Design’s deepening love affair with paper

A guest blogger on the paper artists who are a cut above the crowd

Last week, amid the Christmas mayhem, I was researching the design world’s deepening love affair with paper for a freelance project. I have long been aware, in the corners of my mind, that over the past few years paper design has come on in leaps and bounds, and for me – and many others, I expect – it really started when the British artist Rob Ryan unveiled his enchanting papercutting and screenprinting creations. They speak to the child in me, who wants to believe in a world of blue skies, happy birds, jingle bells and a happy ending.

I then took a trip to the V&A last month and was mesmerised by the brilliant 3-D paper net vases in its shop (first picture). Painstakingly precise and a whole lot more scientific than most things that I usually run towards, they can be moulded as you wish and give a different impression from every angle. I thought they would be perfect accessories for a clean, contemporary, Scandi interior. Sadly mine has a little more shab to it and they would get swallowed up.


I also came across a delightful paper-cutter named Hiroko Matsushita while running my chocolate van at an arts event back at the end of the summer. Fusing clean-cut designs and delicate pastel shading, Matsushita makes enchanting and infinitely detailed paper products including crackers, pop-up cards (second picture) that are quite unlike any I have seen, and little layered card boxes (third picture) with romantic messages such as “I am...” on the lid and “Happy with you” waiting to be discovered inside. Going beyond Rob Ryan’s signature silhouette designs, Matsushita’s work has a depth of field that perfectly encapsulates the design world’s increasingly complex work with paper. The results are breathtaking.

Online, I have been held hostage for hours on end by the adorable Australian website Upon A Fold, which offers all sorts of exciting papery products including globes, coasters, miniature trees, doilies and even burgers. In fact, it seems that our friends down under are far more advanced in the art of paper than we – the first paper festival, Cut.Slice.Fold, was organised in Melbourne this November and met with great success.


So now, wherever I am, I keep my eyes out for rare and beautiful finds made from that most humble of mediums – paper. Sustainable and recyclable, no matter what its form, it has opened up a new and exciting approach to design, and the bonus is that it doesn’t cost the earth.

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