Raya took the scenic route in her path towards paper art. She first went to college to become an architect but ultimately left to pursue her creative passion. Now, 20 years later, she’s still “playing with paper” and approaches her incredible artwork with an experimental attitude and a lot of research on construction and form.
How would you describe what you do?
People sometimes ask me what I do for a living and I never know how to explain it without showing them photos, LOL, and even then, they say, ”OK, so this is your hobby, but what’s your *real job*? ” haha
I guess I’m a paper artist? I feel like what I do is sculpt paper, I wouldn’t describe it as typical paper crafting which is usually a little more geometric, I guess… I think my approach to paper is more organic.
How long did it take to get where you are today?
It took me a *long* time to get where I am now, and I’m still always learning and trying to push myself further, I’m forever a student. I first started experimenting with paper art when I was in university studying architecture, I would turn over all my drawings and projects in paper and saw my teachers loved it That was 20 years ago, and I’ve been playing with paper one way or another since then.
What are the techniques you use in your work? Where/how did you learn them?
Is there a name for my techniques? LOL, Usually I hand draw directly on the paper I’m gonna use, a simple outline of what I want to make and then start cutting in the final shape and details freehand with a scalpel or art knife, I work very hard on texture and shaping the paper to achieve volume, this is such an important part for me.
I also apply a lot of techniques from other disciplines, for example, if I want to make a basket or a shoe, I’ll research how a real basket or real shoe are made and then apply weaving techniques or shoemaking techniques translated to paper, it usually takes a lot of trial and error and a lot of 3D sketching to get to what I want, but I like the end result I also think most of my knowledge comes from many *many* years of making architecture models, I always particularly loved the tiniest ones, would you have guessed? haha
You trained for years to be an architect. How do those skills and sensibilities inform your work now?
I think architecture has influenced everything I do, I feel like I apply in some way everything I learned, everything from color, composition and model making, to structure, architecture taught me to see the world differently (I love it so much ) and I feel it’s always present in what I do.
What was the inspiration behind your earliest paper plants?
My own plants, or ones I wanted but couldn’t find haha, also, the first large leaves I made were tropical plants, it was winter here and I missed home . I started making the tiny ones as a personal project, actually all the plants and leaves I’ve made (I started the large leaf project about 5 years ago) have been personal pieces, I so enjoy making them, and I allow myself to push as far as possible for details, I like the challenge of tiny paper details
What are your favorite tools to use? Any that you can’t live without?
My tools are very basic, I use a pencil, paper, and my scalpel or art knife most of the time, oh and some glue, and I can’t live without my collection of knives LOL
When creating a new piece, what’s the first thing that you do?
Usually, I sketch a bit and just start working on it, I’ll go through books and images for research, sometimes I’ll make a 3D sketch and try building a piece, so I can cut and rebuild and try and shape it just like I want it It’s a fun process for me.
Many of your paper creations are so small—some fit on the tip of your finger. What’s the biggest challenge to working at a small scale? How do you overcome it?
I don’t just work on a small scale, but I really love it, the biggest challenge I guess is reaching an interesting amount of detail, its what I enjoy most I think, sometimes it’s a challenge to actually see what I’m doing LOL, I’m considering a magnifying glass haha
How do you know when a piece is done?
Tough question, usually when I hear my moms voice in my head telling me that ”Better is the enemy of good.” I’ve learned to stop myself from continuing to work on details without any control because I’m capable of going on and on and on … haha, I think pieces are never really finished