Victoria Gomez is a Venezualan-born paper crafter whose work is nothing quite like you’ve ever seen before. In this interview, she shares reflections on her unique power of transforming paper into all sorts of practical and recreational polymorphous designs, and tells us of her fascination for the organic material, coming from the heart of her native Amazon forest and transplanted all the way to rural Germany. Be it lanterns, animal masks or pop-up books, her delicate and beautifully crafted sculptures are a reminder of the infinite and often unexplored creative possibilities hidden in paper.
Hi Victoria! Could you introduce yourself as well as your work, and think of one word that would fittingly describe it?
My name is Victoria Gómez and I’m from Caracas, Venezuela, where I studied art. I think of myself as a creative person as well as a happy mama of 2 puppies. I’m also a music selector/DJ. Before I started working with paper, I worked as an art director and in PR for my own event company, CMYK International Independent Magazine Festival in Barcelona, the fashion label Martin Lamothe as well as for METAL magazine, actually. My job was to design flyers, invitations, catalogs and work with magazines as well as books… so it seems that somehow I’ve always been connected with paper! After the big crisis in Spain, I decided to go my own way and started to work with paper, a material to which I have always felt attracted. I collected magazines, pop-up books and cutout doll paper. I started researching paper techniques in various books and on the internet, and I also deconstructed 3D books to learn about their mechanisms. Soon enough I started running my own workshops to teach others about what I was doing… and voilà. I guess I would describe my work as organic.
What are the benefits of working with paper and what does it mean to you ? Why not use another material?
When I was an art student, we always had to try out different techniques in order to find which one suited us best – but in those days, paper art was not included in the program like it is now. So after trying to find an alternative, dabbling in performance but it not leading anywhere, I dropped out of my course, feeling rather frustrated when I didn’t find my own means of expression and went on a trip through the Amazonian forest instead, where I lived for almost a year and got very close to the nature, to the trees. It was a very deep and fundamental experience that pretty much changed my life and saved me, I would say. When i started to work with paper, I reconnected with that precious feeling and realized that paper actually truly comes from trees. I’d never thought about it like that before. I basically work with paper while combining it with other materials such as rusty metal, twigs, gauze, concrete. As the origami master Akira Yoshizawa says :“ When your hands are busy your heart is serene”.
What properties does paper possess that are so transformative and therefore appeal to your creative side ?
It is an organic, simple and very easy material to work with. It’s very flexible and basic. I absolutely love having the chance to connect with simplicity and basic things like fold, cut and glue which are the very first things you learn to play with in school- and to work with these basic materials is what reconnects me to my childish side. It’s truly amazing what you can do with a piece of paper, to transform something that is part of your everyday life (books, toilet paper, money, bills, etc.) into something extraordinary like a dragon with origami technique or a folded book. I often wonder how in the world people came to making a butterfly with a simple piece of paper?! It’s Incredible. No computer is involved, just folding and connecting with creation itself. Yoshizawa said, “The possibilities to create things with paper are endless” It’s true and it really is fantastic.
What do your designs represent/embody and what environment do you ideally design them for? Do you think about this during the designing process?
Everything I do with paper is inspired by nature and that’s why it’s so organic. I live in a small German town surrounded by trees, flowers, branches and a little river. So when I’m walking through the streets, I’m always thinking about transforming everything I see into a paper stage, paper installation or a lamp. I often work with paper and light to try and recreate that universe of light and shadows that I see on a daily basis in the streets, in my garden or even in my atelier. I am fascinated by these different atmospheres. In that way I am always immersed in creation, something that is not always easy to handle because I have neither the space in my mind nor the time to store and transform all of these ideas.
What atmosphere are you aiming to create through your work?
I’m always working towards a recreating the kind of atmosphere you would get in a forest, a very deep and thick one like the Amazonia. If I could manage to create a paper light installation that manages to embody this amazing atmosphere someday, I think I would just take a permanent vacation for the rest of my life.
You design a lot of masks as well as lamps. Are your designs more practical or recreational?
I love masks because they tend to represent a fantasy character or an alter ego. Masks have a direct link to theater, performance and drama. I love to disguise myself, it’s that part of me which loves to perform. I would say they are both recreational and therapeutic because I express a part of me that I might not express in my day to day life, and it’s extremely important to express those hidden sides. Lamps are of course the more practical and commercial aspect of my work but they are also very special to me. I really like to work with reflection, light and shadows, so there is always a poetic background somewhere in there too.
Much of your work seems inspired by magical realism, and brings together a lot of magical, colorful and fantastical elements. Why is this? Where does this inspiration come from?
Well, I believe in magic of course, but I also believe in quantum physics and science too. You know, in magic there is the power of transformation. That is the reason why witches transform people into animals or things in fairy tales, or why a princess needs to be kissed by a prince to transform her. Creativity also has this power. When you create something you work in a process of transformation and that, to me, is magical! I think it is innate trait in creative people to always want to transform their reality. Nature is constantly in a process of transformation. That’s the reason I feel so inspired by this magical power of nature to transform everything!