People, scissors, paper

July 19, 2012

Alexey Lyapunov and Lena Erlih are known as an association People Too. They live in Novosibirsk across from the stationery shop where they get the colored paper from. People Too use it to make their complicated, three-dimensional, lifelike illustrations, interior pictures and postcards.

Lena: I was born in a small town on the bank of the river Lena. The railway station of my home town is also called “Lena”. My father was an excellent carpenter, he made great wooden things, and my mother was a telegraphist. By means of Morse code she was able to communicate with people all over the world. As a child, I enjoyed the telegraphists’ competitions: they went on the air at the same time and exchanged addresses. Then they sent postcards to each other. The winner was the one who got more postcards than the others.

When I was at kindergarten, I drew my first series of wedding pictures as all the girls asked me to. Then the art school put me off drawing for a long time. But when I turned 25 I wanted to draw again, so I moved to Novosibirsk to study. At my last year at art faculty I got a job at “Quartet” design studio, met Lesha there and…

Alexey: I used to go to an ornamental art class when I was a child. There I learnt what paper, wood, clay, colors can be used for. My favorite toy was a construction set. I used to disassemble all the cars I got, and I could not always assemble them back. However, cool wheels and motors were left. At school I didn’t get great marks but my mom told me that it didn’t matter until I was a bad person. After school I went to college to study measuring instruments, but I often gave my lessons a miss as I got keen on programming. Upon demobilization I used to work for Sberbank as a programmer, but soon got tired of it. Then I saw an ad in a newspaper and started working in advertising. The word itself is a bit too big as we had no scanners, no Wacoms, no Internet.

How did you get the name?
A.: There was a slogan “Designers are people too” in an old magazine, and it came back to my memory when we registered the agency.

L.: And I have always thought that’s because of the clients who often need this sort of reminder.

Whose idea was to cut the illustration out of paper, when did you start doing that and how did you learn to do it?
L.: It was Lesha’s idea. I didn’t like it much as I remembered my Handicraft lessons at nursery school and the same ugly appliqués of all the children.

The first one we made in 2006 and we soon went into details. It was necessary to know what others make in the technique. It’s no use to re-invent the wheel but we want our things to be different.

A.: I think that technical progress enabled people to take up this kind of illustration work. It’s cheap, convenient and accessible. 

What is special about paper illustration? What other hand-made techniques did you try?
A.: I am not a true artist: halfprogrammer, partially three-dimension picture maker, semiconstructor, a bit of photographer and designer – that’s what I like about it. It’s great that I can discover something all the time I work.

I like the feeling of being cunning and getting out of any situation. You can use the hand-made reflector (Auchan, 54 rub) instead of the one that costs much more. And a penny saved is a penny earned.

L.: We are still mad about paper. And as a child I used to model much. And even now when I see the works of Irma Granholts I feel the desire to model again.

Is the ability to draw necessary when you work with three-dimensional illustration?
Л. Э.: Well, I don’t think you need drawing skills to make some abstract compositions. My mother makes supple puppets and takes picture of them when she travels. Once a stranger offered his help when he saw her trying to place it somewhere.


A.: You should be able to draw as a client wants to see the sketches and, what is more, to understand your idea. Although, we once sent just the descriptions of a future illustration to the employer.

Material is like spice. When something looks too natural, it is more interesting even when there is no idea, no context. The viewer pays more attention to this illustration than he would if it was just a drawing. It’s like salting the sandwich – it’s the same one, but tastes better. They’re all the secrets:)

What does the process of paper illustration making consist of?
A.: Nothing special: the plot, the sketches, the plans and the moulds, then we cut, glue it, assemble a scene and take a picture of it. After retouching you realize that one week of your life has gone by.

L.: Because of this I sometimes feel like a plotter, having just arms, noses, windows, dogs on my mind. It’s like being in a constant search of a nice snapshot. And the phrases like “Hey, I’ve lost the nose” or “I’ve finished with the house, the yacht is ready, do we need more trees?” still make me smile although they are just a part of routine.

What tools, paper, glue and other stuff do you use? 
A.: We tried over 15 sorts of glue and finally found Avantre White Glue.It’s the very glue we need. When you need to stick a sheet of paper or a foam plastic plate 3M-sparay 75 or 77 are great, too.Japanese knives “Olfa” are great. And the pastel colored paper has its great advantage as it’s sold across from our place. We also use toy constructor sets, adhensive tape, wires and that sort of stuff.

L.: Tweezers are irreplaceable for small works. A lighttable and and cutting pad are essential.

Is everything hand-made or is any automation possible?
A.: You must automate everything that speeds up the process. No one would wait for you, and the client wants everything to be cheap and soon.

L.: A plotter, a camera, a softbox – we make many things mechanically.

Do you organize master-classes and teach others? 
L.: Last winter we had a class with the students of art faculty. They are great painters and they work with different materials, they need more managing than professional advice.

What happens to the picture when the snapshot is made?
L.: The client can buy it or we can give it as a present to friends or neighbors. Some works just seem to be waiting for something in their boxes.