He sure knows how to get a bang for his buck.
Veteran Bill Caruba had a calling at a young age to bring joy to many people with his unique art – origami using dollar bills.
Caruba, himself nicknamed Dollar Bill, spent four years in the Marine Corps and was featured in several publications thanks to his origami skills. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years and got started when I lived in Japan many years ago,” said Caruba, who currently volunteers at the Fort Hamilton Army Base at both the fitness center and USO. “I didn’t make a fortune for it but I got a lot of attention from it. I was a magician, but I wasn’t a famous one. It wasn’t until I got into the dollars that magicians came to me and wanted to learn it.”
When he started, there were only a couple of basic folds Dollar Bill Caruba could do, such as a ring and a bow tie. Once he started experimenting, however, he became one of the most recognizable folding artists in the city. From swords to guns to crosses, Caruba made something for everyone. His confidence in his skill was something he never lacked.
“I know I’m boasting and I’m the best in the world at what I do. I know I’m boasting. That’s why they call me Dollar Bill,” he said. “I was retired, but now I’m back into it. People remember me and I love the work.”
One of the reasons Caruba was motivated to return to his passion was his volunteer work at the base; he said he wanted to do something special for the armed forces. “ I just got back into it because back on the base, every time I see people that I haven’t seen in 30 years, they’ll still have one of my origami, like a six fold gun, in their wallet,” he said. “Every time they go to a bar, they show it to somebody, and everybody wants it. All of a sudden, I got phone calls from people asking me to make them. One time, somebody died and I was asked to make something out of a dollar for the funeral. I came up with a cross.”
His latest work is an eagle, which very few have seen, and which pays tribute to everyone stationed at Fort Hamilton. “This is for the base because of what it represents. The eagle represents Fort Hamilton so I want this to be my contribution to the fort,” he said. “I think the soldiers would like to get a hold of one and I want to present it to them.”
Caruba, who published a book in 1979 called, “The Art of Folding Money,” always had a love for the niche art. “What makes any artist? They enjoy it and I was so fascinated when I took a fold apart,” he said. “When I first did a bowtie and ring, I said I could invent my own and my goal was to make the best folds ever made.”
He also enjoys the art’s uniqueness. “I love doing it and it’s a purist art,” he said. “You don’t need a paint brush or a chisel. All you need is a dollar. The expression on people’s faces is what gives me motivation. You make them happy when you do tricks and this is even better. They’ll never get rid of it.”