A ranger is a person dedicated to the protection and conservation of natural areas, from forests and national parks to jungles, mountainous areas and marshes. It is also the name of a design and illustration studio in Buenos Aires (Argentina) that creates amazing three-dimensional paper figures, mostly animals, to educate and raise awareness about nature.
Behind the Guardabosques project, which has just celebrated its 10th year, are designers Carolina Silvero and Juan Elizalde. Both studied at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism of the University of Buenos Aires (FADU-UBA), and soon realised that they shared professional interests and concerns. They began to create things together, first for fun, until they were offered an exhibition at the Centro Cultural San Nicolás. It was then that they came up with a name, Guardabosques, and a theme: nature experienced through paper.
Window displays inspired by sea creatures
After “Paper Birds”, a project inspired by local Argentine bird species, in 2015 Guardabosques won a competition to design the window display of the Hermès shop in Buenos Aires.
In just one week, the artists managed to recreate the classic scene from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, with the giant squid attacking the ship, with a touch of “Yellow Submarine”.
In another scene, the squid has managed to enter the ship and grab the precious treasure: a handbag.
The sea is also the protagonist of another of Carolina and Juan’s window displays, this time for Florería Atlántico, a popular travel-themed bar in Buenos Aires, in 2017.
This time the paper figure is a sailor submerged in a sea of Campari, fascinated by the sea creatures around him. The stained glass window alone took 12 hours to assemble.
Colourful and multifaceted figures
To bring their distinctive colourful, multifaceted figures to life, the members of the Guardabosques design studio first look for references to familiarise themselves with all the angles and details of the creature they want to recreate. They then create the geometric design in 3D software, convert the image into a cut-out, and finally shape it by folding and gluing the different pieces together.
The meticulousness involved in this process becomes clear when you admire the realism and harmonious forms of each of the paper birds that were on display at St James Market in London for most of 2017. This collection is based on Charles II’s 16th century aviary of exotic birds in St James Park, paired with patterns from some iconic clothing brands.
That same year, Carolina and Juan were invited to participate in an exhibition at the Home Hotel in Buenos Aires, widely considered one of the best boutique hotels in Latin America. In addition to depicting animals such as birds and bears, the central theme was to present naturalists and scientists in extraordinary situations, such as David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, Timothy Threadwell and Edmund Halley.
Creatures of the past and monsters of the future
“Urban Mutations” was the title of the 2018 exhibition at the Museo del Humor in the Argentine capital. The centre asked various artists to interpret the city’s heritage in a futuristic context, and Guardabosques was given the Museum of Natural Sciences in La Plata. The designers began to speculate about undiscovered species and came up with a friendly mutant monster from the future called Musgor, as well as its origin and the bugs that would inhabit it.
In 2019, the chocolate brand Rapanui commissioned them to design their new Rapasaurs, as well as a set of illustrations for different children’s products. This is how these iconic Guardabosques figures, the dinosaurs, were born, developed in 3D and ready to assemble.
Posters, postcards, books and scenery
The frenetic activity of these Argentinian paper artists is not limited to exhibitions, window displays and products for brands. They have also participated in a number of poster competitions, animated short films, books and other audiovisual projects.
For example, in 2019 they designed and made large-scale paper sculptures as part of the set design for the children’s play “Beings from another world”, at the Experimental Centre of the Teatro Colón. The sculptures ranged in size from 50 centimetres (birds) to three metres (firebirds, two dragons, spotlights). The idea was that the children could experience the behind-the-scenes of the theatre, with a series of activities where they could experiment with costumes, make-up, lighting and even a live opera.
One of the most fun and challenging projects for the Guardabosques designers was the illustration of the book “Stick Bugs” in 2021, part of a collection for an organisation that promotes children’s reading. Using only paper, they developed and built a wide variety of characters and props.
It was also in 2021 that they were commissioned to create the Google Doodle for the month of May to mark the 85th anniversary of the Obelisk in Buenos Aires, an opportunity to make simple shapes by playing with colours to illustrate the city. And more recently, they have been commissioned to make a postage stamp representing the Chinese New Year, the year of the tiger.
Personal projects of the Guardabosques team
As if they didn’t have enough work to do together, the members of Guardabosques also undertake individual projects. Carolina, for example, showcases her drawings of flowers, fruits and animals on her Instagram account. She has also been working on ‘Mini fantasies’, a collaborative project with Coni Marchini ceramics for which she has created paper miniatures of unusual things which she likes.
Juan, meanwhile, has been leading the project “Little Friends of the Darkness”, featuring papercraft portraits of bats which, though it began before the pandemic, also seeks to restore the reputation of this creature which gained such a bad name due to Covid-19.
Despite working within a wide range of formats, both together and separately, Guardabosques has never lost its essence of experimenting with nature to raise awareness through its delicate paper sculptures.