Paper Cuts: Amateur's Cut

hamzberg | 24 July 2023 | 5 minute read

So it all started at a yard sale.

Unexpected Discovery

This was a while ago but it stuck with me. My neighbors were an old couple moving out. They had hired a company to faciliate the yard sale for them and had set up the house like a shop. Among the usual kitchens pots, old phones, and one or two old dolls, was something I had never seen before. I didn't expect to see it either. I saw a poster of some anime girl in a chibi style. It was just her smiling with peace sign. Some Japanese text accompanied her, but I didn't know what it said. Regardless, upon closer inspection, I noticed it wasn't drawn. It was cut out of paper.

This was fascinating to me. I had never thought of using paper as the drawing medium, just as the canvas. I thought about buying it, but I had no interest in the subject. I solely curious about the technique.

I left for home that day with that picture stuck in my head. It was novel. Paper as ink. I never thought to flip the script like that.

The Start of the Paper Trail

I didn't immediately start researching, but a few months later I was buying materials to try it out. I tend to be very hands on, so I wanted a first-hand account of the process.

I didn't get very far. It was foolish. I was in the middle of a college semester and thought I would somehow have time on top of studying. So the materials just sat on the shelf.

I didn't do anything with them. Collecting dust, and becoming forgotten.

That is until now.

Paper as Ink

Artwork made of paper depicting simple faces in a web.

Typically, this art is done with scissors. I had ordered a pair tailored for this craft, but my father took them a while back and has been using them to cut his hair since. Much appreciated, dad.

Instead, I used an X-acto knife to cut out pieces. I had some experience with this tool. Seven years ago, I was an avid fan of making things with Duct-Tape. Although my creativity languished the further I went on as I remember. The last thing I made out of Duct-Tape was a flyswatter that used an ungodly amount of tape to construct. It was bad.

Anyway, the pieces were glued together using a typical Elmer's glue stick. This type of glue isn't advisable, according to some article I recall reading. I actually do have the glue intended for these kind of projects, but it takes twenty-four hours to cure. I wasn't going to wait that long. This was more so to learn the basics.

What was Learned

The first thing I learned was before I even began cutting the paper. I had to make a plan. Sounds pretty obvious, but I didn't spend as much time as I should have on this step. I did make sketches of a few elements I wanted, but none of them made it into the final artwork. I just had this idea and wanted to run with it. It definitely would have improved had I made some scribble of it before. Alas, blueprints be damned.

The second piece of knowledge gained was organization. Cutting all these pieces essentially turned into a puzzle. I only labeled when necessary, which wasn't enough. This lead to me gluing the wrong side occasionally. I had to remake one piece as a result. That was great. Though, of what was deemed necessary, I wrote a number on the back and matched it to the corresponding piece.

Finally, I recommend documenting the process. I find this one particularly ironic since I had just finished a college course all about how to document work, but I just skipped over it. As I'm writing this, I wish I had some pictures and in-action thoughts regarding my progress. Granted, it's not an exciting step. I was wrapped up in wanting to see it come along and didn't want to stop.

The Paper Crinkles

If anything of myself I've learned through this project, it's that I need to be more patient. I was excited. I wanted to see my idea. I wasn't concerned with the outcome because I loved the process. But, I didn't leave in the time to record my findings. All of this chatter is in post. That's fantastic to say though. I really like this medium. I look forward to improving my paper cuts for smoother shapes and smaller details.

Going Forward

This is just Act One of my endeavors. In future posts, I want to discuss utilizing printing techniques to make custom stamps. I think adding ink would make a lovely addition. I also want to go over the history of Paper-cutting, from its start in China as Jianzhi, to Germany as Scherenschnitte, to now in the United States as Paper-cutting.

Until then, I have this mess of glue and scraps to clean up.


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