Emily White Doesn’t Always Choose Paper or Scissors


A young girl, inspired by a beloved children’s tale about a spider named Charlotte, envisions her bedroom engulfed by a larger-than-life web. She unravels skeins of yarn to bring the idea to life. “It stretched wall to wall and floor to ceiling,” recalls Los Angeles artist Emily White, now 35, of her earliest installation. “I really got carried away.”

This cascading work is a remnant from Fat Fringe, an architectural prototype rejected by a client and later repurposed

White repurposing a piece that was rejected by a client.

Turns out, such creative tenacity is a sharp tool used by White in her “Scissor Series,” for which the Pennsylvania native carved highly articulated yet fanciful forms from plain white paper. The mastery required to create such intricately fringed, pleated, twirled and looped compositions from a medium so highly prone to rips and tears demands stick-to-itiveness. White—an architect by training who studied at SCI-Arc—notes that many of her paper feats are pint-size models of much grander achievements fabricated in brightly colored, folded sheet metal.

An early skeleton of White’s installation at CH+D’s Small Space Big Style showhouse.

The skeleton of White’s installation at CH+D’s Small Space Big Style showhouse.

See, for example, Three Horned Beast, an otherworldly pavilion installed in 2011 at the The New Children’s Museum in San Diego. The collaboration with fellow architect Lisa Little (the duo launched their joint design studio, Layer, in 2009) is made from “ribbons” of turquoise, green and purple powder-coated aluminum. The spiraling 32-foot spectacle started, quite literally, from scratch (paper, that is).

A laser-cut paper prototype for a 2012 installation reveals the rigidity of her otherwise “light and airy” paper art.

“Paper is a quick way for me to prototype ideas,” says White, who, in addition to teaching at SCI-Arc, also installed an “unfurling paper cloud” at California Home+Design’s Small Space Big Style showhouse in Hollywood (open through November). “These models are segments of a structural strategy, but they’re also instances of my imagination.”

More news: