The world lost a gentle and brilliant origamist earlier this month in Eric Joisel, the master paper folder featured in Vanessa Gould’s Peabody Award-winning film Between the Folds. The film, which premiered on Independent Lens last year and will be rebroadcast January 18, featured Joisel as “The Artist.” Gould sent us this tribute.
JoiselPortrait.jpgWith the death of Eric Joisel, the French artist featured in Between the Folds, comes an immense and, in many ways, indescribable sense of loss. Messages of sadness were emailed, tweeted and posted from all corners of the world. There remains a collective sense of sorrow, from friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. Eric was at the height of his career.


“I wish I could fold my grief as you folded paper, for then it would be beautiful,” said one Twitterer. “Such a profound loss. I’m grieving,” said another. “He was too beautiful for this world,” wrote a Facebook user.
In their grief, people took to folding paper themselves. Portraits of Eric – one from Australia, another from Vietnam. Scores of renderings of his easier pieces. Even a delicate butterfly was created in his honor.
It pains me deeply to think of what more Eric would have done in the years ahead – thoughts that won’t be had, things that won’t be made, creations we’ll never get to see. It seems that when an artist dies, we lose a bit of ourselves. A bit of our collective identity. A bit of our cultural treasure. And, yes, grief follows.
The comforting converse to this is, of course, what artists so generously endow us with: objects, ideas, and a few seeds of inspiration to hopefully spring eternal.
I’m proud of Eric beyond words. He was a gentle artist from a tiny town outside Paris who, with some paper and the most fantastic of imaginations and skill, was able to give such a glorious gift to so many.
— Vanessa Gould

Postscript: This obituary for Joisel appeared in the New York Times.
Australian Eric by Steven Casey. Vietnamese Eric by Nguyen Hung Cuong. Joisel Papillon (Butterfly) by Michael LaFosse and Richard Alexander.
Photo Credits: Eric Joisel and Origami House, Japan. Video courtesy of Vanessa Gould.