Orizomegami inspired project lets you unfold a surprise

This project is inspired by orizomegami, a Japanese art of dipping pleated rice paper into vegetable dyes to make beautiful designs. Learn more about other forms of Asian art at the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler Galleries (asia.si.edu).

The really cool part of this project is experimenting with different folds and color combos; to get you started, follow these steps for a few basic motifs.



Iron a few coffee filters to make them flat. (An adult’s job — iron up to four at a time on the highest setting, no steam.) Set them out on a covered surface with lots of paper towels and a few bowls of liquid watercolor paint. (We used Sargent Art Watercolor Magic, $11; amazon.com.) You can also make it from cake watercolors: Remove each one and place in a bowl, then add a few drops of water at a time, mixing as you go, until the paint becomes a thin liquid.



Show your child these techniques to start— then encourage her to experiment on her own!



Accordion-fold the coffee filter in 1-inch segments to get one long rectangle. Then accordion-fold the rectangle in 3/4-inch segments to get a small rectangle.

—SMALL-SCALE PLAID: Make smaller (about 1/2 inch) folds to get more stripes — try pleating 11 times in both steps.

—LARGE-SCALE PLAID: Dip the filters slowly to get all over color. (This works nicely with hues near each other on the color wheel.)



Fold the coffee filter in half three times so you have a cone shape. Unfold into a half-circle, then use the creases as a guide to accordion-fold the filter along its radius, like a fan, until you get a skinny triangle. Fold one corner of the rounded edge down to meet the opposite long edge, forming a triangle. Then accordion-fold the paper two more times, matching the corners to long edges, to get a small trapezoid.

—FLOWER: To get color in the middle only, don’t fold up the point before you dip.

—MANDALA: Dip very quickly to leave white space in between the colors.



Play with other porous materials (such as tissue paper, newspaper, or fabric) to see how the paint absorbs with each.