Debra’s Paper Cutting Journey

Paper cutting is an art form with a long tradition around the world. Paper cuts were first made in the country that invented the skills for making paper, China. This artform is distinct from other paper crafts. Traditionally, designs are cut from a single sheet of paper as oppose to adjoining sheets as with collage. Some artists use scissors as world renown paper cutters Karen Bit Vejle. Others, like Beatrice Coron and Debra use a craft knife

Debra began doing paper cut as many American children do. She started in elementary school cutting paper snowflakes during the Winter holidays. It wasn’t until recently that she took this art form to a higher level. For an All Saints celebration at her church, she create this 4 X 10′ piece. Nothing like starting out with a big challenge. With the success of this, the game was on!

Looking in her studio for paper to use, she salvaged a round piece of butcher paper. She folded it as if she was going to cut a giant snowflake. First she cut away large shapes. Then she unfold it and started drawing elements that make up this garden, mandala design. Debra was trying to see how far she could push the material without out it sagging and misshaping. She also found that spray painting the paper black hid all her sketch lines, so much easier than erasing.

This design has a 36″ diameter

Her next creation was design for a Day of the Dead show held at a local art gallery. The design borrows motifs from Mexican paper cut designs, known as papel picado. You can find skeletons, the skull, foral images, and a common Mexican grid patterns in this design. The tissue paper flowers at the top makes it even more evocative of the Mexican style.

Many people ask Debra how long it takes to cut one of these designs. She has found that most take a few hours to a week. Her most ambitious piece, Zooming Church, took over four months. It is a rather meditative process where she can spend an hour or two before she takes a break.

While paper is stronger than most people think, Debra still has to stay aware of anything that could snag and tear the paper. She actually crushed and severely tore a piece. Since the tear added to the concept, she tore it more, ironed it, and continued cutting.

Here’s the finished piece after it had been spray painted. You can find out more about this piece by clicking here.

Common supplies used in paper cutting; self-healing cutting board and craft knife, also called a scalpel
This piece is 3 X 11 feet