A Love Letter to Budapest

In committing to something new, something about which I knew, and still know, very little, I have managed to overlook writing about what was my most ambitious paper cut project. Setting up a tiny business, learning how to draw, practicing paper cutting, learning social media strategy and tax regulations in two countries, photography, and continuing to produce something worthwhile and quality, means perhaps I can be forgiven. No? Well I'll just show the paper cutting then. It's good, I promise.

I started my second large paper cut in January of this year. One of the impetuses for my maps is my love of travel, but when travelling I cannot find any kind of souvenir that I like enough to bring back. I'm not precisely a minimalist, but I am overly discerning. I particularly remember being struck by this difficulty in Venice. It is a city perched above, in and on water. To me it was completely unique. I had an exceptional 5 days there that I will remember until I am no longer capable of memory, but of all the shops and streets and canals, I couldn't find one thing to bring back. I thought about purchasing a glass balloon every day, but decided the connection was too tenuous and their ubiquity disenchanting. It's a beautiful thing, but didn't say Venice to me.

So when I visited Budapest twice last year, I knew I wanted something different. Both holidays were in winter, at opposite ends of the year. I will spare you the details: hot springs, early 19th century architecture, gorgeous bridges, fantastic food and alcohol, cherry pastry, raspberry chimney cakes and some very nice people. It became, concerns about its shifting right politics aside, a place I placed immediately on my "I will live here" list. It's a short list and never included London, which tells you something about it's practicality. So I decided to make my a different sort of souvenir instead.

Creating the Map

The first step is choosing a boundary for the map. The paper is 22" x 30" and 300gsm. This means it's really very thick card, and is not at all necessary to create a work like this. A much thinner paper of 150gsm (the thickness of two sheets of printer paper) would suffice. I prefer to leave a thick border, much like a mat around my work. I wanted a sufficient density of streets to look impressive, but not so dense as to be unmanageable. Using Open Street Map and some other paper reference maps I chose enough memorable landscape features, like Margit-sziget (Margaret Island) to help the viewer orient that would fit roughly in the cut out space I had designed so I started to draw. 

I drew the map in digital format first. I can then manipulate the size of the streets and features. I chose to make all the roads roughly the same width in this piece. It is easier to cut that way. I then printed the map in reverse and traced it in pencil on the back of the paper. I cut the map from the back to the front, so that mistakes are easier to hide, any extra graphite does not impact on its appearance, and it's easier to move the work around my home. 

The full size map, almost complete.

The drawing of the map itself, from computer to complete trace is about 20 or so hours. In the centre of the map you can see I haven't finished drawing the last bits of Pest. I often think about stopping here because there is a simplistic minimalist appeal of the map as drawn in outline with a lead pencil. It's beautiful in its own right. But I'm made of meaner stuff: a scalpel, so I do not stop. I use a Swann Morton number 3 (I think) handle here. I buy blades by the hundreds. I also use an NT Cutter. The head swivels and is great for curves. The ruler on the right is a cutting ruler, clear acrylic with a thin edge of metal to cut against. It sometimes helps, but not always. 

That's 25 minutes worth of cutting, and I did not notice I had missed part of my map until I reached that section. In the left corner you'll see the missing lines. 

As time progresses I occasionally flip the map over to check on the progress and feel accomplished. I don't have an A1 self-healing mat, I use 2 A2 mats. 

This is a quick video of how I cut out the maps. You can still follow me on instagram but at @kartegraphik (this was before the app made it easy to switch between accounts). 

The final piece, completely cut out. Unfortunately, I noted the time, but didn't photograph it. It was 36 hours. 

There is not as much of a sense of accomplishment in the pile of paper chips, as I call them, as there is in the map. Still, the blades were changed less frequently than my previous large scale map of Chicago, and the result is excellent. 

Budapest framed on the wall. It's hard to see due to the awful chipboard wall paper of my flat, but the map is framed between two pieces of acrylic, meaning you can see through it to the wall behind it. 

It's easier to see here that it's been float framed. What I love about this method of framing is that the shadows on the wall, particularly when placed a specific distance from the wall change and move as the light source in the room does. It interacts to create a liveliness and movement on the wall.