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Eight Emperors

Sculptural paper cuts and wood objects inspired by sailing

by James Thorne in Design on 17 December 2012

Eight Emperors is a stunning new collection of handmade works from Ann Arbor-based husband-and-wife team Matthew Shlian and Thea Augustina Eck. Walking the line between art and design, the pieces range from intricately cut and folded paper sculptures to palm-sized objects crafted from local, fallen lumber—and Shlian tells us ceramics are coming soon.

Continuing his mastery of paper engineering—evident in his Aleatoric Series from earlier this year—Shlian presents such fascinating pieces as "Misfold," a mobile reminiscent of a slinky by unfolding asymmetrically and collapsing into an unassuming stack. Several more works are meant for tactile enjoyment and arrangement—their mantra is to create objects that "instill a sense of wonder"—including the twistable "Spiral Tower" and "Oscillating Tower", as well as the "Cutout Flipbook" whose laser-cut layers turn to animate a rolling hexagon. All of the pieces are done by hand with a remarkable degree of precision.

The wooden objects take on a nautical theme inspired by sailing. "Whale" is comprised of walnut and maple in a gently rocking form, and a cleverly placed hole creates an abstraction of the blubbery sea mammal. The "Sail" pieces also move ever so slightly, to mimic the bobbing sway of a docked boat, while the "Anchor" series derives its inspiration from Inuit hand tools, 19th-century ship building and Scandinavian design.

Shlian and Eck plan to produce a quarterly subscription service in the spring of 2013, so be sure to check their blog for updates. All products from the collection are available for purchase online.

Images courtesy of Eight Emperors

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