Eric Joisel, The Self Made Man

Last night PBS ran a documentary called Between the Folds about the fine art of paper-folding. Featuring a number of artists, mathematicians, and even a scientist who received a MacArthur Genius Award for his computational origami research (try saying that 10 times fast), the film explores the relationship between the art and science of origami.

Pictured Left: The Self Made Man (credit: Eric Joisel)

Eric Joisel was one of the featured artists. A trained sculptor in his youth, he turned to origami in his late twenties. Joisel is acknowledged as one of the world's most talented origami artists. He was particularly gifted at creating human figures, with detailed faces and intricate costumes. Joisel pushed the boundaries of origami to new limits, using techniques such as methylcellulose (a wet-folding technique) and unusual materials like aluminum.

"I try to respect the traditional rules of origami, using only one piece of paper and never cutting. The important element for me is modeling the paper. For me, that’s the nearest thing to sculpture. I have a deep respect for ‘pure origami,’ with its flat surfaces and nice, geometrical conception — but as you can tell by looking at my models, I am much more interested in making my models look alive, which requires volume, curved creases, and much sculpting. Mirroring life requires curves, not straight lines.” - Eric Joisel

His figures are larger than the usual miniatures I post about (many being 12 to 20 inches tall), but they are so breathtaking I thought other miniaturists would enjoy seeing them. There are even more photos of his amazing work at the EricJoisel.com.

Sadly, M. Joisel passed away in October 2010. Many of his works can be seen at the Origami House in Tokyo, Japan. Between the Folds will be showing on PBS this month, or you can view it online.


“Origami often seems to the onlooker like magic. That’s a large part of its appeal for me. From the time I was a child, I have been fascinated by the world of Tolkien and faeries. So as an adult dedicating my life to origami, you could say I am simply finding a way to live as that child in a fantasy world." - Eric Joisel


Gandalf (Lord of the Rings) - appr. 15" (credit: Origami House, Japan)
3 Kings (LOTR): Gimli, Aragorn, Legolas - 12-16" (credit: Origami House, Japan)
Saxophonist, Big Origami Jazz Band - appr. 12" (credit: Eric Joisel)
Capitan & Colombina, Commedia dell'Arte - appr. 20" (credit: Origami House, Japan)
Siren (credit: Eric Joisel)

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Griffins, traditionally, are Guardians. Often carved at temple doors in ancient times, they were said to guard the way to Wisdom. I, on the other hand, seem to be the Guardian primarily of odd bits of string, pinecones, scraps of paper, mismatched socks, old calendars, homeless imps and gnomes, pencils with no erasers, jokes nobody gets, forgotten gods, keys with no locks, and other people’s lighters. If any of these things might be of use to you, let me know.
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