August 1, 2017

The Paper City | G . F Smith in Hull and beyond


Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Hull with the wonderful folk at G . F Smith for the announcement of the ‘World’s Favourite Colour‘ and a look at ‘Paper City’ – a series of installations around Hull’s Humber Street in collaboration with Hull 2017 UK City of Culture.

Bringing together eight top creatives from the worlds of art, design and architecture, Paper City showcases eight imaginative ways to use paper from the likes of Bethan Laura Wood, Max Lamb and Made Thought. Using just the pulpy stuff, each installation takes on its own unique form, showing the multitude of applications the material has and displaying each artists’ passion for paper. Curated by Andrew Knight and Hazel Colquhoun, the renowned Colorplan range has been used throughout and the colourful results reflect the inspirations and interests of each artist.

“In a world of transient communication and fleeting digital memories, paper offers texture and feeling, weight and sensation. Paper reminds us that skill, craft and creativity coupled with something as naturally beautiful as paper can leave a lasting and powerful impression.”

~ Phil Alexander, Joint Managing Director at G . F Smith

The majority of the exhibition has now moved to the London Show Space but I thought I’d share a few sneak peeks from some of the artists and their inspiration, plus the beautiful Hull setting. Let’s take a look at some of these babies!


MAX LAMB, 35,000 GSM

For Paper City, Max has embraced the standardised stock paper sizes and weights produced by G F Smith to create four pieces which form a range of Colorplan ‘furniture’ – developing a potential new standard weight of paper in the process; 35,000 gsm. Who’s loving that shade of pink?

“I’m turning standardised stock paper into a new stock thickness, and building structures out of that. So three reams of A4 paper become a stool, three reams of A3 paper become a side table, three reams of A2 paper become a console table, and three reams of A1 become a table for two to dine at. Somehow they just seem to become furniture without me even doing anything.”

~ Max Lamb



Jacqueline Poncelet began her career working in ceramics and has since extended her practice to include painting, sculpture, installations and public art commissions. Using her own paintings as inspiration, Poncelet developed an experimental system of cutting, folding, assembling and placing, using all of the colours in the Colorplan range. The resulting floor-based installation creates a series of interesting and unexpected colour relationships, with intricate and irregular shapes that interlock with one another in a rather beautiful star-like configuration.



Made Thought’s installation brings together the history of Hull and G . F Smith through a nine-metre long tapestry of colourful interwoven paper strips. Telling the story of place, people and paper, the huge suspended tapestry makes use of all 50 of the Colorplan colours which were hand woven in the G . F Smith factory in Hull (by every single one of its employees!).

The tapestry visually depicts the release of each shade into the collection through a chronological colour timeline, making reference to the jobs, community and relationships that G . F Smith have created in the city during their 130-year history.



Bethan Laura Wood is well known for her playful and colourful attitude and her installation ‘Seaweed Kites’ explores exactly that in an old Hull smoke house.  Combining the shapes of British seaweed with details from kite construction, Bethan has used the properties of laminated paper by cutting and twisting to transform flat sheets. The paper seaweed gently hangs and sways to create a suspended world of whimsical colour and shapes, bringing together nature, industry and architecture.



One of my favourite creations (which alas, has not made it to London) was Richard Woods’ architectural-scale interventions along Humber Street, which provided the perfect backdrop for a little jumping. Inspired by walks through Hull, Woods used standard sheet sizes of Colorplan paper to create graphic brickwork, exploring urban renewal and imagining new sections of buildings.

“The idea was to take a very recognisable material – paper – and pretend that it’s a tool of urban renewal by making it look like a brick. The wrap is paper-thin but implies a rebuild. As an artist, you’re often on the frontline of urban regeneration. I don’t like to front-load the artwork. My motivations aren’t the important thing, I’m not demanding a certain reading. Work is often more powerful if it’s not trying to hit the viewer over the head.”

~ Richard Woods




Apeiron Flow is an installation by Architect Adam Holloway that showcases the endless expressive potential of paper. Using principles inspired by nature to increase its structural stiffness, paper is algorithmically grown and crafted into an expansive and fluid sculptural form. The form weaves and transforms space which forms exploration and movement.

“Paper is something I use a lot in my work for making maquettes or small-scale prototypes of what we want to build. It’s a very accessible material; it’s easy for people to get hold of and craft with. It has a lot of expressive potential, and can act as a bridge between the digital world and the physical world. It doesn’t have a lot of specific behaviours like clay or stone – they’re very constrained and require a lot of machinery or heavy tools.”

~ Adam Holloway

See the majority of Paper City at the G . F Smith Show Space in Oxford Circus. To book a visit email or call on 0207 3205 0074 – you just have to have a love for paper and they’ll do the rest!

INFO: 27-28 Eastcastle St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8DH, UK


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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