Imagine a beautiful pop-up book of fairies and wood elves. Now, imagine those three-dimensional figures suddenly coming to life, standing up, and walking off the page. This is the effect created by artist Elsa Mora, who creates stunningly magical paper sculptures out of paper that look less like they were cut and folded than like they were willed into existence by her dreams.
Mora’s childhood was not lavish. Growing up poor as one of the eight children of two uneducated parents, Mora learned at an early age that the only way her dreams would become real was if she worked hard to attain them. “My mother always told me to find out as soon as possible what you were good at, and if you did, you could make your dreams come true by hard work and discipline,” Mora tells Co.Design. “Those lessons saved my life.”
In many ways, Mora’s paper sculptures are the physical embodiment of the lessons she learned from her mother. Using paper, scissors, a knife and glue, Mora spends hours and even days creating each sculpture. The goal, she says, is to make people feel happiness and even wonder again. “There is a history of mental problems in my family, which urged me from an early age to understand people’s feelings and make them feel better,” Mora says. “I have great sympathy for those who suffer and struggle. That is what inspires me, not only in creating these sculptures, but art in general.”
You can see this spirit of purity and compassion in Mora’s work. Never dark or macabre, Mora’s sculptures look like dreams carved from paper. Fairies ride the backs of birds through verdant paper forests, and nymphs with eaves for eyes stand as white as snow in dresses woven from intertwining branches and leaves. Even a bee meticulously cut from off-white, weighted paper appears as if it was willed into existence by a twitch of imagination. Her sculptures are innocent as they are breathtakingly nuanced.
“As a survival response in my childhood, I had to learn how to get the most out of very little,” Mora says. “Now that I have my basic needs covered, I still feel the need to make things happen out of minimal resources. It challenges my creativity. That’s why paper is so perfect: as a medium, it couldn’t be more simple, but it’s potential is endless. With paper, you can go as far as you’re willing to push it.”
If you would like to see some of Mora’s magnificent paper sculptures in person, some of her work will be on exhibit at the Couturier Gallery in Los Angeles from December 7th to January 4th.