Paper Sculpture

History of Paper Sculpture

Paper sculpture and related artistic practices stem from a global history of cutting and folding paper. In Japan, origami and kirigami developed after Buddhist monks introduced paper to the island in the 6th century. Germany's scherenschnitte, or scissor cuts is a decorative art form that traces its roots to 16th century Switzerland and Germany. These papercut designs were brought to colonial American in the 18th century. In Europe, Cubist artists experimented with collage, cutting and pasting pieces of paper and other flat materials to achieve the illusion of perspective in their compositions. The next natural step would be the creation of actual 3D paper sculptures made solely from paper or by combining paper with other materials.

Paper Sculpture Techniques

Origami paper sculptures are made through a series of intricate folds that transform a sheet of paper into almost any object imaginable. Kirigami, scherenschnitte, papel picado, and other cultural paper cutting styles can be cut and layered to create sculptures or three-dimensional installations. More intricate designs require the artist to trace out what they wish to cut out. Similarly, some artists fold paper and stack these thicker pieces to form the sculpture itself. Artists who make paper mache sculptures usually create a base model of their sculpture before covering it in layers of paper and/or cloth strips and adhesive. Once the adhesive dries, the artist can paint the sculpture.

Artists Known For Paper Sculpture

One of the most famous paper sculptures is Pablo Picasso’s cardboard and paperboard creations “Guitar” (1912). Picasso’s Cubist work, though made of two-dimensional paper, plays with different planes and perspective. Artist Li Hongbo is known for making sculptures like “Bust of David” (2012) by gluing layers of folded paper, creating a solid mass that can expand and compress like an accordion. Nahoko Kojima cuts patterns into single sheets of paper to create life-sized paper sculptures of animals. Jacob Hashimoto is famous for using small paper kites to create hanging installations like “Gas Giant” (2014). Mary Button Durell uses tracing paper and wheat paste to make biomorphic abstract pieces. Other artists known for their paper sculptures include Lisa Nilsson, Christina Lihan, Allen and Patty Eckman, Li Hongjun, Ellen Rixford, Matthew Picton, Matthew Shlian, Andreas Kocks, and Kelsey Olson.