PaperBridge in the Red

Stunning paper art installation announced in the Lakes

The stunning home of James Cropper Paper, the picturesque Lake District National Park in the north of England, will have one corner of its green and pleasant land interrupted by an unusual vision in red this spring. PaperBridge, a momentous art installation by environmental artist, Steve Messam will see a bridge made entirely from James Cropper’s red paper traverse one of the region’s waterways.

Commissioned by Lakes Culture for Lakes Ignites, PaperBridge forms one of four installations set to be in place from April 2015 for almost two months. PaperBridge will appear in an, as yet unannounced location from Friday 8 May and remain in place for ten days. The construction of the bridge will be completed using no fastenings, relying on gravity and ancient structural principles to keep it in place.

Of the structural integrity of the bridge, especially under the notoriously wet Cumbrian weather, Steve Messam says: “It stands up in the same way a stone bridge does. Paper is a really dense material. We’ve been working on it for three years and I have had a scale model out in all weathers and it actually gets stronger when it rains.”

The Artist and Lakes Culture have worked closely with the team at James Cropper in planning the amount of paper required to fulfil the vision of the bridge, which will appear vividly against the predominantly green backdrop of the outdoors. The tone of the red paper was not the only consideration, but also the effect on the environment in manufacture, installation and, finally, disposal.

Messam continues: “The entire bridge will all go back to James Cropper, where they will recycle the entire batch of paper. The paper is being especially made so that the dye doesn’t leak into the water below, and there’s no other company in the world that can make paper like this. They are specialists in colour; nobody else can make paper this way other than here in Cumbria.”

It is estimated that the bridge will take a total of 22,000 sheets of paper from the Burneside mill, with the final choice of vivid red from the James Cropper palette being in the process of being chosen. Other installations being created in the Lakes Ignites programme include sound installations and film.

Chris Brown, Commercial Director for James Cropper Paper, said: “Steve Messam has identified three of James Cropper Paper’s standout qualities when it comes to offering clients higher standards of manufacture and service: colour, custom-development and environmental responsibility. We’re very pleased to be integral to what will be a successful artistic intervention into the Cumbrian countryside, providing paper services from start to finish.”

You can listen to an interview with the artist, Steve Messam on BBC Radio Cumbria here.