Made On Earth — Cardboard Carbon Neutral

Craft & Design
Made On Earth — Cardboard Carbon Neutral


“Reuse” comes before “recycle” in the waste pyramid, and few people are as good at reusing as sculptor Chris Gilmour. His work, inspired by “a love of stuff,” takes cardboard headed for the recycling plant and transforms it into a close look at the human obsession with objects as well as the psychology of waste.

His sculptures are the ultimate consumerist paradox: sturdy-looking cars, motorbikes, and scientific equipment made out of a relatively fragile material. They’re about as carbon neutral as they come.

Gilmour started out using cardboard for prototypes, but soon realized its potential as a material: “It’s very strong, you can make big things quickly, and it has a nice conceptual content: the idea of the object which was contained in the box disappearing and something new being created from the box,” he explains.


Gilmour finds cardboard outside shops and morphs the former packaging into meticulous, life-sized re-creations of everyday items, whether a classic icon like a Fiat 500 coupe, a stovetop espresso machine, or a dentist’s chair. Some of his works make use of the “patina” of color and text that come from old packing labels and tape.

His works-in-progress are as spellbinding as the final sculptures; each piece starts as sketches, photographs, and measurements, and is then built in jaw-dropping detail, cardboard skins sheathing cardboard skeletons. Bikes have delicate spokes, chains, and derailleurs; they’re held up by spindly kickstands. A Lambretta scooter is enlivened by color from packing labels, its wiring and engine startlingly lifelike.

A Brit living in Udine, Italy, who also shows in New York, Gilmour has a unique perspective on waste: “In Italy, you tend to buy good quality and keep it for a long time. I think in New York, you buy it, use it, throw it away — I only need to think of the umbrellas they sell on the street on rainy days. They last precisely two hours, then break so you buy a new one. That said, there’s plenty of waste in Italy, too, but that’s good for me to pick up the materials.”

Gilmour’s Gallery:

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