American Made Series: Anandamayi Arnold


In January’s issue of Living, artist Anandamayi Arnold‘s remarkable crepe paper kumquat made its gorgeous debut. She has been skillfully creating an array of handcrafted pieces out of her home in California.

Has your work changed or evolved since you started working with paper?

I’ve been making things out of paper for as long as I can remember, but my work started to develop in the direction it has now in 1999, when I started working with European crepe paper. Originally, I could only get a fairly limited selection of colors, but now that Castle in the Air keeps me supplied with such a beautiful palette, my surprise balls (colorful crepe paper balls wrapped around tiny gifts) have gotten much more elaborate and life-like. As you unwind the crepe paper, you uncover small presents inside.  In the last few years, I have also been branching out into more one-of-a-kind and large-scale projects, like detailed, historical crepe paper costumes and life sized animals.

What kind of tools do you use?

The tools I depend on most are a huge assortment of scissors: long, thin bladed sewing pattern scissors, kitchen scissors, curved scissors, tiny Kai detail-cutting scissors, titanium nitride scissors for foils, quilter’s scissors, scissors with seven pairs of blades, and an assortment of old, metal pinking sheers. Also at hand on my desk are tweezers, an air brush and inks, pliers, and big bottles of Tacky Glue.

The Kumquat Branch we featured in our January issue was breathtaking! How long did it take you to create? What is the longest you have worked on a project?

That piece took a little over five hours. A couple of years ago, I made a blossoming quince branch with a bird’s nest in it that took eight hours–I think that may be the longest I’ve spent on an individual surprise ball. The tuna (shown above) took a week, and the series of dresses I made for the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge took four months.

Where does the idea for a new project come from?

Most of my inspiration comes from nature, either from walks around town or in parks or gardens, or from the farmer’s market. I am also inspired by traditional folk toys.

Do you pursue any other artistic or creative activities?

I sew a little, though not as much as my mother, who is a custom dress-maker. With a good deal of help from her, I do historic costuming. I also make paper-maché masks, hats and animals, occasionally paint murals and signs with my friend Aimée Baldwin, do street chalk drawing, and make tiny, dressed soft-sculpture animals.

I love that your studio is in your childhood bedroom. How much time do you spend in your studio in a day?

It really varies. Some days I just get in a half-hour between other things, and some days I work for six or eight hours, or more if something really needs to get done or I am particularly inspired. I tend to start late and work late.

What artists, colors or styles inspire you?

I collect books of botanical illustration, and I am particularly intrigued by the life and art of Mary Delany. I also often turn to John Muir Laws‘ beautifully illustrated field guides. The walls in my studio are solid with tiny bits of paper ephemera: old photos, notes and postcards, advertising cards, menus, gallery announcements, spent fireworks, tickets, silk kites, embroidered bits, posters, and more. Many of my favorite and most inspirational things are made by uncredited artisans working in very simple materials. I’m particularly attracted to the folk arts of India and Japan. My aesthetic has also been hugely influenced by working with Alice Erb and Lauren McIntosh at the Tail of the Yak, which has been the primary distributor of my work since I was fifteen.

Maeve Nicholson is harpist, fiber artist and a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living. Follow her on @maeverz.

(Fish photo copyright: Aya Brackett, Sewing photo copyright: Tara Arnold, Turnips photo copyright: Anandamayi Arnold)


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