4 & Counting: 3D Handmade Paper

4 & Counting: 3D Handmade Paper

There are numerous artists creating wonders with handmade paper. I wrote another post about two-dimensional techniques recently, and here are some examples of three-dimensional paper techniques. These are featured in The Papermaker’s Studio Guide as well.
Let’s start with the least dimensional, which would be embossed sheets. Here’s an example by Margareta Mannervik. By simply laying wet sheets of handmade paper on top of an embossed surface (like a plaster mold) you can pick up fine details like this:

detail of Vitt, by Margareta Mannervik

detail of Vitt, by Margareta Mannervik

Priscilla Robinson also does embossed works. One nice thing about embossing or casting paper: it doesn’t weigh much!
Hosta Fresca, by Priscilla Robinson

Detail of Hosta Fresca, by Priscilla Robinson

Casting is more dimensional than embossing, but is done in a similar fashion – wet sheets of paper or paper pulp are packed into or over a surface, either flat or dimensional. In this case, Roberto Mannino casts (or stretches) sheets of paper over frames with objects inside of them. He uses a high shrinkage pulp which shrinks as it dries and rubs graphite onto the dry castings to create the slick surface.
Graphite Series 2010, # 1 - 8 of 52 by Roberto Mannino

Graphite Series 2010, # 1 – 8 of 52 by Roberto Mannino

Mannino leaves the objects inside of his paper castings, while Anita Brendgens casts paper over forms and then removes the paper from them once it is dry.
Coffee Service II, by Anita Brendgens
Susan Warner Keene practices another form of casting, in which she joins wet sheets made from high shrinkage fibers together and allows them to air dry. The overlapping of the paper and embedded elements, such as string, create tension and interesting textures during the drying process.
Red Journey, by Susan Warner Keene

Red Journey, by Susan Warner Keene

Sounding #1, by Susan Warner Keene

Sounding #1, by Susan Warner Keene

Draping or forming sheets over armatures is another three dimensional technique. Tia Kramer is a jeweler who does this on a minute scale, casting pigmented abaca onto her silver armatures, creating necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more.
Tilt series necklace, by Tia Kramer

Tilt series necklace, by Tia Kramer

For many years I produced lamps with paper shades. This is a commissioned watermarked lampshade from years ago.
Watermarked Lamp, by Helen Hiebert

Watermarked Lamp, by Helen Hiebert

One last type of three-dimensional work that I’d like to mention is the work of Peter Gentenaar. After admiring and even writing about his work for many years, I had the pleasure of meeting Peter when we were both in Korea in the fall of 2011. He creates these amazing sculptures in a huge vacuum table, filling the table with pulp and water, embedding flat reed armatures in the solution and then draining the water, leaving the armature and pulp in the table. He then carefully lifts everything up out of the table for drying. As the paper dries and reacts to the embedded reed armature, the sculpture emerges as the paper torques, creating amazing forms.
Eternal Flame, by Peter Gentenaar

Eternal Flame, by Peter Gentenaar

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Wearable sculpture by Peter Gentenaar

That is my survey of three-dimensional paper art. I’m sure there are many other techniques, and I’d love to hear about them.
I write a column for Hand Papermaking Magazine called Unique Techniques, in which I profile paper artists who are practicing unusual and innovative techniques with the medium. Do you have a unique technique? If so, please share it with me by emailing or leaving me a comment below.
About the 25 Days of Paper: I’m going to be a crazy blogger in December, featuring cool paper products, projects, blogs, books, or papers each day. Join in the fun by reading along! I’ll also post links on my FaceBook page. Enjoy the season!


  1. Linda K. Fendley says:

    These are fascinating! I want to create a square lamp shade for a lamp for my Son. I can’t find a square one anywhere in our area. Any ideas for creating the frame for the handmade shade? Thanks!

    • Linda,
      I’ve always purchased lamp frames from thelampshop.com. They are in New Hampshire. They have a shade that is four panels, but more trapezoidal (wider at the bottom). Otherwise, if you have a small torch, you can weld/solder a frame.

  2. thanks for this commitment to blogging, helen, so much to look at and think about in this month of posts!

  3. Bev says:

    Hi Helen
    I love the work of Peter Gentenaar which you show here. I wonder how he gets those lovely colours which fade in and out?

    • He either dips the bamboo in pigment or paints it onto the sculpture when it is wet (I can’t recall which), but the fact that the paper is wet allows the color to travel.

  4. Brenda Lindenberg says:

    What papers are considered “high shrinkage” …