Papercut Artists - By Charlies Hand0
One of the wonderful things about selling paper and card is that we get to see the beautiful work people create with it. Charlie Trimm uses our card to make stunning papercuts! In this interview, she tells us all about her work, inspiration and how you can get started with papercutting yourself.
How did you get started with papercutting
I started papercutting in 2010, I was a recent Fine Art graduate with little opportunity for any arts-based jobs in the area in which I live but still wanted to keep my finger in the art pie. I had been a painter during my degree but after moving back home and no longer having access to a lovely studio in which I could get messy throwing paint around in I had to figure out if there was something else I could do that would fill that creative gap in my life. I had loved Rob Ryan’s work for many years and thought I could perhaps give papercutting a go. Fortunately, my parents had a scalpel stashed away and sat at my parent's kitchen table I cut some very wobbly and jagged holes in some paper and I fell in love with the whole process. It was perfect for my circumstances except for the fact that I had to clear my work away each evening for dinner!
When did you start selling your work and have you found it hard to build up a business as a papercut artist?
I started selling seriously from early 2012 onwards, I made a few pieces for friends and family and I had set up a Facebook page for my work just to separate it from my personal profile so I didn’t keep annoying people with my terrible first attempts at cutting so they could choose to like my page if they did want to see what I was up to. Then I started getting likes from people I didn’t know and then enquiries asking if I could make something for them. I had a part time job in retail but it became more and more apparent that I could potentially make a living from papercutting, and also due to some losses in my family, I made the decision to quit my job and give By Charlie’s Hand a shot and 5 years on it’s been the best decision I ever made. It hasn’t always been easy, self-employment is sometimes quite a hard slog as you are everything from top dog to the cleaner but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Building a collection of work and products takes a lot of time and effort and not having anyone else to pick up the slack can be difficult as if you are ill or having life throw you a curve ball that means you can’t work you then have to double up your efforts to catch up. Most of the time though it has been so much fun and knowing that I make work that people love, enjoy seeing and want to own is very rewarding and makes it worthwhile. I get to do what I love every single day which is something not very many people are lucky to do.
Could you tell us a bit about your style of paper cutting and your creative process?
I have quite a distinct style of paper cutting all my pieces are hand drawn and cut by hand hence the name ‘By Charlie’s Hand' and I feel this makes my work different to some other paper cutters who computer design as I don’t use pre-made vectors or images in my work.
I use a lot of symmetry and repetitive patterns and have some favourites which I try to include in each piece. I also have my own rainbow colour palette which features heavily in most of my pieces and has become a bit of a trademark for me. I get a lot of my inspiration from nature and I love making work that is based on animals, especially birds, and plants. I'm very much influenced by the beautiful Welsh countryside in which I live.
I have a little notebook that I jot ideas down in, even just a single word and refer to that if I am thinking of what I can make next. I will then have a scribble to begin to form the basic shapes, and say I am working on an animal I will look at images of that animal for reference and to understand how the head/body/arms/legs/features will be in proportion to each other, how they move etc so I can create an accurate representation of it even if it’s then going to be filled with patterns the shape will be correct and recognisable as that creature.
I will then refine this shape and once I am happy with it I will create copies of the outline and then start to add details to it and rework it adding and changing elements until I am happy with the design, then using tracing paper I copy it onto the paper I use to cut and then let my scalpel work it’s magic!
If I am adding colour I will either make a background using inks/watercolour such as in my Rainbow Mandala and Rainbow Saturn pieces, or add it using plain papers, including several from Papermill Direct, cut the shape and then attach these to the back of the papercut using small dots of glue applied with a cocktail stick. This can often be the most laborious and time intensive aspect of the piece even though main cutting can take 24+ hours the colour additions can take twice as long again especially when there are lots of small and complex shapes.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on pieces to be included in my 2018 calendar. I recently finished my Rainbow Saturn which is made up of thousands of tiny stars and dots surrounding the planet and have several others on the go including an Octopus, Squirrel, Narwhal, Hourglass, British Birds and a Polar Bear! I also work on commissions and am making family trees, a bear, a lion and am picking up other things such as colouring books, prints and illustrations to send off to new homes.
What kit do you need to get started as a paper cutter?
It’s very simple to get started with paper cutting, all you need is a scalpel, cutting mat, paper, spare blades and lots of patience! Other things that might come in handy are a metal ruler for cutting straight edges, a paper piercer and plasters, I use these to wrap my scalpel to cushion it rather than because I cut myself but they are handy if an accident does happen! I would try and work on a solid table/desk surface and just keep at it. It does take a lot of patience and time to get good at papercutting, I often have people say ‘oh I wish I was as good as you’ but it’s taken 6+ years of papercutting nearly every day to get where I am so I would just take your time and practice lots. I would advise on some good quality paper anything 100-160gsm is a good guide, it’s a personal preference but a good quality paper will give better results.
Do you have any advice for someone who has never tried it before? Are there any good tutorials or places to find templates?
Just give it a go, it’s a really easy skill to pick up, difficult to master but it is very addictive and enjoyable. There are loads of templates and starter kits available on places like Folksy and Etsy, I am a member of several papercutting groups on Facebook which are full of like-minded and enthusiastic papercutters from hobbyist to professional and are bursting with help and advice.
Be very careful with scalpel blades they are super sharp and trust me it hurts when you cut yourself with one, but also have lots of them spare as paper blunts them like nobodies business. It is much easier to cut with a sharp blade than a blunt one and you will get a cleaner and better cut with it.
I have a papercutting starter kit available that includes all you would need to papercut, a mat, scalpel handle, spare blades, a practice cutting sheet and 6 pre-printed templates and backing papers so you can jump right into cutting and create some lovely designs to hang on your walls or gift to friends and family. I am also going to run online tutorial sessions to accompany these and have several videos on my Facebook page where you can watch me cutting and I chat about what I am doing and during Live videos I answer questions about my work so you can catch me doing all sorts.
I also run papercutting workshops at a local arts centre in Cwmbran so you can come along and learn from me directly so I pass on all my secret hints, tips and advice and guide you from first cut to finished piece! I try to be as encouraging as possible, you think that’s a wobbly, 50 pence shaped circle, I see it as progress because 5 minutes ago you had never touched a scalpel in your life! It’s an all day workshop for £65 and includes all the tools and materials, which you get to keep at the end to carry on the fun at home. All that plus tea, coffee and yummy homemade cake in a beautiful venue in the heart of Wales! The next one will be on the 3rd of June and it’s a really fun day, I’ve had a blast teaching and every person who has attended has started the day with little to no experience and at the end has some away with a completed papercut and the knowledge that they can do even more and usually there’s cake to take home too and I’ve had people attend from right across the UK which is so fantastic.
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