Strong as paper

Despite the fragility of paper, Mandy Smith, the Papersmith, is determined to create something powerful out of it. Or perhaps it's because of its fragility that she's so inspired to challenge the way people thing about it, and in turn about the world. 

"I'm interested in creating experiences that show paper in a different way and play with people's preconception of it," she says.


Growing up in England, Mandy's nana would often give her a "cutting bag" (a bag full of scraps, envelopes, paper and tape) to play with. She found at an early age that she was quite good at working out how to build things. Once homework came on the scene and she was too busy to do much creatively, Mandy's paper hobby faded. But it resurfaced again when she moved to Amsterdam at the height of the recession.

She was working in advertising at the time, something she had studied at university, in 2008 there really wasn't much work to be done in Amsterdam. The ad agency she ended up with was full of creative people with outside passions and they really encouraged her creative pursuits. Paper quickly came back into the picture. 

Her first project was a distorted Amsterdam canal house which she still lovingly displays on her desk. She used the project to test the limits and strengths of paper to see how far she could go with it. From there, Papersmith was born. 

Since then Mandy has concepted, executed and art directed countless of projects for an array of clients. Much of her paper work ends up in animated video advertisements and she loves art directing projects like this. Take a look at some examples of her work, like this whimsical, delightful short film "The Move," and an advertisement for Toyota:

Mandy's projects also include, among others, a life-sized, fully functioning guillotine with a paper blade and a paper rocket that was shot 38,000 meters into space - examples of the type of interactive and unexpected art she is drawn to.

Perhaps most notably, this year Elle magazine labelled Mandy as runner up for female activist of the year for her work on No More Cutting and her collaboration with Plan Nederland which helped educate over 2 million people on the subject of female genital mutilation. Her incredible sculpture collection featuring thousands of vaginas sculpted from real-life images not only educates and advocates but celebrates the beautiful diversity of the human form.

It also brings to mind again the fragile medium that she uses to convey such powerful messages. 

"Paper holds all these forms really well," she says, holding one of her paper vaginas. "But you also really get that they're precious and super fragile."


Mandy's creations are indeed delicate and intricate - in fact a two-year old in a tantrum could easily dismantle months of her work. But the nature of her subjects makes them by no means temporary.

And Mandy - thoughtful, careful and detailed - isn't temporary either. Through her attention-grabbing projects and innovating thinking, she's creating a place in the world for paper art and the story it can tell.

Today you're eating a Cropbox inspired by Mandy and the delicate, intricate work she does - especially the beautifully detailed, diverse, foldy and curvy-in-all-the-right-places vaginas she's so lovingly created on behalf of women everywhere.