F5: Paper Artist Zoe Bradley Shares a Go-To Pen, Favorite Liqueur + More

“I aim to create a truly unique hand-crafted product from paper that celebrates the beautiful, unique architectural forms of nature,” said Wales-based paper artist Zoe Bradley. Working across disciplines, her work brings together sculpture, fashion, and theater, with her skills as a former fashion designer being evident in the almost tailored sculptures. “I work with paper just as a designer works with fabric, folding, curling, scoring, and stitching. My challenge is always to create something unexpected and playful from a 2D sheet of paper into a magical 3D sculpture.”

Zoe draws inspiration from the nature that surrounds her rural home, as well as couture, art, theater, and architecture. “I always take pictures wherever I am. Staying curious and observing the world around me influences my approach on pushing the boundaries of paper. My work is consistently about making the extraordinary from the ordinary,” she shared.

light-skinned woman with dark pulled back hair wearing a black short-sleeve shirt and posing in front of oversized paper flowers

Zoe Bradley \\\ Photo: Alun Callender

Her paper sculptures are usually commissioned works of oversized silhouettes, though she also likes the challenge of creating on a smaller, more demanding scale. Zoe’s love of skill working with paper first emerged while making showpieces for designer Michiko Koshino’s A/W 2005 show. Afterwards, the well-known London store Liberty commissioned her to create a collection of paper showpieces for their Christmas windows. Since then, Zoe’s been creating sculptures using paper sourced from around the world.

Currently, her clients include brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Estee Lauder, Tiffany & co., Graff, and Christian Louboutin. Zoe’s work has been featured in many magazines, included in several books on paper art, and exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney.

Today, Zoe Bradley joins us for Friday Five!

black and white image of a modern building at night with the lights on

Photo: Zoe Bradley

1. National Museum of Qatar

I was fortunate to visit the museum back in 2019 while I was working in the country. It’s a gravity-defying piece of architecture that rises from the dusty sandy desert, and it took my breath away. The building’s dramatic shape is inspired by the desert rose – a mineral formation created when minerals crystallize below the surface of a salt basin into an array of flat plates resembling rose petals. My dream would be to exhibit a retrospective of my paper sculptures within this magnificent building.

cover of Issey Miyake by Irving Penn

I’ve never followed convention. As a fashion and art student, I was always inspired by artists and designers who viewed life through a less conventional lens. Issey Miyake’s work was revolutionary to me. The way he saw clothes as a form of art on the body led me on my own journey of creating clothing from paper, a form of wearable art. Cutting, sewing, and
pleating the paper into a dress was influenced by his work. It was his decade long collaboration with American photographer Irving Penn that captured some of the most exciting silhouettes of his work. This book never tires to inspire.

looking over the shoulder of someone sketching

Photo: Daniel Burdett

My Sakura Brush brush pen is always in my bag! It allows me to capture my line of movement when I start to create a sculpture, the silhouette starts with my brush pen strokes. It feels so good in the hand to create with, a hybrid of a traditional pen with the softer expressive line of a paint brush. I love to use them for my floral illustration work as they can be so expressive.

light-skinned hand holding a large pink dahlia in a garden

Photo: Zoe Bradley

4. My Cutting Garden

I’ve had an affinity with flowers since childhood, and my love has grown even more since I started my own cutting garden over two years ago. Growing flowers gives me a sense of escapism, and to grow and nurture a flower from seed still captivates me. I love to walk barefoot in the grass, looking for varieties to draw and dissect for my paper sculptures. Tulips and Dahlias are probably my favorites, as their form is so dramatic and voluminous.

bottle of St-Germain liqueur on a white background

Image courtesy St-Germain

Over the summer I discovered the wonderful taste of St-Germain’s Elderflower liqueur. I’ve come to appreciate how versatile it is with my at-home cocktail making. I love to host family and friends, so I’ve been adding this delicious liquor to my cocktails or adding a dash to a simple glass of champagne. It’s been my go-to liqueur for its usability. With up to 1,000 handpicked elderflowers blossoms in every bottle, it’s a perfect staple for my at-home bar cart.

Work by Zoe Bradley:

looking up at a large paper chandelier in a lobby space

The Social Butterfly Chandelier, containing more than 5,000 butterflies, Harrods London, 2017 \\\ Photo: Melvyn Vincent

bright neon red and purple sculpted paper florals

Neon Garden installation, inspired by Asia’s exotic flowers, Galleria Melissa, London, 2017 \\\ Photo: Melvyn Vincent

a large colorful paper bouquet in a vase

Floral sculptures for Fleuriste St-Germain Pop Up Event, NYC, 2022 \\\ Photo: Sansho Scott

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Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.

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