The Intricate Paper Sculptures Of An X-Acto Knife Master

A French artist sculpts with nothing but paper–and a whole lot of patience.

Maud Vantours is a Paris-based sculptor. But unlike most, her material of choice is paper, and she trades out the hammer and chisel for a ruler and X-Acto knife. Through tedious hours of cutting, folding, and layering, she transforms colorful pieces of paper into truly incredible three-dimensional landscapes.


In a video for Gap, which commissioned Vantours in 2015 to make a t-shirt design for its REMIX project, she describes the painstaking process behind her incredibly intricate works. She starts each project by drawing it by hand, then moves to Adobe Illustrator. To map out the 3D sculpture on a 2D sheet of paper, she codes each layer with a number–ending up with a diagram that looks a bit like a Paint-By-Numbers. “In the beginning I had really bad pain with my fingers,” she says in the video. Each project takes hours and hours of cutting and arranging. After years of practice, she says, “I’m a machine, like a robot.”

It’s hard not to be in awe of such a physical and delicate practice, and one that results in such visually stunning work. Vantours’s punchy geometric patterned pieces look like pastel paper versions of the intricate tile-work designs in ancient Middle Eastern mosques. Layers of paper add a delicious tactile quality to her rich typographic work, too. Brands have taken note: besides her work for Gap, she’s also done 3D paper set design for Adidas and lush window displays for Lancôme and Parcours Saint-Germain, among others.

It’s mesmerizing to watch Vantour build a 3D sculpture, layer by layer, from a 2D drawing, and you can’t help but marvel at the dream-like landscapes carved out from the most pedestrian of materials. This is an art form that is made even more impressive by the things you can’t see: those hours and hours of tedious folding, cutting and arranging.

[All Photos: via Maud Vantours]


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.