Making art from folded paper is by no means a new idea. Origami has been an established art form in Japan since the early Heian period, which began in the year 794. In recent decades however, artists have really explored paper’s potential as an artistic medium, creating beautiful and often very intricate sculptures and installations from this natural substance.
Working with folded paper thrills and terrifies artists in equal measure. Although paper lends itself well to the creation of exact straight lines and perfect curves, it commands an extremely gentle touch and tremendous patience. Working and sculpting it can be both therapeutic and meditative, which is perhaps why so many of the artists featured here have devoted their entire careers to working with it.
1. Richard Sweeney
Richard Sweeney is best known for his paper sculptures, of which there are more than 50 examples. Each one is plain white and geometrically perfect. He begins by drawing layouts for his sculptures onto paper by hand, before translating his designs in AutoCAD software. This process lets him create technically challenging shapes, such as the Icosahedron (a 20-sided shape) pictured.
2. Bert Simons
While Sher Christopher’s sculptures are theatrical and fantastical, Bert Simons’s are grounded firmly in reality. Using the open source CAD software Blender, Simons sculpts, renders and textualizes his creations before printing them out, folding and sticking them together. He has even made a ‘clone’ of himself, which you can download on his website.
3. Peter Callesen
With nothing more than ordinary paper, Peter Callesen creates beautiful and realistic sculptures of all sizes (some up to 5m tall). Each one appears to leap out from the piece of paper from which it was created. By presenting the original piece of paper alongside each sculpture, Callesen fascinatingly reveals his creative process.
4. Jen Stark
Like an exploding rainbow, Jen Stark’s work bursts with colour and creativity. Inspired by the microscopic patterns in nature, she uses stacks of colourful paper to form exquisitely crafted geometric sculptures.
5. Sher Christopher
Sher Christopher’s figurative sculptures utilise various different types of paper, making the most of each ones’ respective qualities. Delicate lace paper, for example, is used for faces, while stronger suede paper is used to simulate textiles and clothing. Whether freestanding or wall mounted, each of Christopher’s characters has its own unique personality.
6. Simon Schubert
This monochrome masterpiece was crafted by Simon Schubert from just one piece of plain-white paper, folded to create a realistic perspective image. It’s just one example from a large body of folded paper work inspired by interior architecture. Look carefully and you can see a ghostly figure reflected in the two mirrors.
7. Masahiro Chatani
Masahiro Chatani, born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1934, is the founding father of origamic architecture. He has been highly influential in the world of folded paper art and has inspired many of the artists featured here. His massive body of work includes paper recreations of the Sydney Opera House, The Parthenon and the Sagrada Familia.
8. Ingrid Siliakus
Siliakus’s folded paper sculptures are all made from 160g to 300g pieces of paper. Heavily inspired by Chatani, much of her work is architectural, although she has made more abstract pieces too, like “United Women”, pictured above. Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the world, from the Netherlands, to Spain, Norway, and even Australia.
9. Chris Natrop
LA-based Chris Natrop makes large and colourful paper installations. The installation pictured above consists of hand-cut pieces of paper, painted with watercolours and hung on wires. As the hanging paper shifts in the breeze, moving shadows are projected onto the painted walls behind. Natrop has successfully staged eight solo exhibitions of his work.
10. Clive Stevens
Clive Stevens’s paper sculptures display a high degree of craftsmanship, yet are accessible to all. His work has been featured in a number of advertisements, including a successful animated television campaign for Pritt Stick. There is a high international demand for his sculptures, all of which he makes in a village studio in Kent, just 30 miles from London.