While at the HOW Live conference this year, we met a group of origami street artists that call themselves TheUpsideUp. Their beautiful creations are unique and colorful. TheUpsideUp just completed an installation featuring Mohawk Paper at the Des Moines 80/35 summer music event. We talked with them about their inspiration, process, and the faces behind their collaborative.
Q: What are the names of the creatives behind TheUpsideUp? What does the name of the group mean?
TheUpsideUp is everything positive. It originated with intrigue for the names we extend to prepared eggs at breakfast: sunny side up, over easy, scrambled. The last one made the most sense to me, but conversation was always about keeping the sunny side up. It is a positive gesture taken just a bit further with TheUpsideUp. The hope is that it will catch on and develop some street cred. Who wants to be a street artist that doesn’t have a pseudonym to fall back on? TheUpsideUp is a comingling of several artists, each project attracting its own participants. I don’t want to be the only one taking the credit or the blame. We try to stay fairly anonymous.
Q: What is the name & meaning of the installation you created in Des Moines? What inspired you?
It was an effort to reverse the pull of the universe and to sever a curse bestowed upon us (those involved in this particular installation had had some rotten luck over the past couple years). It seeds the notion for others that everything is actually going to “be ok”.
Q: What made you use Mohawk paper in this installation?
I’ve taken a liking to and fallen in love with Mohawk Britehue paper. I picked out several colors and ordered them through Field Paper Company in our area. My paper representative keeps feeding my fire and passion for tactile expression via paper. The tactile quality, the inherent memory that the paper holds and the colors are fantastic to me. I’m all about reuse/recycle/upcycle and I do that whenever I get the opportunity. All of my whites are recycled office papers.
Q: How long did this installation take to create? Who worked on the project?
Placing the butterflies on the wall took roughly an hour and a half but the folding of the butterflies and the preparation work took a tad over two weeks.
Q: How did you begin working in origami street art? Can you briefly tell us your story?
I really wanted to be able to call myself an artist. I graduated with a degree in fine arts but jumped right into the wonderful world of advertising/design and never looked back. You can see the design influence reflected in my graphic/typographic approach to the installations. Street art seemed to be the way to go because I didn’t want to sell my work. I also didn’t want it to have longevity. First, though, I had to learn a valuable lesson: I tagged something that had wheels and wasn’t mine and felt horrible about the permanency of my creation. Feeling horrible afterwards, I had to really consider what it would take to do something different and non-destructive.
Two years ago I figured out what I needed to do. I had been working with origami for a while, in a street art installation, and it felt right. After countless attempts, I developed a way to put up an installation/street art piece and ensure that it has a minimal if not zero impact on the surface upon which it is placed.
Q: Where are most of your installations displayed?
Mainly Des Moines, Iowa, San Francisco, and Asheville, North Carolina. We have plans for Chicago, NYC and Washington DC. I was most proud of mentoring the staff at the Asian Art Museum through an installation of their own for Pride weekend. They utilized butterflies that we hadn’t used at the HOW Conference.
Q: What kind of feedback do you receive from the public?
The reaction is overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Of course, there are some critics and some with legitimate points. It has been enjoyable to sit back and watch people interact with the installation, enhancing the intrinsic, dimensional quality of origami. People will walk up to it. Touch it. Even take a few of the pieces with them after they pull them down from the wall. One of the most amazing moments was a kid who walked up and grabbed one of the purple origami butterflies off the wall, looked at it intensely, jumped straight up in the air, did a 360º and took off running down the street with a huge smile on his face.
TheUpsideUp has exciting projects on the horizon, and finished our interview by exclaiming: “…I hope everyone gets to experience one of our installations, someday. I really do enjoy creating them and certainly adore working with paper.”