Insects Unearthed

A campaign to captivate imaginations and get the world to care about the plight of insects.

A desk with a large gridded cutting mat, with a selection of craft tools and paper insects.
Infographics, Illustration, Campaign

Insects Unearthed

An immersive installation of papercut specimens that aims to captivate imaginations and get the world to care about insects.

"It's the little things that run the world."

E. O. Wilson

The brief

  • From ground beetles to butterflies, moths to stag beetles, insects are disappearing at an alarming rate.
  • In the past two decades 41% of all flying insects have been wiped out from habitat loss, climate breakdown and pesticides.
  • Disheartened by the lack of awareness about the issue, I felt compelled to use my craft to take action and get people to care about the plight of insects.

The idea

  • I programmed a digital papercutter to plot out my insects illustrations, layer-by-layer, and carefully assembled the cutouts into intricate 3D sculptures.
  • Hundreds of the paper specimens were housed in cabinets of curiosities, which were displayed in a coffee shop gallery space, located in the heart of the Welsh capital.
  • Educational infographics were used to communicate hard-hitting facts about the global populations of insects that are in decline.

The Result

  • Hundreds of wildflower seed packs were handed out to visitors to plant themselves, supporting ecosystems for insects in their own backyard.
  • The #insectsunearthed Instagram campaign gained traction throughout the event, allowing people from outside Cardiff to follow the exhibition as it evolved.
  • 10% of all exhibition sales were donated to Butterfly Conservation, a charity dedicated restoring living ecosystems and returning wildlife to its natural state.
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Illustrating a wealth of minibeasts

I began by researching the science of insects (known as entomology) and observing their microscopic forms. I created an illustration series of some of the most charismatic minibeasts from my readings, capturing their iconic features in highly stylized, duo-toned designs.

Man sitting at desk with green cutting mat.

Bringing flat illustrations to life

I programmed a digital papercutter to plot out each illustration, layer-by-layer, and carefully assembled the cutouts into 3D sculptures. Prototyping was key. Re-working layers, adding and stripping away details, until the delicate paper specimens felt right.

A birds-eye view of a man assembling small  paper insect sculptures.
Man looking down at papercut insect on desk.
Old wooden draw full of paper insects.

A living wall of curiosities

The Insects Unearthed exhibition was on display for a month. Hundreds of visitors were enticed in to inspect the insects and learn about their crucial roles in supporting healthy ecosystems and food production for humans.

Sowing the seed of an idea

Wildflower seeds were handed out as a small, sustainable memento: an invitation for exhibition visitors to take action for insects in their own backyard.

An evolving collection

The Insects Unearthed collection continues to evolve, and I am gradually releasing new papercut specimens in my online shop. Framed, packaged and flown to your door.