Ever wonder how much space you can fill with a stack of paper?

Well, paper sculptor Petra Simmons did an abstract paper sculpture earlier this year that measured about 16 by 25 feet.

And it was made up of about 700 individual modular pieces.

And each piece was made from a sheet of paper.

No glue, no fasteners, no paste.

“I want people to understand that this isn’t origami. We’re not making animals,” said Simmons. “What I do is about manipulating space with folded paper.”

Isn’t that origami?

Well, not exactly. Origami is a fairly specific Japanese art form where pieces of paper are folded into items — often representations of real things, such as animals and flowers.

But what Simmons does — and what she’ll be teaching at a workshop Saturday at Space Gallery — is more open form, where you can fold as many sheets of paper as you want in a wide variety of ways and then put them together in whatever direction your imagination pulls you.

“It’s more focused on abstract objects and what happens with spacial geometry when you fold something,” said Simmons, who studied architecture but is not currently licensed as an architect. “I started folding paper in grammar school, and I’ve used it to model houses and to make sculptures.”

As a sculpture medium, paper is better than you might think, Simmons said. Folded properly, it’s strong for its weight, and it’s light. So even large pieces of a sculpture made of paper can hang out from the body of the sculpture without any support. You can’t do that with bronze.

“If you make a large-scale sculpture out of stone, it’s heavy and dense, and there’s a lot you can’t do,” said Simmons. “But with paper, you can have things hanging out, you can do all sorts of things with it.”

Not to mention, if you suddenly find that the piece no longer meets your artistic vision, you can shred it.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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