Eric, by Nick

The news of Eric’s death is painful and tragic, even if not entirely unexpected – sadly, few people survive for long with the extent of the illness he had. His last months have been lived with immense dignity, fortitude and even humour in the face of perhaps the most dreaded of diseases. I want to pay a modest tribute, but where do you start summing up a man with a spirit and talent as great as Eric had?

Many years ago I heard rumours of a French folder who was doing extraordinary things with masks. At the time it was perhaps my favourite subject, so I eagerly awaited my first sighting. When it came, I was completely bowled over. Never before had I seen such artistry and expression in origami faces. They were so far ahead of my fumbled efforts I hung my hat up and moved to a new area of creativity. I somehow felt the creator would be highly strung and reclusive.

Nick, by Eric

Yet, when I first met Eric at a convention in Freising, Germany, he proved to be approachable, humble and affable. When I asked him how on earth he folded them, he indicated one of my masks and said “zis is yours? Well you already know how to make mine”. He also said he regularly used a crab of mine to introduce some folding concepts in his classes. I was overwhelmed. He once made a mask that he said was meant to be me – I intended to try and get hold of this, but never did.

I met Eric several times over the years and my love and affection for him grew every time. In fact, there were two Erics – the clown, who stole every show he appeared at with his “crazzy French umour” and the modest artist, seeking only for perfection in his own creations. He explained to me that as a guest, he felt obliged to “perform”, but that it was tiring. He was undoubtedly happier sat in a quiet corner, talking about art. Despite that, he was a natural entertainer and to sit through one of his self-deprecating classes was always a real treat. You can here some of his classic phrases on my origami fun site, where I created a Joisel Jukebox.

As for his work, it requires no eulogy from me, (although here is one) being simply outstanding, unique, expressive, majestic and inspiring. If you’re not familiar with his work, check his site out immediately. His most recent obsession was with his “Lord of the Rings” sequence. Anyone who saw them had to appreciated the amazing combination of artistry and technique he employed. Along the way, through the internet, he shared much of the creative thoughts and avenues he employed during the development. The effort it must have taken to fold these whilst recovering from chemotherapy is almost beyond belief.

His art will live on and his memory will be come a legend. His death is especially poignant, since we learned his “Manchot” (penguin) during a mini-meeting in my house yesterday, I took pictures of our feeble efforts and was preparing to send him an email with the photo as I read the sad news.

We have lost a unique artist and an inspiring person. Farewell Eric, I’m honoured to have known you.

There is an obituary in the New York Times.

38 Responses

  1. Thanks Nick for great words.

    Lung cancer is more likely to be diagnosed when it is too late, after it has spread. It’s symptons are all too often written off as localised backache and a virus, by well meaning GP’s.
    It is a sad reflection that lung cancer is a far more fatal than breast cancer, and
    there is a stigma attached to lung cancer that it is only contracted by smokers. Fact is in 2009, 70% of cases in Australia were contracted by non smokers or those that had not smoked for 15 to 20 years and are otherwise healthy.

    Remembering a guy for a rat could only ever happen in Origami

  2. I’m really going to miss the guy. His sense of humour was great and the art he created was simply astonishing. We’ve lost an incredible origamist today…

  3. This is really bad news, and a big loss.
    He was my favourite designer! And I doubt there will be someone like him in the future. He really was a unique person, with a very unique touch on origami.
    He was amazing and will be missed in the ‘origami-world’.

    All the best to his family and friends at this time of sadness. No words can give comfort at such a tragic time, but Eric Joisel will live on forever in our minds and hearts! His amazing spirit and great work will always be around us all.

    Rest in peace Eric, we’ll miss you.

    1. i’ve been crying, when i heard the sad news! eric joisel, was a patient, warmhearted, extraordinary talented and nevertheless modest artist.

      i am glad, that i had the chance to meet him on a beautiful convention in paris, where he taught one of his wonderful masks to me.

      i’ll miss him! thank you nick, for your kind words!

  4. I learned of Eric’s cancer in fall of 2008, he received chemotherapy and seemed to be doing much better. He didn’t ask that this be kept a secret, but he certainly behaved like this was not an issue. He had a note recently “I have a cancer: please no CHAT with me. This is specialy tiring with my health, specialy during night and in english..”
    He has a number of early folds using cigarette packages. These are a bit poignant to see now.

    His survival is actually much longer than most with lung cancer and he certainly has been very productive this last year. How fortunate for all of us. He is one of the greatest origami folders of all time. More importantly, he was beautiful person. We will all miss him very much.

  5. Un grand artiste origamiste nous a quitté, c’est une perte immense pour tous les plieurs, restent ses créations, son rire et son enthousiame. Rest in peace Eric, tu nous manque déjà

  6. Thank you for the write up, Nick.

    He is a true artiste and I am grateful that he chose to make origami a medium (creating in 1983) for which to channel and express himself through.

    Condolences to his family and friends for their loss…a giant amongst artists.

  7. He was a lovely bloke. An extremely talented origami artist and I know I will miss him. My proudest origami moment was at a French convention when he came up to me, completely unkown, and said “I love your saxophone-man.”

  8. Un minuto de tu viaje inmortal
    una eterna dicha terrenal
    para quien nada mas que un papel tiene.
    Para quien solo un sueño persigue
    Con sueños de plegador
    con dedos de Joisel creando futuros
    perfilando el porvenir
    Eric tu no te has ido
    aqui entre cuatro esquinas
    tu ya estas erguido.
    Descansa en paz que aqui hay manos
    para continuar la tarea que nos has encomendado
    Pues el papel no tiene fronteras,
    pues el papel no tiene religiones
    pues el papel es ciencia y sueño para miles de millones.

  9. What sad, sad news. Eric’s famous Rat was the first (by my standards) high-intermediate model I ever completed folding to my satisfaction, and I loved its humorous aspect. Then I found his website, and read accounts of people’s encounters with Eric, and realised the source of that humour. His website is the site I always show to friends when I want to show them the artistic heights that Origami can achieve. Such a sad loss.

  10. It’s too bad that another great folder has passed in to oblivion, but his works will remain, we should all fold the cartoon rat or something of his in his honor.

  11. Thanks for your nice words. Still too young to die and was developing an amazing job. He will be folding in another universe. And we always remember him through his models and video. But we will miss him …

  12. Thanks for this great internet eulogy Nick – I first saw him on the video “Between the Folds” and was hoping I could meet him someday – sadly now, that won’t come to be.

  13. Never seen him in person but heard and seen a great deal of his amazing origami works.

    You will not be forgotten Eric. We will miss you 🙁

  14. a kind obituary for a pioneer of origami-do. thanks for your words, nick.
    as i’ve noticed on another place and probably a thought to be shared with a lot of folders – i do really regret to have missed to met master joisel personally to fold with and to learn from him.

    1. It’s painful for this great loss. You’re an admirable artist. Even haven’t met you in person, but surely I miss you very much.


  15. 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

    I did not now him, I wish the privilege had been mine

  16. What a tremendous loss to the world of origami, and art at large.
    May you rest in peace, you will be missed.

  17. Thanks Nick for Eric, he was my uncle, before has been a famous origamist artist, i am so sad now. The life was been never like before…

  18. beatiful words nick……….
    he was a very good person
    it’s really a tremendous looss to the world of origami

  19. Thank you Nick for posting such a nice tribute. All of the responses are touching as well. I appreciate the spot for our origami community to gather and speak of the loss of such a great man. I wrote the following yesterday and folded his rat in memory.

    My small salute to the legacy and memory of Eric Joisel.

    -Thank you Eric for being a major part of motivating me to get back into origami as an adult. Seeing your origami Jazz Musician set inspired me to no end and helped me see paper in a way I had never seen it before.-

    His rat design. I have tried to fold it before but got stuck on diagram 15! In memory, my 2nd attempt. This time I had determination and motivation as I moved through the folds. I absolutely wouldn’t have been able to go to sleep tonight without trying it again and at least finishing a “practice” one. It helped me begin the process of adjusting to a world without him. (tears) My heart goes out to his close family and friends as I understand how difficult this last while must have been for him and his loved ones.

    As I folded this tonight, with each step I thought about what Eric must have looked like as he uncovered this little critter from the paper between his talented fingers, how he had generously given permission to post the diagrams for others to try it, how he had humbly responded to me with such friendliness in facebook, how he never once seemed to put himself on a level above anyone and treated even a stranger like me with kindness and encouragement, how he mentioned how important the thumb nail is in shaping, how he created so many amazing models and shared what inspired him through his website, how he would have made jokes and gently encouraged any folder to continue and keep trying, his silliness t5o make teh children laugh as he folded this rat for a live audience of happy children and amazed adults, how his story telling had so much humor in it, how excited I was to check his website and facebook page to see what new things he had come up with… and so much more. I was an instant fan from the moment I learned of him. What an amazing modern master of origami. I will miss him very much. I still have so much to learn about folding and am so grateful that he shared so much… I will continue to learn from him even after his passing.

    In tribute: I used an 8″ piece of plain cream colored printer paper for this as my “practice” one. I will absolutely fold it again using better paper and MC. It was a pleasure to fold this model after taking a break from my first attempt. I will do it again… and eventually attempt his adorable little dwarf.

    Rest in peace Eric. Thank you for your inspiration.

  20. What a terrible shock. Was just doing a search on google to see if any of his stuff was published. Hope is work could somehow be published in book form in the future

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