I’m not much of an arts-and-crafts person. I can sort of draw a cartoon cat, who’s somewhat based on Garfield but who mostly looks like a penguin who may or may not be having some sort of pressing litter box issues. When it comes to something as simple as wrapping presents, I use twice as much paper and tape to achieve a less-than-Martha Stewart level of presentation. And let’s just say that the one time I tried origami at a social get-together, I quickly realized the folly of my ways and sought sanctuary in the beer stash. (Seriously, origami is hard.)
But despite my failings in the field, I do heartily endorse supporting the handmade arts-and-crafts scene. It’s under that premise that I’d like to share with you the custom paper-cat models that Amy Williams makes and sells under the Kooee Papercraft banner.
In a word, they’re great.
In two words, they’re really great.
Like, really, really great, to the point where they’re starting to take off and people are enthusiastically ordering custom paper-models of their cats and then sharing them online under the #papercatclub hashtag. (My favorite pics are the ones where the original cats have been forced to pose with their mini cardboard likenesses, usually with a less-than-harmonious look on their little cat faces.)
Anyway, now that the introduction’s over, here’s Amy telling you everything you ever needed to know about paper cat models.
Catster: What inspired the idea to make custom paper cat models?
Amy Williams: It was a few months after I started my online business back in 2014. Originally I was making generic animal models of things like kangaroos, koalas, and emus, but I’ve always been a crazy cat lady so I really wanted to make a cat model — but I wasn’t confident enough to make them yet. I felt like I needed to perfect my ability to make 3D animal templates, so I delayed myself.
Then at the beginning of 2015, I started my Instagram account for Kooee Papercraft and launched my basic cat paper-craft pack. I really wanted make custom cat portraits, but I needed to test the market first, so I ran a competition on Instagram to see if anyone wanted one. The answer was definitely yes. It just took off from there.
Did you go through many prototype models before finding one you were happy with?
Yes, in the beginning there was a lot of trial and error. First I had to design the 3D shape. It had to look like a cute cat and yet be simple enough to put together easily. Unlike a lot of other paper-crafters, my target audience isn’t “craft” people — it’s cat people. I didn’t want to make a really complex model that would take hours to assemble.
Once I had a basic 3D cat template, I had to see how it would look when I drew its features on. There was still a bit of trial and error at this stage, too. I had to make sure, once it was constructed, that all the features I drew lined up and were the right scale and distances, especially around the face.
I now have five different base templates for cats: One for your standard domestic cat, one for flat-faced cats such as Exotic Shorthairs and Persians, one for American Shorthairs (due to their nose being a little different), and now one for tall skinny cats and another for larger, more plump ones.
Once you receive a picture of someone’s cat, how long does each model usually take to design?
Once I have enough photos [of the cat], they normally take somewhere between one to three hours. In the past, if a cat had complex body fur or unique patterns and features, it could take me all day. I had to brush up on some illustration skills to learn how to draw them. Sometimes I would restart the cat two or three times just to get the details correct. These days, having expanded my knowledge a bit, the more complex cats don’t seem to be so time consuming anymore. I have a much more sustainable workflow.
What sort of cats are the trickiest to turn into cat models?
In terms of cat shapes, they are all pretty equal — it’s only once I get to the coat pattern that some can be quite challenging. The trickiest, I would say, are fluffy torbies (tortoiseshell tabbies). To get their fur right in the past was quite a challenge. These were the cats that sometimes took me all day before I was happy to send one back to my client.
Who are some of your favorite cats in your Instagram account that you’ve turned into paper models?
I’d have to say Kyle! He was one of my first cats I ever did — he won a competition. I love his goofiness, his “escape foot,” and his big personality. He reminds me of a cartoon character. Plus, he also raises much needed funds for domestic violence shelters that shelter pets, too.
What’s the most fun or craziest place you’ve seen someone take a pic of their cat model?
Every single day I seem to be happily surprised at the photos I’m tagged in. I guess the craziest is from Elton and Orangina’s account. She takes her cat models everywhere and has quite a collection from swapping cat portraits with her friends. She has been camping with them, taken them to Palm Springs, and eaten in restaurants with them. They go everywhere with her, and she makes me laugh! She’s awesome.
Finally, do you have a cat yourself? If so, how does she react to any models of herself?
I have one cat called Pepper. She’s pretty intrigued by her paper-craft counterpart — she’ll sniff at it or try to nibble on it. However, as soon as I put a camera in front of her, she goes all shy and runs away. She’s not the most photogenic of cats, hence why she doesn’t have her own Instagram page. I also have a paper-craft model of my old cat, Gibbs, who sadly passed away in 2014. He sits on my desk so I can see him while I work.
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