Newry man Marc has the cutting edge in houses of horror

Marc Hagan-Guirey – aka Paper Dandy – has created a book of horror-themed 3D kirigami designs, just in time for Halloween. The Newry-born London-based 'paper architect' talks to Brian Campbell

Marc Hagan-Guirey is one of the world’s leading kirigami artists

MARC Hagan-Guirey traces his love/hate (but mostly love) relationship with Halloween back to October 31 1992. He was frightened out of his wits as he watched the BBC documentary Ghostwatch, in which a film crew used `ghost-detecting equipment’ in a house in England to seemingly prove that there was a poltergeist on the loose.

Young Marc – watching at home in Newry, Co Down – was so traumatised by it that he ran out of his house and was found sobbing on his doorstep by a neighbour.

Ghostwatch, it turned out, was actually a spoof – a `mockumentary’.

Hagan-Guirey, now based in London, is actively celebrating Halloween this year by launching his eye-catching book Horrorgami. It is a book of 20 designs for kirigami – the Japanese art of cutting and folding a single sheet of paper to make intricate 3D scenes, in which no glue is used – all with a spooky horror theme.

Each design has a cutting template and step-by-step instructions, so all you need to make the pieces come to life is a scalpel, cutting mat and a ruler. There are pop-up versions of Dracula's Castle, Frankenstein's Laboratory and Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Other films that inspired the designs include Scream, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, An American Werewolf in London, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cloverfield, as well as short stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving and the site of the old town gallows in Newry.

Hagan-Guirey goes by the name of Paper Dandy and bills himself a `paper architect’, and you can see this in the spectacular designs in the book as most of them are of buildings.

“Horror is a niche subject, but in a broader sense the book is about architecture and I hope people can latch on to that. I'm building a kirigami army,” he laughs.

“[Architect] Frank Lloyd Wright is an accidental hero for me, because I only became aware of his work through the 1959 horror film, House on Haunted Hill, a Vincent Price film. The same house in that film, the Ennis House, is also in Blade Runner. Seeing that building in Los Angeles for the first time, I was mesmerised. That kick-started my whole love of architecture.”

The Horrorgami project started life as an exhibition of works in a London gallery in 2012. It got Hagan-Guirey so much publicity that he ended up leaving his job as head of studio at a London advertising agency to concentrate on his kirigami.

“The publisher actually approached me about doing the book. It’s funny, because I never really had a masterplan. I just started to do it and it gained a lot of attention virally, then I got signed to a gallery and I was getting offers to do stuff for clients.

“I didn't want to be in digital media any more, so I stepped away from the computer and started doing stuff with my hands. It's quite a meditative experience for me when I'm doing it.”

He says the work combines his love of horror, craft and architecture. He recalls being crafty when he was a child, using egg cartons, toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes to make mini-worlds for his He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats and Defenders of the Earth action figures.

He never knew how he always got such great toys – He-Man, Skeletor etc – and also didn’t know why each Christmas Day morning the toys were already out of their packaging. He found out years later that his mum would go to shops that had been smoke or fire-damaged during the bad old days of the Troubles in the mid-80s and would buy them at a bargain price.

“That's true. I think she'd go to shops in Banbridge and Newry after they'd been annihilated. She'd get them and wash them and I knew no different. I didn't need the packaging.

“So I made my own play sets. I'm still doing that really. I get totally lost in it. I'd quite easily pass on a night out with mates in favour of watching YouTube clips of He-Man for inspiration.”

His older brother was also a big influence as they’d watch horror films together. “I always looked up to him and I still do. He was into horror and he let me watch films and I enjoyed them. Of course a few of them really freaked me out. I think my love of horror and the macabre definitely had to do with growing up in a really Christian town, because Irish people are so superstitious.”

His first kirigami horror house was Ennis House, followed by his version of the house from The Addams Family film from 1991. He says a couple of his favourite designs from Horrorgami are The Fall of the House of Usher and the Frankenstein Laboratory.

“The feedback I've got so far has been really overwhelming. I was really worried that they'd be too difficult for people to do, but people have been tweeting me pictures and it's been brilliant.”

He will officially launch his book at an event at the Foyles shop in London’s Charing Cross Road tonight and says he plans to dress up for Halloween on Saturday.

“I love Halloween. I'm crazy for it. I'm going to a big party where, notoriously, you'll get turned away if you haven't made enough of an effort with your costume. I'm doing a Star Wars/Mad Max/super-villain kind of thing.”

And so – for Halloween – what are his favourite horror films?

“House on Haunted Hill, The Exorcist and Amityville are up there, but my favourite one is The Blair Witch Project. The first time I saw that, my heart was in my mouth. And it still holds up. It's amazing.”

:: Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold is out now (Laurence King Publishing, £12.95,


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