6 Fantasy steampunk contraptions made only from cardboard

Story highlights

  • Daniel Agdag has spent the last years making sculptures out of cardboard
  • Principles of Aviation, his most recent exhibition, features fantasy flying machines
  • His skips the sketching process, and builds as he goes
Daniel Agdag works with a limited arsenal of tools: a surgical scalpel, some cardboard, every so often a circular cutter and lots of glue. But from that humble toolkit, he makes sculptures that are mind-bendingly complex. For the past 10 years, the Melbourne, Australia artist has been building intricate cardboard sculptures in the form of whimsical flying machines and rickety roller coasters. They look like pencil sketches brought to life, and with good reason.
Long before Agdag began crafting his cardboard pieces, he was drawing them in his notebook. He'd sketch crazy roller coasters and off-beat architectural structures. One day he visited his neighbor (an architect), who showed him models made from boxboard. "I said, 'Can I have some of that cardboard,' and from there I started creating my roller coasters," he recalls. "All of a sudden what was on the page became this really elaborate 3-D sculpture."
It wasn't all of a sudden, of course. Constructing the piecesis a painstaking process that typically takes one to three months. Nowadays, Agdag has enough experience to forego the sketching process and build as he goes. He'll think up some strange contraption and simply begin cutting pieces of cardboard and piecing them together with AVP glue. He prefers working with the scalpel ("I go through four or five a day," he says) and uses only three gauges of board: 1mm, .8 mm and .2 mm.
Many of Agdag's pieces are marvel of balance. In one, a crepe-like balloons balances on top of fragile unicycle. In another a house sits high on a system of thin-as-toothpick scaffolding. Each of these pieces has glue, yes, but they also have built-in structural integrity, much in the way an architect uses hidden elements to build a robust building. This requires a huge amount of trial and error. "I have to make it and tear it apart and then throw it away and start again," he says. "It's very much like drawing and rubbing out [erasing]. So even though they're technically sculptural, I feel like they're drawings in cardboard."
For now, the sculptures are moderately sized—they range from around 20 to 30 inches tall. But Agdag has plans to make them even bigger. He has an idea to make a DC9 plane with a 7×10 meter wingspan. "I want to make all the ribs, all the componentry, the skeletal structure all the way through, " he says. "It's going to take a lot of cardboard."
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