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Eric Joisel

We are sad to announce the passing of Eric Joisel on October 10, 2010, from complications of lung cancer.

Eric was a classically trained sculptor who turned to origami at the age of 27 and became captivated; as he described in the landmark origami documentary, "Between the Folds," at that point he "threw away" all his other sculptural activities and plunged wholeheartedly into the art. He became a professional origami artist in 1992 and, over the next 18 years, created a body of work of breathtaking beauty and life.

His work was remarkably diverse: he created animals and objects of many sorts, but he is best known for his work on the human form. Initially, he focused on faces, developing techniques for soft, rounded facial features and elaborately coiffed hair that defied description as origami; it did not seem possible that these figures, full of life, emotion, and sometimes whimsy, could be mere folded paper. For several years, he became know as "the master of faces" and inspired a stream of followers. But in the early years of the 21st century, he began creating full human forms, and it was then that his artistry soared to new heights, bringing an incredible richness of structure and detail to his figures – detailed that appeared effortless in the finished figure, and yet defied even approximation by the very few daring souls who attempted similar things.

Although Joisel was often self-deprecating about his technique, saying, "oh, there is no technique here, it is merely box-pleating" — in truth, he was a master of technique. Under his hands, every molecule of paper had its proper place; every edge had a reason; every wrinkle, a purpose. While the vast majority of folders approached design with the idea that once the "base" was folded, the battle was nearly over, to Eric, the "base" was the barest beginning of a skirmish. All of the work, all of the artistry, all of the folding took off from there.

He worked in a variety of papers and materials, often using laminates of paper, foil, and heavily painting or gessoing them before or after folding; but he also worked in pure, raw kozo paper, particularly in his later years. During his last two years of life as he battled lung cancer, he took on his most ambitious project: the "Commedia del Arte" figures, a representation of the seven deadly sins as costumed humans, each folded from a single uncut square of uncolored kozo paper. Even as the cancer attacked his body, Eric soared to his greatest artistic heights; the results are a triumph of art, and of Eric's character and spirit.

And that spirit is, perhaps, his greatest legacy; for Eric was widely known as a great teacher, a man full of fun and life, and, as many would say, "one of the nicest people I've ever met." Although he is now gone, his legacy, his artwork, and his spirit of fun, friendliness, and joie de vivre will live on forever.

A gallery of his works may be found on his website, which will be maintained as a memorial into the future. Please stop and visit http://www.ericjoisel.com.

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