This Bahrain-based artist makes one-of-a-kind paper models!

Atamjeet Singh Bawa also know as ‘Paper Model Guru’ is an expat as a Telecom Solution Architect in one of the leading telecommunications company in Bahrain. Atamjeet has been creating unique and intricate paper models for the past 17 years. Just recently, we had the chance to talk to him about his craft.

Tell us more about yourself. Who are you and what motivated you to get into this kind of craft?

I am an expat working in Bahrain as a ‘Telecom Solution Architect’. I travel with my job profile to work in different countries and Bahrain happens to be my 7th country (lucky number). However, people across the globe recognize me as ‘Paper Model Guru’ (Guy with an airplane on his glasses), a passionate paper modeler who creates highly detailed machines using only paper as a medium.

I started creating paper models back in 2003 while I was pursuing my B-Tech in ‘Textile Chemistry’ when one day I decided to create a big WWII airplane using paper (it was a very sudden and a random decision). After spending a month building it, my first paper model was ready and that is when I realized I had found my passion and purpose. I still call it an “Engineered Accident’.

It’s been 17 years now and I have created all sorts of machines; be it airplanes, trains, ships, space shuttles, rocket launchers, guns, tanks, helicopters, bikes, cars and some well-known objects from the Marvel and DC fandom.

Machines fascinate me and I love to study their complexity. The more complex a machine is, the higher it gets on my to-do list of models. That is also another reason why I don’t make less detailed models; I just love challenging myself! My current project is a 1:9 scale paper model of Batman Tumbler here in Bahrain and it is my most ambitious project till date.

Would you say that this is your passion?

I am a passionate person in general, it’s in my nature and personality to do things with passion or not at all. Passion is what defines me and passion is what motivates me. Yes, paper modeling is my passion and my ikigai.

What does art/your work mean to you?

When I was a child, both I and my dad wanted myself to become a pilot but destiny had something else to bless me with. I have always been fascinated with airplanes and machines in general. I would spend hours and hours watching a road being built, observing the functions of a JCB, questioning the role of a track in a tank etc. I have always been curious. I think that is why when I make my favorite machines out of paper, it brings back my childhood memories.

I could never fly an airplane, but whenever I create a detailed model of an airplane, it gives me the same kind of an adrenaline rush that flying a fighter jet would have offered me. My hobby also serves as a meditation for me because each piece takes months to complete and handling those small and tiny paper parts requires my utmost concentration and it carries me to another universe where it’s just me, my paper modeling tools and my curiosity. It’s my “happy place”.

Can you describe your process? How do you know when a piece is finished?

To get into paper modeling, one simply needs some basic tools. A cutting knife, a pair of scissors, a cutting mat, glue, printer* and suitable paper* (*printing could also be done at any printing shop).

The process starts with downloading a PDF file (mostly a free file available on the internet) of any model that one wants to create. That PDF file has parts of that model laid-out with a number assigned to each part and a set of visual instructions. One simply needs to download the PDF, print the pages on a suitable paper (usually 150GSM to 180GSM A4 size paper), cut out all the parts from the print outs using the cutting knife and scissors and start joining the parts using the glue by following the instructions documented on the PDF file.

One can further improvise to add more details to the model, like coloring the edges so that they are not white, adding a little functionality. The most important thing that one needs is patience, because paper modeling is a time consuming hobby, but once you get hold of it, there is no coming back. Once all the parts are joined, the model is finished and it’s time to take up another challenging paper model.

What advice would you say to aspiring artists?

Try out things, be a doer of things, rather than just thinking about doing things. You need to get out of your comfort zone in a quest to find your passion. Don’t plan much, there will never be a perfect day, start NOW.

Which part of Bahrain is your favourite and why?

I love Bahrain as a country for its diversity, inclusivity and respect for the huge expat population. I have 2 favorite places in Bahrain, first is the balcony of my apartment (Juffair Heights) that faces westwards, I love spending time in my balcony where I get the best of the ideas and my favorite thing is watching sunset everyday. And second favorite place is Bahrain Bay for it’s beautiful sunrise.