Hong Kong design duo stand out from the crowd by making their art look easy and accessible
Uniquely playful 3D paper sculptures spark joy and keep people wanting more
Hong Kong art and design duo Stickyline have made a name for themselves in the city’s competitive arts scene through their inventive, playful 3D paper sculptures that have been exhibited in diverse settings, from high-end fashion boutiques to contemporary dance performances and even local gigs.
Polytechnic University design school graduates Mic Leong, 31, and Soilworm Lai, 34, burst onto the scene in 2011 with their project “Masked Creatures” – a series of wearable paper headgear shaped like iconic Hong Kong buildings that unexpectedly went viral on social media.
Since then, the former classmates have been flooded with requests to create more of their striking, inventive artworks for display in public spaces and galleries.
“So many different friends came to us for collaborations, starting from window displays. It slowly grew and grew out of that,” Lai recalls. “People just kept coming and asking for more.”
The endless stream of new commissions has seen Stickyline grow from a fun side project into a full-fledged art and design success story, taking up more and more time from Lai and Leong’s day jobs as designers of packaging and toys, respectively.
Their decision to use only paper as a medium turned out to be hugely advantageous, as it allowed them to be more flexible in terms of production time and equipment.
“Before, as product designers we found that projects took a long time to develop,” Leong explains. “But when we tried using paper, we could make something in a week or within a few days of coming up with our original idea.”
The versatility of paper as a medium has many other benefits, too, Lai says.
“We don’t want people to think our art is inaccessible. We want them to think that art is easy, that everyone can be an artist too.” The pair sometimes hold workshops to teach paper art skills to others. Lai describes paper as very user-friendly. “You just need scissors, glue and tape,” he adds.
This desire to bring their work to more people, to democratise art, is one of the major motivations behind Stickyline’s use of public spaces to showcase their projects.
Lai wants people to stop and take notice of their art as well as “make them happy through the playful aspect” of their work. After attracting people’s attention, he says, “we can start a dialogue”.
Perhaps not surprisingly, their quirky installations can bring moments of joy to a weary public often too absorbed in their mobile screens or hectic work schedule to appreciate the world around them.
For their latest project, the duo crafted a cosmic shower of giant paper meteors. The installation hangs from the atrium of the K11 Art Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui for the shopping centre’s annual Christmas exhibit. Rotating geometric paper sculptures of natural objects that represent the links between space, humanity and nature are also on show.
“Things we find in nature, for example, snowflakes and shells, follow mathematical proportions like the golden ratio,” Lai says. “Our goal is not just to focus on aesthetics, but to involve mechanics and design.”
One of their large-scale paper sculptures takes on average two days to make, but it was harder to make them rotate correctly. Lai and Leong want viewers to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the universe through their latest work. Planetary frequencies recorded by Nasa accompanies it.
“Around this time of year, lots of people ask us to make Christmas trees out of paper, which we’ve done already,” Lai says. For the space theme, they sought to add new techniques such as sound, lighting and mechanics to take their work “one step further”.
In future, the pair plan to continue having commercial partnerships while retaining their own artistic identity.
“We don’t have a big business plan at the moment,” Lai claims. “We just want to make something interesting that can be shared among lots of people.”
But Leong adds: “Creative freedom is very important to us.”