Monday, 5 January 2015

M o u l d i n g    w i t h    P a p e r

A feature on Mary Button Durell's Paper Sculptures is a happy start to 2015 for us at On the Design Boat. Enigmatic, organic, multi faceted, complex, deep are some of the qualities evident in this San Francisco based artist's work - qualities that we also look forward to showcasing in our features in this new year.

Paper is the most basic of materials. A material that on the surface seems to have limited obvious use. One look at Durell's sculptures instantly transforms our notions of what can be achieved with this material.


Mary uses tracing paper and wheat paste to create most of her work. Her sculptures are organic in form, twisting and binding to create amoeba like organisms. 

One gets to see an experimental and an experiential approach towards material and form in these paper sculptures. The fact that the Durell is testing and pushing boundaries with her chosen material is very evident in the way she has created widely varying forms.

"I like the challenge of pushing the limits with one material, it forces you to always think about what’s next and how to continue to reshape, redirect and transform that chosen material. I have an interesting and long-term relationship with this paper, and when you work in tandem with your materials and with such intimacy, the give and take is an important part of the work." Mary Button Durell via

A sublime palette of colors adds an enchanting, ethereal quality to these works. At a glance, it is difficult to believe that paper can contain so much - strength, solidity & fluidity, translucence & opaqueness....


"Fundamental ideas explored in my work relate mostly to the mysterious quality of translucency— the ways in which diffusion of information, lack of clarity and distinction can pull you in and stimulate questions and curiosity.....

.....I’m drawn to the questions that layers bring up and the possibilities for meaning, whether it’s single layers or multilayers. There is so much to consider: the extent of layering (psychological and physiological), the realities underneath, the history, the texture, the thickness, the construction, and how to uncover those layers. Themes of contrasting forces also carry through my work: fragility and strength, opacity and translucence, heaviness and lightness."Mary Button Durell via


These are some visuals from Mary's studio - a veritable smorgasbord of ideas & experimentation!


"....But of course inspiration comes in all ways. I stop. I sit, observe, absorb, and look closely and slowly at objects. I follow contours on the pavement during a slow paced walk. I pay attention to negative space, the space around, the gap, the mistakes, and the discarded. I get out the magnifying glass, I rotate, I nap. Travel, libraries, dancing, music, maps, hardware stores, my artist friends, huge gut-ripping roaring laughs— all of it inspires me, everything, the full catastrophe." Mary Button Durell via

Aptly said Mary - an artist absorbs everything and these experiences become tools. Here's wishing all a happy year ahead of more listening, absorbing, observing and creating!!

See more of Mary's work and the process involved on her website
All Images: Copyright Mary Button Durell unless captioned otherwise

Text & creative layout copyrights: Onthedesignboat   

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