Looking at artists: Paper

I usually start working with paper as a medium for drawing and painting, to create collages, folding it to make 3D models… We may live in a digital world, but for creatives using paper has by no means diminished. Folded into origami and kirigami, laser-cut, layered and made into sculptures, artists can transform a humble sheet of old tree into a spectacular artwork.

I want to show you some great examples of paper art being used imaginatively within contemporary design, giving new life to one of the most ancient arts. You’re sure to find the inspiration you’re looking for…

Lisa Nilsson works in a variety of media, but her stand-out work involves quilling. I can’t resist her Tissue series: a collection of anatomical cross-sections rendered in paper.

These pieces are made of Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books. They are constructed by a technique of rolling and shaping narrow strips of paper called quilling or paper filigree. Quilling was first practiced by Renaissance nuns and monks who are said to have made artistic use of the gilded edges of worn out bibles, and later by 18th century ladies who made artistic use of lots of free time. I find quilling exquisitely satisfying for rendering the densely squished and lovely internal landscape of the human body in cross section.

French artists Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmerman make up renowned paper art studio Zim & Zou. The duo’s colourful paper sculptures appear all over the world, including in this series of installations in a new Hermès store in Dubai.

Inspired by nature, and the way It runs and defines the world we’re living in, linked to every living beings, and every living being is linked to it. In this project, spectators have a sneak pick of the curious characters living inside this environment. This microscopic point of view, where plants and other vegetal reign as masters, is like a kind of picture, a flash, a precise instant in nature’s unrestrained run. Life is everywhere, flowers are growing and carry away its inhabitants in their impetus. This mysterious people is evolving, building, and living right in the heart of the nature, revealing a fragment of their daily life.

Also working with paper, but in this case to create a product, we find Japanese artist and designer Yusuke Oono, she creates books that open up to tell their stories as a multi-layered 3D scenes. Each page is a separate laser-cut plane, and together they make up deep and gorgeous 3D images that reveal the story as you make your way from the front to the back of the book.

Yusuke has just started to release his own works, initiating with the “360 degree book” which won the highest prize for International Competition “You Fab 2012”.
Yusuke is keen to find new ways to express dimension, utilizing 3D modeling technology and digital fabrication method such as laser-cutter and 3d scanner/printer. He is keen to seek for new value of design.

Skyfarm Fortress, is a Jacob Hashimoto creation. Creating a floor to ceiling
environment only using paper. He anchors the three dimensional sculpture with a complex system of suspended open cubes that coalesce from the alignment of solid black square kites.

This architectural grid – Brutalism at its most ethereal – both visually supports and penetrates a band of overlapping planes of multi-colored collaged elements. Above this dynamic substructure is a canopy of white kites. Cloud-like, translucent, out of reach, and constantly rippling from air currents, this Sky contrasts with the perceived rigidity of the Fortress below. From balletic components, Hashimoto creates a tense narrative of abstract form and composition.

Another Master of paper manipulation is Origami artist Sipho Mabona.
Since then Sipho has designed origami for the award winning Asics corporate movie “Origami in the Pursuit of Perfection”and has exhibited his work in galleries and museums around the globe.

Sipho Mabona’s origami covers a great range of different styles from very intricate representational designs to abstract geometrical shapes.

In order to prove that there are no limits to what can be made out of a uncut square piece of paper, Mabona folded a life-size replica of an elephant. Over the course of several weeks the monumental sculpture was folded at the Art Museum in Beromünster, Switzerland. A team of three assistants supported that project.

Using a sheet measuring 15 by 15 meters (50 by 50 feet), They created an elephant standing more than 3 meters (10 feet) tall. Further more, the team installed two cameras which fed footage to an online live video stream.

For Artist Polly Verity, the process is as follows: The paper fold is initially eased into shape by hand onto a small piece of paper. Then the paper is opened out and the lines carefully, mathematically transcribed into a computer line drawing. Once this drawing is refined and tested and with the repeat tessellation computed, the line data is sent to a desktop cutter that cuts very slightly into the paper in order to score it. The paper is then folded by hand along these scores. Each sculpture is made from one sheet of paper with no cuts or glue.

Some of the designs are used for dresses, the artist creates paper dresses that due to the nature of the paper, can usually only be worn once. Polly has created paper dresses for weddings, performance and for photo-shoots.

Recent developments have seen the artist/designer begin to work with curved folds especially curve fold repeat patterns. This has produced some surprising and exciting results.

Get more inspiration on how to work with paper in the following links:











  1. Annette Bruton 26 November 2017 at 8:11 am

    What a super article and great links. Thank you Pere. Looking at this inspiration shows me how I might have been much more adventurous in part one of Mixed Media foe textiles which was my last course. But also now thinking about using paper as a means of drawing, constructing or experimenting before trying to apply to fabric textiles is so exciting for any course.

  2. Debbie Tomkies 26 November 2017 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for a interesting post Pere. Vincent Floderer was one of my chosen artists for MMT and this led to many artists working with paper but I hadn’t heard of all of these. So much to explore!

  3. Nicola Eastaugh 27 November 2017 at 7:36 am

    Thank you for this insight Pere. I have a particular interest in geometry and constructed textiles, so it was especially relevant to me. Most surprising was Lisa Nilsson’s innovative use of quilling techniques – a great example of how a traditional technique can be adapted and used in a contemporary context. I will investigate further.

  4. Amardeep 27 November 2017 at 1:29 pm

    This is brilliant I really enjoyed the origami video on how paper can be transformed into 3D …especially how Simona has created the life sized elephant in origami style … Thank you Pere.


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