Monday, November 21, 2011

On Papercutting

For a Relief Society (church) activity we had an "Unfinished Object" night over at my friend Jeanette's house. I obviously couldn't lug my enormous painting over there, and I was feeling conflicted about some crochet projects, so I decided to do some papercutting.  I made this as a gift for one of my Visiting Teachees, whose birthday is this week.  (Could be a bookmark or whatever--it's about six inches high.)   I combined some elements from this piece  (by Sara Burgess) with a "double happiness" character in the middle.  She served a mission in Taiwan, so I just thought that would be a fun touch.

I've done a lot of knife work, off and on.  (Lots of cut-out titles for scrapbook pages.)  I find it oddly relaxing, and it's always fun to see the bits of paper coming away and revealing the design. 

I usually do a graphite transfer to trace the image onto the paper (backwards, so the pencil marks are on the wrong side).

I like to cut on glass.  (The granite worked okay too, but I was happy to find my glass again.)  I know people who prefer to use self-healing mats, but I find that my knife blade kind of catches down in the mat and won't glide around those corners quite so easily. I also get a nicer edge on glass. (When I use a self-healing mat, the "lip" of the cut ends up bending the wrong way.)

I pull the knife towards me in little smooth surges, and sort of "walk" the paper around with the fingers of my left hand. One tip I've given people before is "Pretend you're a sewing machine." The cutting comes from the knife but all the turning comes from the paper.

Since I'm right handed, I like to have some light coming in from the left side so my hand doesn't cast a shadow right where I'm cutting.   I find that curves go much better if I cut them clockwise rather than counter-clockwise (maybe this would be reversed for lefties). If you watch me cut, I'm always turning the paper around different ways. It also helps to keep the paper big enough so that you've got something to hold onto while you're cutting, but not so big that it bumps into your arm when you turn it. 

A sharp blade makes a big difference.  I went through three blades on this.  (These snap-off style knives have a cap on the end that you can pull off and slip over the blade to snap it safely.)  I keep meaning to get an X-acto knife but I just haven't done it yet.  I like my metal craft knife just fine, but I might like an X-acto even better.


Heather T. said...

Wow, it's gorgeous--and thanks so much for the tips! Sounds like I really need to get a piece of glass to cut on--I find that with the mat, I often have tiny jaggedies that I don't like, too. Love my Xacto knife, though!

AmySo said...

Helena, your cutting set up looks exactly like & a snap-off knife. I think I've tried every cutting utensil known to scrapbookers but I always come back to the snap off---I think because the blade is shorter than on an Exacto-style, your fingers are shorter so you have more control. At any rate...I agree that it is therapeutic. Although, your cutting is much cleaner than mine! So pretty!

Amy B. said...

So very intricate. I love the little five petal flowers with the centers cut out. Now how did you get the border cut so perfectly? If I tried that mine would be off by at least 1/32" and it would drive me nuts. ;)

Helena said...

It's not completely even. ;)

scrapper al said...

Beautiful work!