Queen Bee

This is a piece that I've been working on for a number of months. It took so long not because it was exceptionally difficult to draw or cut, but because I couldn't figure out what I wanted it to do. I had trouble visualizing what a 3-D Papercut might look like. I wanted this Bee to be in the shape of the common honeybee Apis Mellifera. I drew it out on the computer, quite proud of how realistic it appeared.

Originally there was a bit of honeycombing on the bottom, almost like a signature. But it eventually got cast aside. In the end it all came together because I bought a large piece of mountboard thinking I would cut it down to be A4 size. Instead when I lay the sheet of paper on top I realized the border effect would work wonderfully. So I drew a passable crown to suggest just who this bee is and added in Regina to the name.


Papercutting, for me, has been an autodidactic hobby. (I like a ten dollar word, I won't apologize). I have never seen a class at a local college, an activity day at a festival or specialist training. To be honest, it is a bit obscure. I buy paper from an art shop and often take it home on the bus because of its size (A1 or often 22''x30''). I often get asked if I am an artist because of these same large sheets of paper wrapped in plastic sheeting to protect against the omnipresent British Damp. I avoid the question because I think it's prickly and say that I do papercutting. I get a lot of blank stares. Even the recent Matisse exhibition in London, prohibitively expensive as far as I was concerned, has not really given way to a greater knowledge about the practice. I'm not suggesting it should have either. If there is anywhere in the world that likes an eccentric toiling at an obscure hobby, it's Britain.

The primary source of information on papercutting is the internet. There are a host of videos and tutorials and patterns to be had. Maybe someday I'll produce a list. But the internet is often too full and as Edina Monsoon once said, "I don't want more choice. I just want nicer things". So I practiced and drew (still not my strong point) and came up with reasonable solutions to getting designs onto paper so I can cut them out.

It often happens that I want some design on paper and then work backwards to figure out how to get it there, so I can cut it out. My latest and largest piece is an example of this. I first found a large heavy (90lbs) piece of paper (Bockingford Watercolour) I liked the texture of. Then I thought I'd try and draw out a huge map of Chicago. Because I was born there and spent formative years there it's one of my favorite test options for new projects. It also, pleasingly, has grids and points of intense detail.

As you can see I didn't quite draw out all the lines. I realized that I'd forgotten one part of Grant Park until well into the cutting. Navy Pier played an important part in this process since it anchors the whole right side to the frame.

I decided that on this project I would actually use a stopwatch to see how long it took me to design, draw, and cut.
 Long story short: 35 hours.

I'm particularly proud of these bits where I was trying out a few new ways of cutting to achieve better results. But I love how it all came out.

The View from Above

This is one of my favorite pieces: Roosevelt Island in New York City. I came upon this place quite by accident. I've been to NYC twice in my life, once in 2010 on my way from London to Chicago and once in July to meet my family and friends half-way between the two in 2013. I bought an MTA pass and wanted to go wandering. I wanted to see the HighLine and all manner of transport related things. I ended up accidentally seeing that there was a stop on an Island in the middle of the East River. 

What I love about this island is that it has a cable car (of the flying variety). You can see it next to the bridge. Check out that sky. 

The view from the cable car. It was me and a whole car full of Chassidic women and their charges. An authentic experience I think you call it.  

There's an old asylum on the Island, which adds a delightful gothic flair. 

I spent several hours walking the island and deeply enjoying the height of a glorious NY summer. In previous map cutting exercises with islands in rivers I usually just left the entire island white to signify a lack of roads at the scale of the rest of the map. However, that seemed disingenuous to the experience of the island. So I attempted to finely trace the edges of the island and then a few of the paths to give a sense of it as an accessible space.

One of the primary difficulties I have when I am drawing my lines for cutting is the shoreline. There are several different ways to approach this. It gets complicated when roads run right up to the edge as they often do in large cities. In this photo you can see that the large sections of white represent area that has no road but is not the river. This is sometimes convenient when there are parks or beaches, but in a place like Manhattan or London the roads run alongside and I have to determine how much space to give to maintain the character of what I'm cutting. In this case it turned out quite well. However, I'm likely to cut it differently again the next time because I dislike the thin line at the shore. In other pieces I've made the river boundary thin or made the river solid. This is what I mean when I talk about experimenting with representation and why I like to return to my designs and try something new.