“I love paper, it’s so open and accessible. It’s a good building material: it becomes strong with some glue, or is flexible without it. You can create great textures with it too, literally the possibilities are endless.”

If we could see the world differently, most of us would choose to. If we could have the paper-thin wall between us and imagination torn down permanently, wouldn’t we also nibble the ‘Alice in wonderland’ biscuit? So it’s no surprise that Mandy Smith, for whom all this was completely possible, took the small door into a magical corridor of her own devising. And became what is called a Paper Artist.

Many people don’t get much further than where they begin—a folded paper jet-plane hurled towards the front of class. But you’d know if a Mandy Smith creation landed on your desk. Now she’s landed far and wide, and to a large range of clients: from working with Ted Talks on an opening credit animation, to being head of paper art on a car ad for Toyota, to making teeny icons for the phone brand LG.

Mandy Smith began moving towards her current career, as a draftsman and trainee art director for the infamous Pinewood studios. It was here she learnt how to draw film sets with an architectural precision. She has since assisted in making music videos, as an art director for Stereophonics and Noah and the Whale. And has then worked in advertising for Wieden & Kennedy and 180; the latter is where she first experimented with paper and found her love of making entire worlds. There is now almost nothing she cannot create, a fact she prides herself on.

“I love paper, it’s so open and accessible. It’s a good building material: it becomes strong with some glue, or is flexible without it. You can create great textures with it too, literally the possibilities are endless.” As she thinks about the things she’s made and how, a faint smile lingers at her lips.

Mandy began this way of creating, in part, to combine the subjects she loves– maths and physics alongside her art. This is not so usual for an artist. Figuring out how to build her worlds in an almost mathematical fashion inspires her as much as the medium itself.

And there’s no lack of imagination in her well thought-out creations. She’s inspired by the likes of director Tim Burton and photographer Tim Walker. She loves art exhibitions like ‘Psycho Buildings’ or to flick through one the many art books in her library, Escher perhaps, or Giger’s work on ‘Alien’. She always strives to do her own thing and be different, something that’s evident:

“I’m inspired by great people, but you can’t be someone else, people’s styles are theirs and mine is unique to me. I do what makes me happy,” again she smiles that particular smile.

Her vision can be seen a little in how she describes her love of colour, even this is 3D crazy—as demonstrated by her experimental video ‘chlorophyll skin’. For this piece, she used cotton buds and coloured inks:

“I don’t really like flat colours but rather colours in things. Say looking at lots of greenery like trees makes me so happy and relaxed. Or looking at the sea to the horizon when the sun is disappearing, how the blue sparkles. Seeing the tulips here in the Netherlands is one my strongest memories of colour. It’s insane. From afar, it looked just like someone had painted the ground an intense line of purple!”

 

myschaoreoMandySmith

 

Mandy most often creates out of her Amsterdam-based studio. She’ll work from home on smaller projects or on initial treatments for her clients. She directs this creativity a little like those first music videos—using sounds and song to draw everything out into the world. Soundtracks for when she’s in full-on creative mode: Edward Scissorhands or the ballet Swan Lake are personal favourites, then moving onto BBC radio and talk shows while she’s doing the paper work itself. It can help her feel less isolated. This is something she struggled when she first started out, before she got to travel to her clients’ place of work.

Ironically her first project from home featured a home. Called ‘The Move,’ it took months to finish– and showcased a house with a front that swung open to reveal a perfectly formed interior. Mandy Smith filmed it in a few continuous takes, but the building part was done with an intense eye to detail. This, of course, she got exactly right.

“Self promotion can be the most exacting project as every detail has to be right, it’s really more like you’re showing a part of yourself. I still think ‘The Move’ that I art directed, directed and produced is one of my favourites.”

Projects can now take as little time as a few days, and as long as a few weeks.  And there is a lot of time to think in those creative stretches both work-wise and personally. It could be this consciousness that becomes so visible in her work: there is a joy evident in what she produces.

“It’s a little like meditation, working in paper. You have to be really patient. When I first started there was a lot of experiments and starting over. It takes quite something to be able to stop what’s not working, but it always works out better if you do.”

 

Mandy Smith

 

Time, as with most artists, is certainly not something Mandy Smith has in abundance, though. She continues to push further, getting more folds into her version of reality so her work keeps on evolving. She finds herself busier and busier nowadays, but still she dreams further:

“I’d love to get invited to do an exhibition somewhere. I’ve built up a nice portfolio and I love commercial work—it’s fast and exciting and you meet great people, but it’d be nice to do more artwork. I’d like to build a hugely big world that people can walk through in wonder.”

Maybe the magical world of Mandy Smith will become more visible to us soon, after all.

 

Words: Sarah-Jane Threipland 

Photography: Myscha Orèo,  Leon Hendrickx

 

 

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