Origami Masks You Won't Believe Are Actually Paper


I used to make origami cranes out of Starburst wrappers during university lectures, and by the end of the class I would have a row of tiny colorful birds to leave behind for the next group of tired students. I used to think that was pretty cool, but after seeing Joel Cooper's origami masks I realized that I may want to leave paper folding to the pros.


Joel's creepy beautiful masks may look like they've been cast in bronze and pewter, but he treats a single sheet of paper to look that way. Using a process called "the bubble method," the artist uses various water-soluble paints to create the color he's looking for, mixing each color with water and a bit of dish detergent. He sticks a straw in each mixture and blows (like kids do with their chocolate milk) to create a mound of bubbles. Next, he piles the bubbles onto the paper and waits for it to break down and dry (sometimes doing this multiple times), giving it an interesting patterned effect.

After he gets the paper looking the way he wants, Joel employs a folding method called "tessellation," which is done by folding a complex grid into a hexagon-shaped piece of paper. He then begins shaping the face, using the creases as a guide to work out the finished look.

"I don't write down or diagram anything — I just have a bunch of these partially folded pieces that I use for reference," he explains on his blog. Once he finishes one half of the face, he is able to follow the information to make the other side symmetrical.

Unlike many artists, he doesn't mind sharing his step-by-step process, even adding photos of the journey on his blog. So, if you want to try it for yourself, go ahead! The amount of patience and detail this must require is unbelievable and personally, I think I'll leave it to the expert.

Even after knowing how Joel does it, I still can't believe the finished sculptures are just paper. If you want to buy one, check out his Zibbet store, where he sells them for between $175 and $210.