Paper play with Thread

Three lessons learned from Hattie Newman and Hey Studio.

By: Amie Knights,   3 minutes

If you’re the optimistic type, then like me you’ve probably found yourself in a pile of paper shavings having bitten off much more than you can chew before (for the record, I haven’t been eating the paper). Here are three things I learned from my dealings in paper art, inspired by an evening with Hattie Newman and Hey Studio at Thread.

Animated alligators skiing down paper mountain ranges, a paper cityscape featuring the world’s most iconic buildings, and haute-couture paper dresses. Hattie Newman’s paper crafting prowess left me flabbergasted. Having studied illustration, Hattie explained to us how she always felt compelled to lift her images from the page and bring them to life in 3D. She told us how she had been a “real LEGO child”. And how she thought Anthea Turner had the best job ever on Blue Peter – getting to make stuff like that Tracey Island model.

As she talked, all I could think – between the wowing – was, ‘I was that kid too. Maybe, just maybe, paper art is a dormant talent of mine. I should give it a go.’ So I did.

Needless to say, it didn’t quite go to plan. But then things rarely do for optimists. Mostly you dive into things with stacks of gusto only for reality to hit you halfway through proceedings. Not too far into my ambitious pop up book, I put down the scalpel. Which brings me to lesson one.


Believe me, when it comes to paper crafting patience really is a virtue. Accidentally torn the page after meticulously cutting out eight individual letters? Better start again. A slip of your scissors or some over-zealous glueing and you’re right back at the beginning. I suppose it’s akin to forgetting to save your article before an ill-timed laptop crash. Although potentially much more frustrating. Because you’re working in paper, so each time you screw up that’s another sheet gone.  And the piles of cast-offs amount to form a whole strata of failure. But, with a little (or a lot) of patience, those slip ups will happen less often.

“Each time you screw up that’s another sheet gone.  And the piles of cast-offs amount to form a whole strata of failure…”


We hear this a lot at the moment: failure is good. But what I took from this Feed is that the little mistakes can actually be a blessing – bringing more character and personality to your work. Hattie talked about a machine that digitally cuts paper. So if she needed 5000 leaves she could set up the cutter with a digital design and she’d have 5000 identical leaves. In large numbers like this, the technology is obviously handy. But for Hattie the little mistakes, the slight differences, are a good thing. They could even lead to new ideas. So it seems some wrongs just don’t need to be made right.

Back at Thread, Hey Studio – a Barcelona-based design studio – stood up to tell us about their approach. With a flair for colour, play and sideways thinking, the studio’s style is unmistakable. From the unpaid projects they take on in return for full creative freedom, to the personal projects that allow some time for play in between client work, the way they do business is utterly refreshing. Which brings us to my third and final lesson.


One project that stuck in my mind was their branding for the footwear company, Arrels. Inspired by the idea of the different layers seen in cliffs (strata), the end design was developed through sitting down and playing with paper. When it came to the catalogue, they stepped away from the screen once again. The cover and selected pages throughout each and every catalogue were torn, by hand, to mirror the branding and to reflect the company’s small batch/handcrafted ethos. For most digital design agencies this is next level dedication. A mass gasp swept through the audience.

My paper art leaves a lot to be desired. But as every cloud has a silver lining, every half finished shoddy pop up book has it’s….No. It’s just bad.

Can you do any better? Spend an afternoon with a pile of paper and show us your creations via Twitter @strangerfeed.

I dare you.

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