Meet Imants Caklais & His Paper Magic
Posted ago by Carli
Imants Caklais (A.K.A. Crreate), is not just the inventor of Vessel, he is also the genius behind Paper Landmarks, a line of paper scale model kits that allow you to recreate iconic landmarks from across the globe by hand. His ability to capture the majesty and romance of world-class architecture through scale models is incredibly inspiring, as is the innovative thinking that lead him to make a mass-market product out of his art. Paper Landmarks are selling like crazy on Etsy, Fab and at Paperlandmarks.com, but Imants was able to take a break from his busy model making to share some insights on the creative process, and the magical world of model making.
Quirky: Thanks for agreeing to chat with us Imants! Let’s start off with the basics: where do you live? What do you love? What do you hate?
Imants: I’m from and now live in Latvia, Europe, which is a small and developing but beautiful country. I studied architecture, so naturally I love everything connected with it, design and art in general. I love history, politics, traveling and coffee. I hate being late.
Q: The Quirky community knows you by your handle: Crreate. What’s the story behind the double “r”?
I: My nickname Crreate means that sometimes you need more than one “r” to get things done so that “C” could still stand for “creativity”.
Q: How did you discover Quirky?
I: More than 2 years ago I found Quirky through a blog post about the newest startups.
Q: How did you become a designer of architectural scale models?
I: Well, being educated as an architect (I got my M.Arch degree from Riga Technical University) and working for a long time as a designer at the largest packaging design company in the region, starting Paper Landmarks was inevitable. I made a lot of architectural scale models while studying. For clarity, architectural models and my kits are not exactly the same, though both feature architecture in scale. Architectural models can be made from any available material, most usually paper, cardboard, foam board or corrugated board (but also plastic, wood, metal etc.). However, the main difference is that architectural scale models are made for a presentation, usually in one copy, so there is not a lot of emphasis on keeping production costs low in terms of making more rational layout of the parts on the sheet, or thinking how to make the process of assembly clearer and simpler. While architectural models could be more detailed than paper models (my kits), I find it more delightful to make a mass-reproducable design than just a one-off version.
Q: What was the first Paper Landmark you made?
I: The first was the Eiffel Tower, naturally. I say naturally because it’s the most recognizable landmark on Earth. It’s also a very tricky one—with a lot of intricate cutouts and details. My challenge was to make a reproducible design which could be mass-produced on a die-cut machine. There are certain limitations to how small the details could be when making the die-cut forms, and at first look it seemed like it wasn’t technically possible to make all the cutouts needed to create a remarkable design. However, I found a solution to that problem. Instead of making tiny cutouts in a single layer, I made a design with overlapping layers of paper: each could have larger cutouts that, when put together, formed a delicate pattern that also strengthened the structure by using both layers of paper. When you are at the base of the real Eiffel Tower in Paris, you can find a lot of cheap metal or plastic cast replicas that don’t capture the magic of recreating the structure yourself from flat pre-cut details.
Q: How do you chose a landmark to recreate?
I: If it’s not a commissioned work, then I choose based on what landmark I feel personally connected to, or what might be popular among my customers. Of course, there are some landmarks that I already know will look better than others when made in paper. What the general public considers a landmark to look like and what the model shows could be two different things. It’s obvious why—you look at the spires of the skyscrapers from street level, so you have only that beautiful recognizable image in your mind. When reproducing this architecture in scale, I need to include the entire volume of the building, which is surprisingly different from that iconic image most people have in their heads. The Empire State Building or Villa Savoye look good from any point, but there are some buildings that look awesome just from that one iconic point of view. The other thing I found when working on the models is that you’d better understand the architecture itself when putting it all together. I use all the blueprints available and study the building throughout. It’s not rare to find a detail in the original architectural drawings that indicates that it can’t be done that way, and that there is an error with that drawing. When I check the photos of the actual building, I often find that yes, the plan was obviously corrected later and built accordingly.
Q: What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?
I: I’ve always found that the most productive ideas come while doing something else, like surfing the internet, cleaning, or preparing food. The rush that follows is good for focusing on getting the job done, but it’s also the details that result in quality, so I try to do as much as possible in one phase while leaving some time for double-checking with fresh eyes.
Q: What is your workspace like?
I: Since I create my designs on a computer, that’s my most important workspace, but of course, I also have a table covered with a cutting mat for testing details, gluing prototypes and just hand drawing and writing. I can still, somehow, find a place for my coffee mug there.
Q: What tool could you never live without?
I: The most simple one, a pen. I’m drawing or writing all the time so I need that tool for sure.
Q: What’s your ideal playlist for working?
I: Most of time I listen to nothing as it helps me focus. But then, I take some breaks with deeply inspirational music, like Al Di Meola, classics, or 60s music. Click here for one of my incomplete online playlists.
Q: Where do you go when you need some inspiration?
I: I love to travel and actually get a special feeling when working on the landmarks I’ve visited before or vice versa. Any particular building is not only a masterpiece of architecture for me, but also a bit of history. I read a lot of books and articles on history because you can’t understand what’s really going on in the world without knowing the history.
Q: You must have had some landmark failures along the way. Tell us about them.
I: Failures? Well, luckily there haven’t been any major ones, as I’m cautious before investing in a new product, and think everything over seven times. Everything can go wrong, so you need to check your own design work, control the in-house and outsourced production and delivery process, and deal with vendors and buyers.
Q: What was the hardest part about bringing Paper Landmarks to market?
I: Well, I naturally have several obstacles based on the distance between where I’m living and where most of my customers are: languages, currencies, borders, shipping time/costs, time zones, and cultural differences. I need to overcome all of these to make my business successful. Now it’s easier than 10+ years ago when I started—there was no PayPal in my country (Latvia wasn’t even a part of the EU at that time), no developed social media, no trackable shipping method, and no track record of my own.
Q: What’s the next project you have in the works?
I: I’m working simultaneously on several projects, for example, on a big museum model, and I also have plans for redesigning several previously made models.
Q: If you could give other Quirky members one piece of advice, what would it be?
I: Being an endless optimist, I look at Quirky as an opportunity, so no matter how you feel about one thing or another that’s going on there, look at this as a glass half full and hopefully it will be full for you one day! Now, drink wisely.
Now it’s time for you to ask Imants all the burning questions you have for him! Join us for a community interview with Imants via Twitter on Wednesday, January 16th, from 3 to 4 pm EST. To participate, simply tweet your question between 3 and 4pm EST to @paperlandmarks using the hashtag #QTalk.