This is just superb, right down to the choice of paper. Click the photo to go to the creator’s Flickr page…
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.
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.
French folder Sebastien Curvers took his life at the end of November 2006. It was not widely known that he suffered from a degenerative illness.
Nicolas Terry said; “Seb was a key person in my life of origami. He offered essential help with the creation of my website. He was also the proof-reader of my diagrams.
I met him in 2004 and discovered a guy really sympathetic, nice, attentive and intelligent. I hope that his site will remain online a long time. His creations deserve to live. I hope that his rat-dragon and tortoise world will remain in our spirits.”.
Anyone who saw his website (Nic Terry has kept an archive copy http://seborigami.free.fr/ – thanks Gilad) could see the passion he had for paper-folding and his novel choice of subjects, such as the “World Turtle” from the Pratchett Discworld novels.
I also met him at the Rencontres de Mai in 2004 and was impressed by this studious, quiet, intelligent folder. We discussed his adaptation of Joisel’s Rat into a dragon and many other things.
I post this obituary in the hope that we remember those friends we won’t meet again.
René (1946-2007) was a Brazilian born in Rio de Janeiro, who started “Origami München” in 1989 along with his partner Jan Spütz. This society, (within 15 km of Origami Deutschland!) made its mark with regional meetings and public events, such as paper aeroplane competitions.
They even held a demonstration for Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus of the Netherlands. In 1991 he attended COET and presented the paper “new technical possibilities for demonstrating the folding process into work with blind people.”
The society was disbanded in 2002, but Jan and René continued to work professionally on their own. As well as numerous events, they wrote several origami books, including €urogami, Verzaubertes Papier, Das große Origamibuch, Fantasievolle Geschenkverpackungen selber falten, Geschenkverpackungen aus Papier, Origami Faltspaß für Kinder and Papierflieger.
In the early 1990s, I was invited by René to be the guest at an OM convention. This was not only my first such invitation, but the first time I had travelled outside the UK – I was looked after superbly and encouraged by René, even made an appearance on German TV.
René was quite a small man, very quietly-spoken and not easily noticed in a crowd, but when you talked with him you were struck by his intensity and he gave much of his life to spreading the origami word. He was an active creator, who had a clean, geometric style to his creations.
I post this obituary in the hope that we remember those friends we won’t meet again.
People often think the BOS Sidney French medal is bestowed only the high-profile or creative members of the society. However, anyone can be suggested as a recipient if they have contributed significantly to origami. One such is Helen Swift. Whilst you may not know her unless you attend BOS conventions, she is a perfect example of someone who has given much to origami in her own way and highly deserving of this honour.
Here are the words on her award. “The BOS is proud to award this Sidney French Medal to Helen Swift for services to origami and children’s organisations. Helen has been a member of the BOS for many years and has offered gentle encouragement to new members with her patient teaching style. She can always be relied on to help people at conventions and to make first-timers feel comfortable.
She was “Brown Owl” in her local Brownie pack for 30 years. She joined the BOS to gain knowledge and inspiration to teach origami to the girls. The models were carefully selected so they could be finished in 10 minutes or so, allowing everyone to have something to take home that they had made themselves. She also worked alongside the late Sam Evison with his work in the scout movement when he needed help with his many origami classes. She was a school secretary and classroom assistant, bringing origami to the pupils through this work. In all this work, Helen is cheerful, unassuming and humble, proving that a love of origami (and people) is at least as important as technical or creative skills. She represents the very best spirit of origami and we are delighted to recognise her contribution to origami and the BOS.”
I was equally delighted to travel to her cottage near Chester in 2009 and present the award on behalf of the society – I remember how she took my daughter under her wing at many conventions, teaching her simple models and how she always kept an eye open for anyone who looked a little shy, helping them to get involved in the activities. We were joined by her nephew David Jones and local BOS members Frank Rowlands and Joan Hughes, who relished the chance to grill me about techniques, books and lots besides.
With starry eyes, Helen told us tales of the joy she has had from both teaching origami and attending conventions. She was stunned to receive the award and typically felt she didn’t deserve it – “I thought only world-famous folders got one of these!” At 83, she is feeling the rigours of old age and may not be able to travel to future conventions, but her passion for origami remains undiminished. If you live anywhere near Chester, please get in touch and see if you can help her organise more mini-meetings. You’ll come away in awe of this amazingly positive woman.
Can you identify the two folders cunningly merged here?
I was online once when a friend in America logged on to chat to me – “what’s happening?” he asked. I replied “I’m just about to go for a curry with John Montroll”. He was suitably impressed! John was on a week-long holiday in the UK and some of us had organised a schedule for him.
We showed him the sights, including a day trip to sample the delights of York and of course a few mini-meetings had been arranged, including one at my house. John showed himself to be a highly stimulating guest with some lesser-known talents, such as whistling (he has a five octave range) and his method for teaching perfect pitch, which I’m now working on!)
Needless to say, it was his origami we were most interested in. For many decades he has been a highly respected and prolific creator and few people don’t own at least some of his books. I’ve felt for some time that John has been slowly slipping down the list of top folders. His work has been regular and consistent, but he hasn’t embraced the “ultra complex” folds that seems to be the most popular trend these days. Consequently, whereas in the 80s he represented the height of complex folding, it may be nowadays that his style is less challenging and even a little out of fashion.
John freely admits that he is concerned with the “journey” and not the final result. He has no interest in the finessing and 3D modelling many other people apply to his work. He sees himself as the “composer”, who writes his “songs” to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. He’s always happy when “virtuosos” add the final creative touches to his models. Consistency is a double-edged sword.
On the plus side, you know what you’re getting from John – intermediate to complex models, usually animals, that are carefully and lovingly arranged to ensure “foldability” and unmistakeably represent their chosen subject. By contrast, you might argue that this doesn’t show real progression. However, he brought drafts of his next two projects and one in particular took us by surprise. I’m delighted to say that his new book (now available) shows that John has a great deal more still to offer us.
It’s dedicated to creating polyhedra, using only a single square. Throughout his career, he has rigorously observed the “one square, uncut” tenet, indeed his creative career began because he wasn’t satisfied with the two sheet models of Honda he folded as a child. He was obliged to develop a wide-range of ways to achieve the required number of points for an anatomically correct animal or insect.
He has perfected ways to create “nets” within the square, which cleverly wrap round and lock into themselves to form the solid. Impressively, the faces of the polyhedra are near maximally sized, and some even share dimensions when finished, from the same sized starting square! Needless to say, a range of ingenious techniques are used to generate the required locations and angles. I urge you all to buy in a copy!
I really miss this man. He died in 2004 but I like to think his mischievous ghost still keeps an eye on the ori-world. We first met in the mid 80s, where I found a kindred spirit in his his irreverent approach to life, creative approach and love of linguistic puns. We had a regular exchange of folds and letters and it was the highlight of the week when one of his delightfully decorated envelopes dropped through the letter box.
His designs were often geometric in nature, but he often managed to give them some presentational edge which made them more appealing. His BOS booklet remains the largest printed collection of his work, but he has others scattered about (his “DNA molecule” and “Umulius Unit” are in my forthcoming classic. He was quite happy to build on existing designs and then accuse the creator of having “stolen them before he thought of them” 😉
I set up his first (and last!) website, now archived on the BOS website and I think that he would have really embraced the possibilities of the web had he lived a little longer. We met for the final time at a meeting at the Bauhaus, organised by fellow Yenn-aficionado Paulo Mulatinho. Whilst clearly suffering from a variety of age-related problems, his spirit was utterly indomitable.
During an open-air evening meal by a river, he gate-crashed a wedding party and was dancing with a delightful young woman. On the final evening, Thok took to the stage and gave a talk, always revelling in an audience, who in turn hung on his every word. John Smith has sent me a video/photo diary of the weekend, from which I’ve taken a small clip so you can see and hear Thoki, albeit briefly.
He “told it as he saw it” and managed to upset a number of people over the years, but he was unrepentant to the very end. Creativity such as he had is rarely accompanied by an introverted demeanour!
Aside from his folding and cutting skills, the talent that impressed me the most was his ability to make subtle but excellent puns in a variety of languages and even between languages. His eyes twinkled as he tested your ability to keep up with his alert mind.
I tried to produce a suitable cover for the BOS magazine to mark his passing. Frustratingly, we couldn’t afford colour covers in those days, but I hope he would have approved of the imagery.