35,000 Handmade Paper Cubes Become '3D Pixel' Sculptures….
Tumbling from their studio in the North West of England, 35,000 handmade paper cubes from FLOW Creation have converged to create a show-stopping intervention in the infamous windows of Selfridges, Exchange Square. As if emerging from a secret, subterranean world, two 3D hand sculptures can be seen reaching up to grab the attention of passing shoppers.
Commissioned by Selfridges (as part of its Bright New Things sustainability initiative) working in partnership with the Whitworth and to a concept developed by Manchester’s Modern Designers, Blackpool-based FLOW Creation’s sculptures use paper from James Cropper. The 170 year old British Master Papermaker has an immoveable commitment to sustainable production. Asked to create an original art installation, FLOW Creation’s lead artist, Sam Robins hand-picked a range of the Cumbrian mill’s papers in simple colours of grey, blue and orange and subtle ‘sparkle’ surface finishes to fulfil his ambitious vision.
Working with the papers’ natural qualities and 3D-modelling technology to create and position thousands of the hand-produced 40mm cubes, with 35,000 taking almost four days to cut, score and assemble.
Robins says: “The way the hands look in 3D is thanks to painstaking modelling using casts of real hands and computer technologies, but there’s no automatic way for us to make 35,000 tiny, paper cubes or to set them all perfectly in place, so the intricacy of the final installation comes back to doing things by hand. The process, coupled with the facts that the paper is from a mill with such high standards of sustainability and paper making hasn’t really changed for centuries, sends a really strong message about traditional techniques in the modern world and how progress doesn’t have to mean forgetting the human touch and our environmental responsibilities.”
Encouraging the viewer to consider the processes behind contemporary craft and design, the two hand sculptures – one reaching up with a pencil in hand and another allowing random cubes of ‘matter’ to drop through its fingers – are joined by a third, abstract cube installation. A central plinth plays host to a cluster of giant paper cubes at ten times the scale of those used in the hands, offering a magnified view of both the materials and the process involved in making them.
Robins continues: “The almost pixelated effect of using thousands of tiny cubes, as if looking at something through a cool, retro computer game, means that the viewer will need to work a little harder to appreciate just how it’s made. Selfridges is a busy place, so having a third, central sculpture that has a set of bigger cubes installed on it makes sense to give passers-by an expanded view of what we’ve been able to achieve just using paper.”
The Bright New Things installation celebrates Selfridges’ commitment to sustainability and the retailer’s aim of inspiring its suppliers, partners and customers to embrace their own environmental responsibilities. By working with The Whitworth, Manchester’s gallery in the park, and James Cropper, the project supports and evokes the highest standards of creativity and the world’s prestige manufacturing heritage.