We LOVE paper at David Stark Design, and we have created everything from a 20-foot tall viewing platform upholstered in Post-it pads to galas built out of thousands and thousands of laser cut blooms, even an entire pop-up flower shop for west elm in which everything, even the actual store was made from paper. Yes, it is safe to say we are no stranger to the medium. Neither is artist, Daniel Murphy. Daniel expertly crafts three-dimensional objects completely out of paper, and I marvel at his talents. Daniel was nice enough to chat with me about his amazing art, and I am thrilled to share it with all of you!
This is a detail from a larger collection of 365 monarch butterflies (life-size). Made from Strathmore paper and acrylic paint. Photograph by F. Martin Ramin
David Stark: Tell me in a little about your background. How did you get into doing what you do?
Daniel Murphy: I’m originally from New Jersey and have been living in NYC for about 11 years. I studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan, where I had the opportunity to study with Andrew Ginzel, Charles LeDray and Thomas Woodruff. While at SVA, I discovered paper sculpture as a three-dimensional method for creating art that came naturally to me.
DS: How did you arrive at using paper as a medium?
DM: In my junior year at SVA, I began cutting up large drawings I was making, and re-arranging them as sculpted pieces. That process quickly led me to a new approach of art making in which all of my work became three-dimensional and made entirely of paper. Since then, I have continued creating bodies of fine art works made of cut paper, while also pursuing a career of set and installation design with my paper sculptures. I regularly create paper environments and objects (of all scales) for editorial and commercial clients.
Oversized paper luxury handbags for The Wall Street Journal’s OFF DUTY cover. The bags were roughly 26” wide by 16” tall (the scale for each is different). They were made from cut paper, metallic foil papers and foamcore. Photographs by F. Martin Ramin
This watch was from a series of 6 paper watches made for WSJ. Magazine. The watches are roughly 2.5’ long. They are made from cut paper, metallic foil papers and foamcore. Photograph by Boyle + Gardner
DS: Sounds like you are a busy guy! Do you ever have a desire to make work out of something else BESIDES paper? Is there anything in your mind that you just CAN’T convey in paper?
DM: No! Well, maybe . . . While my work is made entirely out of paper, I do rely on other materials to make the final product. For example, my flower pieces require a metal armature in order to stand up right. Also, in a lot of my work, foam core is a vital material for supporting the object being created. Learning how these, and other, materials work and operate has opened me to a world of what most sculptors rely on for materials (wire, clay and foam). To me, paper is an endlessly vast material to work with, so I’ve never really felt limited by it, or felt the need to move on to another material besides paper.
I haven’t discovered an object or environment that cannot be re-created from paper; it just depends on how you look at it. For my sculptures that are viewed in person (installed or on display), there are limitations. For example, making round objects out of paper are nearly impossible to convey in person. On a photo shoot where a set is being “flattened out” by the camera, a round object out of paper can be achieved more easily.
Paper Hermes Birkin bag. Made from cut paper, metallic foil papers, white chalk, foamcore. Photograph by Kevin Cremens
DS: Speaking of process, tell us a little bit about your process.
DM: It sort of depends on the project. For most pieces, -- fine art and editorial, it usually begins with a lot of drawing and photo research. Whenever possible, I love taking my own photo references. After I’ve established what the piece is going to look like, I determine the dimensions and overall scale. I usually begin with the base, or whatever is going to hold the object together. For the paper handbags, I needed to create a foam core base of each bag to hold them together. After the base is finished, I carefully cover the entire object with paper, down to the last detail. The process usually involves a lot of templates, and very precise cutting.
DS: Where do you find your inspiration?
DM: I can find inspiration almost anywhere. When I’m feeling stuck, I find that if I just let my mind wander, I’ll accidentally stumble upon something that inspires a new piece, or even body of work. It can be the simplest thing. I love standing at a major NYC newsstand and quickly flipping through a few dozen magazines, it’s like a jolt of creative force.
These wigs are from a series of paper wigs for J.Crew’s in-house showrooms. These ponytails are created from a heavyweight Strathmore drawing paper, designed specifically for J.Crew’s mannequins. Photograph by DSM
These cutout setups were from the Sept 2012 issue of WSJ. Magazine. They were market-shopping pages for the Fall Fashion issue. Photographs by F. Martin Ramin
DS: You clearly define a difference between your fine art work and your editorial work. What is that mental difference for you?
DM: My fine art is a result of months of thinking, drawing and trial and error. I’ve ditched entire bodies of work that just weren’t working out, and started from scratch on something new. It’s a process of letting go, and coming back to ideas and experimentation. My editorial and commercial work has a real immediacy about it. Usually because there’s a tight deadline and the client has a specific sense of what the set or object should be. While I also put a lot of time and thought into those works, there is usually a somewhat pre-determined end goal for those pieces.
Black paper flowers, made from black paper & wire. Photograph by DSM
This apple peel is about 2.5 long and is made from Strathmore paper & acrylic paint. Photograph by F. Martin Ramin
From a larger series of objects made from black paper, this is a student’s microscope (to scale). Made from black paper and foamcore. Photograph by F. Martin Ramin
DS: What brand are you dying to collaborate with?
DM: Hermes. I love the creative direction and feel that their products are beautiful and meticulously designed.
DS: Agreed, I am also dying to collaborate with Hermes! If money and time were not an issue, what would your dream project be?
DM: I would really like to create entire room re-creations, at a huge scale, where everything is made from paper, down to the smallest detail.
DS: I want to see you do that too! What artists inspire you? Whose work do you admire?
DM: Tom Friedman, Robert Gober, Charles LeDray, Tara Donovan and Kara Walker are all contemporary artists whose work I really admire.
DS: What’s next for you?
DM: I’m working on a new body of fine art this year, and hope to show the work in late 2013. In addition, I plan to continue creating paper objects/sets for editorial photo shoots and paper installations for luxury brand displays.
DS: In other words, MORE!!! Can’t wait to see.