There Is nothing Catchy about papier-mâché’s Modern  renaissance

Paper, in its simplest form, is flimsy and two-dimensional. When it is layered and hardened, but the substance can become anything: a bowl, a bookshelf, even a seat. Before the age of mass production, it was not uncommon to observe plenty of design objects left in papier-mâché, a craft method of bonding shredded paper with everything from flour to paste to make volume. Now, that technique is enjoying a modern comeback in light, furniture and home accessories, and inspiring other unique processes that turn humble pulp to a significant designnbsp;statement.

Papier-mâché, which means “chewed paper” in French, originated in China where, soon after paper’s own creation around 100 BC, it was used to produce helmets for soldiers. After the technique arrived in Europe during the 17th century, French craftsmen began using the composite to mimic plaster and stucco. Papier-mâché’s capability to portray much sturdier stuff became its principal appeal. “Often, when people are considering it, they will think that it’s concrete, then they will pick it up and be amazed,” says Noel O’Connell, co-founder of Montreal-based studio Dear Human. “It never gets old watching their expressionnbsp;change{}”

Dear Human produces a range of household bits using the method, from tiles to furniture. O’Connell and his spouse Jasna Sokolovic used to operate mostly in ceramics until they stumbled upon a much more versatile material: paper pulp. The set sources paper from design firms and garment factories. The newspaper is shredded and mixed with warm water. “It turns it into a mush with oatmeal-like consistency,” O’Connell explains. “When we started playing around with it as a possible material, we noticed it responded in very similar ways to plaster. But it could do quite different things that ceramics could not do.” The material’s flexibility allowed the set to work with big lightweight volumes, like their Pulplites pendant lights and the Bibliothèquenbsp;seat.

Paper furniture enjoyed brief popularity in Victorian England when japanned papier-mâché became a significant industry, producing imitations of black-lacquered Japanese housewares which were frequently decorated with gold leaf and mother-of-pearl inlays. By comparison, its current resurgence is much more focused on sustainability than a lavish aesthetic. “The recycling part is actually important for us,” states Sokolovic. “We like this notion of reusing and giving a new life to thenbsp;substance.”

Utilizing lost stuff is a driving motivation for other designers working with papier-mâché. Budapest-based studio Paper Up! Produces modern sculptural lights such as the elegant Dome Pendant and tabletop objects which could also be readily mistaken for concrete or terrazzo. Creator Rita Koralevics uses just waste paper and combines the pulp with sawdust, woodchips or other organicnbsp;substances.

Atlanta-based Renée Parker, who produces decorative papier-mâché objects under the brand name made by Renée, says she is passionate about conservation. “I love to think about the hills of salvaged paper, wood and cardboard which have gone into my job as my contribution to the worldwide effort,” she says. The multimedia artist uses two kinds of papier-mâché, creating paper pulp composites in addition to sculpting shapes simply by gluing torn paper strips together. “Depending on the planned size and purpose of the product, I may assemble an armature in wood, wire, clay or cardboard, then build on it with newspaper,” she says. When the paper has dried and hardened, the armature is removed and the surface is carefully painted and sanded. “The surfaces might be a favorite part of the process for me. I get to experiment with colour and texture, and the possibilities are endless,” she says. The artist’s vast portfolio includes practical items like jewellery and pottery, in addition to decorative pieces including accent balls andnbsp;figurines.

New York-based multimedia performer Poramit Thantapalit utilizes papier-mâché as a canvas for creative surfaces. “My idea is to unite 2-D paper artwork on the 3-D objects,” says Thantapalit. “I use my cyanotype and printmaking techniques to create patterns on the surface{}” Thantapalit employs recycled materials such as cereal boxes, flyers and papers, shredding them and soaking them in water to make pulp, then adding paste, flour or mineral oil. Other times, Thantapalit works directly with strips of newspaper and a bonding mix made from corn starch, paste and vinegar or lemon juice. Thantapalit’s objects take on uneven, organic shapes reminiscent of experimental pottery. His Retro Mosaic Bowl comes with a cyanotype print collage made from electronic bad photography on rice paper, which is then glazed with crayon and wax through the encaustic method of using heat to melt on thenbsp;surface.

A resurgence of collage-style work and picture examples of papercutting are helping to interpret the paper decor trend into the art world. Having a background in textiles, Toronto-based artist Robyn Thomas creates large-format hangings built on a loom arrangement with coiled magazine or book pages which are woven together. And Japanese artist Michiko Iwata uses pages from classic notebooks to collage over wooden boxes, frequently drawing on the pages with pen to make chart papernbsp;grids.

For designers and artists sculpting with paper, creative achievement is dependent on understanding the limitations and potential of this material. “Paper is something I work with on an everyday basis, beyond just painting and drawing,” says Deborah Moss, co-founder of Moss amp; Lam, a custom made art studio in Toronto. “I am a very inquisitive person. What can I do for this? Rip it or tear it? What happens in the event that you soak it innbsp;paint?”

Unwilling to dispose of leftovers from other projects, Moss started experimenting with offcuts. The end result is Moss amp; Lam’s Edge Spiral Series. To make the three-dimensional bits, paper is torn into strips and tightened up on a coil prior to being left to place. “They create a memory,” Moss explains. For something so flat and ephemeral, paper’s capacity to change makes it the perfect starting point — and end product — for designnbsp;now.


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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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