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Paper magic, part II: playing with shadow and light

In the first part we showed tiny, richly decorated paper theaters in which colours and shapes played the main role. Now it's time to revive the paper (and not only paper) forms using light and shadow. 

Shadow puppetry - inspiration and tradition

The one of greatest inspirations for that kind of art can be found in shadow puppet theaters, which are popular in various cultures, especially in Asia (Indonesia, Thailand Malaysia, China, India, Nepal) but also in Turkey, Greece or France. Shadow puppetry has an old tradition - for example,  the earliest references to it came even from the 8th century. In traditional shadow theatres are used three-dimensional wooden forms or flat leather puppets.

 Silouette animation 

Contemporary shadow puppets are made from various materials, such as paper, wood or plastic. Today such puppets are used not only in special theaters but also in short animated movies or music videos.

The foremost pioneer of silouette animation was a German film director, Lotte Reininger. She made her motion pictures more than ten years before Disney. Below - one of her works:


Here you can read more about this creative woman.

And another example of this kind of animation - Les Trois inventeurs from 80's made by Michel Ocelot - French writer, designer and director of animated films and television programs:



Dioramas are miniature worlds with tiny props and figures. They also have quite long tradition, which reaches up even to the 6th century. Of course, when we're talking about miniature worlds, we also must mention about vintage dollhouses, which are a great inspiration for contemporary diorama creators.

Like shadow puppetry, dioramas also are made not only of paper, but it's quite popular material, often used for creating this type of little landscapes. For example, Tatebanko, very popular in 17th century, was a Japanese art of making dioramas out of paper. Some of those paper creations look quite similar to paper theaters.

Here are contemporary paper cutted dioramas and theather of lights, inspired by vintage mood. First - Boucheron, Theater of Lights - an interactive experience created in paper art and stop motion, which shows 120 years of history of the famous french jeweler Boucheron:

Boucheron, 26 Place Vendôme, Héliodon from Barthélemy Antoine-Loeff on Vimeo.

And paper diorama, prepared as an effect of cooperation of Cognac house Courvoisier and creative agency White Label; the installation was unveiled as part of L'Atelier de Courvoisier:

Alchimie de Courvoisier - Projected Paper Diorama from Davy and Kristin McGuire on Vimeo.


A short history of dioramas

The history of Indonesian puppetry Theater (Wayang) 

Photo of shadow puppets used in this post:

Magdalena Koscianska (source

Posted: Sep 18, 2015 | Tagged: animation, paper, video, vintage

Paper magic, part I: Paper Theater

Some time ago we showed our selection of inspiring vintage toys, now it's time for another special thing, which gives a lot of joy since late 18th century - for little owners, as well as for adults. Tiny paper theaters - richly decorated scenes with illustrated sceneries, printed on paperboard and ready to assemble at home. It's not only a charming decoration, but also a kind of interactive toy, a great tool which can be used to play and to learn at the same time. That's why in some places paper teathers are still popularized and really appreciated. Older versions of theaters from previous centuries can be seen in toy museums, such as Toy Museum in Karpacz (Poland), where this paper scene is a part of collection of Henryk Tomaszewski (founder of Wroclaw Mime Theater):

Here's also an example of paper doll from the exhibition of Toy Museum in Roden (Netherlands):

A cradle of toy theaters is based in London, in Pollock's Toy Museum which is famous mainly because of this kind of toys. There is also the Pollock's Toy Shop where you can buy your own toy theater. Shop was originally established in the 1880s by its namesake, Benjamin Pollock - creator of paper teaters.

On this 1920 newsreel you can see how Mr. Pollock created his toy teathers:

Pollock's Toy Museum even prepared an app which gives an opportunity to create your own victorian "paper" teather - of course, digitally:

And even though the real charm of toy theatres is hidden in paperboards, from now, if you can't take your own paper theater with you, there's always a possibility to take an alternate, digital version.

Other great sources of images and infos about whole paper theaters and single elements - backgrounds, scenes, pieces:

50 Watts

This Pinterest feed with really good examples of toy theaters


Photos: Magdalena Koscianska (more about toy museums - here)






Posted: Sep 08, 2015 | Tagged: paper, retro, theatre, toys, video, vintage