‘One Piece At A Time’

by Fred Abler

Finally, paper craft is getting some respect. Tomorrow July 15th, a ‘major’ work of art will open at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield Connecticut. 3D Artist Jonathan Brand’s life-scale paper replica of a 69’ Ford Mustang will open to the public.

Fig 1-  Jonathan Brand’s life-scale paper model of his 69’ Mustang being installed and now on display at the Aldrich. The 3D sculpture installation is entitled “One Piece At a Time”.

Paper craft is known in most societies that use paper, and in Japan (origami and kirgami) is traditionally prized for its aesthetic value. But various forms of paper crafts are also used in the education of children. Paper is inexpensive, colorful, and a relatively uncomplicated medium to express yourself.

So exactly what is a kid’s craft doing… in a museum? Aside from its charming elevation to ‘museum status’, Brand’s life-scale paper craft is ( like all art ) a cathartic creation of the artist himself. A therapeutic re-creation if you will. And as you’ll see, this paper craft is anything but ‘uncomplicated’.

Some 10 years ago, while still a teenager, Brand was restoring 69’ mustang when the engine hoist broke. The new V-8 engine he was installing fell and pinned him between the floor and walls of his parent’s garage.

Thankfully, the traumatic event left him physically unharmed, but emotionally? Well that’s another story. So, like all good artists, Jonathan decided to make his auto-angst into art.

Starting in December of 2009, Brand, who now teaches 3D Art in Manhattan as an adjunct professor at Pace University and Parson’s New School, began the life size paper replica of his 69’ Mustang on a part time basis.


“The car is drawn on the computer in 3D using Rhinoceros 3D and Autodesk 3DS Max. It is ‘unfolded’ for printing and numbers put on all the open edges using a program called Pepakura Designer, where everything is also divided into paper-sized parts for printing.

I then imported it into Adobe illustrator to change the color, line weights, etc., before printing. All parts are a combination of hand cut pieces and my use of a vinyl cutter that could read the Illustrator paths. All the color in the piece is printed on an Epson inkjet printer.”             

                                                                                   Jonathan Brand,  3D Artist


To give you an idea of just what is involved in life-scale paper craft, Brand had to fold-and-glue matching-number tabs for each 3D part. Each tire required 20,000 edges to folded and glued together. While the first tire took three months, each subsequent required only a week each.

Still, Brand knew he needed help. He bought a vinyl cutter to speed up the process, only to discover vinyl cutters leave some a white edge around parts. So Brand had to ‘hack’ the cutter (very meta) so the laser was fooled into following special crop marks, and to score both sides of a part, so they would fold cleanly.

Fig 2.  Jonathan Brand, One Piece at a Time (detail, Motor ) 2012.  Image courtesy of the artist.  Visit the show virtually on Spokeo which has an amazing slide show of ‘One Piece at A Time’.

All the construction marks (crop marks, print lines for edges, numbered tabs, etc.) were left visible to make this ‘ohh too cool and a little crazy’ paper craft process – a part of his art.

In Short –  Picasso drew like an angel with a burnt stick, and Jonathan Brand makes life-scale 3D sculpture out of paper.  Art isn’t the medium… it’s the message! Or, is it vice-a-versa?  ‘One Piece At A Time’  Let’s you decide…

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