Creating Christmas; ENTERTAINMENT 1 It's not just Disney's The Lion King which will be wowing audiences at the Wales Millennium Centre this Christmas. For the iconic venue has commissioned an artist to transform the building and bring a festive feel. Nathan Bevan pays him a visit.
CHRISTMAS - traditionally a time of badly wrapped presents, hunting for lost scissors and forever finding forgotten off-cuts of sticky tape still attached to you as embark on some frantic, last-minute gift shopping.
Indeed, come December 25 most of us would be perfectly happy never to look at another sheet of the folding stuff again.
However, the work of 3D paper sculptor Andy Singleton proves the one exception to that rule - his giant and elaborate, yet painstaking intricate and detailed creations never failing to enchant and engage.
And this Christmas those creations can be seen at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, transforming its foyer and stairwells into a magical winter wonderland of frozen waterfalls, ice storms and snow-blown pillars.
And the 31-year-old from Wakefield in Yorkshire says he's had anything but a chilly reception from the people of Wales so far.
"I got into 2D paper illustrating back in 2005 while in my final year at college," says the Yorkshireman, who studied Animation with Illustration at Manchester Metropolitan University.
"I was doing these very detailed drawings and just started cutting into them with a craft knife.
"I really liked the results and started working with a blade all the time."
But it took moving back to his home town and sharing a studio with acclaimed 3D artist Richard Sweeney - whose organic-looking, yet alien, curved geometric shapes inspired him - to make Singleton realise he could apply an extra dimension to his own efforts.
He began experimenting with creating large scale paper cuttings which, due to their size, started to take on an almost sculptural quality.
came to my attention - the Mostyn Gallery in Llandudno wanted to do a Christmas window installation and put a call out to artists online to come up with some suggestions.
"They were particularly keen to take an alternative route to the traditional festive imagery, so I came up with the idea of creating a cave-like, wintry scene with icicles hanging and snow falling."
His pitch successful, Singleton's vision went on to transform the Mostyn's street frontage into a papyrus Narnia in 2010, bringing a warm glow to those shoppers enduring the brass monkey temperatures outside.
"And it was that which helped get me this gig at WMC," adds Singleton, whose sculptures have also decorated the windows of such world-famous institutions as the Liberty department store on London's Regent Street.
"Someone who worked at the Mostyn four years ago now works here in Cardiff, and I must have done something right back then because they remembered my work and gave me a call.
"They said they thought I'd be perfect to create something similar in the Welsh capital, so I came down to have a look around the venue."
At which point, Singleton admits, he had a little bit of a wobble.
"Wow, it's an amazing building, isn't it?" he laughs.
"I remember coming down the road and seeing it looming in the distance, this huge copper dome and all that gigantic lettering.
"It was quite intimidating, I don't mind telling you."
And that feeling didn't thaw once he was inside either.
"It's a big, big space to fill and I did find myself wondering how I was going to do it. Because even a really large scale piece is going to look lost in such a wide open space as this."
Then again, when you're creating a 10 metre long ice waterfall from hundreds and hundreds of sheets of white paper to hang from the ceiling, grabbing people's attention is probably not something you need worry too much about.
"It took about two weeks' intensive, round-the-building it up and up and up, " says Singleton, adding some of his pieces - such as the swirling, frosted filigree detailing of his imposing, orb-shaped ice storm sculpture - were even too big to complete by hand.
"There's a smaller version which I do myself, but the larger one has to be created on this huge laser cutting machine - I have to because the sheets of paper it requires are too big to fit in my studio at home.
"Even then it's still a time consuming process, with one sheet alone taking about half an hour to do.
"So, when you think the piece probably utilises about 40 sheets in total, that's a large chunk of time you have to factor in.
"You need a lot of patience because it can be very frustrating," he adds.
And, come the end of Christmas, he must end up with more unwanted paper on his hands than a dozen recycling banks put together.
"Yeah, but most of it I can flat-pack away again, so it's not a problem. The frozen waterfall I'll probably throw away though.
"It's a bit gutting after all the work that goes into it, but, by that stage of the game, I'm pretty sick of the sight of the thing," he laughs.
To see more of Andy Singleton's work, |visit www.andysingleton.co.uk
So I came up with the idea of creating a cave-like, wintry scene with icicles hanging and snow falling