A moth-human hybrid, striped coral, and a smoking frog sporting a tracksuit inhabit Cat Johnston’s fantastical ecosystem crafted from paper, textiles, and sculpy or epoxy clay. The playfully bizarre creatures are inspired by monsters, mythology, and folklore, evoking deities and magnifying the strange qualities of plants and animals. Johnston created many of the lifeforms shown here shortly after moving to San Francisco and exploring the environment. “I was blown away by all the strange and lovely cacti and succulents and the animals I saw there (hummingbirds and pelicans and raccoons!) and wanted to create a landscape of plants and creatures that felt as alien and magical as California did to me,” she says.
Currently living and working in Portland, the illustrator and model maker first worked with paper for a stop-motion animation she did with Andersen M and Tundra studios and has been creating with the material since. She’s in the process of crafting two more characters, which she’ll be sharing soon on Instagram. You also might enjoy Roberto Benavidez’s piñatas and the felt storybook creatures by Cat Rabbit.
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Encircled by oversized crowns of paper, two new masks by Patrick Cabral celebrate Filipino culture through elaborately fashioned works defined by their colors. Titled Mananayaw ng Langit at Lupa, or Dancers of Heaven and Earth, the ongoing series was commissioned by the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art for the Dinagyang Festival. The cultural celebration is held annually the last week in January with the Ati Tribe competition, which involves warrior dancers performing to loud chants and drum beats, as the main event.
Preserving the tradition in paper, Cabral’s masks both mimic the performers’ costumes and draw on the detail and intricacy of his earlier animal figures. “Lupa” is brilliantly colored and embodies the passionate spirits of a dragon or crocodile, representing Earth, fire, and light. “Langit,” on the other hand, is more subdued with bird-like features, peacock feathers, and a quiet expression. It symbolizes air, flight, horizons, and dreams. “Both animals are important because birds are used in ancient sea navigation, which our ancestors are known for, and the crocodile is the biggest animal native to the Philippines…I want one to look calm and the other chaotic. One is a feather. One is fire,” the Manila-based artist says.
Cabral currently is working on an exhibit for the Philippine Pavillion at the World Expo that shares the “courage of our ancestors, the people who brave the angry ocean from Taiwan to the Batanes Islands.” Follow that project and explore a larger collection of the artist’s painstakingly constructed works on Behance and Instagram.
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Say goodbye to the days of buying succulents only to watch them wilt and shrivel. Just flip open a pop-up book by photographer Daniel Gordon, and find a collection of forever-perky shrubs and greenery sprouting from the pages.
Published by Aperture, Houseplants features quirky still lifes of potted vegetation and fruit that Gordon developed using photographs found online, a process that’s central to his overall practice. The obviously constructed forms, which were created by self-described paper engineer Simon Arizpe, juxtapose the realistic nature of the plants with saturated colors and unusual depth, resulting in scenes that are distinctly informed by the internet and the melding of digital and analog techniques. “The seamlessness of the ether is boring to me, but the materialization of that ether, I think, can be very interesting,” Gordon says in a statement.
To add the sculptural greens to your collection, pick up a copy of Houseplants from Aperture or Bookshop, and explore more of the Brooklyn-based photographer’s vibrant, collaged projects on his site and Instagram. (via Juxtapoz)
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Three 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)
Update: This article originally stated that the letter was written six centuries ago, not three.
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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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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.