A few years ago, at the request of his daughter, Bernie Kaminski made a paper mâché basketball, “and I thought it looked really cool,” he tells It’s Nice That. Ever since, whenever he had an idea for an object he’d like to see reimagined in three-dimensional paper format, he just made it. “I can’t really draw or paint but when I started making paper mâché pieces I thought they looked interesting enough to keep doing it.”
Bernie’s Instagram is a lengthy catalogue of his creations, each an item made “just to entertain myself,” he adds. Scroll through and you’ll spot a perfectly neat address book (pen attached to the side), a tote bag with its creases embedded, and even an entire Thanksgiving dinner made out of paper and glue. “They are things I think would look funny made of paper mâché,” Bernie continues. “I like to use a real object as a model so I end up making paper mâché versions of things in our apartment, like my shoes or a mug of pencils.” At other times Bernie will pick an object simply “to see if I can figure out how to do it” – like a recent piece recreating a button-down shirt, made by taking apart one of his own shirts and putting it back together again.
In terms of process, the artist has a long list of items he’d eventually like to make, usually selecting one depending on how long he thinks it might take and how much free time he has on a given day – “they always end up taking longer than I expect,” he jokes. To start – be warned, this is a process sure to trigger primary school nostalgia – Bernie will build a foundation “mostly from paper or cardboard and tape,” he says. “Then do the paper mâché part in our kitchen. And I paint in the living room. It’s cool that I can do it at home, but the whole process hogs up a lot of space in the apartment.”
Outside of this familiar process, Bernie follows his intuition. He doesn’t follow any pattern for instance, “so I’ll often get pretty far into something and realise I should have done it another way,” he explains. But these perfect flaws are all part of the charm of Bernie’s creations. After all, the artist isn’t worried about making a piece look “real” exactly, explaining how he’d rather “try to make it look fake in a way that somehow reflects how I feel about the real thing.”
Of late this has involved creating a series of paper mâché baseballs covered in historic signatures. “Making the balls is kind of a pain but I discovered that forging player signatures is a very meditative activity. It’s low pressure.” Or even creating a junk drawer, full of paper mâché junk (of course). But most of all is Bernie just creating these works for our enjoyment, a sweet example of how an object can be elevated when art imitates life, and “because it gives me something to do,” he says. “I’m happy whenever anyone else is amused by them for any reason.
Bernie Kaminski: Junk Drawer (Copyright © Bernie Kaminski, 2021)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.