24 May 2024

If you thought origami was impressive, wait until you see these 'cruelty-free' paper insects

| James Coleman
Start the conversation
paer insects in frames

Paper entomology. Photo: Paper Couture.

It all started with preparations for her nephew’s wedding in December.

The bride would be wearing a dress studded with insect brooches down one side, so Jo Neville had been commissioned to come up with insect-themed name cards for the reception tables and similar brooches for the guests. She was the perfect person.

Jo is Australia’s most prominent paper artist and founder of a Sydney-based studio and shop called Paper Couture.

Her CV includes work for Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Dior, and Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, and she was a star designer at last year’s ‘Art in Bloom’ exhibition at the National Gallery Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne (imagine sculptural pieces over a metre tall made entirely out of paper and carpeted in hundreds of flannel flowers).

READ ALSO Hamish and Andy label Canberra primary school song a national ‘banger’

In partnership with Pialligo-based art studio Bisonhome, she is now launching a new exhibition on Saturday (25 May) featuring more of her insect work.

“My background is a lot of activation work for brands, where I illustrate the brand, so I love to do things that are a little bit out of left field,” she says.

“There are 12 framed artworks, a few large bugs that go on the wall, and then some very fine curtain-hanging insects as well mosquitoes and spiders.”

Bisonhome founder Brian Tunks first met Jo 26 years ago at a Sydney art show and they’ve been fast friends ever since.

“She does the most incredible use-and-reuse paper artworks,” he says.

Man with flower in his mouth

Brian Tunks, founder of Bisonhome, is a good friend of Jo Neville’s. Photo: Bisonhome, Facebook.

Among the festival’s events, Jo ran several three-hour-long masterclasses where Canberrans could try their hand at making dahlia flowers from recycled paper. They were a hit.

“We started with one masterclass – we ended up with three, which gives you an idea of how popular her work is,” Brian says.

“We’re very much about sustainability and low impact, and I love the way her art feeds into that – it replicates the same principles that we hold valuable.”

READ ALSO Canberra’s special-needs school celebrates 50 years, in the best way possible

This time, they’ve gone for “something a little out of the box”.

Brian suggested they go for a “cruelty-free entomology-style show” featuring insects of various shapes and sizes, all crafted from paper and other recycled materials.

“We’ll use gold leaf. We’ll use beading. We’ll use hand-sewing on the pieces and they’ll all be hand cut.”

Much of the paper is sourced from old music sheets, newspapers and books, as well as scraps of vintage wallpaper, to name a few.

“Someone in that industry has got a huge collection of paper themselves. I wouldn’t light a match in her house!”

Paper dahlias as part of Bisonhome’s ‘Dahlicious’ festival in March. Photo: Paper Couture.

All of the pieces are for sale, with prices to be confirmed.

Brian and Jo are co-planning another “very special event” for late spring to complement Floriade and its 2024 theme of ‘Art in Bloom’, but Brian won’t provide any more details (on pain of death, he says).

For now, the Paper Entomology exhibition opens at 2 pm on Saturday, 25 May, and “will probably run for three to four weeks”. The Paper Couture Entomology Masterclass will be held in the Potting Shed, with the first on Sunday, from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Buy tickets through Humanitix (numbers are limited to 12 per session).

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.