Becoming a paper artist has never been in Cheryl Teo’s books. In fact, she was having a hard time figuring out her next page in life after graduation.
“I never thought that being an artist could be a possibility for me. I had thought about doing art since I was a child, but my pragmatic side could never imagine that happening, ”says Cheryl, who studied photography at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) .
“I like to think that my work was born because people were enthusiastic and curious about working with paper for their projects and campaigns. I was right there at the right time!
And she really impressed us with the way she turns sheets of paper into works of art.
Cheryl, better known as Captain LULO on Instagram, created paper masterpieces for POSB, Zespri, and TV ads with Singtel. She has also worked on projects with the Asian Civilization Museum and the National Library Board.
So… why of all things, paper? Cheryl quotes art lessons and chance. She was already working with paper in her freshman year in college and kept coming back to medium for fun.
“I like that paper is easily accessible and at the time I was very inspired by artists who created interesting shapes with paper. characters and objects, from Merlion to Sang Nila Utama.
“Living in Singapore also means living in small spaces, so working with paper is perfect for me. As someone who has always loved building things and working with my hands, I love the versatility that paper has to offer, ”she adds.
We talk to the paper artist about her most memorable collaborations, how to get out of a creative rut, and what fuels her passion to continue creating these playful paper sculptures.
Who is “Captain LULO”? Is this your superhero identity?
I wish there was a more inspiring reason for the birth of Captain LULO. But honestly, that’s just an old Instagram handle that I created six years ago when I started selling a mishmash of artisanal goods.
I have thought about changing this name / identity a million times but nothing significant comes to mind! For now, Captain LULO is just an artist who works with paper.
From miniature food to tiny furniture and HDBs, your creations are simply amazing. What inspires you?
I am inspired by anything and everything! Things that I can see and touch the way I am feeling right now. If I am obsessed with a particular subject or thought at any point in time, I will use it to fuel the things I do.
Everything that matters or touches me is always the best subject to use for my art, as I find it to have the most emotional motto. If that means something to me, it will probably mean something to someone else too.
Speaking of your designs, do you remember the first thing you did with paper?
The first time I used paper was when I was in elementary school, I made a collage of a foot stepping on a cockroach.
You’ve worked on so many commissions and collaborations! What are some of your most memorable partnerships and what made them so great?
My most memorable partnerships are those where the client has absolute confidence in me and those where I feel optimally challenged. There were a few projects that came to fruition without showing a single sketch to the client.
It is very rare to have this level of confidence and understanding because the nature of my job is different from what they might be used to. I certainly don’t take it for granted and am grateful to be able to meet clients who are willing to take my chances.
I also like working on projects that match my style and interests, but which also force me to think outside of what I already know.
For example, I had a plan to create a cover for a financial magazine based in the United States. I never thought my job would be something a financial magazine would want to use.
Would my style even fit such a serious subject? So, it was perfect when I found out that they were looking for something fancy to tackle a generally serious topic.
The client and the agency weren’t looking for me to change my style either! I am always excited about projects like this because it encourages me to keep doing what I do and not be ashamed of what I come up with.
It’s amazing how you manage to make your creations. Which project was your most difficult and, on average, how long does it take to complete a piece?
Most projects come to me with new challenges each time, especially if I’m creating something I’ve never created before or working on a tight schedule (which is most of the time, haha!).
I’m usually only given a week to a month to complete a project. Technically this can be very difficult as papermaking is quite labor intensive and time is always needed to experiment on a particular shape or object. It also takes time to build each part by hand.
Sometimes it takes a while to iron out the client’s vision before I can start building anything.
You are a self-proclaimed introvert. Does this help / hinder your role as an artist, especially when it comes to collaborations?
Ironically, this doesn’t really affect me! Maybe it’s because I’m not around people every day like in a normal work environment (before Covid).
When I worked in an office as a graphic designer I was very calm because I am horrible at chattering (especially if it has to be five days a week!) And it takes me a long time to feel comfortable to open up to a stranger.
But, in my current situation, it works great for me as I just talk about business most of the time when I am approached for a job. And introverts really light up when you talk to them about things related to their interests.
You mentioned on Instagram recently that you were stuck in a creative rut. We are so sorry to hear about this – how is it all? Do you have any advice for other artists who find themselves in the same situation?
Often times being in a creative rut for me comes from either exhaustion or over-thinking about whatever I’m working on. I’m not entirely sure I’m the best person to give advice.
I find that what helps me is either doing something completely opposite to what is on your mind or finding some inspiration that gives you a creative mission that you can take on without constantly thinking. that you have to reinvent the wheel.
You can make a list of things that you like to do, but haven’t done in a while. It helps you forget about your mind and gives you time to recharge your creative muscles while doing something you love.
When my mind is overloaded with other thoughts, I find that it prevents me from producing creative work. I would take the time to figure out what is bothering me and deal with it first.
Having a creative career can be very exhausting and it’s not easy to juggle passion projects and client projects at the same time. So, it’s okay if you just want to stop creating for a while.
We love the mini chair DIY kit on LULO Paper Studio! It’s a great way for beginners to get started with papercrafting. What kind of feedback have you received about them?
It was awesome and unexpected, honestly! It gave me that boost of confidence I needed to come up with more papercraft kits in the future.
I used to think – why would anyone want to get a DIY kit when they can do it on their own? But I realized that everyone needs an outlet to be creative but [don’t necessarily want] think about the steps to get there.
This is also the reason why I like participating in creative workshops because everything is planned and thought for me. All I have to do is introduce myself!
What keeps you going?
I find that a few motivators kept me going. Some of the most important are always finding my work stimulating and seeing personal growth every year.
I want to keep learning new things and I want to keep finding opportunities that are meaningful to me. Doing art or just being creative in general gives me that motivation.
READ ALSO: The artist behind the art: A truly delicious approach to drawing
This article first appeared in Wonderwall.sg.