Q&A: "A Common Name" Artist Paige Smith

From origami to trackable street art, we get the scoop from the paper artist.

Fishbowl // Virginia Ibarra // 07/24/12
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Courtesy of a Common Name

Courtesy of A Common Name

Courtesy of A Common Name


Courtesy of A Common Name

By Virginia Ibarra

Artist Paige Smith at her exhibit opening at The Standard Hotel in Hollywood

When we were kids, we were always trying to outdo our friends in the art of making the coolest origami. As we grew older, most of us forgot everything we knew about folding paper, but a select few went on to turn their childhood hobby into full-fledged art. Such is the case with artist Paige Smith, who is currently in the process of getting her art ready to be displayed at Billabong's Design for Humanity event on Wednesday. Here, we chat with the artist who continues to populate the streets of LA with her paper geodes, even though most of them are destroyed (or stolen!).

What was your favorite origami shape as a child?
How can I choose? I think a ball you can blow into and it puffs it up. We used to play with that for hours. Or a frog that you can make jump by pressing on the back end of it.

You create these gorgeous geodes and stick them around town knowing that they get crushed at any given moment.
The deterioration of these pieces mimic geodes or small treasures you might find in nature. Over time real geodes slowly erode, break apart, or are taken out of their environment by humans.

What inspired you to use paper as your medium?
I really love how malleable paper is. I've seen it look like a sturdy chair, lace, fine sculptures, and decorative stretch netting. With the geode project, most people don't even know it's paper right away.

How do you pick the locations for your geodes?
I try to choose spaces that are in well trafficked areas for people to spot. Each hole I've found either has trash in it or has obviously not been tended to for years. I choose pipes or phone booths that are obviously not working and definitely do not serve a purpose any longer.

How do you keep track of them?
Many of them are nearby in downtown Los Angeles—I either walk, bike, or drive by them at some time. Others, I'll try to pass by if I'm in the area and every once in a while I hear news about one from a friend.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened to one of your sculptures?
One of my larger geodes is located outside of a bar in the Arts District. My friend offered to drill a plastic casing over it like a viewing box to see if it would last a little longer. After it was installed, it took a few weeks for the plastic to start getting ripped apart until it was eventually gone. The geode itself is still there but is slowly being ripped apart as well. I wish I had a camera on it! Is it drunk people, city workers, or just people that hate the art?

Participate in Smith's interactive art by checking out the map to find a geode location near you!

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