Wood, knife, paper!

A poetic fascination has motivated industrial designer, Li-Yu Lin, to try her skills with paper.

Paper is a precious and practical material and the focal point of Li-Yu Lin's graduation project. Take care - you might become inspired.

Where does your fascination with paper come from?

“I love to work with paper as a material due to its delicate qualities, the beautiful colours, the delicate shades of nuances and the textures that are so unique to paper. People usually see paper as a surface, so when I use paper to create small three-dimensional sculptures in my project people are surprised. Paper has a very delicate expression which becomes clearer when one works on a tiny scale.”

You say about your project that it lets the paper tell stories – but in a different way than books. Can you elaborate on that notion?

“Paper is cheap, light and timeless; it can be folded and cut and bent and turned and coloured… It can be used for virtually anything. But the unique thing about paper is that it always tells you something. It communicates with us, and we communicate through it. A piece of paper can be a precious artefact; it can bring us happy stories, or spread bad news. Paper is always next to us whispering a story.”

How have you worked towards you final product?

“I have created a starter kit for people who want to try and work with paper crafts in an easy way. Once you are through the kit you have made a paper mobile that tells your own story. The kit is called ‘Somewhere only we know’ and consists of four different ‘levels’ that guide you through the process.

In preparation for the project it was important for me to understand what might be difficult for beginners and what motivated them. Therefore I held four workshops where I learnt more about the target group, and I also involved them in the development of the actual kit. In addition I used data to describe the user’s journey, including the problems and errors, feelings and reactions which the beginners met and expressed along the way. I built my theoretical model based on those experiences. I also interviewed three professional paper artists regarding their work methods.

My most important goal throughout the project has been to position paper in a new way in our digital age. It is not only about the joy of creating, but also about fulfilling a creative need.”

You have chosen to collaborate with Flensted Mobiles on your project?

“Yes, that is funny. More than ten years ago I saw a small paper sheep in a Japanese shop. It was made by Flensted. Later I also saw them mentioned in a Japanese magazine, so I thought it was a Japanese product. But when I came to Denmark I realized it was a local Danish family enterprise. So it was almost inevitable that we had to collaborate.

I visited them altogether three times during the project, and they helped me immensely along the way with all their knowledge about choosing the right paper and the elementary techniques behind the mobiles. For example they explained how a mobile has to be a perfect balance between physics and aesthetics. Those words were a great inspiration for me.”

You have also studied the role of paper in different cultures?

“For thousands of years paper has played a role in all cultures. In India they use the paper decoration sanjih in connection with religious celebrations, where they are placed on the floor in order to welcome the Hindu gods. In Switzerland special cut-outs are used on legal documents.

In China holy paper is burnt at funerals in order to ease the passage of the deceased into the next world; or we cut new-years wishes out in red paper which people place in their windows.

And in Denmark, of course, Hans Christian Andersen made paper cuttings to accompany his fairy tales. Thus everyone has a relationship to paper.”

So is there a future for paper craft?

“Today paper craft is produced on machines, and thus a little bit of craftsmanship is constantly draining from our life, just like when the photograph appeared and eliminated the focus on drawing. But then the drawing and painting techniques returned in new and different ways. Similarly I hope my project can help create a new era for this craftsmanship.”