Creativity is born out of the work itself
Fideli Sundqvist’s pictures take you to a brightly coloured world. Her scenes enchant the viewer and sometimes it is hard to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Fideli is an illustrator and graphic designer from Stockholm with paper as her main medium. She received much attention from the media when she released her latest book I Love Paper and has also received many awards for her work. Although she has only been working fulltime with paper since 2010, she has already received prestigious commissions from major Swedish companies like Postnord and Albert Bonniers Förlag and international giants like Louis Vuitton.
How do you explain to someone you’ve never met before what you do for a living?
“Of course it’s a bit difficult but I usually start by saying I work with paper. I explain that I construct illustrations and miniature scenes from paper, which are then photographed. Because my end product is always a photograph.”What is the most common question regarding your work?
“Usually it’s whether I get a lot of paper cuts or how often I cut myself on the scalpel. But what’s odd is that it doesn’t happen very often! This craft is at home in my hands now – it’s a bit like having your own style of handwriting. I put a lot of time into my work and I’m very practised at it now.”
How would you define creativity?
“I believe it has to do with passion and inspiration. Inspiration and creativity do overlap but I see creativity as being more about the actual act of doing something. Feeling inspiration doesn’t necessarily mean you will always get started but with creativity you can’t stop yourself doing it. For me, the work itself often gives birth to creativity.”
What is your number one source of inspiration?
“I find life itself a huge source of inspiration – everything I see and hear. I also find that the work itself gives me inspiration – sitting and fiddling about and entering into a narrative fantasy. Though I can also need music to get started.”
Which ones of your projects to date are you most happy about and why?
“I can’t really say because there’s a bit of duality involved. Often it’s the projects with what I consider to be the best results that turn out to be the ones that involved the most challenging and demanding work processes. But it’s fantastic to be able to alternate between commercial contexts and working with my own projects. Right now, for example, I’m working on my third book, which will be published in May, in parallel with working for clients. The title of the book is Paper Garden and I’ve been working on it at a calm tempo since August."
“One of the most enjoyable commissions I’ve been involved with was for the Louis Vuitton fashion house, which needed pictures for the display windows for the opening of a new shop in Gangnam, Seoul. It was so exciting when my agent phoned – I was sitting on the boat going to Gotland and the commission was to work from a brief to create five pictures in seven days. I had to jump on the return boat and go home so I could do some quick sketches and start on the work as fast as possible.”
Is it possible to do everything in paper?
“Really round 3D shapes are difficult because you have to do more mathematical preparatory work. Often I work directly on paper but with a round shape I have to sketch in Illustrator to create a mathematical template for it. I don’t find it so much fun because it makes me lose a bit of feeling in the work. Plants, on the other hand, are terrific to do because the organic shapes resemble the paper’s structure. There’s a relationship there.”
What are your most important tools in your work?
“A scalpel, cutting mat and double-sided tape for mounting. And of course the paper – I use many different shades and grades of paper in one and the same project.”
Who are your typical employers/customers?
It’s either a design or advertising agency that wants to decorate some printed materials or do photographs for a campaign. I’ve also done some book covers.”
What are the most important features of a good paperboard?
“For me it’s best to work with paper of 120-170g/m2 that doesn’t have a lot of structure. It has to be easy to handle without being too easy to tear. Often I actually choose paper by its shade. Because I work with tape or a glue pistol the fibre direction doesn’t affect my work. Nor does it matter if the paper changes over time because I take my photograph within a few days.”
What is most challenging about working with paper?
“Of course it can be challenging to construct some shapes. But the biggest challenge for me is to find enough time because it’s hard to get help. It’s me and my hands that work with the paper and no one else can really help me with that.”
See more of Fideli Sundqvist’s work at fidelisundqvist.com.
TEXT: LOVISA BLOMBERG PHOTOS: MAGNUS CRAMER & OLIVIA JECZMYK
Self portrait by Fidelis Sundqvist