In this week's crafting post, I want to reflect on the progress I made throughout the last year on a new skill I decided to learn. That skill is papercutting. I've gone back through photos of my experiments and pulled out some of my favourite projects and I'm going to share the tale of how I got on. So here we go!
A year ago I ordered myself a craft knife and determined to learn the art of papercutting. Up until that point, I had been pretty handy with a pair of scissors but found that they just didn't have the necessary dexterity when it came to snipping out the tiniest details. I love to use papercuts when I'm scrapbooking, particularly as titles or design features, so I decided that I would have to just grasp the nettle, order a craft knife, learn how to use it, and keep my fingers very firmly out of the way.
This was a cheap new hobby to take up. A bit of research (as in, I googled it) showed that while you can spend a lot of money on a knife if you want to, you really don't have to. I figured as a beginner who'd never tried papercutting, this wouldn't really be money well spent, especially if I ended up hating it. So I bought a knife with a variety of interchangeable blades on Amazon along with a cutting mat large enough for a 12 x 12 sheet of cardstock. This is the knife I bought (linked here); it set me back a whopping £6.95.
The rest, as it turns out, is practise. This was confirmed to me pretty quickly by YouTube; I set out to watch a how-to video I found and there really is no secret. You have to be prepared to draw out your design and then very carefully cut it out.
I jumped in with words and small shapes and initially the blade felt a little awkward in my hands. Getting a smooth curve was challenging and I cut several supposed-curves that are really a series of straight lines, carved out in fits and scratches.
But practise really does make improvement (perfect still seems a little way off but that's fine!) and eventually I found a way to apply an even pressure to the blade and to cut out curves that actually look like curves.
The choice of paper to cut from is also important, it turns out. I found it easier to cut shapes out of cardstock as paper tends to slip around more, or tear if I don't have the blade angled properly. Card however has a satisfying bite and gives me a clear edge, and actually it's what I would use for scrapbooking anyway.
And so I continued to practise. Initially, I missed my scissors. My little scissors that cut where I pointed them and snipped out smooth curves when I told them to.
But gradually minutes of practice turned into hours and I found that I could cut out finer, more intricate letters with a blade than I could with scissors. Not having to hold the card in my hands while I cut gave more fragile designs stability; being laid out securely on the mat didn't put stress on the weaker points of the design and the results were cleaner, clearer. It took a long time to start with but I think now it doesn't take me any longer than a pair of scissors. And working on a papercut is quite relaxing, tracing out the lines with the tip of the blade is almost meditative, and a great thing to do in front of the telly.
Most important of all, I loved the results. Even as I was still getting to grips with it, I could see the potential of papercutting. If I kept practising, I would be able to cut out designs which were even more intricate, delicate and lacy. It was an exciting prospect.
I'm now at a point where I can comfortably cut out my words or a little design for a scrapbook page, and I now consider it to be part of my process. I love making titles in particular: the effect of a white, papercut title on a white background is classic, and I think quite expensive-looking. While it takes a bit of time, it certainly saves a lot of money on letter stickers and means that I never run out of letters. I can design exactly the shape, size and script that I like.
I think this technique is here to stay for me. It has been completely worth the time investment and then some. And it is worth more practice too. I want to make things that are even more complex, detailed, beautiful. I'm looking forward to learning!
PS. One project I would like to crack on with is making a large papercut to frame and put on the wall. I have a few ideas for designs so need to get sketching!