Uniting Two Galaxies | Marc Hagan-Guirey talks STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI

We first featured paper artist Marc Hagan-Guirey back in September, when his new book, STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, hit shelves. He explained how he first encountered the world of kirigami and what led him to start creating scenes, buildings and vehicles from movies.

Now, with only one week until the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga hits cinema, he has told us a little more about the book and its part in the journey to The Last Jedi.

Photograph by Seamus Ryan
Photograph by Seamus Ryan

So how do you turn the ships into paper? What is the design process?

Needless to say I watch a lot of Star Wars. There’s a ton of resource material to work from which is great to make the kirigami design as accurate as possible. Sometimes there’s a bit of artistic license involved in order to make a ship fold properly. It’s about figuring out the basic shape of the ship first and then building upon that with details. I often use the LEGO versions of ships as resource because they’re essentially simpler versions of the real thing.

SW Kirigami_JediStraightfighter_Spread02

Which is your favourite ship in the book and why?

A prequel ship. The Jedi Star fighter from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith stands out for me. The prequel ships are slightly more stylised than those in the original trilogy. With lots of extra details and folds, they translate really well to paper.

Is there anything else interesting about the creation of the book that you can share with us?

Apart from a new ship from The Last Jedi, I wanted to offer something a little different with my book. I’m really interested in the production design process, from concept to final product. Each project comes with a written accompaniment detailing this. There are lots of interesting facts about the designers who worked on the films and pictures of the original concept drawings. It’s a celebration of the people behind the camera.

Tell us about the Star Wars exhibition you did.

It was called Cut Scene. It had 12 kirigami scenes from the original trilogy. my exhibitions are more like a collection of tiny movie installations. Each kirigami was housed in shadow box with a strong backlit colour reflective of the tone of the movie scene. I love how lighting plays a huge effect in cinema in creating that theatre. With the kirigami you get to experience a dual personality. You can appreciate the paper for the ‘craft aspect’ when viewed in a fully lit room (with ‘the big lights’ on) and then become immersed in the effect when they are lit with colour. It’s a bit like riding a ghost train in the dark and then again with the lights on. The experiences are very different – with the lights on you get to say ‘ah! That’s how they did it’.

The pieces were arranged chronologically and floated on the walls at eye level. I loved how every morning when I’d go in to the gallery to prepare it for opening, I’d have to clean nose smudges off the perspex from when people had be peering in. They’re probably the most complex work I’ve done to date. For example, my favourite, the Carbonite Freezing scene from The Empire Strikes Back took me around 2 years to master. Tweak after tweak, I was still working on it a few days before the show opened. I’m so glad I did that show. I was nervous because the Horrorgami exhibition had garnered so much press that anything other than that would have felt like a bit of a letdown. Cut Scene ended up dwarfing it in those terms. I was also not feeling great before that. I’d lost my mum to cancer, came to the end of a 7 year relationship and moved out of our home that I’d spent 2 years renovating, so much of the effect of those experiences had compounded. I literally decided one day – what makes me happy? What will help me get back to being me? As silly as it sounds the answer was kirigami and Star Wars.

What other books have you published?

This is my third book now. My first book ‘Horrorgami’ was a follow up to my first exhibition. Just a few months ago my second book ‘Frank Lloyd Wright Paper Models’ was published. It’s a collection of his 14 most celebrated buildings. I’ve just returned from California and visited (loitered) outside quite a few of them.

Whats next for you?

I’m keen to have another solo exhibition. I’ve had 3 year gaps between them so I’m ready… that’s how long it takes to build up the energy. They’re all consuming! If enough people like this book then hopefully I can do another!

Who or what are you inspired by?

I guess there’s no one particular source. Film, TV, interior designs. I have a tendency to be drawn more towards the relatively more ‘unsung’ heroes of film & TV such as set designers and concept artists. Outside of media I find inspiration in all sorts just from being observant. I guess if I can look at something, anything be it an object or photo and I can see it has a backstory – then my mind goes into overdrive romancing what it’s history is. I’ve got lots of pals who make stuff – crafters and artists. Anyone who makes something from nothing inspires me to keep creating.

If you could meet any actor from the Star Wars films who would you most like to meet and why? 

It would have been Carrie Fisher. Her passing has a huge effect on me. It was very strange – psycho-analysing myself – her death had obviously re-surfaced the loss of my mum a few years ago. Another feisty woman who was gone too soon. On top of mourning the loss of a person you admire as a fan-base, we also are hurting due to the loss of the character too – knowing that they’ll never be able to fully complete her character’s arc. I always felt out of every character, Leia lost the most and gave the most. Luke was obsessed with his own journey whilst Leia looked at the bigger picture and sadly either her family was taken from her or they abandoned her (in the new films). She deserves a happy conclusion.

Are you excited to see the new film; The Last Jedi which is released cinemas this December?

I think tormented by the wait is the more accurate feeling!


STAR WARS KIRIGAMI is out now. Find out more here and watch Marc Hagan-Guirey in action here!

Learn about STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI with Marc Hagan-Guirey

Get FOLDING for Force Friday II…

In STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI, celebrated paper artist and designer Marc Hagan-Guirey applies his genius to the Star Wars galaxy in this book of 15 unique kirigami (cut and-fold) ships featured in the saga’s films. Ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, each beautifully detailed model features step-by-step instructions and a template printed on cardstock—all that’s needed are a utility knife, a cutting mat, and a ruler!

Curious?

We asked Marc everything you need to know about the world of kirigami, getting started with the craft and his interest in Star Wars:

Photograph by Seamus Ryan
Photograph by Seamus Ryan

What is kirigami?

Kirigami is a bit like origami except that instead of just folding the paper, you cut it too. ‘Ori’ - means fold and ‘kiri’ means cut. Kirigami is traditionally used to create architectural replicas but it’s perfectly suitable for spaceships too! The cool thing about kirigami is that it’s just one sheet of paper – nothing is glued or added to it. It’s part of the joy that you can create something so interesting from a ubiquity of a piece of paper.

How did you get started creating kirigami?

I feel like it was a bit of a serendipitous moment that lead to me experimenting with the craft. I’m a big fan of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and back in 2012 my partner and I told a few white lies to get a private tour of one of his most elusive buildings – the Ennis House in LA. It was a condemned building and had been out of bounds to the public for over 20 years. We may have told them we had the $14 million needed to buy it and were very keen to come and see it. The experience had a huge impact on me – I’d go as far as saying it was spiritual. I wanted to mark the occasion by making some of sort of memento. As a kid I always loved to craft, my currency was egg cartons, toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes (it still pains me to see these things put in the recycling) but as an adult we all know too well that life gets in the way. I’m a designer director in digital but I still had that yearning to use my hands again. When I was researching what to make, I happened upon examples of kirigami. I felt paper was the perfect material to make a replica of the Ennis House due to its fragility. I quickly saw that kirigami wasn’t just limited to buildings and I started making scenes from movies.

Is your book suitable for complete beginners of kirigami?

There are a few ‘beginner’ projects in the book to get you started. I feel kirigami is easy to advance in and you’ll soon want more challenging projects. The most important thing is to be patient, take breaks and enjoy the process. I find it meditative to concentrate and not be distracted by the ‘coke machine glow’ of mobile devices.

Do you need any special tools to do kirigami?

You need a few inexpensive things – a cutting matt, a metal ruler, an x-acto knife with replaceable blades. Also a toothpick will be really useful to pop out some of the smaller folds.

Why did you decide to create Star Wars ships using kirigami?

Why not?! It was more of a necessity for me. I was already creating Star Wars kirigami back when I started experimenting with it. The idea to do a ship focused book was suggested by Mike Siglain, the Creative Director of Lucasfilm publishing – he’s a man with good ideas.

Have you always been a Star Wars fan?

I’ve always been a Star Wars fan and was essentially born into it. I’m an 80s kid so never saw it first time around at the cinema but I have an older brother who was the right age. I feel a bit guilty now for commandeering all of his original Kenner action figures – it must have been torture for him to see his baby brother destroy them but I did just buy him a full scale licensed replica of Vader’s helmet for his 40th birthday so I think we’re even now.

How did the book come to be?

A lot of knocking on doors and badgering people with emails. I started talking to Lucasfilm about the idea in 2014. During that time I was invited to the set of Episode VII and in a serendipitous moment I ended up chatting to JJ Abrams about my work. He was really excited by it and frog marched me across the set of ‘Star Killer’ base to meet Kathleen Kennedy. It was the only time I ever had a business card in my wallet – albeit a very dog-eared one. I had an unofficial exhibition of Star Wars kirigami scenes in 2015 – it had a lot of press and went viral. Lots of big media outlets such as the BFI, Wired, BBC World News, CNN were covering it. I guess it was inevitable that Disney took notice and that dog-eared business card eventually made its way to the business development department. I thought I was in trouble when they called! I’ve got to say the process of working with Disney, Lucasfilm, my publisher Hachette and my US publisher Chronicle has been wonderful.

Click here to find out more about STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, which publishes today!