Today I’d like to introduce you to a man who’s taken the world of 3D computer animation and turned it into something crafty. His paper animal sculptures meld modern technology with good old-fashioned paper craft that anyone can make. It’s not often you can buy something decorative for your home that you have to put together yourself and this is as far away from flat-pack furniture as you’ll get. So, even if you can’t take credit for designing one of Wolfram’s animal sculptures, you can take a little bit of credit for putting it together. And how great do they look? I reckon they bring out the kid in all of us and right now, I wouldn’t mind taking that pig home!
Please introduce yourself – what’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
Paperwolf is my label under which I design and sell 3D paper craft templates: mostly animal trophies, but also postcards and big and small paper sculptures. My real-life name is Wolfram Kampffmeyer. I’m German, born 31 years ago. I’ve studied Computer Animation at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Computer Animation often starts with creating a virtual 3D model. Paperwolf takes over from here and creates a paper craft model out of it.
When and why did you decide to design and create paper models for others to make?
It all started in one of my last years at university when I discovered a program that helps to transform a virtual 3D model into a 3D paper craft template. I used the main character of one of my short animations and made a paper sculpture out of it. I liked it, so I designed a model especially for being a paper craft. That’s how my Little Big Piggy was done.
This also was the first model I offered for sale on the European-based online platform DaWanda. Customers didn’t find me very fast but once I added some more products and finally created my trophy series ‘The Big Five’, the word spread and business started. With being on Etsy now I’ve started discovering the international market. Here, my Unicorn and the Bear run best. It’s already in Hawaii, New Zealand, Canada, USA, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and United Kingdom.
Can you share a bit about the creative process?
A difficult one. I can’t really tell. Sometimes all of a sudden I have an idea – no, an urge to create a new figure or a series of animals that are somehow connected (Africa’s Big Five, or a bird’s series I just started with the Flamingo). Or fulfilling a customer’s wish – like ‘Why don’t you have a Moose?’ And if it’s the 10th time I’m asked this, I decide it’s time to make it…
Then I start with research. Often it’s just images and videos I find on the internet to get the character of the certain animal right. Sometimes it’s better to watch the animal in the zoo. If I think I have understood the core of the animal, I start modelling in my 3D program, do more research, ask my wife for her opinion and finally decide it’s time to do it in paper. I build my prototype model, improve here and there in the 3D program and when I’m satisfied, I take product pictures, design the construction manual and put it online.
How easy/difficult is it to put your animals together? Is it easier than an Ikea cabinet?!!
Well, at least my products don’t have missing screws ! You will need a lot of patience, though, and between 2-10 hours of time, depending on the sculpture you chose from my shop. In a way it’s sometimes a bit like a 3D puzzle and you’re going to need some spatial sense to be able to put the right piece in the right place.
I especially love your wooden leopard’s head! Tell us about the other pieces you make/design.
The wooden Leopard is just the beginning! In the meantime I also have the Lion Head made of wood. Others will follow if there is a market and customer demand. Since the Wood Edition is extremely complex in making and thus very precious and expensive, I first have to see how it runs before investing in new designs. But I can’t wait to see the Elephant made of dark wood with light tusks!
My wooden animals are improved versions of the paper craft models, milled from hand-selected precious wood. I work in cooperation with a brilliant South Tyrol carpenter who is a God at handling and programming a five-axis CNC mill. After the milling is finished, every head is hand-finished and oiled several times. The gold version of the leopard was gilded by myself with 23.5 karat gold leaf.
Who or what are some of your influences? What other artists, designers and creatives do you admire?
To be honest, I wasn’t influenced by a certain artist or designer. Since my background lies in computer animation, a geometrical design is the basis of every model I create. Usually this rough, edgy model would be refined until it’s smooth and detailed to be animated for films or advertising. For my designs I want to see in paper, I don’t refine or smooth my virtual 3D models but rather try to get the perfect animal with as few as possible faces. I like the geometric, limited style and how it is possible to show an animal’s inner character through a limited style like mine.
What’s your favourite animal? Why?
Difficult question! Mostly my favourite animal is the last one I’ve created. I love holding it in my hands and turning it around and around. So at the moment I love the Flamingo and my Aardvarks a lot, but also the wooden Leopard and Lion. All-time favourite out of nostalgic reasons is my Little Big Piggy which was my first paper creation. It’s hard to put together since I wasn’t as experienced as today, but it looks so friendly and still smiles every morning I see it. After the years it’s lost almost all of its colour as it sits on the windowsill and laser print doesn’t like UV radiation very much.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a lovely wife and an almost two-year old daughter. She is very demanding and I love playing with her a lot. So that’s what I do in my spare time. Also, I play piano and like doing sports like rock climbing or cycling.
What’s the best thing about living in Stuttgart, Germany?
In Stuttgart there are nice cafés to spend a sunny afternoon. And if you like doing sports, you do it every time you go shopping since Stuttgart is very hilly. Once a year we have the ITFS, a very important Animation Film Festival and you don’t even have to pay for a ticket since every evening there are films screened on the big outdoor screen. Though it’s worth having a ticket since the competition short films are inside, in about four cinemas.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Oh yes, several times … First time when my hobby, making paper craft models, turned into a working business idea and I won the bet I made with my wife that I would NEVER make real money with my concept. Then again when I fell in love with Aardvarks I’d seen in the Berlin Zoo and thought, this would be the new number one in my shop since they are sooo cute. They are being ordered just now, so who’d have thought of that?
Thanks so much, Wolfram, for letting us in on your 3D papercraft world!