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Vincent Floderer

Along with Eric Joisel, Floderer is at the forefront of the French creative origami movement, which arguably started in the 1970s with extraordinary work of Jean-Claude Correia. Unlike Joisel, Floderer has moved away from conventional origami techniques and is developing a whole new vocabulary of techniques. Whether they can truly be classed as "origami" is open to debate, but there is no doubt that his work has developed out of origami and as he refines the methods and techniques, Floderer is beginning to discover that there are more links between his work and standard origami than he or others thought possible. Be that as it may, he is producing startling new works of art and inspiring folders around the world as they see his work.

The initial inspiration for his work arose from workshops given by English folder Paul Jackson which explored the possibilities of paper-crumpling. These workshops generated a number of unusual and eye-catching creations, but in general they appeared to be abstract in nature. Many who attended these workshops found them stimulating and unusual, but didn't develop the ideas to any extent.

Floderer was an exception. One of the early technique he discovered was for creating a mushroom. Having a keen interest in fungi, he explored the possibilities and has developed an extraordinary range of mushrooms, toadstools and other related fungi. When you see his finished work, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the paper version and the real thing. People were delighted to see this and obviously pressed Floderer for instructions. This has led him to develop a performance which combines teaching with both theatre and comedy, as the lucky students are shown how to crumple, stretch, dampen, crumple and finally produce their very own fungi.

From the mushroom, Floderer began to apply the same ideas to paper that had been folded into layers. This generated many more points which could be worked upon. An unexpected bonus is that many of his designs can be turned "inside-out", yielding equally successful results!

Through experimentation, he has expanded the range of creations to encompass sponges, sea-urchins, jellyfish, flower-like forms and a variety of abstract shapes which defy description, but are invariably beautiful. They seems to possess an organic feel which needs to be seen to be appreciated. Whilst photographs are impressive, I find the handling of his work to be essential. Many of his creations are not static or fixed, but stretch and move under your hands, communicating to you in a way that the vast range of conventional origami cannot.

A more recent development has been almost a holy grail of origami, the "realistic tree". Floderer's trees are created through several hours of work and, like all of his creations, turn out to be unique. They also capture the "nature" of a tree to a new level of perfection. Due to the chaotic nature of the crumpling, it is impossible to reproduce a Floderer design with any degree of accuracy. This is another important aspect of his work.

It would have been easy for him to hold on to these techniques on the basis that they were "not teachable", but not only does he pass on his techniques with enthusiasm and humility, he even welcomes creative visitors to his house in southern France to explore and develop new techniques.

This led to an experience at the Nottingham convention in 2001 that I never thought to see. Let me explain: in the main, paper-folders are target-oriented; the end result is well defined and (within certain finishing parameters) your success can be judged by comparison to the original or to the final diagram. This approach is so ingrained into paper-folding that anyone who dares to step outside the mould has often suffered the "slings and arrows". Paul Jackson himself has fallen victim in the past. In addition to this, most folders feel themselves "not to be creative" and a substantial earthquake would be needed to alter this. However, such was the joy and enthusiasm generated by Floderer and his work, a whole roomful of largely traditional folders accepted the challenge whole-heartedly and became creative folders, each with their own unique creation, few of which looked like the original! Whether this outburst of individuality will spill into their conventional folding, or whether these folders will embrace the possibilities of the new techniques is hard to say, but it was a spontaneous outpouring of the creative instinct and as such was a very valuable and enjoyable experience.

Unlike some creative people, Floderer is prepared to discuss and analyse his work, whilst accepting that there may, in the end, be no absolute definition of either a fold or paper art. He happily subscribes to the Yenn philosophy that "it's all nothing". However, the way in which his work reflects the forms and structures of nature is too consistent to be accidental. His work is taking the cycle from "tree to paper" almost back the tree itself and this adds a degree of spirituality to this approach which is lacking in some areas of origami.

In many ways, a technique is perhaps the most valuable gift you can give; it offers people new potential for being creative without imposing any limitations on how that technique is used. Indeed, some of the work on display at conventions is by Floderer's students and have all the beauty of the "originals". After attending a Floderer session, almost every folder with the slightest spark of creativity and taste can now create works of art which would grace any gallery. As they do so, they may produce a new refinement, or even a radical change, which can then be fed back into the melting pot to take things a stage further. Clearly, in the very near future someone is going to combine this free-form technique with more traditional methods. It may even be that with refinement and development, the "crumple" may be accepted into the vocabulary of accepted origami techniques alongside the "sink" and "squash". After all, crumpling and squashing can't be so far apart?

Nick Robinson

   
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