Do paper crafts still have a place in our digitalised, virtualised and augmented reality? It seems the answer is yes. The Forumist talked to two Berlin-based artists to find out more about their cutting-edge work with this medium and the appeal of tactile experiences.
Lacy Barry’s artwork can be found in shop windows and the spaces she decorates for special events and commercial projects. She creates paper-craft artwork for installations, both art and commercial, and designs sets for print and web advertisements. She also makes paper and tinsel costumes and headpieces. In her Little Wing and Exploding Florals series, 3D wings and florals embellish a mural canvas, creating the effect of an explosion that breaks the two-dimensionality of the canvas and brings the artwork to life.
Cris Wiegandt is a paper-craft artist who specialises in stop-motion animation – her work comes to life through film. She implements tactile illustration and stop-motion techniques to create 3D, animated and colourful worlds with an extraordinary finish and texture, showing the versatile qualities of paper.
Talking to Barry and Wiegandt, you quickly realise that, for them, paper craft is a creative tool for expressing their visions and ideas, and the medium they work with is a conscious and aesthetic choice. They both love the tactile qualities of paper.
Wiegandt talks a lot about imperfections and how little mistakes can make paper craft look real. Some people love the playfulness and cuteness of what she produces and how it reminds them of their childhood. For others it is the complexity of these meticulously created works that they find fascinating. When telling me about her favourite projects, Barry mentions the many layers of paper and cardboard she adds to her artworks to create a mesmerising three-dimensionality of colours and gradients. Most of Wiegandt’s animated stories are also a good example of the complexity that paper craft can achieve – everything she creates, from little rice corn to the large-scale sets, is made solely from paper. Stunning.
Wiegandt has been working in the stop-motion business for six years and has created a large number of paper-craft animations. She acknowledges that as the technology behind 3D printing improves, it will become a major competitor for paper-craft technique, but she believes many people still enjoy analogue sensations, which require skill and many years of practice to produce. Also, it is often cheaper to produce something crafted than to hire a good 3D artist. And besides, people are still attracted to tactile sensations, especially nowadays, when digital technology is accessible to everyone and every teenager can use a cameraphone to shoot images and videos. This is why so many of Wiegandt’s clients consider paper projects especially creative and they like to see how she creates something that looks so different from the glossy digital images they’re used to seeing all the time now. For Wiegandt, paper is a fascinating material – simple but versatile. “The texture and the finish are so beautiful. I like to touch it,” she says. She believes that, for older generations, paper craft is connected to memories of their younger years, but she is not sure if future generations will feel the same way.
Barry started to work with paper six years ago by accident. “I had just moved from LA to Montreal,” she recalls. “When I was living in LA, my life was all set up. I was doing a lot of work for film, assisting my dad when he was assigned to paint sets [Barry’s father is a professional painter.]. When I moved back to Canada, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I ended up staying in Montreal. I quickly started to integrate. I got a studio place and my first seamstress jobs through Craigslist. I also made props and designed costumes. Through personal connections I found out there was this paper artist whose work I really liked and who had a studio in the same building as me. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I should introduce myself,’ so I emailed him.
“We never met as he was moving out to a better studio, but he referred me to a music-video director who hired me to make props and with whom I ended up working for a while. I didn’t have much experience – I had only done a few prop-styling jobs before. I didn’t know if I could do everything, but I was willing to try. It was like a new adventure for me. And it worked out very well. We did another project together, for which we had to build paper sets. I had low expectations of what I was capable of, but I was so excited about the project – it just set my imagination on fire. I remember having this nasty cold, as I had to work on this project for three days in a row. The video director came by with a bottle of whisky to help me work. At some point he went home to see his kids and to get some sleep and I just kept going. The next day we set up in my studio. It was a mountain scape with a water filtration system. It looked so good. It was my first big project and is probably still one of my favourites. After that, things snowballed. I started to get a reputation and build up a portfolio. Any time I was trying to do something else I was always coming back to paper, so I thought, ‘Why am I trying to fight it?’
” When asked about why she chooses paper as a working material, she says it’s because it’s a fun material to work with: “ You can sculpt, cut and adjust it. You can make something bigger or smaller. You can paint it. And the end result is always kind of surreal. When it’s done, you are looking at it and you see a sort of land – you know, a paper land.”
Barry is not particularly worried about paper craft disappearing, though. “People have always used paper as an art form – just think of origami or painting. I have been working with paper for six years and it has been only three years since paper craft became very popular. For me, paper is still recreating itself as a
medium every day. I am finding new ways to work with it and new ways to form and sculpt it. I don’t think the tactile world will ever go away.
“Many artists still use materials that have been around for ages and they often mix them with new, cutting-edge materials. Of course, now it is possible to create paper renderings on computers and it can look very good, too, but the renderings don’t have that special tactility. Sometimes it is just about the right combination of analogue and digital that can make ideas shine through.
Words by Veronika Dorosheva
1: Veolia Markt-Roboter: Art Direction & Crafts: Cris Wiegandt, Client: Veolia
2: Missy_LETTERS_Sex and Missy_LETTERS_M: by Cris Wiegandt
3: Cris working in her studio. Image taken by Natasha John and Lacy Barry working in her studio by Rebecca Paul
4: Pillars – paper craft by Lacy Barry, Image by Jenny Endom
5: Big Bird: Art Direction & Paper Craft: Cris Wiegandt. Client: Publicis Dublin