Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My First Attempt at Paper Cutting

I've been intrigued by paper cutting for a couple of years now, ever since I saw some beautiful framed paper cuts in The Itch Gallery.  There's something about its simplicity that I love.  

I've also been spending a lot of time looking at Paper Panda's blog, who is just the most amazing, creative and inspiring paper cutter. Take a look, she's awesome!

It's not expensive to get started, you just need thin card, a cutting board and a scalpel and after that, all it takes is a design, a little patience and lots of practice.

Anyway, I knew I wanted to do a little something for the conservatory and I wanted to challenge myself with something handwritten and personal.  I chose a quote from L.A. Story - well - just because...
"So there I was jabbering at her about my new job as a serious newsman - about anything at all - but all I could think was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful and yet again, wonderful."
(A quote that I've since found out is based on a line from Shakespeare's, As You Like It.  Every day's a learning day!)

The whole quote was a bit too long and daunting for a first paper cut, as well as being slightly waffly, so I shortened it to the most important part.

Now I can draw a little bit, but there is a limit to my abilities, so I took the least adventurous option and chose to design my paper cut using a drawing app called Inkbot. In retrospect I really wish I'd been a little braver and attempted to draw more of the outer pattern freehand.  The app was very useful though as I was able to draw the curve line that I wanted the text to follow and then just get the text to follow the path - something I couldn't get my old version of Photoshop to do, no matter how hard I tried.

Once I'd got my basic design layout, I wanted to convert the text into my own handwriting. Using my window as a light table, I taped a piece of paper over the design and rewrote the quote in my own handwriting. I was simply using the original text as a guide for spacing and size.

I scanned my handwriting in and then inserted it where the original text was using Photoshop.

I then flipped the image so that I had a mirror image that I could print onto the back of my cardstock.

I used white linen card from Craft Creations.

As an aside, I originally transferred my image onto watercolour paper, but this was just too thick and was taking too much pressure to cut.  I think the finish would have been nicer, but my back was complaining too much...

I tried to read as much as I could about paper cutting before I started and managed to pick up a few hints and tips that might be useful for anyone new to paper cutting - 
  • When you're designing your image, you need to create links between all the elements so that everything is joined together -  my daughter described it as, "everything has to hold hands" - the more links you have the more stable your design will be.
  • Swann Morton handles and blades seem to be the most popular tool for professional paper-cutters
  • Number 10A Scalpel Blades and number 11 are used quite frequently by paper cutters. I used number 11 blades.
  • Change your blades often to avoid dragging and tearing the paper. I may have changed my blades a little more than your average paper cutter as I was new and so as soon as I sensed the knife dragging I changed it.  I believe I used 15 blades for this paper cut.
  • Always turn your work and not the blade.
  • Cut towards yourself.
  • If you have small, perfect circles (like the centres of my flowers) use a hammer hole punch to make life easier.
  • Start with the smallest and tightest cuts first to keep your work as stable as possible
  • After you've removed the smallest, most difficult areas, work from the centre first, radiating to the outside
  • Tight curves are often easier to cut using a series of short cuts.
  • Use a metal ruler to cut straight lines.
I very soon discovered that paper cutting is not a hobby I'm going to pursue too often. I read that Paper Panda uses a sloping school desk to make paper cutting easier on her back, so I should have taken that as a clue that it really isn't a hobby for anyone that has chronic back pain.

Inevitably I made this paper cut in many, many, short, 10 to 15 minute sittings.  As frustrating as this was, it did mean that I had time to take a photograph regularly and I was able to see my progress which was very motivating.  

I turned all of my images into an animated GIF and I think it almost works like a shaky time lapse photography film.  I think it shows how rewarding this craft can be, as the smaller areas take a lot of time and attention, but once you get past the difficult parts, the design starts to reveal itself at a faster and faster rate - It was strangely exciting and I can really see how some people describe this as an addictive hobby!

To frame my paper cut I wanted to use a floating frame (the paper cut is sandwiched between two thin sheets of glass) that would allow it to cast a shadow and show that it actually was cut out and not just a print.  I finally found what I was looking for on the Habitat website. I wanted a white frame that would fit a sheet of A4 paper with an empty border around it and the Monro frame did the job.

Here's my paper cut, all nicely framed up and casting beautiful shadows against the background.  It really was a labour of love though!

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Itch Gallery said...

Wow Kathryn, this is brilliant! I didn't realise from following you on Pinterest that you'd be into Itch Gallery - so glad something you saw there inspired you to do this. Papercutting is definitely a labour of love but I think your efforts were well rewarded - looks amazing in the floating frame!!

Jenny (Owner of Itch Gallery)

Unknown said...

Thank you for this lovely post. Your art work is wonderful. And a BIG thanks for explain how you made it float, others I've asked say its fairy dust! Thank you

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this lovely post. Your explainings, your tips and clues are so helpful IN ALL of your posts. I am so happy that I found this blog. Keep going. Yours truly Katrin from Switzerland.