Six centuries after it was penned, the contents hidden inside a Renaissance-era letter plucked from a trunk at The Hague are finally readable. The correspondence, which we now know was likely spurred by questions about an inheritance, was part of a larger collection of nearly 600 letterlocked notes, a complex method that involves meticulously folding, rolling, tucking, and adhering the paper into its own envelope. Prior to the advent of other sealing practices, this security measure ensured that no one transporting the note became privy to its contents.
According to an article in Nature, a group of MIT researchers, who work as Unlocking History, digitally unraveled the letter, which otherwise would have to be opened by cutting through the paper, damaging the object and potentially leaving it unreadable. Instead, they employed a particularly sensitive X‐ray microtomography scanner designed for dental practices, including mapping the exact mineral content of teeth. After scanning the paper, researchers constructed 3D models alongside an algorithm built to determine specific folding patterns, allowing them to open the note without physically altering the artifact.
Dated July 31, 1697, the letter contained a request for a death certificate from a man named Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers, who lived at The Hague. “His request issued, Sennacques then spends the rest of the letter asking for news of the family and commending his cousin to the graces of God,” researchers said. “We do not know exactly why Le Pers did not receive Sennacques’ letter, but given the itinerancy of merchants, it is likely that Le Pers had moved on.” It’s unclear why this letter or the hundreds of others, which are written in Dutch, English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, never reached their recipients.
Head to Vimeo to watch Unlocking History unfold replicas of infamous and fictional correspondence—the collection spans from Mary Queen of Scots to Harry Potter to Beethoven—and dive further into the practice on the group’s site, where you’ll find folding guides, a lengthy history, and an entire archive of discreet missives. (via Science Alert)
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In Calvin Nicholls’s sculptural forms, feathered and furry creatures are meticulously crafted from small pieces of white paper. When viewed up-close, their texture resembles the fullness of a wintery landscape, but in full form, the Canadian artist’s animals are so vivid that they appear as though they could leap, fly, and spring out of the canvas. Nicholls (previously) seamlessly examines and sculpts every detail of an animal’s body, from the difference in plume texture in doves to the strained muscles of a giraffe to the intoxicating stare of a tiger stalking its prey.
Every work is crafted from archival cotton paper that prevents yellowing and fading. Nicholls uses minuscule amounts of glue to secure the individual pieces, employing knives and texturing tools to precisely sculpt each delicate part. For the artist, crafting fur and feathers are equally challenging, and how long a piece will take is difficult to predict. He shares:
The largest sculptures I’ve done require several hundreds of hours while the more modest pieces keep me busy for two or more weeks. Familiarity with the subject is a big factor as well. My love of birds often propels me through pieces much faster than when sculpting subjects with (an) emphasis on musculature and structure.
Nicholls’s fascination with paper as a medium stems from graphic design classes in college, in addition to later collaborations with a colleague. These experiences further forged his interest in experimenting with various materials and papers that he had become familiar with through the graphics trade.
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In Ilhwa Kim’s sculptural landscapes, innumerable paper seeds form precise rows, indented pockets of densely packed folds, and multi-color valleys that wind through the feet-wide works. The South Korean artist arranges individual units of the rolled material in a staggered manner, meaning that the color, shadow, and texture of the final pieces shift with each viewing. “I am probably a sculptor of senses. I have been very curious how my senses are being organized when I perceive a thing or a location. The order, priority, and the way of being assembled together surprise me. How the senses reunited keeps evolving from initial contact to temporary goodbye,” she says, noting that change and perception play a central role in her practice.
Each composition begins with blank, white paper that Kim dyes and rolls into tight tubes that can be sliced only with heavy machinery. She forgoes gluing any of the seeds prior until the entire piece is complete. “This working process gives big freedom to make meaningful changes even when very close to the final stage,” the artist shares. “That is how a child plays, as well.” The comprehensive process transforms the original material into durable units that resemble the organic lifeform and ultimately grow into larger sculptures.
Based in Seoul, Kim has a solo show slated for September 2021 at HOFA Gallery in London, and you can see a larger collection of her works, including shots of pieces-in-progress, on Instagram. (via Cross Connect Magazine)
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From her studio in Lyon, Mlle Hipolyte scores, crimps, and fringes bits of paper that become sculptural interpretations of endangered species. She undertakes a rigorous research process that’s comparable to that of a botanist or zoologist before starting a piece and largely is concerned with the effects of the climate crisis on plants and animals. This realistic approach bases her practice in both preservation and celebration as she conveys the intricacies and natural beauty of coral reefs, flowers, and birds through works that vary in scale, sometimes spanning entire walls and others squeezing into tiny glass tubes.
Mlle Hipolyte tells Colossal that her next undertaking is a large forest inspired by François Hallé’s botanical drawings, an ongoing project you can follow on Instagram. To add one of the meticulous, textured sculptures to your collection, check out her shop. (via Cross Connect Magazine)
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In “Artemis,” artists Julie Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft translate the moody, floral pattern of House of Hackney’s wallpaper into a stunning, three-dimensional bouquet. The sculptural work is a tribute to the designer’s classic motif, which has the same name, and took weeks for the duo to render digitally before crafting with jewel-toned and embellished paper. “We just had to pay very close attention to what we saw as the original mood and intention and draw on expanding that feeling,” Horscroft tells Colossal.
The result is a dramatic interpretation that’s crafted with painstaking detail, including thickly layered petals and woven leaves. “To us, each flower head is its own microcosm, with its own set of rules and expression, yet it’s clear they belong in the same universe. They feel like planets in a solar system or different chocolates in a box—and there’s something really appealing about that! Different… but the same,” Horscroft says.
Split between London and Oslo, the duo leads Makerie Studio (previously), which is known for its meticulous commercial, editorial, and creative projects crafted entirely from paper. See more of the pair’s sprawling installations and smaller works on Behance and Instagram.
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Human hands and machines converge in the meticulous process behind Ibbini Studio’s radial vessels. Collaborating since 2017, Abu Dhabi-based artist Julia Ibbini and computer scientist Stephane Noyer craft intricate sculptures informed by geometric principles and the divide between digital and analog techniques. The multi-faceted, sequential design culminates in Symbio Vessels, an exquisite series of works that wind from base to mouth in an algorithmically defined pattern.
To create the coiled containers, the artists first draw organic structures that mimic botanics and various tessellations before turning them over to custom parametric design software. This program refines and renders the original work in three-dimensions and develops the vessel’s final shape. Once a laser cuts out the individual rings from archival paper or card—watch this meticulous process in the video below—the pair glues the layers together, forming vases that spiral upward. “The final pieces display an idea of contrasts and collaboration,” the studio says. “The flaws which come with the human hand contribute to the beautiful end result.”
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