Papercutting with Lou Taylor
Working with paper is such a wonderfully tactile and simple thing to do, writes illustrator Lou Taylor:
To start with a piece of paper and a knife and see where it leads you. I first started papercutting after seeing Rob Ryan’s beautiful papercuts a few years ago and I’ve loved seeing it grow in popularity ever since. Indeed there are two paper artists nominated in this year’s V&A Illustration Awards.
For inspiration, I often look to the past to see how other artists have used paper and there’s an incredibly rich history to be inspired by. As part of the upcoming papercutting workshops at Super+Super we’ll be looking at some of my favourite paper artists. Here are just a few to start inspiring you.
Mary Delaney (1700-88) is my first favourite. At the age of 72 (72! There’s hope for us all yet…) she started creating these beautifully detailed flowers from paper. Mary created over a thousand painfully detailed botanical paper mosaicks (sic) in the last ten years of her life. In the autumn of 1772, she wrote to her niece Mary Port: “I have invented a new way of imitating flowers”. With her eye for botanical detail she would cut minute pieces of coloured paper and stick them on a black background to represent each part of a specimen. You can see Mary’s collection of paper flowers at the British Museum.
Papercut by Mary Delaney
Moving onto a surprise paper artist, Hans Christian Andersen. Not only did he write fantastical fairytales such as The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, he also created his own papercuts to accompany them. According to the Royal Library in Copenhagen: ”When Andersen began to turn the coloured pieces of paper around the steady tips of his scissors, none of the children around the table knew what was going to happen. He liked to start by talking a little, and in doing so would incorporate an improvised fairy-tale relating to the theme or subjects of the paper-cut”. His papercutting technique is known as Scherenschnitte, used in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Translated from German it means ‘scissor cuts’ and involves folding paper into halves or quarters and snipping away with small sharp scissors to create symmetrical illustrations, love letters or Valentine’s Cards.
Papercut by Matisse
Moving into the Twentieth Century and to an artist perhaps better known for his painting, Matisse. Matisse began experimenting with the medium after an illness impaired his ability to paint, and it was cut paper that gave him a new sense of artistic freedom. In fact, he called it “painting with scissors” and created many wonderfully bright gouaches decoupages, including Jazz, a limited-edition book containing prints of his colourful paper cut collages, accompanied by his written thoughts. Matisse also used papercuts to design the stained-glass windows for the Chapelle du Rosaire.
My last two favourites lead us up to the present, Michael Roberts (aka Mr Snippy) and Rob Ryan. Mr Snippy created fashion illustrations from paper for Vanity Fair and Vogue in the 1990s and was adored by the likes of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington. I love his sense of humour and irony in his work and of course his use of colour. The simplicity in his work is perfect for his illustrations of Chanel, Burberry and McQueen. He often has a good snipe at the fashion crowd at the same time.
Which leads us back to where I began, with the work of Rob Ryan. His work certainly nods to the more traditional papercutting techniques, but the intricacy and goes way way beyond and seeing his work in real-life is breathtaking. It is instantly recognisable and imitated by many and I think he has to be credited with starting a whole new love affair with papercutting. I certainly have him to thank! And having done some work experience with Rob, I can tell you that he is as lovely as his papercuts.
If you would like to find out more about papercutting and try it for yourself, visit www.supersuperhq.com where over three Sundays (June 10, 17 and 24), I’ll be talking more abour my favourite paper artists as well as teaching you how to make your own intricate, colourful papercuts. We’ll create greetings cards, illustrations and even cover basic pop-up mechanisms if we have time. Places are limited so please e-mail email@example.com to book.