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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.

Comments

With great respect to one whose work I will always be in awe of. I have never met nor spoke to Eric but have spent many hours with his art. Thank you for inspiration and sharing your talent.
Linda

Thanks for your work, Mr. Eric.

he is the best origamist ive seen my favorite model is his hedgehog

I was always fascinated by his work and admired it greatly. I had the good fortune of meeting him at PCOC in Vancouver, BC, and he signed his book that I had purchased "To Eric, The Viking I was not expecting to encounter in Canada!". We joked about having the same name and that yet another Eric was there (Gjerde). It felt "Happy" to be around him. I will miss his presence on this planet. I too will continue to learn from him by working with his book "3D MASKS & BUSTS".
sadly,
Eric Bergmark

The world has lost a little of its light with the passing of Eric Joisel. For those of us fortunate enough to fold with Eric, the debate over origami as an art or a craft was instantly ended. With amazing skill, patience, and above all, humor, he inspired us to see and explore paper in ways we had never imagined. Origami itself has been forever elevated to a higher level by the generous Frenchman who embodied the very spirit of origami...sharing. He will be sorely missed.
Lisa Helfer

The only time I had the pleasure of meeting Eric was at the SEOF 2002. And I shall treasure the memories of the jovial bantering that we shared together. I find the most striking and endearing thing about Eric is his ready wit, and his ability to laugh at himself. He was totally unpretentious and humble inspite of his achievements and high standing in the origami community. Origami has lost a true pioneering artist and gentleman. He will be sorely missed.

Ron

It is hard to believe

  • not to hear your laughter anymore,
  • not to see your smile,
  • no longer to enjoy your sometimes crazy ideas.

But you will live on in the beautiful creatures you brought to life and in the hearts of those who had the privilege to meet you and spend time with you. Farewell and thank you for having been the person you were. You enriched the life of many and your traces will stay forever.
Susanna

With deep sadness I have heard the terrible news. With a unique style, and indescribable sense of humor, Eric was one of a kind, a true artist, who took this form of art into new heights.

I met him and his work once, in our 4th convention in Jerusalem. If you were lucky enough to do so, too, you can understand the overwhelming feeling I had. For those who haven't, there is no way I will be able to put it into words.

What a great loss!

Ilan Garibi, Israel.

I first met Eric at the last origami convention held in Charlotte, NC. The last time I saw him was at the Pacific Coast Origami Conference in Vancouver. As many people have remarked, Eric was "down to earth" and self-deprecating for someone with his prodigious talent. I remember his telling us that most of his origami teaching in France was taken up with simple models like the crane, and that youngsters, after seeing his awesome animals, faces, and figures, would sometimes remark: "But can you also fold airplanes?" Charlotte and I are reminded of Eric everyday when we look at one of his magnificent mermaid - on - a - rock models in our living room display case. Thanks to the "Between the Folds" film, which I have watched for the umptieth time, Eric's unique personality, and high art will continue the brighten the world of origami while also making us sadly contemplate how much more he would have contributed to it.

Arnold Tubis

Carlsbad, CA

In 2004, on the seashores of the world wide web, his masks showed me how little I knew about origami and made me an eager learner. Now I lost a chance to meet the master whose work lit my love for modern origami. Rest in peace, Eric Joisel, a true poet in paper.

Sanja

I met Eric at the Vancouver PCOC and was fortunate to take a class from him. He was immensely talented, very humble, and had a warm sense of humor. I am selfishly disappointed that we will no longer see any more new works from his masterful fingers. Perhaps right now he is now working on origami portraits of the saints and angels. God bless you Eric and R.I.P.

My elementary students were so inspired by Eric's work and good humor in Between the Folds. I immediately let them know of the loss to the artistic community. There was true sadness in the room. It is amazing how far he reached.

Nancy

Our community has lost another of its great souls, and it is a time for mourning for all of us. I was fortunate to have met Eric at the Israel Origami Convention in 2008, where he was the guest of honor. As I think back on what it was like to meet him, I'm struck by the number of "not only"s that apply to him.

Not only was he a supremely gifted artist, but also an amazingly gifted teacher.
Not only was he enthusiastic about teaching advanced folders, but also novices and those with disabilities.
Not only was he gregarious, but happy to sit down one-on-one with anyone seeking his advice, or simply to chat.
He was the origami equivalent of filmmaker David Lean (Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia)--not only grand in scale, but also deeply personal, idiosyncratic, and complex.

Eric lives on in his magnificent creations, and in Vanessa Gould's wonderful film "Between the Folds," which captures him so beautifully.

Joel Stern

It's heartbreaking news about Eric.
The world lost an incredible artist and a great person.
We met him at the MFPP convention in Paris in 2000 and then at SEOF in 2002, where we spent much time together preparing origami display in a great company of origami artists and enthusiasts. Our working space where we prepared our Oriland was right next to his in a huge studio in Charlotte and we had time to exchange thoughts, talk about origami as an art, see him at work. We were astounded how Eric combined the high artistic talent and modest nature. His humor, responsiveness and at the same time pensive nature portrayed a really grand Frenchman in many senses... Integrating his knowledge as a sculptor, he have created unbelievable origami art pieces with high expressiveness and high technical aspect.
Eric's work enriched origami world immensely.

We will miss him dearly.

Katrin and Yuri Shumakov

The message of Eric Joisel's demise comes to us as an utter shock. After seeing Eric so alive and well and, most importantly, jolly at the PCOC, Nov 2007, it is extremely hard to believe that he has left us. It is not fair that such a talented artist with so much to offer had to leave just short of his 54th birthday, without giving us a chance to see what his full potential might have been. Now we can only imagine...

My deepest condolences to his family.

Meenakshi Mukerji

The world of origami knows of Eric Joisel, the extremely talented origami artist. His origami creations helped launch origami into the realm of fine art.

And those who have had the honor of meeting him and spending time with him know of his wonderful sense of humor and humbleness.

But the Eric that I knew was all of those things AND generous beyond words.

My first encounter with Eric occurred in York, England (BOS was celebrating their 30th anniversary) at the exhibition area. I was very impressed with seeing his origami hedgehogs and noticed that he was watching me. After confirming that he was the creator, I told him how remarkable he work was. Then he said, "Oh, do you like my hedgehogs? Then you must have one!" And he placed one in the palm of my hand! He insisted that I keep it in spite of my protests. I walked away with this treasure in my shaking hands and knew that I had just met a true master and VERY kind person.

The next time I met Eric was at the OrigamiUSA convention a few years later. I had an opportunity to purchase his gorgeous seahorse. He later approached me and said "Are you CRAZY? You pay too much money for just a silly piece of paper!" He then proceeded to thank me profusely for helping him through a financial crisis and I thanked him for allowing me to own a great work of art.

Another time I met Eric at a CDO convention in Bologne, Italy. He had a set of origami busts on display. I fell in love with one of the characters whose joyful expression reminded me of him and asked Eric if he would be willing to sell it. He asked me which one I wanted and then he explained that he did not want to break the collection and was unable to sell just one. I understood completely and gave up on the idea. However, at the end of the next day, as everyone was taking down their displays, Eric came up to me and said, "I regret that I could not sell the origami bust to you. You see, I cannot SELL it to you because I wanted to GIVE IT TO YOU!" And then he handed me the bust of the character I had wanted! When I offered to buy it, he pretended to be offended and then smiled and said gently, "No thank you. It is my pleasure to give it to you. You must accept it, please."

And thus, our relationship as friends has grown over the years. When I heard of his illness, it came as a huge shock to me. I did not want to believe it. What could I do to help my friend? I felt so helpless...

Then, Mr. Yamaguchi suggested that we purchase his collection of models which were on display in Tokyo at Gallery Origami House and send the proceeds of the sale to Eric to help him pay for his medical expenses. I immediately agreed to send some money to him which he brought in person to Eric in France last year. Eric was overwhelmed but very appreciative of what he considered to be a very generous act of kindness.

In my final message to Eric I thanked him for being so generous to me and the origami community with his works of art. And he, in his usual humbleness, thanked me and Mr. Yamaguchi for our financial assistance. He felt he could never thank us enough.

And so THIS was the Eric that I knew -- a kind, gentle man who always had a smile and a funny thing to say. As I told him in my final message, I will not say "goodbye" to him since I truly believe that we will see each other again in another place.

Until we meet again, my friend...

June Sakamoto

After reading your story I nearly broke down and sobbed. So sorry for your terrible loss. Even though I never him, I know just how you feel. A very good friend of mine passed away a year ago last week. This is a terribly sad loss and I send my Deepest condolences.

~Keith Meyers

I never met Eric. My loss. My sympathy to his Family and Friends. May you soon know peace.

Peace, like a river
flowing sweetly through time
never ending.

Tom Conally

I only knew Eric through his job and marveled everytime I saw one of his wonderful sculptures. The news of his death were sudden and although I never knew him personally I felt sad because a good man and a great artist is no longer with us. Many times I though that if I ever traveled to Paris a visit to Eric's studio should be a mandatory stop as a visit to the Eiffel tower. Nevertheless he will be remembered for a long time for very good reasons: he created beauty in a world that badly needs it and also left a lot of fond memories for his friends and family.
Alberto Ramirez
Mexico

I did not know him, I wish the privilege had been mine.

Still, I was moved to write the poem below.
.
.
The paper lies unfolded now
Those skilful hands at rest
Soft creases in his forehead smoothed
A light removed, but blessed
.
Calliope's bright champion
Of Paris, Self Made Man
With votive siren clarion call
His mountains towering stand
.
No need to mask our sorrow yet
Still thankful, though you're gone
We honour now thy mem'ry sweet
To fold, forever, on
.
.
In memoriam
Eric Joisel - Inspiration

Respectfully,
Kevin Lee, UK

Just great reading your tribute to Eric.
Thank you.

I don't think anyone will ever come along with his capabilities in this art of Origami.

Sincerely,

Rocco Monaco
Florida, USA.

Eric Joisel

I, too, am impelled to write of my sadness at hearing of the death of Eric Joisel. I met him on many occasions and he was always the friendliest of persons, brimming over with good humour and warm concern for everybody.

He was basically a sculptor who chose origami as his medium. And with what competence, skill and inventiveness! He was, too a great caricaturist, able to give telling liveliness to his creations. Not often emphasised, he was also a brilliant folder of tessellations, apparently having gained the skill from the abstract creations of his fellow Frenchman Jean-Claude Correia. He used tessellations to create such memorable models as his Mermaid and his extraordinary Pangolin. He also used tessellations to form the clothing of many of his models or historical people. A review of Eric’s models will show just how many origami techniques he mastered. This is sculpture, but no ordinary sculpture. .

Eric’s models must have taken him countless hours to devise and fold - and to fold so consummately. Eric came to the world of Origami quite late and suddenly. But he must have spent many, many years perfecting his art before he suddenly burst upon the scene. A review of his extraordinary creations leaves one astonished, indeed incredulous. How did he do it?

But Eric was more than a mere folder. He had wider skills. When the vast and magnificent exhibition, Paris Origami was planned to take place at the Carousel du Louvre in 1998, which was to be attended from folders from all over the world (including Yoshizawa and Momotani), it was he who undertook so much of the detailed administration at enormous cost to himself. The success of Paris Origami was very much the achievement of Eric.

I will remember him with great affection. He was always very friendly to me, although I am not a competent folder and could not possibly attempt to replicate one of his models (but who could?) His humour and friendship were extraordinary.

We shall never see an equal of Eric again. Instead, we must cherish him in our memories and in the wonderful collection of origami creations the unique style of folding that he has left behind.

Eric, you will dwell in our hearts for ever.

David Lister,

Eric Joisel

I, too, am impelled to write of my sadness at hearing of the death of Eric Joisel. I met him on many occasions and he was always the friendliest of persons, brimming over with good humour and warm concern for everybody.

He was basically a sculptor who chose origami as his medium. And with what competence, skill and inventiveness! He was, too a great caricaturist, able to give telling liveliness to his creations. Not often emphasised, he was also a brilliant folder of tessellations, apparently having gained the skill from the abstract creations of his fellow Frenchman Jean-Claude Correia. He used tessellations to create such memorable models as his Mermaid and his extraordinary Pangolin. He also used tessellations to form the clothing of many of his models or historical people. A review of Eric’s models will show just how many origami techniques he mastered. This is sculpture, but no ordinary sculpture. .

Eric’s models must have taken him countless hours to devise and fold - and to fold so consummately. Eric came to the world of Origami quite late and suddenly. But he must have spent many, many years perfecting his art before he suddenly burst upon the scene. A review of his extraordinary creations leaves one astonished, indeed incredulous. How did he do it?

But Eric was more than a mere folder. He had wider skills. When the vast and magnificent exhibition, Paris Origami was planned to take place at the Carousel du Louvre in 1998, which was to be attended from folders from all over the world (including Yoshizawa and Momotani), it was he who undertook so much of the detailed administration at enormous cost to himself. The success of Paris Origami was very much the achievement of Eric.

I will remember him with great affection. He was always very friendly to me, although I am not a competent folder and could not possibly attempt to replicate one of his models (but who could?) His humour and friendship were extraordinary.

We shall never see an equal of Eric again. Instead, we must cherish him in our memories and in the wonderful collection of origami creations the unique style of folding that he has left behind.

Eric, you will dwell in our hearts for ever.

David Lister,

I've posted my thoughts on Eric here - http://www.nickrobinson.info/origami/wp_ori/?p=646