It’s often said that no one makes a living writing short stories, but what about origami? Not a chance. At least that’s what I thought until I saw Vanessa Gould’s documentary “Between the Folds,” part of the Independent Lens series on PBS. Origami artists–or “paper folders” as they’re called more often in the documentary–work under limitations that seem absurdly restrictive: one sheet of paper with no tape, no glue, and no cuts allowed. Yet within these limits, paper folding masters produce amazing work.
The documentary features a slew of interesting characters, before moving into the profound with ideas of mathematical rhythms, ideal proportions, and real world applications of folding theory for stuff like car airbags and even proteins. But what’s most interesting are the featured artists, and their work. Here’s three of them:
Eric Joisel lives in a Paris suburb and creates work that seems like it could not possibly have emerged from a single sheet of paper.
Robert J . Lang, quit his job as a physicist with his two degrees from Caltech, to launch a new career as a paper folder.
Bernie Peyton combines his work as a bear biologist with that of paper folding.
What they all have in common is that they spent decades developing their craft, great inspirations for this scribbler. The limitations that they deal with make those of the short story writer–cramming the whole thing into 5,000 words–seem downright manageable.