Edited by Jane Rosemarin

What is the Joisel Award?

During the last few years there has been an ongoing debate among origami people: Is origami art? Since folding paper, just like writing, is a technique, the answer is simple — you can fold paper into a work of art, or you can make it into an airplane. You can write a poem or a grocery list.

Many origami artists are making works of art, but they lack public recognition. Amazingly enough, this recognition is also missing among origami people, themselves.

To advance the field, the CFC, an international organization of origami artists (CFC stands for Community for [origami] Creators), established an annual occasion to appraise exceptional artistic creations from the origami world.

We recently completed our third event, in which we chose the best work of 2023.

The award is divided into two fields of creation: Figurative and Abstract. In each field, there are four award categories:

  • The Artistic Award is given to the most expressive work of art that tries not just to imitate a figure but to convey a message, tell a story and achieve artistic heights.
  • The Technical Award is for an artist who expands the barriers of technique with exceptional results.
  • The Folding-Process Award is for outstanding sequences, pushing the limits while keeping both an incredible elegance and folding pleasure.
  • In the Interpretation Award, just as with music, the performance is as important as the score. This award is given to a folder who executed a model by another artist beyond just following the diagrams.
The voting process incorporates the votes of both the general public and the Community for Creators, who together choose 10 semifinalists for each of the eight awards. The final decision is made by a group of judges. Visit the site here to see all the candidates.

The Winners

We asked the eight winners two questions:
Question 1: Tell us about the winning work, what inspired you to create it, what was the process, how you chose the name, how hard was it, etc.
Question 2: What is origami for you? Where do you want to take origami in the future?

And here is what they said:

Artistic Award (Figurative): Head Empty by Boice Wong

Head Empty. Designed, folded and photographed by Boice Wong.

Question 1: “Head Empty” is an allegory of mental blankness despite being in a stressful and overstimulating environment. I was inspired to create this by hearing stories from my peers about burnout. This piece was intended to represent something relatable to those who have to become mindless by being overwhelmed by their surroundings. The juxtaposition of the two figures completes this emotion. A fun fact about the creation of Head Empty is that the squares they are folded from were cut from the same original paper: I crafted a large rectangle of duo-color paper using tan tissue with kozo paper. While unnoticeable without mention, I think using this process aided in their sameness. The technical aspect of these figures involves the same base neck down and asymmetrical packing for the hands holding the head. Despite having color changes, the structure is not very complex. Most of the time creating Head Empty was spent in the delicate shaping to breathe life into the paper.

Question 2: To me, Origami is an endless frontier of creation to explore. The aspect I love most is the constraint of a two-dimensional square and transforming it into something three-dimensional. As I continue to fold and create, I wish to push the boundaries of what is thought to be possible with paper, both technically and conceptually. In this effort, I hope to not just isolate my findings for my own journey, but to share techniques, knowledge and creations so that the community as a whole can make leaps and bounds in origami.

Technical Award (Figurative): Face study XV by Lieven Peeters

Face Study IV. Designed, folded and photographed by Lieven Peeters.

After many years, I’m still intrigued by how a simple rule introduces so many limitations in an art form, and, moreover, how the origami community has been breaking past some of those limits. These days, people can fit any base and every detail into a single sheet. The byproduct of this is that origami art is more often than not motivated by technical ideas. This emphasis is what made the engineer in me fall in love with it; yet focusing on the technical feels like a very shallow approach to art. While wetfolding has its own problems, it manages to bring back some of the impulsiveness and emotion that complex origami lacks compared to other visual arts. The works that took first and second place in this year’s Joisel Awards are part of my ongoing experiments. The whole series shows an interesting evolution and contrast with my older work but has an equal lack of purpose.

Folding Process Award (Figurative): Coffee by Wang Shuo

Coffee. Designed, folded and photographed by Wang Shuo.

Question 1: My winning artwork is called Coffee, which is a folded paper creation. It was inspired by my love for coffee and my pursuit of origami art. During the creative process, I experimented and adjusted the folds until I achieved the desired shape of a coffee cup. I chose the name Coffee because it represents my admiration for this beverage in my daily life.

Creating this artwork was not an easy task as it required continuous trial and error. I invested a significant amount of time and effort in studying origami techniques and paying attention to intricate details to ensure a flawless presentation. Each fold was a leap of imagination and inspiration, and every adjustment was a pursuit of perfection. This process was challenging but also rewarding, allowing me to grow and improve.

Question 2: To me, origami is an art form that allows me to express creativity and emotions. By folding flat sheets of paper into three-dimensional shapes, I can create artworks that convey my ideas and feelings. Origami brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment while also serving as a means of relaxation and meditation.

In the future, I aspire to introduce origami to a wider audience. I plan to share the beauty and charm of origami art through exhibitions, workshops and other platforms, aiming to inspire others’ interest and creativity in origami.

Interpretation Award (Figurative): Death by Chuya Miyamoto, by Xing Gao (aka Monica)

Death. Designed by Chuya Miyamoto. Folded and photographed by Xing Gao.

Editor’s Note: This work is a reimagining of The Grim Reaper by Chuya Miyamoto (宫本宙也).

Question 1: I created the work Death during a domestic origami team competition. At that time, the theme I was given was Happy, which was a very abstract topic. I wanted to do something different, something that was not happy looking on the surface but was happiness that the heart could feel. So, I thought of making skeletons, and then thought of Miyamoto’s Grim Reaper. In the works I have seen before, skeletons are generally very frightening, but I have always thought that skeletons, hidden under terrible appearances, have rich emotions. I hoped to interpret this obscure emotion. So, I chose to modify Death’s original scythe into a swaddling blanket from which the little hand stretched out to touch the face of (mother/father) Death. Although the face of Death is still horrible, it really feels happy from the bottom of its heart, and its aura seems to light up the whole dark world. I also made a hell raven to balance the picture. I actually made two Deaths, one black and white and one yellow and white. In the end, I gave up on the black one because I wanted the design to feel less heavy and more hopeful, to bring the joy of life to death.

Question 2: Origami is a way for me to adjust my mood. I am a mother of two; I have to work while taking care of my family. In fact, I don’t have much time for origami. But origami can make me feel relaxed and happy. In the future, I still want to follow the call of my heart to make my favorite works, integrate my style and emotions and constantly challenge more possibilities.

Artistic Award (Abstract): Untitled by Roman Remme

Untitled. Designed, folded and photographed by Roman Remme.

Question 1: I designed my winning work as part of a series where I apply a general technique for creating origami tessellations, the shrink-rotate algorithm, to geometries that have been only seldom, or even never before, realized in origami. This often means departing from the symmetries we are used to. In my winning work, I do so in two ways: by continuously distorting the rhombi from the center toward the outside and by shifting the central twist away from the midpoint of the circle.

My creation process starts with an idea. Then I make a plan of how to realize it, and I start designing using custom software on my computer. There, I am able to generate previews of what the finished work might look like, and when I am happy with those, I use a plotter to score the crease pattern on a sheet. The folding process has two stages: First, I precrease every fold individually in a long process that I often find relaxing, maybe even meditative. Then I collapse the tessellation, making all the folds more or less simultaneously. This final step is much quicker than the precreasing but is the most challenging and takes all my focus. During the whole process, I'm motivated by wanting to find out how the finished work will turn out.

Question 2: Origami is a passion that I've had for most of my life. Over the years, it has brought lots of joy and opened many doors for me. In the future, I want to continue experimenting with new geometric design methods while trying out media other than Elephant Hide paper, such as watercolor paper or even plastic sheets.

Technical Award (Abstract): Panagbenga Medallion by Malvin Roix Orense

Panagbenga Medallion. Designed, folded and photographed by Malvin Roix Orense.

Question 1: This medallion is named after the world-renowned Panagbenga Festival in Baguio, Philippines. Its overall composition is intended to symbolize the attractive display of flowers during the festival and to promote Filipino culture in the international origami community. I have been studying the composition of abstract three-dimensional medallions and tessellations for quite a long time, and I found out that some of the most intricate medallions required large paper yet still produced areas that ended up plain and flat. This motivated me to discover a more efficient medallion design. The design process started with free-folding, and I discovered a structure of simple pleat intersections. The base looked like any simple flat “flower” molecule, so I tried incorporating extra three-dimensional folds using the creases of the gridlines and six pairs of triangle twists to reveal more layers that would serve as the details of the flower. I wanted to tessellate this molecule, but I soon discovered that its extending pleats perfectly matched those of three-dimensional “petals” designed by Timur Menyalshchikov. The compact arrangement of the “flower” molecule and the surrounding “petals” were then folded from a 48x48x48 triangular grid, which was an arbitrary choice for a test fold. I thought adding hex-pleat structures and sink-folds on the corner flaps was enough to form leaflike structures until I experimentally added miura-ori folds, which produced better results.

It took me seven and a half hours to fold the final version of the medallion, even though it required a small triangle grid. Around 40% of the total folding time was spent in meticulously shaping all three dimensional details and applying glue between layers so they would retain their shape in a compact arrangement. Making this complex medallion was an excellent opportunity to improve my technical folding and shaping skills in origami tessellations.

Question 2: For me, origami is an efficient art form that combines both practical and analytical techniques to achieve a desired form or function using just a simple piece of paper. I plan to use origami in my future designs to promote our Filipino culture to other parts of the world. Incorporating our way of life in my origami designs through our beliefs and traditions allows letting the world know and appreciate our rich Filipino culture.

Folding-Process Award (Abstract): Dandys Triangles and Unruly Hexagons by Halina Rościszewska

Dandys Triangles and Unruly Hexagons. Designed, folded and photographed by by Halina Rościszewska.

Question 1: For the last few years, I have been designing new works by combining several of my works created many years ago. This way, new, interesting compositions are created. The process itself is simple and has an amazing effect. The name was invented by my friend Tomek — he is a specialist in combining interesting words.

Question 2: For me, origami is a break from everyday life. The ability to create — to focus my thoughts solely on paper, and especially on the process itself — is something special to me. And at the same time, unique works are created that please the eye. I would like my works to be different and unique. That's why my tessellations are often three-dimensional, rather unusual.

Interpretation Award (Abstract): Sunshine by Du Jialei

Sunshine. Designed, folded and photographed by Du Jialei. Based on Octagonal Recursion Study II by Alessandro Beber.

I think I am just standing on the shoulders of giants. I started folding tessellations in 2019, and I’m now studying fractal or recursive tessellations. When I saw Alessandro Beber’s model Octagonal Recursion Study II, I wondered if I could make a recursive one. Then I studied its structure and adjusted its scale to make the final model as big as possible. The narrowest gap between two creases is less than 1 mm.

I like tessellations because they look beautiful, both when they're just a crease pattern and when they’re a completed model. I like studying crease patterns, even the auxiliary lines, and I will let them be a part of the final model. I also enjoy the process of the birth of every crease, even if they are very dense, but when I fold the complete crease pattern, I feel joy and calm.