bit while she gathers a thought, then–eyes wide–as she lets out her new thought! Perhaps you’ve taken a workshop with her, or know her as a photographer or a teacher…if so, you know how she can change a room into a calm space for contemplating and art making. What I’ve recently learned is that Kate also leads Friday evening meditations at Yoga Parkside and offers private meditation consultations, following a practice called the Radiance Sutras. The Visual Mindfulness Meditation workshops Kate has begun to host in the Book Arts gallery are such a no-brainer. The meditations beautifully marry her art making and visual skills with her roots in yoga and meditation. Match made.
More about this meditation….
The hour and a half meditation is split up into a a few separate episodes…a few 5 minute exercises concentrating on artworks we feel drawn to, and a longer 20 minute meditation that feels like a refreshing dip.
While chatting, we dive deeper into what a visual meditation is. Kate stresses there are “10,000 ways to get into meditation,” and it’s not always in the stereotypical way we think…think Buddhist monks, or folks sitting crossed-legged and silent. While rooted in history & incredibly valid, it doesn’t work for everyone. Even a little daydream experience is a meditation, Kate explains. We don’t have to be void of thought in visual meditation, either. We can give those thoughts space, and see where we go. My favorite line Kate uttered during our conversation? “You can’t think nothing–that’s called dead.”

Kate & I talk about how we’re so bombarded by visual imagery everywhere: electronic everything, ads, billboards, bananas! (Okay, that one’s just me, we didn’t talk about bananas…but it is a fruit with an ad on it!) Our constant exposure to images doesn’t end…so much we tend to gloss over what we see, can’t take it all in. Visual meditation affords those who experience it the space to slow down and really look at the artwork, take in the color, the movement, the process. Kate prods: Looking at this piece, where does it transport you? What does it make you think about? Why? She acts almost as a guide to experience the artwork in a deeply personal way, offering us a space to share our thoughts & feelings aloud, or remain with them in solitude. Whether we share or not, what’s most important is that we set aside a time to experience this time of reflection.


Kate tells me visual meditation is an opportunity to activate all the senses. No only sight, but sound, smell and taste. For those who participate, she makes herbal tea, and chooses a light soundtrack. In the spring, during artist Mark Lavatelli’s “Trees & Bees” exhibition of expressive tree monotypes, Kate opted for the light sound of chirping birds, transporting us into a lush forest. Activating the senses so fully allows participants to feel relaxed, more in-tune with the artwork, the space, and hopefully, themselves. What’s most interesting, too, is how the meditations change when the gallery changes. Every new exhibition sparks a new energy, a new soundtrack, perhaps a different aromatic tea…


So, why in the Book Arts Gallery?

Art making is therapeutic, letterpress is slow, printmaking is process…doesn’t this all feel like all feel like a meditation of sorts? The world moves so fast, and sometimes, when we’re able to, we are allowed the opportunity to slow down. In our conversation, Kate mentioned there have been studies where researchers find people look at each artwork when visiting a gallery for about 6 seconds. We have one and a half hours together, in the gallery. Let’s take the opportunity. 

Joining in on a Visual Meditation
Kate will lead a Visual Meditation in the gallery on Saturday, August 17th from 10-11:30am. 
Class fee is $20, $18 for Book Arts Members, and open to all who wish to participate.
To rsvp, find out more information here.
Participants are welcome to bring a pillow, yoga mat, or blanket to make themselves comfortable in our gallery space. 
Questions about the meditation? Let me know (, and I can also put you in touch with Kate.
Thank you. I hope we’ll be seeing you in our gallery soon.
Today’s blog was written by Rosemary Williams, Book Arts Education Director. Have an innovative idea to activate our space? Let her know at  And, she wants to let you know fall workshops are coming out soon–look out!!

The History of Woodblock Printing

It’s that time of year again folks! Buffalo BookFest is upon us! With the promise of steamroller prints, countless vendors, and free hands-on demos all day, we’re anxiously awaiting for BookFest to begin!


In the meantime, let’s take a look at the process that allows us to operate that awesome, massive steamroller in the first place. Woodblock printing is a relief print technique in which images, designs, or words are carved in reverse onto a block of wood using wood carving tools. The image is then inked and printed onto paper, cloth, or other materials. Though this printing method is now used rather casually and has experienced a sort of resurgence in society, it is the oldest form of printing and began as a traditional technique which changed society as we know it.

Woodblock printing is thought to be the very first form of printing that took place in the world, long before any sort of assistive machinery was invented for the printing process. This method of printing originated in Asia, specifically China, and some of the earliest examples of Chinese woodblock printing date back to before 220 AD. A notable achievement, the Tang and Song dynasties developed these first forms of printing and moveable type. Up until the 19th century, woodblock printing was the most popular and common form of printing in East Asia. After its Asian origin, woodblock printing spread to Europe where it was further used to print books on alchemy and medicine, religious texts, calendars, and images and patterns for clothing and art.

So why exactly is woodblock printing so important? Why does it even matter? Well, the invention of woodblock printing meant the invention of information; more specifically, the spread of information. Woodblock printing allowed for the spread of information, religious texts, and news, making literacy more accessible to the general population. This concept is a common thread throughout history; the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg sparked a movement of increased literacy throughout Europe, and directly lead to the rise and spread of religion and revolution.

Though now used for seemingly less revolutionary projects, woodblock printing has resurfaced as a niche artform utilized by many smaller printing shops, including our very own Book Arts Center! We plan to put woodblock printing in the spotlight at our upcoming Buffalo BookFest, Saturday July 13th. Come out and join us from 12-5 for a full day of free printing demos, an artisan market chock full of talented local artists, and the beloved steamroller which will be used to create massive, one of a kind woodblock prints!

Learn more & join us on July 13th!

Member Spotlight: Molly Beres

Molly Beres is a member who first began her relationship with the Book Arts Center six years ago after taking a screen printing class. Flash forward to some time away from Buffalo, and Molly has returned this past January and been a regular in the community since, coming in to volunteer at the Center every Thursday, bringing a very free spirited creativity with her. Since then, she has familiarized herself with letterpress and screen printing equipment and created numerous digital art designs for the Center to sell in their shop. I asked Molly about her time with Book Arts, specifically looking into how the Center has inspired her own art, and what she loves so much about volunteering. Molly stressed Book Arts’ cause as a huge part of her enjoyment, saying that she believes it is incredibly important to “keep old mediums alive,” and remember the charm of the old way of doing things.

For Molly, this goes hand in hand with her love of Mid-Century design, which the Center is chockfull of. She cites the variety of old wood type as a huge inspiration for many of her printing projects. Molly’s medium of choice is mainly digital art, which proves to be a much cheaper and easier investment for a young artist, but she also loves working “analog” with graphite and ink.

Molly, with a deep appreciation for cassettes and the starting crackle of vinyl records, names vintage cookbooks, advertisements, and 60s Disney movies as other sources of inspiration. With live action productions like That Darn Cat and The Parent Trap, she finds the hokey set design calling to her art.

Coming from a strong Polish-American family, it’s no surprise that our conversation drifted to memories of bingo nights in small Catholic churches, packed with grandma-like figures with dabbers in every color imaginable. Molly reflected on these interactions as a joyous and youthful part of herself, one who still participates in Bingo nights and the little traditions that only a true Polish Buffalonian can cherish. This niche heritage brings us to another crucial part of Molly’s art: the infamous Easter butter lamb, which Molly names as her favorite piece she’s created. Taking the form of an enamel pin which Molly designed and produced, she finds this piece to be one which has received great feedback from customers and resulted in plenty of shared stories of community, Easters with butter lambs, and yes, small Polish women at bingo night.

Though living in the modern world, it is clear that much of Molly’s work reflects on the charm of the “olden days,” the quaint traditions of family, and the campy charisma found in vintage materials. Molly herself having “gone through a quarter life crisis” and earning two BAs, encouraged me to pursue the art and interests that I want to, even if stability in life is not guaranteed. In a candid moment, Molly revealed advice to me which I find crucial for all young artists: “If you don’t pursue it,” she says, “you may wake up in fifty years and regret it for the rest of your life.”

Find Molly Illustration on Etsy and Instagram!

Written by Sage Enderton, Communications Intern.

Want to get involved like Molly? Head on over to the Membership page to see how 🙂

Member Spotlight: Belinda Covell


June is Member’s Month here at the Book Arts Center, and we’re thrilled to continue spotlighting some of our dedicated and hardworking members! This week, we’re looking at Belinda Covell! Covell is a Buffalonian verging on one year of membership at the WNY Book Arts Center, and she’s made it clear that she’s loved every second of it, naming the Center as one of her very favorite places to be. Belinda began her involvement by taking letterpress classes, saying the experience was “love at first block.” (Get it? Like printing block? No? Okay.) During her first class, she was lent an interrobang, a block which combines the exclamation point and question mark, and immediately felt hooked by the letterpress printing process.



Belinda has printed greeting cards and books, and has even eaten one! (At the Edible Book Festival, that is…) When asked about a favorite piece that she’s created, she names her rose designed cards, which she uses for “every card-giving opportunity” she can find. Belinda describes her experiences with the Book Arts Center as “life-improving,” bordering on life-changing, feeling it is a wonderful resource for “all things bookish.” Belinda emphasizes the kindness and generosity of the Book Arts community, and felt that when the opportunity to volunteer with the Book Arts Center arose, it was an “of course!” moment for her, no hesitation needed. Belinda accentuates the point that “knowledge is power,” no matter the context, and that the Book Arts Center has provided her with that power.


Member Spotlight: Sal Sciandra

Salvatore Sciandra has been a member of the WNY Book Arts Center on and off again for almost ten years, actively participating in the book arts community as frequently as possible; attending openings, volunteering as often as he can, selling his personal work at the Book Arts Center, and even entering a dish into the Edible Book Fair. Salvatore’s personal medium of choice is to begin with pen and paper, used for the first passes of his illustrations. From there, his work enters a digital phase where it is scanned into a computer and he is able to clean-up and color his pieces using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop.

I was interested in Salvatore’s ties to the Book Arts Center, how it has inspired him, and how it has affected his art. Salvatore feels that the Book Arts Center is a reminder that there are still local opportunities and places to feature artists and even give them a marketplace to sell their artwork, something which is becoming increasingly difficult for artists of all kinds. He names the Book Arts Center as a sort of personal motivation, because he knows they’ll “always be willing to show [his] stuff.”

When I asked about his pull to comic illustration, Salvatore reflected on this father, who would often take him and his brother to Sunday newsstands to pick out comic books. Salvatore also mentioned the abundance of Richard Scarry books in his household as he grew up; Scarry, who published over 300 books, is often regarded as one of the most successful children’s book authors to date. Many of Scarry’s books focus on anthropomorphic animals, and this is an aspect Salvatore seems to have enjoyed and picked up within his own work. Salvatore is an both an illustrator and author, featuring works such as “The Casebook of Elijah Snugs” and “Impressive Mammals of the African Continent.” 

Salvatore has created quite a few characters in his comics, but his favorites are Snugs and Winston, a snide koala detective and his worrisome pig sidekick. Part of Salvatore’s draw to these characters are their dialogues; Snugs making “some of the most snide comments [he] can think of,” and Winston often uttering things “[he] can hear his fiance saying,” which he promises is not an insult.

I asked Salvatore about his career path as an illustrator; some people always knew what they wanted to be, and I was curious if Salvatore fell into this category. His response?

“There were times I forgot I did, but I’ve always known.”

MemberSpotlight: Hanna Hoffman

This week, we are shining the spotlight on one of our member consignment artists, Hanna Hoffman! Hanna owns SparkMarks, a brand that creates unique and individually made bookmarks. 

Hanna’s journey in making bookmarks began through passing down the value and importance of reading to her daughter. She said, “I read to her every night when she was very little and it was some of the best bonding time for us.” Hanna was a young mom and passing this down to her daughter was the one thing she knew was essential to do. The first time Hanna made a bookmark was actually a present for her daughter. 

“I sat in her room one day while she was away at camp and contemplated a thoughtful surprise for her return home. I cut up some construction paper and used fabric paints to create a fun bookmark that said ‘I love when you read’, decorated with colorful designs all over it.”

Her daughter really liked this and started requesting more bookmarks for each new book she had. So Hanna decided to share this inspiration by making and selling SparkMarks. She said that she makes these because personalized  aesthetic art can make reading books more fun.

These bookmarks come in all different styles for the unique and aesthetic tastes of their owners. The book marks are thick and sturdy, they are made from either acid-free paper or paper formed from the renewable fibers of the Lokta plant. Each bookmark is topped with different colored tassels, ribbons or a simple design.

Hanna was lucky enough to find WNYBAC right around the time she started making her bookmarks. ” I was amazed to find something so cool even existed,” She said. “I immediately got a membership and saw it as the perfect venue for the bookmarks.” Hanna explained that it is important to her to align her personal values with her business and WNYBAC fully serves that purpose in Buffalo’s local art community, so that is what really drew her to bring her business here.

The SparksMarks business is not Hanna’s primary job, so it hard to find a the balance and time to work on it. But she still is inspired to keep going through her daughter and her own love for art. She hopes her bookmarks can inspire creative thinking and the simple charm of settling into a good book for anyone who buys them!

Stop in our store or check out the SparkMarks Etsy page to get some unique aesthetic bookmarks!

A Look into Kathie Aspaas

        Kathie Aspaas is a mixed media artist and printmaker originating from Houston, Texas, and is the owner of Aspen House Press, a studio and workshop in Williamsville, NY. Believing that art is a crucial piece of her identity and growing up with two creative parents, it is no wonder that Kathie Aspaas’ art is rich with emotion and intent. Recalling her time in high school, Aspaas describes her first experiences with printmaking as “powerful,” something which all artists can only hope to feel from their craft. When her school’s art program was faced with a lack of funding, Kathie took matters into her own hands, using her uncle’s carving tools and pieces of wood to create woodblock prints. Aspaas’ work takes inspiration from poetry and the natural environment around her, which often seeps into her choice of subject and color, and further encourages her to use sustainable forms of art-making. Aspaas feels she is “deeply connected to the earth,” and recycles and composts as much as she can to avoid adding to landfills. During warmer months, Aspaas plants and harvests, experimenting with plant color pigments and new, natural textures for collagraphs.

        Additionally, Aspaas names artists such as Arthur Dove, an early American modernist who is considered to be the first abstract painter, and Romare Bearden, an African-American painter and collagist, as inspiration for her own artwork. Banksy, a political street artist named as another inspiration, sticks out to me in particular; Banksy’s work focuses on direct political activism, a concept which Aspaas subtly imbibes into her own work. Aspaas moves to create environmentally conscious art that “comes from the heart” and touches on activism, a major theme in her upcoming exhibition, Soft Propaganda. The presence of natural materials throughout Soft Propaganda accentuates the much needed focus on natural truth in a society which is becoming detrimental to its own democratic values.

        Delving into these topics of democracy, freedom, and defense against deceit, Aspaas views Soft Propaganda as a “shield” against injustice in all forms. Aspaas believes that activism is a “civic duty” of the American people, and that “forever we must stand together for truth and freedom with integrity and equal rights for all.” Aspaas views art as a core part of life, a way to effect change in both yourself and the world around you, and encourages young artists to take their time discovering as many art forms as possible. She hopes that “the new generations of artists will align with math and science, literacy, technology and commerce to create a more peaceful planet,” as “art is a universal language and communication through that language is an enormous opportunity.”       

Kathie Aspaas views Western New York Book Arts Center as “an inspiration” in her life, receptive to her artwork and encouraging her to create in new, unique ways. Aspaas enjoys using alternative methods of printmaking, which she often finds after playing around with the letterpresses in non-linear and abstract forms. When asked about a favorite piece that she’s created, Aspaas names “Blue Green Canyon.” Created in 2017, it’s a “splash of color” inspired by Max Ernst and the German Dada artists. “Blue Green Canyon” will be on display in WNY Bookarts as a part of Soft Propaganda, open June 7th – July 3rd.

Saying Goodbye to Our Spring Interns

This past few months of 2019, WNYBAC has had the pleasure of adding to our team Elise and Isabella. Both Elise and Isabella attend Canisius College and chose to work with us to gain experience in their respective fields of study. Now that their spring semester is coming to an end, we have to say goodbye! But first, we want to let you know a little about who has been working behind the scenes and with the WNYBAC team over the past few months.

Hello! I am Isabella Okuns, a soon-to-be graduating Senior in Communications and Journalism at Canisius. I am the communications and marketing intern here at WNYBAC, which means I have been working in the center’s marketing department by writing and publishing blog posts, Facebook posts and the email messages you may have received from us. 

What will you remember the most about your time here?

I think I will remember the most volunteering at this year’s Edible Book Festival when I served at the “Make your own Sploosh” station in the studio. It was cool seeing all the edible book entries in the main store and being able to participate as a volunteer. I met a lot of new and interesting people and the entries were very delicious! Because of my school and internship schedules, I hardly have time to actually participate in WNYBAC events so this was really important and memorable for me. I will also remember taking on my first big independent project with the Women of WNYBAC campaign for Women’s month in March. 

How did you come across WNYBAC as a possible internship?

One of my professors mentioned it to me as I was looking for a place to intern during my last semester. She knows I am interested in arts and non-profits, so once I found out about this I was highly interested. And it turned out to be really good and fun for me!

What have you accomplished here?

One of our Women of WNYBAC’s postcards project for Women’s Month

In March, I had my own Month long project in connection with this year’s Women’s Month. I made a month long series of spotlights on some of our WNYBAC Women and what they do here. It was great getting to meet new women who have influenced the art world in Buffalo in either a little way or a big way. And it was important for me to be able to showcase great inspiring women for Women’s month. I even got to work with one of interviewees, Katy Sloan, on her screen printing project for Women’s month. I also took over the blog after the former apprentice in charge left, it was a big responsibility and I think I did a pretty good job with it.

What’s next?

I am still trying to land on my feet, but I want to take it each step at a time. I do not have a set plan I am moving to next, whether a job or school. But as I keep applying for positions and I am just going to work on myself and work on my portfolio until the next path in my life becomes clear. Now I am just focused on finals, graduation, and applications.

Hi! My name is Elise Miller and I’m the studio/graphic design intern at the Book Arts Center. I design products to be printed using the letterpress or the screen printing methods. I have made cards and t-shirts and exhibition materials for the store.

What will you remember the most about your time here?

I really enjoyed having the freedom and flexibility to make my own designs.

How did you come across WNYBAC as a possible internship?

I first heard about this place in high school, my high school art teacher was really into bookmaking and she always recommended that I stop by and take a class here, but I never got the chance. I finally came here when I took a class at Canisius during my sophomore year called print design and we came here and made something in the letterpress studio. I remember seeing the other interns, printmaking students and art students working here from UB and thinking how cool it is for them to work here. Then, when I was trying to find an internship for this semester, WNYBAC was among my top choices of places to consider. So I emailed them and they got back to me positively. I chose WNYBAC because I had come here in the past and always wanted to come back and be more involved.

One of Elise’s cards she made for Valentine’s day

What have you accomplished here?

To me, just making cards that I can see on display to be sold is my biggest accomplishment. That someone might actually buy my artwork is a great accomplishment. One particular one I am proud of is one I made for Valentine’s day that said, “You’re Just My Type” because they posted it on Instagram, and it got like over 200 likes. So that is my biggest accomplishment, that people like my work.

Elise working in the studio

What’s next?

After graduation, I am taking a few months to just work on my own projects before jumping into any specific job. I want to work on my own art, do my own studying. I am considering doing an internship at 19 IDEAS, another marketing agency. I am also going to take a summer class at an art school and then I will consider where I want to go. I have like 3 paths in front of me; one would be being more of a fine artist where I just make products, or consider more like an agency and working on my way to becoming a creative director, or get into education, social change and saving the world. So those are my 3 future paths that I kind of want to combine or go on separately.

And that brings us to the end of our Spring Internship! Elise and I had a great time working here over the past few months and we are sad to leave. Learning and being able to contribute to the Book Arts Center was a great experience for both of us! We would like to thank everyone; Rosemary, Mel, Kate, Gail, Molly, Zach, Branwyn, all the volunteers, board members and all the interesting people we got to meet while we were here! Thank you for having us, it was an incredible experience and we hope to keep in touch!

A Goodbye Selfie!

A Brief History of Screenprinting

Screen printing is one of our popular activities here at WNYBAC. We even offered a CMYK Screenprint workshop yesterday in our studio! Some of our board members, apprentices and volunteers are very skilled at screen printing, and you can see that with all the different totes and t-shirts we have on sale in our store. We are going to have a look at how far screenprinting has come and how it became such a staple in the art of printing.

A Screenprinting Press

Screenprinting originated in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) as a way of transferring designs onto fabrics. Japan was one of the first Asian countries to start make recognizable forms of screenprinting. The Japanese used simple stenciling techniques to create imagery on fabric. Stencils were originally cut out of paper and the mesh they used was woven from human hair. Ink was forced through the mesh onto the fabric with stiff brushes.

The art form made its way to Europe in the 18th Century but did not immediately become largely accepted. France began using silk screens to print on to fabric earlier in the 17th Century, although they still used stiff brushes to push it through the mesh. But it eventually led to the practice of stretching silk over a frame to support the stencils. And in the 19th Century when silk mesh was more available to be traded from Asia, it proved to be a profitable outlet for the medium. It grew in traction and popularity around Europe.

Using a squeegee on the silk screen

In the early 1900s, squeegees were formed and used as a way of pulling ink through the screen mesh. Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens are credited with revolutionizing the commercial screen printing industry by their introduction of photo-imaged stencils to screenprinting. 

The screenprinting process was initially used to print interesting colors and patterns on wall paper and fabrics and then it was by advertisers for campaigns. Eventually artists and commercial printers have adopted it as a new way of reproducing their works on different materials such as t-shirts, DVDs, glass, paper, metal and wood. 

A group of artists in the 1938 formed the National Serigraph Society, which included artists such as Max Arthur Cohn and Anthony Velonis. This society coined the term Serigraphy (a term meaning “seri” silk in Latin and “graphein” to draw in Greek) as a way to differentiate their own artistic application of screen printing on to paper from the industrial, commercial use of the process.

The famous Marilyn Monroe screen print by Andy Warhol.

By the 1960’s Pop Artists such as Peter Blake, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg used screen printing, mostly serigraphy, as an important element of their art. This led to its popularity as a medium for creating contemporary artworks. Any Warhol’s 1962 Marilyn Diptich is one of his most famous silk prints.

American entrepreneur, artist and inventor Michael Vasilantone created, developed, used, and sold a rotatable multi-color garment screen printing machine in 1960. His patented creation resulted in a boom in printed T-shirts and made his garment screen printing machine became so popular, it now makes up for over half of the screen printing activity in the United States.

Another popular form of screenprinting which we also use here at WNYBAC, is the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ‘key’) method. It is widely known as graphic screenprinting and is used for making larger prints for things like posters. 

The Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center said about the practice of screenprinting;

“Screenprinting is arguably the most versatile of all printing processes. Since rudimentary screenprinting materials are so affordable and readily available, it has been used frequently in underground settings and subcultures, and the non-professional look of such DIY culture screenprints have become a significant cultural aesthetic seen on movie posters, record album covers, flyers, shirts, commercial fonts in advertising, in artwork and elsewhere.”

Gadzookians making Customary Screenprinted T-shirts

Screenprinting has such a rich and interesting history and it is cool to know that some of the world’s most famous artworks were made from this method too! Make sure to check our website for any upcoming screenprinting workshops or come into our store and buy some of our artists screenprinted works!

Check out the Screenprints in our Store!!!

The History of the Art of Origami

One of our most popular workshops, especially for children, is the Origami making workshops. Whether it is bookmaking or flower-making, it is a fun way for the little ones to create some craft work and learn a new skill. 

The craft of Origami is popularly known as the art of paper folding and originates from Japanese culture. In modern times, it is used to characterize all forms of paper folding regardless of the culture it originates from. Japanese culture brought origami up to be a very high class art form. The art form has been passed down orally for generations.

Paper was invented in China around 105 A.D., and was brought to Japan by monks in the sixth century A.D. Handmade paper was a luxury item only available to the wealthy, and paper folding in ancient Japan was strictly for ceremonial purposes, often religious in nature.

By the Edo period (1603-1868), origami had become recreational as well as ceremonial in Japan, which means it consisted of a lot more cuts and folds.

An early origami folding technique

According to sources, the earliest reference to a paper model type in Japan is from a short poem by Ihara Saikaku from 1680. The poem mentions a traditional butterfly design used during Shinto weddings. Folding filled some ceremonial functions in that time period in Japanese culture; noshi,  a kind of ceremonial origami fold were attached to gifts to express “good wishes”. This evolved and developed into a form of entertainment. 

Paper Cranes at WNYBAC

According to the PBS documentary, BETWEEN THE FOLDS, the first known written  instructions for paper folding appeared in 1797, with Akisato Rito’s Sembazuru Orikata, or “thousand crane folding.” Orikata was the name used to refer to paper folding art before the 1800s when it morphed into origami. 

But the art of paper folding is not just concentrated in Japan, it was also a growing art form in Europe. The tradition of paper folding in Europe dates back to the 12th century or possibly before, when the Moors brought a tradition of “mathematically based folding” to Spain. The Spanish further developed paper folding into an artistic practice called papiroflexia or pajarita. By the 1800s, kindergarten-aged children in European countries such as England and Germany, and children in Japan were learning paper folding.

In the early 1900s, Akira Yoshizawa, a well-known master at origami, and others began creating and recording original origami art works. Akira Yoshizawa was particularly responsible for a number of new creations in modern origami, such as wet-folding and the Yoshizawa–Randlett diagramming system. His  inspired a new age of the art form. During the 1980s, origami enthusiasts began systematically studying the mathematical properties of folded paper. This led to an increase in the more complex nature of origami models.

Some Origami Flowers made at WNYBAC 

Modern forms of origami are most concerned with the challenge of folding one square piece of paper without using cuts and glue, like we do here at WNYBAC. The most common origami creations are the paper crane and boat. We create even more unique and beautiful origami pieces like at the Kids’ Origami workshop we had last weekend where the participants made beautiful paper flowers pictured above.

With such a rich history, it is no wonder why origami is still a very unique art form. And if you manage to look closely around our store, you might be surprised by a few origami pieces sitting around!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our funders listed below, for providing support to WNYBAC's ongoing programs taking place throughout Western New York:

NYSCA M & T Art 4 Moore Zenger Group Evans Bank Community Foundation Baird Foundation
Cameron Jane Wendt Foundation StoryGrowing