At first glance, these colorful creatures look like real, living birds and butterflies, but a closer look reveals that they’re actually crafted from paper. Colombia-born, Bristol-based artist Diana Beltrán Herrera has been sculpting wildlife from paper since 2012, and today she’s a master of her craft. She creates lifelike birds, butterflies, flowers, and more, complete with extraordinary detail and tangible texture.
Many of Herrera’s three-dimensional sculptures celebrate the feathered friends and insects she’s met in real life, but others are replicas of species she’s fascinated by but never seen up close. “Paper as a medium for documentation allows me to register and create notions and ideas of subjects that I have not experienced in real life but that I can experience when a sculpture is completed,”says Herrera. “I like this approach because it is not harmful, and through my work, I can show and tell my viewers about the things I have been learning, of the importance of nature just by researching and making it myself.”
Research is a key part of Herrera’s process. Before she even picks up a pair of scissors, she spends hours collecting images and information on her subject. It takes around a week to plan the design for a single bird, all of which are made to actual scale. Once she’s planned out her measurements, Herrera spends a great deal of time carefully choosing paper to match the exact colors of her subject. For the artist, it’s important that her sculptures are not only beautiful, but educational too.
The talented paper artist spends days sculpting each piece, starting with creating the inner structure from strips of paper. For the birds, she then adds the colorful plumage in layers, one feather at a time. The finished sculptures look so real, they look as though they could take flight at any moment.
Herrera frames many of her paper birds inside giant postage stamps in order to playfully document where they come from. She says, “I am traveling the world, falling in love with each landscape and capturing birds in its real ecosystem.” For one stamp, she pays homage to the jacana bird from her native Colombia. In another, she creates a stamp featuring the Oriental hornbill of Singapore. These stamps will be part of Herrera’s first solo exhibition at the Singapore Philatelic Museum in 2022.
Check out Herrera’s paper wildlife sculptures below and find more of her amazing work on Instagram.