Artistry that looks great on paper

Artistry that looks great on paper

Paper is one of life's basic materials, but with precise measuring, cutting and folding, it can help to create truly stunning artwork, as our junior reporters discover


Max Chow (left) helps out junior reporter Lyndon Fan
Max Chow (left) helps out junior reporter Lyndon Fan
Photos: Chris Lau/SCMP,
Paper often carries knowledge, in the form of textbooks, dictionaries and newspapers. However, these amazing thin sheets of material - created from dried pulped wood - can also be the best tools for talented artists to show their creativity.

One such artist is Max Chow, who specialises in three-dimensional paper reproductions of architecture, patterns and everyday objects. The art form is known as origamic architecture. His magic fingers can turn paper into pop-up art.

Our junior reporters met him last week to find out what he does. Let's see what they learned ...

A master of design

Max Chow Kwok-cheung is a Hong Kong origamic architect, who "builds" things by folding paper. The original form of origami - Japanese paper folding - has been developed to create three-dimensional objects, known as origamic architecture.

Before he became a paper artist, Chow was a website producer at a local university, designing websites and posters - 2D designs.

He fell in love with origamic architecture 18 years ago when his sister gave him a book by technology professor Masahiro Chatani about this art form. The moment Chow flipped open the book, he was fascinated by how a piece of paper could turn into a pop-up castle or a car. "To me, it was like magic," he says. Yet, as exciting as it was, Chow did not continue with the idea for long.

However, eight years ago he started to practise the art form again. Chow started making pop-up flowers and gave them to his friends, which they loved. He soon realised there was a budding market for this special craft. He also knew how he could use computer programs that could prove essential to origamic architecture.

Behind Chow and his work is a team of consultants - his older sister and younger brother. Whenever Chow faces challenges, he will either ask his sister, who studied fashion design, or his younger brother, who is an architect, for opinions and comments.

He believes his work is similar to his sister's because it involves choosing and cutting materials. On the other hand, he consults his brother when he needs to know whether his designs can be supported by the paper.

Chow has published eBooks to teach people about origami architecture. His books are bought by art lovers around the world. An American university lecturer even used one of his books as a textbook.

Lyndon Fan

Pop-up art proves painstaking

Junior reporters Kent De Jesus (left) and Lyndon try to follow Chow's instructions.

Pop-up cards are a more sophisticated form of art than you think, as a great deal of patience and effort are needed to create one. Every time a new pop-up card is to be made, the artist will need to create a template first, using printed lines on the paper to show where the blade should cut.

In our workshop, we made a card into a pop-up rose. The rose was made using lots of curves, which made cutting extremely difficult. Another stressful part is that one mistake can cause the whole thing to fall apart, and then you'll need to restart from scratch. So there is a great amount of precision involved to make a perfect pop-up rose.

The key to origamic architecture is how well you control the cutter, and how much pressure you apply when making cuts. This is extremely important because sometimes you want to make a clear cut, while at other times, you may just want to make a crease so that the paper is easier to fold.

Tools found inside an origamic architect's toolbox include cutters and rulers that can help with exact trimming and precise measuring. An incredible amount of patience is needed, too, as it takes lots of time to create just one pop-up card.

Chow, who is a paper-art veteran, says beginners should start by reading books. This will give them sufficient background knowledge about origamic architecture. It will also help them improve the skills needed for making a pop-up paper craft work.

Learning how to draw with a computer will also help because, when it comes to designing, it is much easier to correct it on a computer file.

Last but not least, Chow suggests people seek resources on the internet, such as videos on YouTube to learn new techniques and see how professionals create their masterpieces. These techniques are what it takes to become a pop-up paper art master.

Kent De Jesus

To see more amazing designs, go to

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