Using only a pair of silver tweezers, the U.K.-based artist Lisa Lloyd painstakingly places and glues 4,000 individual slivers of paper against a card frame to create the outline for one of her whimsical animal sculptures.

Having worked for many years in London, first as a graphic designer and as the head of a successful animation studio based in Soho, Lloyd became a paper artist by accident. “I was really working hard. Then I got pregnant, and I started to notice that, because everyone is working on computer screens all the time, people really seemed to enjoy seeing handmade stuff,” says Lloyd.

Around the same time, Lloyd had a creative impulse she couldn’t shake. “I said to my boyfriend, ‘I’ve just got this thing in my head. I’ve just got to get it out.’ And I ended up making this hummingbird, and it was like ‘Oh, that’s quite nice.’” Lloyd showed the piece to her boyfriend—now husband—and then her agent, both of whom were impressed. Suddenly Lloyd had a commission from Waitrose & Partners magazine, followed by an invitation to travel to Milan Design Week to display her work.

Lloyd in her studio.

That was 2018, and business hasn’t slowed since. Tending to take the form of birds, insects, and flowers, and made entirely out of colorful paper, the work Lloyd does now spans private commissions, editorial shoots, and pieces for major brands such as De Beers, 7 For All Mankind, and MAC Cosmetics.

Wherever possible, Lloyd uses recycled paper and even old coffee cups. “I don’t throw any paper away,” she says. “I try to make it as sustainable as possible.” The work is meticulous. A single piece can take more than 250 hours. “I get emotionally attached to them,” says Lloyd with a laugh.

While most of her pieces are small, Lloyd recently received a private commission for a life-size bald eagle. “The wingspan was about two meters,” she says. “I couldn’t get it into the house!”

A close-up of Lloyd’s Eyelash Viper.

To create something of that scale out of tiny pieces of paper requires immense concentration. “I just go into this kind of dreamlike state,” Lloyd says. “I have to be with it because otherwise I go wrong.”

Last spring, Lloyd decided to host a series of free tutorials and offered an electronic template on her Web site, making it possible for anyone with scissors and an imagination to make a paper shrimp at home. More than 5,000 people downloaded it, and within days #PaperPrawn was trending on Instagram.

Perhaps most impressive, however, is the fact that Lloyd creates all of her designs freestyle. “I don’t plan,” she says. “My husband’s a civil engineer, and he can’t get his head around that. I have to just do it.”

Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for Air Mail