Now it can be told: papercutting

In the months leading up to Christmas, I talked about my Sooooper Seeekrit Project here and there. I wanted to surprise the friends and family I spend Christmas with, and “yours is this variation” seemed less surprising than “guess what I’ve been doing.” But now there’s only one not yet delivered of my first batch, and I’m going to make more for people but don’t want to keep it secret indefinitely, so I’m going to go ahead and blather about it: what I’ve been up to is papercutting.*

This started when I was blue about not getting to do my Scandinavian Woodcarving class. I kept trying to think of other fun things I could do, and stuff like “the concerts we already have tickets for” and “maybe we can go to a Gopher Women’s Hockey game” sounded good but was not the same sort of thing. Not scratching the same itch. What I really needed was to make something I could touch with my hands. Ideally through ostensibly destructive means. Right? You cut the crap out of some poor defenseless block of wood, and suddenly you have a goat. Or a sailor or a gnome or a bunny or a status of your son the PhD candidate, judging from the other people in my former woodcarving class. I, too, wanted to cut the crap out of something! Just not, y’know, my finger again. That part was not great.**

And then! I realized! Years of loving paperdolls had fitted me for cutting the crap out of things and ending up with something cool. That is my wheelhouse. That is my bailiwick.

First problem: I overestimated the cool papercutting templates out there. I started out thinking of this as something I would just do from other people’s templates. It turns out that despite the amount of messing with paper scrapbookers do, they don’t really want to cut intricate silhouettes of cool stuff all that often. There was, for example, no octopus template. There was no giraffe template. There was no template with a castle that said, “Have fun storming the castle.”

Well. There is now. So yeah…there are still some cool templates I’m cutting from other people’s designs, but I moved into making my own almost immediately. Lots of trees, for little things. And then other stuff, sea turtles, kittens, Daleks, lots of word-lace…so that part is fun. And it was completely unexpected. I think of myself as unable to draw, is part of it, when it turns out I’m pretty okay for the purposes of silhouette, and the other part is that I overestimated how eternal scherenschnitte and similar crafts would be–not that many people are doing it just now, and craft stores are full of scrapbooking and knitting/crocheting and quilting. And that’s about it.

Second problem: my trusty scissors can only do so much. Here is where the scrapbookers had my back. So I bought myself a little xacto-style knife but with a short looped handle and a blade cover. Because see above re: my finger. I also bought myself a cutting mat. It is pink. Pink is the only color they had, so pink it was. And at that point I was in the craft store buying stuff, and so I bought a fine-tipped Martha Stewart brand glue pen. (Ultra-fine-tipped. Seriously.) This last purchase was not greatly successful; it works beautifully at first but stops being, well, gluey, very very quickly. So we are still working on how to mount these things.

But I got everything done for Christmas, and I have plans to make things for some of you, and also! Also there is a new plan! And the new plan is this: I will take a continuing ed course called Conceptual Cartography, about maps as art, and I will do a papercutting mythic map of Iceland, with the different places different things happened in the sagas symbolized appropriately. (Or, y’know, inappropriately. It being Iceland and all.) And I will take pictures and yay. Yay, yay, yay.

*Well, and I wrote chapters of a thing to surprise Tim with, since he knew about the papercutting–I was doing it while Mark was out of town, but I couldn’t really get enough of a head start to get it all done in weird morning hours while keeping it secret from Tim. So he knew. But I didn’t think it was right that everyone else should get a surprise and not him, so I wrote the beginning of a thing. Surprise!

**It has finally stopped hurting when I press on the skin of that knuckle, but it can still ache when it gets reeeeeally cold. Progress.