Walking through a bright yellow front door and into the Candusso home, it already becomes quite apparent that this is a creative family I’m meeting. This belief certainly grows as my gaze quickly turns to the large artworks by artist and published author Caroline in the hallway, before I notice large movie posters, showcasing the involvement of Damian in mastering the sound for several blockbusters, to the family room, where the primary colours, shapes and figurines of paintings by children Ruben, aged 3, and Agustin, 7 years old, add a personalised brightness to the cream walls – that had very much provided a blank canvas.
But, there’s another creative venture that is exhibited throughout this Wagga abode, especially scattered throughout the designated studio space, that catches my eye… and that is origami.
Bouquets of tulips, lotus flowers, folded swans, tigers, whales, butterflies and paper cranes adorn the Candusso family’s art space, the centrepiece of the folded creations a bespoke mobile created with beautiful coloured papers and recycled branches.
The remarkable thing is, the paper art is all created by Agustin, and the young entrepreneur has just started his very own business folding the papers into brooches, Christmas wreaths, table centrepieces and other decorations for events.
Agustin was just two years of age when he started to fold paper, having started with tissues, however it became apparent after some time that the tissues were too soft to be as creative as Agustin wanted to be, so early last year mum Caroline borrowed a series of origami books from the local library for him to use to explore making other things.
“At the time we didn’t really know it, but it’s a sensory processing thing, it’s a really lovely way of channelling all his energy and focus, and it can be a real meditative space as well. Generally, he will read instructions once, before he then folds and folds and folds and folds,” Caroline explains.
It was after several bouquets had been gifted to loved ones, then a special order from a family friend for 30 flowers to be created for her father’s 70th birthday, and when the Wagga Art Gallery saw an image of the creations as part of the local ‘Fusion’ festival celebrating cultural diversity to then request a large bunch of tulips to exhibit, that the venture grew and Papel (paper) – ‘papel’ meaning ‘paper’ in Spanish which is Caroline’s ancestral origin – was officially established.
Caroline chuckles when she tells the tale that Papel paper is actually Agustin’s third business idea for 2016, however it was the one that eventually gathered momentum, as he launched his first stall late last year at River and Wren boutique markets in Wagga and sold more than 120 of his origami creations.
“His very first customer was a little eight-year-old girl and she bought a little swan brooch. I remember thinking how magical that it all was, another child buying something that has been created by another child,” Caroline recalls.
Amazingly, Agustin has also facilitated workshops at local preschools and he has taught several young children at the primary school in the Malomalo village in Fiji to make tiger puppets and swans as part of a trip the family undertook to a local village to donate various books and resources.
Caroline says its been challenging finding the perfect papers, but has now discovered various sources including direct Japanese suppliers, or they stumble across various patterns and card stock in their general travels, even the art gallery in Wagga.
“We’re really learning a lot about the thickness of papers and what’s easiest to work with, and for the giant creations, that’s definitely the thicker card,” Caroline says.
“We often sit together before and after school to choose designs and fold paper. Agustin’s fine motor skills are quite amazing for his age… But, it’s really been an organic process that has evolved and we just thought we’d see what happens.”
Designs for various events have been created, including folding paper in a music score for a musician’s performance, pages from a Vogue magazine used in party decorations, tulip bouquets made for Valentine’s Day, and Caroline even comments that the origami products can also be formed from children’s artworks.
“The whole idea is that no little piece of paper is wasted, something can always be created with it. We also find recycled items like old branches and twigs which we then paint to hang the creations off as well for the mobiles and wreaths,” Caroline comments.
Papel paper has become a real family business, even Ruben is taking an interest in folding, and Damian often brings his laptop into the studio space too.
Damian and Caroline, who have been calling Wagga home for 10 years now after making a tree change from Sydney, are certainly accomplished in the arts industry, with Damian a university lecturer and an international multi-award winning sound designer. He has not only mastered the sound for blockbuster films including Australia, Happy Feet I and II, The Lego Movie and The Great Gatsby, but he has experience in several television series, animations, games and music, and is involved in judging the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards which is an industry body representing all areas of sound.
“When we moved here from the city it was at the beginning of the time when people were starting to really work remotely and with the internet those opportunities have changed and developed enormously. People can be far away from the city and still achieve exceptional things. We love the space here and the community. It’s an affordable lifestyle and everything is so close and accessible. It really is a healthy environment for children to grow up in and we really wanted to bring up our children in the country, so it’s amazing to be able to do that,” Caroline, who previously worked in children’s programming for The Cartoon Network and the Nine Network, says.
Caroline also self-published a children’s book called “Spring” in 2015, an achievement she believes most likely might not have happened had the family not moved to Wagga.
“I have always painted, but when Agustin came along the unpredictability of his routine meant it became difficult, so I picked up pencils and started doing illustrations. The book is actually based on Agustin and is about how everyday objects and people can inspire you to create a story. It’s been a lovely journey for me, and in the past year we’ve done a second print run and I’ve done some school tours too. We define ourselves by the job we do and I think that can get turned on its head with motherhood, so it has been about having a little bit of me, while introducing that little piece of motherhood in there as well.”
As Agustin reaches for a piece of paper in amongst bouquets of tulips and brooches, to create another crane for an upcoming market stall, Caroline smiles.
“Agustin and I really have become partners in folding and I’m looking forward to continuing the crazy ride and having this adventure with him.”
Words: Rosie O’Keeffe Pictures: Jackie Cooper, Jack of Hearts Studio