She turns cartonboard into art

Fideli Sundqvist is an artist, writer and visual creative. She has worked with Louis Vuitton, designed public art, and most of all reached fame for her unique paper art. What’s more, her books “I Love Paper” and “Paper Garden” have inspired hundreds of thousands of people all over the world to create art from paper. In our blog she tells us more about the job as a paper artist and about the challenges and advantages of cartonboard as the material of choice. 

Tell us about yourself and your background.

“My name is Fideli and I work as a paper artist, writer and designer. At present I live in Stockholm with my fiancé and my daughter, but I grew up in Uppsala. After high school I moved to Stockholm to study for two years at Nyckelviksskolan, where I took courses in colour, design, craft, images and graphic design. Then I studied at Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts and Design), where I took a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design & Illustration in 2011.”

“It was already at Nyckelviksskolan that I started working with paper. I translated my drawings into papercutting, by placing sketches on coloured sheets ark and cut out the shapes with a scalpel. But it was only later on, at Konstfack, that I began creating 3D art with the paper. In my degree project I explored the possibilities of designing paper scenographies that I photographed to use as illustrations in a picture story.”

How did you get the idea to make art of cartonboard?

“The inspiration came from getting in contact with traditional Chinese papercutting art. I had earlier done a lot of graphical work, especially linocut – which has an expression very similar to papercutting in terms of colour contrast and lines.”

“Paper is a fantastic material”

Creating paperboard art. What is special about it and what are the challenges?

“Paper is a fantastic material, you don’t need many tools or a lot of space to be able to work with it. Using just a scalpel, a cutting mat and some kind of mounting aid you can build most objects, big and small. With different paper qualities you can also imitate other materials, which is a lot of fun. Once you have a few objects the really fun part begins – that’s when you can arrange them to create pictures and stories.”

“The challenge of working with paper is more about creating content than producing the visual pieces.And then again paper can be rather sensitive, but not as fragile as you might think.”

You are also a writer. What can you tell us about your books?

“My first book "I Love Paper" came out in 2013. The publishing house Natur & Kultur got in touch and asked if I could consider writing a book about working with paper. So, the first book is a rather broad introduction to paper techniques. There are some 40 projects for the readers to try themselves – spanning from silhouettes for shadow theatre to elephants and lighthouses. The sequel came out in 2016, this time with a plant theme. “Paper Garden”, which is the title of the book, shows techniques for building flowers, leaves and potted plants.”

“It was great fun to make the books and many of the paper projects were created only because I worked with the book – things that came about during the process and that I wanted to include in the book. I also enjoy sharing what I know and pass on the paper techniques to others.”

I find inspiration in life itself, in conversations, thoughts, pods and music.

Where do you find inspiration?

“To a great extent in life itself, in conversations, thoughts, pods and music. I often find that the work is very inspiring in itself. You build an object, perhaps a little animal that you go on to envision in various contexts and situations. And in this way, a story begins to unfold …”

Tell us about being an artist.

“I work commercially, editorially and artistically with paper. For my editorial and commercial work, I have an agency to represent me. All work is channeled through them. Initially I nearly always have contact with the client to create the idea, the concept, the design. Then I make the objects and take them to the photo studio – where the client is often present as well. Generally, a design agency or an ad agency is involved in the projects.”

“In addition, I create paper art. It can be exhibitions or commissions for public art. Last summer I had an exhibition at the museum of Eksjö, where I got back to making papercutting much similar to the method that once started me off working with paper as a material. It was an exciting experience and great fun to work two-dimensionally after many years of three-dimensional projects.”

Read more about Fideli and look at her art at Photographer: Magnus Cramer.