Back to basics

wedding kiss
Kissing in a Tree was bought by a customer for her daughter. I know where most of my handcuts have ended up – well, they’re like my babies!

Well the glorious weather was wonderful while it lasted but today the clouds are back which means its out of the garden and back into the studio. Although I love the day job its actually quite nice to take a break from it and do something different. Working from home has lots of benefits but it can also get you stuck in the same old habits and routines and personally I feel it does me good to shake things up a bit. Recently I think those bad habits have appeared in my work so this year the plan is to take a break from the lasercut designs and trying to think up ideas that stockists might like (and be able to afford) and go back to doing more of what I started with – one off handcut designs. I’ll sell less for sure but maybe less really is more.

Handcuts are my favourite way to work. In one way its simple – draw the design, cut it by hand and that’s it. But as ever things are never quite that straightforward. Handcuts can be tricky not just because you’re cutting them out yourself, they also have to stand up better as a design that works. Because most of mine are usually larger and more detailed than my machine cut designs, they take longer to plan and draw out and because I’m investing more time in producing them I have to really really like the design if I’m going to go to the trouble of cutting it out and then framing it.

The upside to all that is that handcuts allow me huge freedom to let my imagination run riot. I can choose the paper colour I want and I can choose the style and subject. Although I like to think my designs have a style that’s recognisably mine I nevertheless like to try out different styles. I think my favourites are the ones with people in them, the ones that use words or that are slightly quirky – like the Kissing one featured above or this one below which features lines from a poem by Robert Frost. Its probably not a coincidence that both these (which I really loved) were snapped up by buyers within a few days of going on sale.

framed winter hare 2
Sharp is the Night was bought by a good friend who has at least six of my papercuts up on her walls – she’s quite a collector.

Which leads me to think that the most important thing about making or creating is that you have to love what you do. The past two years I’ve deliberately moved away from doing the things I loved to focus more on building up a business that provides artwork at the right price for customers. Up to a point it works but if I’m honest I don’t think that’s the best way of working for me. Like a lot of artists I work best if I’m allowed free reign to please myself and make things that inspire me. Papercuts, by their nature, aren’t things that you need to buy or even renew on a regular basis like cushions or scarves. They’re a luxury, a delicate thing of beauty, a frivolous things that really you should only buy because it gives you pleasure and you love it.

Accepting that and deciding not to compromise what I do for the sake of being massively successful means I will never make my fortune from papercutting but this year I’ve decided that’s fine. I am full of admiration for those artists and makers who can build a proper full-time business from their craft. Its a really tough task and takes huge amounts of self-control and effort. I’m not sure if handcuts are compatible with that sort of work but for now at least that’s fine by me. I’m happy to be returning to the process that first got me interested in this exciting artform. And I will at least have lots of fun doing something I love.

Love & Laughter, above, is a handcut that ironically became one of my best selling lasercut designs. I work with a great cutter so its quite hard to tell the original from the copy – but I know the difference (well of course, I can see all the mistakes..ha ha)


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