At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.
Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.
The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.
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Artist Asya Kozina is known for her elaborate paper wigs that soar into the air with scenes of miniature metropolises and various botanical frills, coils, and pleats. Referencing the ominous tale of the Flying Dutchman, Kozina’s latest collection transports wearers to the sea with fleets of ships that sail across the cut-and-folded headdresses. The legend states that seeing the vessel portends imminent danger, a sense of mystery and hazard the artist juxtaposes with blossoming botanicals and butterflies full of life.
Kozina is based in Ukraine, and in a note to Colossal, she shares that Russia’s ongoing aggression has necessarily paused her practice as she focuses on volunteer efforts and caring for her family. “We are in a state of more or less stress,” she says. “My attention is focused on air alarms and news and correspondence with relatives in other cities of Ukraine. At the same time, we pretend that we have a normal life… It’s completely surreal.”
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Created from single pieces of paper, Maude White’s sculptures (previously) reveal the veins of petals and leaves, braided locks, and vivid animal portraits. Making countless tiny incisions on archival sheets with a size 11 blade, the artist begins by referencing a photograph and creating a loose sketch to maintain general dimensions. She then carefully selects the location of the first cut, telling Colossal that “every cut expands outward from there, and I have to make sure that the piece can maintain its integrity when complete and not fall apart.”
White continues to pursue nature as a subject, focusing on expressive animals and diverse flora. “I will always come back to my love of elephants and flowers,” she says, sharing that she has been experimenting with new forms that are less visually literal. The net-like, “sketchy” composition pictured below appears at first glance like a bird’s nest, but upon closer inspection, an elephant’s eye and trunk emerge. “I really enjoyed this piece, and it was quite a challenge to design and execute!” she says.
In December 2022, White published Resilience Alchemy, a deck and guidebook featuring her artwork that focuses on creative self-discovery and empowerment. “I’m really proud of this project, and even though it’s a departure from the more intricate cut-paper work, it explores resilience in a way that I think can be helpful and hopeful for a lot of people,” she says. Find a copy on Bookshop, and keep an eye out for a new deck slated for release this December. Follow White’s updates on Instagram, and explore more work on her website.
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From Junk Drawers to Phone Books, Artist Bernie Kaminski Captures the Nostalgia of Banal Items Through Papier-Mâché
A stack of worn phone books, a neatly folded button-up, and a junk drawer filled with receipts, batteries, and takeout remnants capture the playful nostalgia of Bernie Kaminski’s papier-mâché sculptures. The artist, who began working with the humble craft after his daughter brought home a seahorse she made in school, is driven largely by curiosity and a desire to explore the potential of the material, and he tends to recreate the objects he finds around his home. An orange dutch oven sits atop a shelving unit stocked with pantry items and cookbooks, for example, and books like Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and John Berger’s A Painter of Our Time find their place among other classic texts.
Kaminski gravitates toward authentic interpretations of generally banal items, although the subtle ripples and creases of the material remain visible. He generally coats a cardboard and tape base with the wet papier-mâché, before letting it dry and painting on logos, signatures, and other details. Imbued with a playful sense of nostalgia, the sculptures “look fake in a way that somehow reflects how I feel about the real thing,” the artist tells It’s Nice That.
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Wielding the fundamentals of set design, Layla May Arthur assembles elaborate architectural spaces and visual narratives from paper. The Netherlands-based artist focuses on the interplay between light and shadow in intricate, three-dimensional dioramas that emphasize storytelling in window displays, brand identities, and gallery presentations. In pieces ranging from delicate, individual sculptures of staircases to large-scale, immersive installations, she instills a sense that the viewer is a part of the interactions of figures within each scene.
Since graduating from university in 2021, Arthur has focused on projects that emulate the visual drama of theatrical presentations, setting the stage for products in boutique windows and brand collaborations in addition to museum exhibitions. “I really enjoy being able to handcraft artworks to be used in photoshoots or installations where my work reaches an audience who might not ordinarily seek out art in an art space,” she tells Colossal. “I have had incredible clients so far who have given me huge creative freedom in acting as both art director and artist.”
Arthur emphasizes each incision, angle, and pattern of the meticulously cut pieces of white paper by spotlighting or illuminating from within. “I love being able to create an artistic experience which is part of the everyday and highlights the possibilities of craftsmanship,” she says.
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Exemplifying the possibilities of combining humble materials with a good dose of resourcefulness, Ann Weber’s monumental sculptures find their beginnings in discarded cardboard boxes. The San Pedro, California-based artist parlayed her training in ceramics into a focus on the everyday material, initially inspired by architect Frank Gehry’s cardboard chairs, which transformed utilitarian, heavyweight paper into structurally sound and visually appealing functional objects. Weber echoed a similar intention when she decided to eliminate the inherently cumbersome process and weight of clay in exchange for a lightweight material that could be scaled up.
The artist scours the neighborhoods of Los Angeles for boxes, paying special attention to those with printed surfaces; she carefully considers the colors of graphics and text and incorporates them into the overall composition of each work. In the studio, she begins by building an armature with larger pieces of cardboard to create the silhouette. She then applies layers of strips cut from other boxes and staples them into place in a repetitive, textured pattern.
While the forms billow, bulge, and tower overhead, the artist doesn’t want to obscure the ubiquitous material; instead, Weber invites the viewer to consider the substance in a way they might not otherwise, saying “cardboard has taken on more complex meaning in the 21st century with the hyper-capitalistic proliferation of excess shipping materials.” Paper accounts for more than a quarter of the waste in landfills globally. “The sculptures can be viewed as a critique of contemporary consumerist culture, but that is not my sole intent,” she continues. “They are instilled with a psychological component neither entirely representational nor abstract, but something in between.”
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Editor's Picks: Design
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