Swans are among the most popular forms created in folded paper art of origami. Origami swans are especially popular as decorations at weddings and anniversary parties, though they also sometimes feature at graduations and other celebrations of life passages.
Origami was created about 2000 years ago in China, then adapted about 500 years later in Japan. One of the traditional uses of origami in both China and Japan was for ceremonial papers, including marriage certificates. Over the years, origami has evolved into a true art, one that can be enjoyed by beginners but reaches the heights of intricacy and beauty when the paper is folded in the hands of an expert. Origami swans have always been popular, because they can be created with simple folds and are easy to make, even for beginners.
Origami swans are often used as wedding and anniversary decorations because swans mate for life, and are a long-standing symbol of eternal love. Origami swans have also become associated with art and with life passages because in Hindu mythology, they are ridden by Saraswati and by Brahma.
While origami swans can be made by beginners with just a few simple folds, not all origami swans are that simple to create. Traditional origami calls for creating a figure or shape from a single sheet of folded paper. Modular origami is a 3-D folded paper art in which figures are created by assembling pre-folded shapes into elaborate sculpture. A typical modular swan, which might be used as a centerpiece at a wedding ceremony, could be built from hundreds of folded triangles. These elaborate modular origami swans are a true labor of love.
The only material used in constructing or folding an origami swan is paper, but the type of paper used makes an enormous difference in the finished appearance of the swan. Paper that is two different colors can add interesting accents to the swan's wings and beak, for instance. A modular origami swan made entirely of folded dollar bills makes a popular and unique table decoration or gift for a graduation party or wedding shower.
Because origami swans can be made with such basic and simple folds, they make a good base for experimenting with different sizes, colors and styles of paper. Try folding origami swans with patterned paper, or with found paper like the comic section of the newspaper. Fold and unfold the papers until you find a pleasing arrangement of colors, or use a paper type of which you have multiple sheets. You can buy paper made specifically for origami folding at many arts and crafts supply stores or online. You can also kits to create modular origami swans that include folding and assembly instructions along with all the sheets of paper you'll need to complete the model.