REVIEW: The Art of Cardboard

Front cover of The Art of Cardboard

For me, the front cover of The Art of Cardboard is dramatic but doesn't necessarily scream 'high-end art'. It looks like it could be fun but that it might be a bit weak on content and, had I seen it in a book shop, I don't think I would have been enticed to look any further, which is a shame because now that I have peered inside, I've discovered a super interesting read with plenty of content. I think, compared to many of the books I review it appears to lack gloss and finesse, however, it is informative and engaging, so perhaps the idea is that it mirrors its subject matter; I'm wondering if the lack of coffee table chic is the whole point.

The book is divided into 7 chapters which include "Upcycling Into Art", "Redefining the Everyday" and "Larger than Life", although these seem like quite loose categories as much of the work featured could happily sit within multiple chapters. 

Each artist has two double page spreads which provide some detail about their background and how their work with cardboard has developed, as well as a selection of images showing several pieces of work. It is great to see so many images but there are very few that are full page and this seems a shame; the work included is so unusual and often very large, it is a pity they are unable to create as much impact as possible within the design of the book. The actual content is intelligently and critically written, and I found it extremely informative and insightful. 

Image from The Art of Cardboard showing cardboard bicycles
Bikes by Chris Gilmour

It is truly remarkable to see the variety of work being produced from humble pieces of cardboard. Favourites for me include the amazing Bikes by Chris Gilmour (I mean if it wasn't for the blanket brown colour you would think they really were bikes) and the building scenes of East Berlin (Charlottenstrasse) by Evol, which seem to use the texture and flaws of the cardboard in conjunction with stencilling, however looking at the images in a book doesn't do them justice; I just can't quite fathom how they work, they look like you could walk into them.

Image from The Art of Cardboard shoing cardboard apartment illustrations

Charlottenstrasse by Evol

I'm also fascinated by the artists that appear to transform the cardboard into an entirely new material. You can still see it is cardboard, but it has been given extra qualities. Ann Weber creates large abstract sculptures that curve and shine - not two words you usually associate with cardboard - which she achieves with the use of shellac (or polyurethane). Alternatively Jozef Sumichrast treats and layers his cardboard before carving out 3D forms and sanding them smooth to reveal what could be mistaken for a wooden carving but with a velvety textured surface.

Image from The Art of Cardboard showing Horse head
M Theory by Jozef Sumichrast

It's actually really hard to single out just a few artists as each one is so exciting in their use of the medium and in their ideas, however, if I had the pennies and the opportunity, the piece I would buy in a heartbeat would be The Second Wait (or The Second Decline/A big Dipper - I can't decide) by Daniel Agdag, a tiny fantastical airship encased in a bell jar. My poor little brain has no way of understanding how work so fine and intricate could be crafted out of pieces of cardboard, my clunky fingers certainly couldn't manage it.

Image from The Art of Cardboard showing airship in bell jar
The 2nd Wait by Daniel Agdag

The final chapter of the book 'DIYs by Artists' enlists a variety of artists to supply projects for the reader to try. There are nine projects in total, each with a list of materials, step-by-step instructions and accompanying numbered images. The projects don't look particularly attractive, you probably aren't going to be left with a burning desire to make most of them unless you are searching for a rainy day activity for the kids (apart from the cute little boat and the pineapple grenade, they are pretty cool), but importantly they show you basic ways to use techniques that have been used within the work featured in the book. They feel very much like a starting point for you to build your own skills, so you can then go on to build your own masterpieces.

Image from The Art of Cardboard showing Sailing Ship project
Sailing Ship by Beau Stanton

I was reading this book whilst in the throes of moving house, and I wondered if this subject was some kind of sign. I could definitely see the appeal of gathering up all the used, empty cardboard boxes and making them into something surprising and spectacular. I have indeed kept a small bundle, but admit that most have been sent to be recycled as there were just so many. In fact moving house makes you realise just how much cardboard two people can get through, and just how readily available it is. It is incredibly tempting to get out a scalpel and a bottle of pva glue, it seems cardboard is crying out to be used as an art medium. It has been extremely inspiring seeing what can be created depending on each individual's imagination and vision.

The art of cardboard is everything I expected it to be in content, but is more impressive than I anticipated. I had no idea how many artists were out there specialising in the use of cardboard and I certainly hadn't considered all the ways in which such a humble material could be used. What I find most fascinating is that many of these artists began creating there work to prevent being wasteful, or because they were on a tight budget, and now they are recognised and successful in their field, and that makes me wonder how many of us could do the same if we just had the vision and gave it a try.  


The Art of Cardbaord by Lori Zimmer

Published by Rockport
RRP: £15.99 paperback

ISBN-10: 1631590278
ISBN-13: 978-1631590276