Staying in the fold...

by - Monday, April 06, 2020

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. ~ Steve Martin

Snip, roll, fold, tuck, wrap. No, I'm not talking about plastic surgery. Blending art with a trace of fantasy, crafty virtuosos are turning the page to a new generation of artistic intervention, one sheet of paper at a time.

There are so many transformative things one can create from a simple piece of paper. Today's artistry is taking a contemporary perspective aside from classic paper dolls.

They've designed animal-shaped masks for Hermès boutique openings in Europe and Asia, exclusive artistry in pieces engineered by hand, taking up to eighty hours to make. Nikki Nye and Amy Flurry, co-founders Paper-Cut-Project in 2009, collaborate on the transformation of paper sheets into dramatic silhouettes. 

The Atlanta-based duo forged a unique affinity of fine art and fashion that has garnered commissions by several of the world's top fashion houses and galleries including, Hermès, Cartier, Kate Spade, and Valentino. At home on the theatre of the runway, in site-specific installations and editorial, their paper sculptures work across many disciplines, including a collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, a 16-piece collection of paper wigs for their "Hollywood Costume" exhibit. Their work has been featured in the New York Times, Selvedge, Numero, and Italian Vogue.

Surprisingly, paper has the fantastic ability to retain shapes that other materials are less prone to. Using glue, water, or other applications produces results that go well beyond flat, cut paper surfaces, like intricate curls of the wigs and hair accessories for the La Mer press event in France (above). This is especially so when using white paper because, in layering white, the shadows give a greater sense of depth to each piece and to the various textures.

In the past five years, paper expressions have been a very popular window display material. It's inexpensive and there are so many different interpretations. We've enjoyed working in a mostly white scheme, as the layers create shadows and depth that are dramatic... It's an inexpensive material so that investment is minimal, save for the time!

Below, black wigs for Kate Spade Flat Iron and Soho boutique window displays in New York.

Sweeping whispy cuts or layers of tiny rolls, the method provides visual and tactile depth. The transformative power of paper can be seen not only in storefronts and the runway but in extraordinary replicas of natural wildlife.

Japanese paper artist Chie Hitotsuyama deftly creates textured sculptures of animals using a technique involving rolled strips of wet newspaper. The compact application of each newspaper segment proves to be an elegant method of forming the wild fur of snow monkeys or the density of scales found on the back of an iguana. For Hitotsuyama, these details are critical as she seeks to create the most lifelike sculptures possible.

More than anything else, I'm particular about the realistic feel of the animals. Animals that live in nature are equal to us in the sense that we live together on this planet. Sometimes they sleep. Sometimes they eat. They are living ordinary everyday lives just like us. I would like to keep insisting on reality and producing my life-sized work as much as possible to convey their lives.

Born in Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan, Hitotsuyama started her career as an illustrator. When she began to create three-dimensional works, childhood memories of her grandfather's historic paper mill led her to use paper as her sculptural medium, creating remarkable life-size animals and marine life from unwanted discarded newspapers.

Paper is such an ordinary, unassuming material. We come into contact with it every day: we sign receipts, open envelopes, jot down to-do lists. In these contexts, paper feels mundane and ephemeral, simply a means to an end. With just a few strategic, delicate alterations, though -- a precise series of folds, or a collection of tiny cut flaps -- I'm able to transform the material into something totally different. I love creating permanent sculptural works out of such a familiar, expendable substrate.

I use a variety of techniques in my work, like pleating, rolling, incising, and folding. I typically create one "unit" -- an incised flap, a pleated strip, or a rolled-up cone, for instance -- and then repeat it dozens or hundreds of times to create a larger pattern. I often try to balance the geometric and organic elements in my work. And I draw pattern inspiration from a variety of sources, both natural and human-made: bathroom tiles, clouds, storm drains, the "skeletons" of dead cactuses, peeling bark, raindrops on a car window, rock formations, ornate screens in Islamic architecture.

Organic realism to contemporary geometry, the paper trail continues.

Within two months, Zai Divecha was done with a career in metalworking and creating original projects out of paper. In the two years since she's created everything from small paper sculptures that hang in the homes of private clients to 60-foot installations that hang in the lobbies of Bay Area tech campuses. She's also partnered with a gallery that displays her work and organizes private commissions, which now have a waitlist spanning over six months.

Zai Divecha is a San Francisco-based artist whose work provides a quiet, calm respite from an overstimulating world. By folding, pleating, or rolling sheets of white paper, she creates intricate patterns of light and shadow. Divecha has shown at Marrow Gallery, West Coast Craft, and the American Craft Council; clients include Instagram, Twitter, and Square. Divecha is a Bay Area native and a Yale graduate, and she spends as much time as she can on her road bike. She works out of a shared workshop in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Her Instagram takes viewers behind-the-scenes in photos from the studio.

In the last few years, I've constrained my work to an all-white color palette. I'm pretty sensitive to my environment (sounds, smells, temperatures), and I've found that I'm calmer and happier when I'm "turning the volume down" on all kinds of sensory inputs. For instance, I've switched to mostly fragrance-free home and body products, I keep earplugs in my purse at all times, and I frequently leave events as soon as I've hit my threshold for noise. 

In my creative practice, I try to create the kind of visual stimuli that I want to be surrounded by. The all-white palette allows me to create pattern and texture with just light and shadow alone, which feels soothing to me. I aim to create work that makes people feel centered, quiet, and focused. I want my work to feel like a respite from an overstimulating world.

This paper, wood, and LEDs (below) was a commission for a San Francisco family. The stars cut out from the paper are in the layout of the night sky over San Francisco at 5:12am on May 8th, 2019 — the exact moment their second child was born.

Bright white inspiration is available one sheet at a time when you stay in the fold... xoxo-Sonya

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