From turquoise deer heads with bright orange antlers to desktop foxes, snails, and raccoons, Low Poly Crafts’ sleek geometric sculptures and wall art are the height of home design right now.
But the Canadian-made pieces also work on a purely therapeutic level. That’s because customers order their paper kits precut, then assemble and glue them together.
Cocreator Adrian Ocneanu landed on the projects as a way to destress a few years back, while he was a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering.
“At first it was just a hobby to make long winter days go by and get rid of the stress of doing a PhD, and I was going through a bad breakup at the time,” he says, speaking with his life and business partner, Britta Evans-Fenton, from home in Ottawa before heading to IDS Vancouver’s District, a design marketplace that runs as part of the show Thursday to Sunday (September 26 to 29) at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. “I found some things to do online, but I gravitated most toward 3-D models. It took me about a week to do my first model, and it was such an engaging and relaxing project. I liked that it was detail-oriented and self-taught, and I liked the debugging—the ‘How do I deal with this particular technical issue?’
“So that’s where I was dabbling in the darkness, and then Britta came along and said, ‘This would be amazing for other people to make, and not just for yourself.’”
Evans-Fenton, who’s patched onto the line from Carleton University, where the visual-arts grad is now pursuing a computer-science degree, brought experience in both laser-cutting and the DIY movement to the table; she had helped to organize Ottawa’s Mini Maker Faire for three years. “I understand the joy of people who want to make things,” she explains, adding she also shared knowledge of how the general public wants to approach a puzzle. “Adrian, being the genius, sometimes doesn’t understand why people can’t just pick it up,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve done a lot of workshops for kids and the public, and I knew it had to make sense.”
She also emphasized the high-design aesthetics of the kits. “Having the fine-arts background, for me it was very important for the object to feel like an artwork. I didn’t just want it to be craft, so something as simple as having a nice texture to the paper can push that boundary. A lot of people think they’re made of wood, and that comes from texture. It doesn’t look like every triangle [within the multifaceted figure] has the same colour, but that’s because of how the light bounces around. It’s something you want to hang on your wall.”
And thus, after much trial and error, Low Poly Crafts was born in 2016. The duo’s collection of kits has expanded from stylized deer heads to desk-size sculptures of armadillos, bears, beavers, and the best-selling fox. Animal offerings now include the Safari, Marine Life, and Canadiana subcollections; you can hang a multifaceted elephant, rhinoceros, panda, buffalo, or polar bear over your mantle. They’ve also pushed into fine-art territory, with a Pixel Statue collection that conjures everyone from David to The Thinker and Nefertiti. Colours are often customizable, with everything from pimento reds to turquoise and sleek greys to mix and match. (A pink-and-white giraffe head or light-blue elephant head, anyone?)
An ever-more-popular collection is Low Poly’s dog kits—corgis, pugs, French bulldogs, and more.
Meanwhile, everyone from design-conscious and detail-oriented kids to mental-health nurses and the overworked has been buying the kits; Evans-Fenton compares their destressing effects to those of puzzles or adult colouring books—with the bonus that you have something cool and aesthetically pleasing to hang on your condo’s white wall afterward.
As for Ocneanu, ever the engineeer, he finds, through his constant experiments with the software and the construction, that the possibilities are endless.
“I wish I didn’t have to sleep,” he says, adding he’d love to start working with cardboard so he can design bigger creations. “I love playing with new models and tools that I have.”