Catalan Artist Folds Table Napkins into Awe-Inspiring Masterpieces

You might have seen napkins folded into impressive shapes at some fancy dinner, but they probably look like child’s play compared to the masterpieces created by Catalan artist Joan Sallas.

48-year-old Joan Sallas is considered the world’s best virtuoso napkin folder, and is credited with almost singlehandedly reviving the Baroque-style art that appeared in Renaissance Italy and reached its peak during the 17th century, in German speaking countries. Believe it or not, the Catalan master has managed to take the classic art to new heights with only old engravings and documents describing royal banquets as his inspiration. He learned the secrets to folding paper from his grandfather, when he was only a child, but the passion stayed with him through adulthood, when he discovered the lost art of folding linen. After spending years researching old documents and trying to copy napkin works of art created for the opulent events of 17th century Europe. He has mastered eight folding techniques, including fans, rolls and lilies, that allow him to recreate some truly awe-inspiring decorations.

Photo: Gerwin Sturm

Although he spends months at a time folding hundreds of meters of linen into works for his unique exhibitions, Sallas says it’s the research that takes up most of his time. Going though centuries-old documents and pieces of art depicting napkin creations and trying to decode their secrets is painstaking work, but the passionate artist is happy to do it. “This isn’t an exhibit, it’s a research project in the form of an exhibit,” he said in a 2010 interview with AFP. “The heart is not the objects that are here on display but the research, which evolves dynamically.” Throughout the years, he has amassed a private collection of over 2,000 documents and books, to make sure this beautiful art isn’t lost ever again.

Photo: Paula Vesnick

Joan Sallas impressive portfolio includes elaborate animals and structures, the kind you’d never imagine could be made out of folded napkins, and yet the artist says “My favourite piece is always the one I haven’t deciphered yet, the one I don’t know how to fold yet.” More surprising still is his habit to dismantle the intricate works of art and throw the linen material away. “This ephemeral quality is part of life,” he says. “We are only here for a short time.”

Photo: Paula Vesnick 

Photo: Paula Vesnick 

Photo: Gerwin Sturm

Sources: AFP, Huffington Post

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