“Paper is a versatile medium.”
We’re completely fascinated by these images of the legendary designer Irving Harper’s farmhouse in upstate New York. His sculptures – made from scraps of paper, cardboard, matchsticks, and then secured with glue – are scattered throughout the house. Harper’s been tinkering about with these remarkable masks, shapes, and formations for decades, there are literally hundreds of them in his home.
If you’re unfamiliar with Irving Harper, let us brush you up. Harper created many of the now iconic modernist designs for Herman Miller and George Nelson. His designs are some of the most recognizable from the modern era, including the Ball Clock, the Marshmallow Sofa, and even the Herman Miller logo itself, a logo that has remained virtually unchanged since its original conception in the late 1940s. While his influence on modern design is indisputable and worth noting, it’s these images of his most personal work that have us intrigued.
While living and working in New York City in the 1960s, Harper began making paper sculptures as a way of relieving stress, using the most elementary tools to create these small works (they are secured with simple Elmer’s glue), creating the complex out of the ordinary. He used such varied works as Picasso’s Cubist pieces, to African and Southeast Asian art, to even pre-Columbian pieces as inspirations. Harper eventually stopped making his paper sculptures when he ran out of space in his home to display them. Rather than selling them to create space for new pieces, Harper simply stopped making them five years ago, explaining, “I did not need the money, but mostly because I admired them and I liked to have them around”.
Even though Irving Harper has ceased making his lovely paper sculptures and has also retired from the world of popular design, he has received a lot of deserved attention over the last few years. The above video was recently created for Herman Miller’s WHY design series and there’s also a 2010 New York Times write-up by Guy Trebay on Irving Harper that you can read here.