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Blog - James Lake

The ‘Paperman’ Film and the Lucca Biennale


I wanted to share about a film I feature in with my work that will soon be shown online as part of the Manchester International Film Festival 2021. It’s such a great opportunity for me, and you book to watch the film online through the link below.

james' oversized cardboard sculpture of himself sitting in a piazza surrounded by cardboard giraffesSo first some background into this film… which all started back in Spring 2018.

The Lucca Biennale is an international paper art and design festival, currently in its 9th addition. The festival invites international artists to live, work and exhibit in the Italian walled city of Lucca.

Every two years, artists from around the globe are selected for their skill in using paper, cardboard (‘cartone'( to make diverse artistic outcomes including sculpture, architecture, clothes and jewelry. Approximately 10 artists are invited through selection to the outdoor artist in residence programme. Over four weeks artists work alongside each other in a large building called the Cavallerizza, to build monumental sculptures from cardboard that can be exhibited outdoor for eight weeks.

Film screen shot of white male artist working on a large sculpture

In the spring of 2018 I was invited to be an artist-in-residence and part of the outdoor summer exhibition. This invitation was completely unexpected, and appeared in my email inbox one afternoon after finishing a workshop at a local school. I had been so firmly set in jobbing workshop practitioner mode for such a long time, I felt very far from identifying as an artist. So this invitation was quite mind blowing!

I had not applied to the residence programme and immediately emailed back to check they had the right person. They had seen a small film I had taken part in called ‘The Art of Recycling,’ and had also seen and very much admired the sculpture I had made all those years ago called ‘Sitting Without Purpose’.

As part of my selection to the Biennale they wanted to make a film about my life, my work and my family. They wanted to see how I made my artwork from my garage in the UK and follow me on this journey to Italy to see what would happen. Although the film is not overtly disability focused, it is about the life and work of a one-legged man who makes cardboard sculptures and, in this instance, tries to compete and make a monumentally sized artwork alongside his able-bodied fellow artists. And this is what I did! It was terrifying, physically exhausting, hot, very hot, but also life affirming. I made a monumental artwork in all that heat, going far beyond what they thought was possible for a physically disabled man. I also got the opportunity to have some much-needed help from my son Ben. He came to Italy halfway through to give me a hand with the work, which is something we will always have as a moment in time together.

This experience was incredible, sometimes other worldly. I got home after the experience had finished and questioned – did that really happen? However, it did feel like a once in a lifetime opportunity and I gave it everything I had… physically and emotionally. The other artists and the whole of the Lucca production and support team were amazing. My sculpture was finished and nerve-rackingly separated for transport to be installed outdoors in the Piazza San Frediano in Lucca.


The film was made by Emiliano Galigani and Associazione Culturale Metropolis. It was directed with compassion and understanding by the talented Domenico Zazzara and supported by a fantastic team of filmmakers. It is great achievement for all connected with that film that ‘Paperman’ has been selected for this year’s Documentary Feature selection at Manchester International Film Festival 2021. The film has a runtime of 70 minutes, with the language in English and Italian (but with subtitles)

It makes its world premiere at 7:45pm GMT on Saturday 13 March. It costs £3.50 to book online to watch it. You can reserve your place here: https://www.maniff.com/paperman



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Lynjo Johnson
Lynjo Johnson
3 months ago

Hi this is fab I so love this art I am addicted to paper card & any kind of art I did something similar to this for an educational officer at flag fen in Peterborough Cambridge I was asked to transform some fashion models to look like Neolithic figures I built the body up by a frame of card & the remainder of the figure the same until I got to the face I used papier-mâché to sculpt the face & hands I have some photos I really think it’s ace that you have taken a medium that is left… Read more »

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