The extraordinary world of recycled cardboard art

Cardboard figurative sculpture by Warren King

With more of us shopping online, cardboard packaging is fast becoming one of the most ubiquitous materials we discard on a daily basis. Elevated from its humble status, this post explores how artists have been able to exploit its creative potential in unexpected ways, through the work of five modern day masters of cardboard art and sculpture.

Warren King

Life size figures in cardboard by Warren King

New York artist Warren King travelled to China in 2010 for the first time, to a village in Shaoxing, where his ancestors once lived. Some of the locals he met remembered his grandparents who had left 50 years previously, before the Chinese Civil War.

Cardboard art figurative sculpture by Warren King made from discarded materials

The experience inspired him to make life size sculptures of the residents, one individual at a time, in discarded cardboard. The characters are abstracted and the backs of each figure are left hollow, revealing the intricate construction of piece. The artist chose this commonplace material because it somehow captured the limitations of the connections he was trying to reconstruct, but he was able to capture an incredibly lifelike and human demeanour nonetheless.


Dylan Shields

Apollo and Daphne cardboard art by Dylan Shields

British artist Dylan Shields challenges our perception of high art by creating sculpture from cardboard, a seemingly throwaway material, to reconstruct biblical scenes or those from classical mythology, usually associated with the Old Masters.

Apollo and Daphne Dylan Shields

Apollo and Daphne (detail above) is a unique interpretation of the classical myth made entirely from recycled cardboard.

Sacrifice of Isaac cardboard art by Dylan Shields

The Sacrifice of Isaac


Chris Gilmour

Aston Martin in cardboard by Chris Gilmour

Chris Gilmour is a British artist based in Italy who makes sculptures of everyday objects – often mechanical, out of cardboard. On his choice of subjects for his work, the artist says,

Since this is both a visual and conceptual work I choose objects for their visual appeal and cultural resonance, but I also usually choose objects which imply an action or interaction of some sort. The interaction with the works seems to create a kind of short circuit in the viewer: you want to open the car door, or turn the wheel on the bike, but of course you can’t. It’s an interesting effect to observe and I think this immediacy is important to enter the work, to grab the viewer.

Pictured above – Aston Martin DB5 (2006).

Vespa Rally in cardboard by Chris Gilmour

Having initially employed clean pristine cardboard, he now uses cardboard boxes found on the street with printing, tape and labels intact. The immediate access of cardboard and its freedom from cultural weight is what draws him to the material. He says, “It’s a way of creating a language which is understood by many.” Above – Vespa Rally, below – 3 Bikes.

Bicycle crafted in cardboard by Chris Gilmour


Anastassia Elias

Art made from cardboard toilet rolls

It’s almost impossible to believe that such everyday scenes could be so beautifully captured inside the humble toilet roll. These magical and intricate creations are painstakingly hand made with the use of tweezers and cut-out paper by Parisian artist Anastassia Elias who also works as a painter and illustrator.

Art made from cardboard toilet rolls by Anastassia Elias

Art inside a cardboard toilet roll

Tiny worlds art inside a cardboard toilet roll by Anastassia Elias


Mark Langan

Cardboard art by Mark Langan

Mark Langan is from Cleveland, Ohio and since 2004 he has been working with reclaimed corrugated cardboard boxes and non-toxic glue to create works of art with a powerful message. He aims not only to contribute to the recycling movement in his own small way but to inspire others to ask of themselves what they can do to help.

Logo in relief made from corrugated cardboard by Mark Langan

Corporate logo recreated in cardboard by Mark Langan

The strong graphic element to Mark’s work and his ability to recreate typefaces and logos in cardboard has meant many of his works have been commissioned for paper and corrugated card manufacturers, green organisations and recycling firms.


You may also like 5 masters of vintage and recycled paper collage art

Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).