Origami isn't a kid's craft — Joseph Wu uses the paper art to battle depression

The Vancouver-based artist uses the delicate art to deal with ADHD and depression.

The Vancouver-based artist uses the delicate art to deal with ADHD and depression

Joseph Wu creates characters out of origami shapes. (CBC Arts)

If you think of origami as a childhood craft, Joseph Wu's work is about to challenge your expectations. With a background in computer science and a lifelong passion for the arts, Vancouver-based Wu is one of the few people in the world with a full-time career in the Japanese paper folding art. And as it turns out, that perfectly suits the analytical, problem-solving and creative facets of his personality.

While many origami artists focus on the technical aspects of the craft, Wu is always more interested in telling a story. "I'm finding things that I want to say and I'm using origami as a medium to say them," he explains in the video below.

Watch the video:

Joseph Wu: Origami Artist

6 years ago
Duration 3:23
Vancouver artist Joseph Wu tells stories through origami.

"Technical skill and knowledge is great — you can't do much without it — but if that's the be all and end all, then it isn't art in any sense of the word," says Wu.

As a result, his original and incredibly complex designs include a world of mythological creatures, animals, pop culture icons, robots and masterfully crafted facial expressions.

Joseph Wu offers instructions on his website on how to fold your own origami. (CBC Arts)

For this artist, origami is also an important outlet to cope with his ADHD and depression. Wu's series Depression Is... showcases 12 pieces that explore different aspects or feelings associated with bouts of depression. "When struggling with things like depression, having something that takes you away from it is certainly helpful," he says.

In this video, Wu shares insight into his process and reflects on the importance of creativity. "The need to create things is very strong for me. Whether that's for a purpose or if it's just for my own sanity, the origami has given me a venue for that."

Joseph Wu creates many fanciful creatures using origami. (CBC Arts)

Find Joseph Wu on Facebook or Instagram.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.


Milena Salazar is a Costa Rican documentary filmmaker based in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish territory. She is fascinated with portraying internal landscapes, and how artists express their imagination into the world.