Wolves from paper

Stuttgart-based animator Wolfram Kampffmeyer creates DIY paper sculptures under the label "Paperwolf"
18.09.2014 | 

Sometimes, hobbies turn into business ideas. That's what happened to Wolfram Kampffmeyer, who works as a freelance animator in the animated film industry and now also designs 3D paper models and sends them to customers all over the world to put together themselves. "My Chinese and American customers like unicorns and bears. There is huge demand for those two types of animals in those countries," according to Kampffmeyer. But how does someone from China stumble across the unusual home decor items made by a Stuttgart-based film animator?

As is so often the case in today's world, the journey begins online. Since 2010, Kampffmeyer has been selling his three-dimensional animals in do-it-yourself format on Dawanda, Germany's largest online marketplace for handmade products. With a range of 280,000 manufacturers and around 4.4 million products, competition is fierce. Nevertheless, last year Kampffmeyer's three-dimensional paper world came to the attention of Dawanda employees. The company awarded Paperwolf the title of favourite producer of hand-made goods, an initiative by the internet portal and Living at Home magazine, which reaches over half a million readers and published a major interview with the animator.

"As a favourite producer of hand-made goods, I received more attention on Dawanda. From the date the interview appeared, I sold two to three items every day", explains Kampffmeyer. Further articles in newspapers and TV features followed. "It got a bit crazy at Christmas", says the freelancer and entrepreneur. He has now sold 2,000 paper models via Dawanda and around 250 via the US e-commerce portal Etsy. Trading in approximately 15 million products, Etsy is several times larger than Dawanda.

But before the success in the virtual world came the joy of creating and trying things out. During his studies in animation at Filmakadamie Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg in the Stuttgart Region, in 2009 Kampffmeyer stumbled across a Japanese computer program called Pepakura Designer that produces paper templates from 3D models to put together oneself. "My first model was a pink-coloured pig", he says.

The positive feedback from friends for the 50-centimetre large piece of work spurred the animator on to create more and more new animals on his PC and then in reality. "It reached a point where all of the shelves and the floor was full and I started creating models to be hung from the walls." From lions to water buffaloes, animals with horns, aardvarks and frogs, browsing in the Paperwolf shop is like a very special trip to the zoo. Depending on the size and shape, a package with the individual parts for the three-dimensional DIY experience costs between EUR 20 and EUR 80.

Kampffmeyer has to design the paper animals in a way that brings them to life. That would scarcely be possible without the skill of an animator. In addition, customers also need to be able to assemble the products themselves. "It is very important to me that the customers can complete their paper works of art." And if a little professional help is needed, he sometimes even gets a phone call. "95 percent of my customers are women, but the men like to help out when assembling the products," reports Kampffmeyer. In addition to lots of patience, you need good spatial awareness and deftness in order to handle the glue in a precise manner.

The entrepreneur still has plenty of ideas to try out. He created a postcard for the Stuttgart flight simulator, Siminn GmbH, that shows a folding model of an airplane. "This year I am going to attempt the wolf, a model where half of the piece of work projects from the wall. It will have to be a masterpiece," says Kampffmeyer with a grin. There will be an exhibition in Würzburg in the autumn, where the paper animals will look out from the wall and fill the room in an artistic context. Maybe the wolf will already make an appearance there.