How I work: Mannequin maker Ellie Sampson

Paper-cut artist and model maker Ellie Sampson explains the challenges of making mini-buildings and why her tiny interpretation of architecture offers a kind of escape that the real world doesn't offer

As a full-time model maker at Haworth Tompkins, Ellie Sampson spends her days casting, 3D printing, and cutting paper to turn architectural designs into reality – albeit on a somewhat reduced scale. But even after the end of the working day, she is still busy with scalpel and glue, creates imaginary houses in Palm Springs, dreams up art deco apartment blocks, or works on orders for people who want miniature versions of their own real houses.

Sampson has been making paper models for almost as long as she can remember. It is therefore not surprising that her original plan to become an architect – including completing Parts I and II at the Bartlett School of Architecture – was turned into a career as a model maker. She describes it as a way to connect with the history of architecture, but also to explore people's often very personal relationship with rooms and buildings. CR caught up with her to find out exactly how she was building these tiny worlds and why making miniature buildings was a kind of "thoughtless mindfulness" for her.

Satisfy the urge to flee I made the long journey in model making. I studied architecture and did part I and II at the Bartlett School of Architecture. When someone sees the work of Bartlett outside the world of architecture and design, they are shocked by the architecture. There's a really wide specialty – you can really do anything and get away with it. I really did model building there and always made them understand the design that I did. I loved architecture, I loved studying the built environment, but I still had to find this escapism with my designs and with little scenes and things that I had invented. The beauty of these models means that I can draw on everything. I can draw from books, films or comics. And that's why I continued to make models as private orders or gifts.

Upper picture: detail from Rona Road; Above: Block of flats on the beach in Miami


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