Recently, I’ve noticed calendar events popping up on Facebook announcing “Unfolding Paper Stories” with the accompanying photos displaying delightful and complex paper creations with the tag line: “not just for kids”! I was intrigued.
The organizer is Annalisa Metus, a paper engineer (a title I have never heard of before) so I immediately reached out to her and snagged an invite to her studio.
Before going I did my research; on her website I saw dizzying feats of paper manipulation. A replica of Trieste’s synchrotron, a sonic (audio) pop-up book, elaborate set design elements, an exhibit dedicated to Trieste the City and the War (WW1) with beautifully complex and detailed paper constructions. Now besides intrigued I was also excited!
Citta’ Vecchia, the old city, is home to several delightful restaurants, little shops and galleries (it’s what I like to call Trieste’s soho). This neighborhood has become a hub for the city’s many artists, artisans and designers and is home to a market Barbacan Produce, 4 times a year featuring most of them. Annalisa’s studio is located here, on Via Capitelli. Annalisa looks a little bit like Amelie, with the same dose of shyness and a glint of magical mischievousness. Her studio is small but well lit and neatly organized. She has a bookcase that houses her sources of inspiration and several shelves of supplies and creations.
Born and raised in Trieste with the typical Mittle-European mix of Italian and Slovenian heritage, Annalisa divides her time between the city and the Karst. When she was just 6 she attended a children’s workshop held by the famous illustrator Bruno Munari who came to Trieste in 1984. Her recollection is both “confused and indelible” in that somehow, the memory was stored in her brain but she hadn’t connected it with the event. Only in her 20s did she see pictures of it and it all came flooding back to her. She jokes, “I’d like to say I studied under Munari, but it was just a half-day children’s workshop!” However, Annalisa cites Munari as a major influence having studied him more thoroughly throughout her youth along with Gianni Rodari (poet and childrens’ author) as well as other French, Japanese and American artists.
Although she studied architecture in Ferrara, she ended up not finishing her degree but instead switched over to the Conservatory Tartini where she earned 2 diplomas; one in Voice and Music and the other in New Technologies. There, under the guidance of Pietro Polotti and composer, Giorgio Klauer, she created her “Sonic Pop-up Book” as her thesis project and from there her passion and career took off. She says, “I had several ‘false-starts’ in my youth before I found my true passion” and credits Polotti for helping her hone in on it.
Annalisa continued onto Padova where she attended a seminar & workshop with Dario Cestaro (professor of Paper Technology) and Jie Qi (Electronic Popables ), whom Annalisa calls her “muse and mentor”.
However, she continued to pursue “steadier and more reasonable” employment, but becoming a mom brought her back to crafting and creating playthings for her kids. She decided to go back to her passion by creating workshops as part of WunderKammer (the music festival), Casa della Musica and Barcolana events. Besides producing her art, she also enjoys teaching “Throughout the years, I have always collected little pearls of wisdom to apply to my own life,” says Annalisa. “When I was younger, I saw an episode of the tv series, FAME in which Leroy is substitute teaching Lydia’s exercise class and working all the older ladies way too hard. When Lydia returns, she scolds him telling him that he has to make learning fun”. And this is the how Annalisa teaches both the children and adults who take her workshops, “I’m not going to brow beat you about angles and cut lines, instead I want you to unleash your inner artist and have you enjoy the experience.” This is the same philosophy she applies to the WunderKammer workshops, introducing children to music through interactive engagement.
Annalisa finds the greatest amount of joy when she is coming up with and developing a new project. She loves the process, the trial and error, the success when something works as she imagined it. Satisfaction in her work comes from seeing the complete originality of a particular piece, and to see that it is appreciated and valued giving her each time a renewed sense of purpose. She has received recognition for her work winning the Lilian Caraian Prize for Visual Arts in 2013 as well as showing in exhibits throughout Europe and the UK.
One of my favorite pieces that she shared with me is the one below. Annalisa brought out what looked like a flat drawing but then it magically opened up like an accordion. It was a view of a lady’s bedroom, looking out the window. From there each layer added on another vista, the garden, the town, the fields, forest, mountains until you could see no farther. “This project”, she explained, “is to give the view a person has from the comforts of home when imagining their loved one away at war…” Then, on the other end, were tiny pin holes that when you peered through, you could only barely see and this, she said, “was to represent the perspective of the person, in the trenches on the frontline of war, would be when remembering loved ones at home.” It was incredibly stirring.
Nowadays she continues to create her art, often on commission, and she is increasing the number of workshops she is offering to both children and adults, offering classes in both Italian and English. She can also be hired to create special events (birthdays, special occasions) and also classes for tourists who want to spend time with her and create something so that “they can bring a little bit of Trieste home in their pocket”.
Annalisa’s workshops are frequent and sell out quickly. If you are interested check out her facebook page for up to the minute information.
UNFOLDING PAPER STORIES
Tel. +39 347 445 7417