The fascinating world of paper sculpting

Paper artist Ceres Lau

Ceres Lau’s paper artworks are graceful and elegant — much like the artist herself. A full-time paper sculptor since 2017, Ceres has always been fascinated by the endless possibilities of paper as an art medium.

Constantly exploring different dynamics

As a hands-on material, paper as an art medium offers no limit to one’s creativity. “I am until this day, still fascinated by the versatility of this everyday object that we tend to take for granted. Sometimes, I just stare at the paper for a long time, hours to no end, simply in awe of it,” Ceres Lau said.

To the 30-year-old paper sculptor, a great idea often starts from a piece of paper, “The phrase applies perfectly to my art!”

As a little girl, Ceres initially started her journey with art by drawing. She would also watch and observed how Neil Buchanan from the “Art Attack” TV series did his art pieces.

Recalling her first memory of paper sculpting, she drew an inspiration from the show, when she made a bookmark for her friends., “I remembered cutting strips of paper and coiling them together. Little did I know, what I did was actually called paper quilling.” 

Rediscovering the art in 2012, Ceres’ had an on and off relationship with paper during her days as a Graphic Design major in Kuching and London.

Despite not being the medium of choice in the local scene, Ceres was always attracted to paper art. “What’s funny is that, looking back, there were subtle hints here and there that it was always the right one for me.”

In 2017, she fell sick and during the ordeal, she revealed the moment that got her wondering about her future, life in general and also the present. “I took it as a calling, braced myself and took a leap of faith,” she said.

Nonetheless, as a full-time paper artist, Ceres struggled as a minority artisan in the city. Among the challenges was the under-appreciation of paper as a medium, as it was said to be fragile.

“It was often misunderstood. And the misconception of my art was that it is an everyday material. That means that it has a low production cost, hence it should be sold for cheap and not highly priced.”

The art of Ceres Lau

Going through her fourth year, Ceres revealed that her projects could take from a week up to a month to complete. “It depends on the complexity and size. My longest piece took me every day for an entire month to make!”

Playing with any themes under the sun, the artisan enjoys trying out different subjects. “For me, I like to translate and express how I feel on the medium that is often taken granted for. I am constantly trying to explore different dynamics. However, most of my art often comes from human interactions, emotions and nature” 

“There is no one art style for me. I believe that it is okay to have a few different approaches as long as I can express what I want, convey my feelings across and build a connection with my audience.”

in the making of hands prayers artwork

Recalling a time when a stranger came to her and thanked her for her art pieces, “She thanked me, saying my work healed her. I held that gratitude close to my heart ever since, and strive to create more purposeful works of art.”

Her recent works talk more about relationships and personal experiences through the form of wildflowers and gesture. “Sometimes people call wildflowers weeds, and always describe them as plants that don’t fit in, often not celebrated by many.

“They may seem out of place, but they are free-spirited, diverse and fascinating, intricate yet bold. As uninvited as they may be, these darlings mysteriously add a unique touch, complementing the surroundings. They aren’t controlled, they exist for their own sake and that is why they are amazing,” she elaborated.

Just as her pieces held their own meanings, they also taught her many lessons.

Hands Prayers

“One of them is patience. I also learned to look at things differently, see things from a different perspective. I learn to observe the wonders around and look for the beauty of it, even in the most unlikeliest of places.”

To her, paper helped her express herself freely in ways she could never imagine. “I learned to take risks, as failures are inevitable and that we could learn from it all. You can’t be better without going through failures. There is no such thing as perfection.”

Nonetheless, Ceres’ work with paper has in return moulded and developed her to be a better person. “It gave me the growth I never knew I needed and also a sense of belonging. But most of all, I’ve learnt to stay true to myself.”

Portraying her handcrafted arts on digital platforms, those interested to learn more about Ceres’ artworks can visit her Instagram and Facebook at @cereslau.

Paper artist Ceres Lau

Materials needed to start a paper art project

By Ceres Lau
Tools she use for her paper art projects. (From left) Awl, forceps, surgery scalpel, craft knife 1, craft knife 2. (Bottom) Bone folder.

Just paper and craft knifes (or scissors), and let your creativity go wild from there!

It really depends on what kind of work you want to make! I use tools that I find comfortable using, both unconventional and conventional ones. While I have proper tools to suit and function in a certain way, different kinds of craft knifes, I also have several curvy wooden massaging tools, which I use in some of my work! I vividly remember using toothpick to curl the paper strips and poking holes on the surface, too.

But the tools I absolutely must have and can’t live without, would be surgery scalpel and bone folder. These two are the ones I juggle back and forth with at this moment!

I use archival quality papers and adhesives. I often use G.F Smith Colorplan papers for my work, mix and match with other brands such as Daler Rowney, Arches, Takeo and many more. Sometimes I use unbranded papers in my work (I have a collection of them from my trips!) if the colour and texture appeals to me.