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Light­ing and fur­ni­ture show­room.

The sim­ple but bril­liant idea of us­ing card­board to cre­ate cre­ative and func­tional struc­tures came to Adrian Chua while he was un­der pres­sure to find a so­lu­tion to a pro­ject. Re­al­is­ing that this idea had greater po­ten­tial, he and wife Irene Ng have since grown a busi­ness turn­ing ev­ery­day pa­per­based ma­te­ri­als such as card­board into at­ten­tion-grab­bing 3-D in­stal­la­tions, decor, struc­tures, scenog­ra­phy and more.

Why the spe­cial­i­sa­tion in pa­per?

As a kid, I was fas­ci­nated by pop-up books and how a flat sheet of pa­per is able to be­come a 3-D work of art. When­ever I’m at a bookstore, I still browse the kids’ sec­tion for pop-up books that I can buy for my four- and seven-year-old daugh­ters. My in­ter­est in pa­per pop-ups has reached the level of ob­ses­sion…

How did this idea come about?

I was a pro­duc­tion man­ager at a multi­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing agency, and had to ful­fil a client’s brief by mak­ing a 2m-tall free­stand­ing di­rec­tional sign, which had to be col­lapsi­ble, light­weight, eco-friendly and cheap. It had to be com­pleted in time for the client to carry it on a flight to Tokyo for the event, so I pro­posed us­ing card­board, and had it fab­ri­cated in just two days.

Be­sides card­board, what other ma­te­ri­als do you in­te­grate into your pro­jects?

We use fold­ing and slot­ting tech­niques to min­imise the use of ad­he­sives or any plastic joints. Should there be a need to add weights to sta­bilise the card­board struc­ture, we use large PET bot­tles filled with wa­ter, or even used car bat­ter­ies. Our prod­ucts are 100 per cent re­cy­clable and up­cy­cled.

What are the ben­e­fits of us­ing pa­per?

Pa­per is a sus­tain­able ma­te­rial that’s very ac­ces­si­ble and easy to work with. The ap­pli­ca­tions are end­less, so there’s never a dull mo­ment at work! Also, ma­te­ri­al­is­ing a pa­per prod­uct from the de­sign stage to man­u­fac­tur­ing can be ac­com­plished within a day – a dream come true, for most prod­uct de­sign­ers.

What’s the de­sign and con­struc­tion process like?

It can be quite a com­plex process, if you don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence of flat­ten­ing car­ton boxes or un­fold­ing French fries hold­ers! (laughs) Once we have a 3-D vis­ual of a prod­uct, the de­sign team will have to “think flat” and de­ter­mine where the fold­ing and cut lines should be on a card­board sheet. The struc­tural de­sign is sent to a large for­mat dig­i­tal flatbed cut­ter for cut­ting and creas­ing. Fi­nally, the fun part is to form it by hand, and be amazed at how it trans­forms into a 3-D ob­ject!

Who are your clients and what sort of pro­jects have you done?

We have clients from al­most every in­dus­try and re­ceived all kinds of en­quiries for cre­ations to be made from pa­per and card­board, in­clud­ing pack­ag­ing boxes, ex­hi­bi­tion booths, art in­stal­la­tions, kids’ fur­ni­ture, as well as cat play­houses and even coffins.

Tell me about your favourite pro­ject.

One of my favourite pro­jects was to cre­ate an in­stant pop-up cafe — like a gi­ant pop-up book that opens up to be­come a break­fast ta­ble with chairs — for the launch of a new prod­uct by Quaker in Shang­hai. It was a very suc­cess­ful cam­paign and the client was so pleased with be­ing the first to launch a lit­eral pop-up cafe!

TOP & BOT­TOM “It’s dif­fi­cult to find card­board de­sign­ers; hav­ing an in­ter­est in pa­per craft­ing is a must, and hav­ing an ob­ses­sion with pop-up books is an added ad­van­tage!” Adrian says, on what Pa­per Car­pen­ter looks out for when hir­ing.

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