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13 Paper Craft Artists Reinventing the Medium

At 20x200, we’re nerdy about a lot of things, and paper is one of them. From the archival material our prints are created on to the sturdy containers we send them to you in, we’ve got our hands in/on/around paper all day. We appreciate it and what it can do—and we really love artists who push this sometimes under-appreciated material to its limits. 

We’re proud to include two incredible artists on the 20x200 roster who work extensively and innovatively with paper: Kelli Anderson and e bond. Anderson, whom our founder Jen Bekman dubbed “The Paper Whisperer” creates, in her words, “book-like things and paper devices”—ingenious, interactive objects like This Book is a Planetarium. Aside from her 2D fine art, e bond makes intricate and inviting handmade books. She's also a professor of graphic design and bookmaking, with online classes available too.

 There’s something extra special about transforming the prototypical 2D object into three dimensions, so today we’re bringing you 13 artists who take paper to unexpected places.

Art by @gunjanay

Paper, as we define it today, was invented in China in around 105 CE. (Papyrus and parchment both pre-date this, but those materials are not technically paper.) It’s likely that paper folding, known in China as zhezhi, began soon after, as origami did in Japan after paper was introduced in the 6th century. The tradition continues, of course, both at small and large scale.

You can’t consider paper without thinking about bookmaking, a centuries-old tradition around the world. Contemporary artists, including our own e bond, combine traditional techniques with bold ideas to continually reinvent the medium.

The art of paper cutting (that’s cutting paper, not getting papercuts 😉) began being practiced in the 4th century CE in China, peaking in the Ming and Qing dynasties. In 2009, UNESCO included Chinese paper cutting on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the 16th century, scherenschnitte (literally “scissor cut”) began being practiced in Germany and Switzerland. Papel picado, a Mexican folk art practice with origins in Aztec tradition, is created by punching through many layers of thin paper.

It’s an ancient material, and while techniques for working with it go back centuries, artists like those included here continue to inspire us by reinventing and reimagining the possibilities for creation.

Further exploration:  

The Art of Papercraft by Helen Hiebert 
e bond’s Unconventional Book Structure class on Creative Bug
This Book is a Planetarium by Kelli Anderson