Tools of the Trade

Paper cuttings can be created with very simple tools…

The basic tools are scissors, knives, and pins.

Here are my favorites…


My fallback tools a vintage pair of Gingher scissors,
a rubber-coated Gordon craft knife with #11 X-Acto blades,
and an old-fashioned dressmaking pin.

Though sometimes I resort to a fancier hole-making method…


This cool hole punch makes the teensiest holes…
…and they are uniform with no frayed edges!

Scissors are really a matter of preference…


I have quite a collection!
(This just scratches the surface.)
I like to have a variety for people to try
out when teaching papercutting classes.
(Sounds like a good excuse for owning 100 pairs of scissors, huh?)

If you’re looking for a pair of scissors, check out surgical scissors,
nail scissors, embroidery scissors, and craft scissors.
Find a pair that feels good in your hands and that fit your fingers well.

There are several types of craft knives too…


The metal ones are super inexpensive, but a little uncomfortable
if you do lots of knife cutting. I use the knife a LOT,
so the rubber coated handle is a must-have for me.

A cutting mat is also helpful to cushion your table from knife scratches.
Any brand, any size… Just large enough for your finished piece to lay on.


I honestly think papercutting is one of the easiest crafts to gear up for.
You can usually begin with the scissors you have on hand,
and slowly search for the tools that work best for you.
For fun, you can peruse the cutting section of your local craft store…
punches, scissors, craft knives…
Lots of varieties to try out, and usually not too expensive!


Starting over… 31 Days of Paper Cuts

Did you ever have one of those projects that
you just folded up and stuck in a drawer?

I have a few.

There’s an afghan that my grandmother began and I was determined to finish. And those super cute 1980’s-style cross-stitched Christmas stockings for each member of the family. (They have their own families now.) There are numerous scrapbook albums. and there’s last year’s 31 Days of Reading Aloud project. There are probably quite a few more, but I’m just going to leave it at that.

I’m pretty much all about making a Fresh Start.

So here it is… Starting today…

31 Days of Paper Cuts!


Stop by this month for an occasional look into my studio, a bit of history on the art of paper cutting and the various styles, tips about tools and techniques, new stuff in the shop, and some freebie patterns so you can try your hand at paper cutting! Starting tomorrow, if you click on the 31 Days of Paper Cuts button, it will take you to a list of all the posts!


A “Slow Down” sort of Day…

Sometimes you just need one.

A “Slow Down” sort of day.

A day to just do the next thing without
rushing or running or going or fretting.

The past few weeks, I’ve been working on
a new series of prints about “Slowing Down”…

…About enjoying the simplest things in life instead of
dashing through them or rushing past them…

Slowing down long enough to Pick Some Flowers.


Slowing down long enough to Listen to the Birds.


Slow down long enough to Hand out the Wash.


What sort of things do YOU want to slow down and enjoy?

(They might just become a print!)

Photo by our daughter, Kate, of Corner Chair!

Photo by our daughter, Kate, of Corner Chair!

Adding a Little Value…

My Mom, my brother, and I had an impromptu thrifting adventure last week… They were in a second hand shop about ten minutes from home, and saw some things they thought I might like and called me to come check them out. So I did… Not quite what I needed, but we hopscotched down the highway to several other shops, and at the last shop I found something I wasn’t expecting to find, but definitely something I could use in the art room…


Sitting on an overflowing shelf were three “shapes,” a sphere, a pyramid, and a cube. Just what everyone needs, right? Well, immediately I knew what to do with them… They would be perfect hands-on thing-a-ma-jigs for art classes to help students learn to draw three-dimensional shapes. I’ve been wanting to buy a set for quite a while, but hadn’t gotten around to it, and here was a small set of three, for only $4! I didn’t know how heavy they were until we picked them up to carry them to the counter. Once I brought them home, I realized their intended purpose. The cube had the original tag from (insert famous brand store name) that said “Set of three paperweights… $58” Well! As you can see, we soon put them to their proper use while cutting backing paper for frames! Though I would have never paid $58 for three paperweights, it sure did feel good to know their value.

“Value” means “how much,” and in most cases we think about money or worth when we hear it. Value is also an element or building block of art and design. The last two weeks, we’ve been experimenting with Value in art class… the amount of lightness or darkness an object has. We discovered that extreme darks or heavy shadows can allow the light areas of a work of art to become focal points. And we played with making tints and shades by adding white or black to paint to create some interesting contrasts…


To add a bit more “Value” or “worth” to my Home is Where the Heart Is design, I played around with it by fancy-ing up the border. My favorite papercut border is a bit lacy or icy-looking, but it adds several hours to the cutting process, so I usually reserve it for “one-of-a-kind” paper cuts. But… if my new “assistant” can help with the snipping, I could add that border to the design! Sooo… I re-cut it!


What little things do you do to add value to your daily work?


If you missed my last post… There’s a Giveaway to sign up for…
Pop over and leave a comment!

Expanding a Design…

We’ve been filling quite a few special orders around here, and it’s been difficult for me to switch gears and get some new designs “up and going.” I find it hard to strike a balance between producing old designs and playing around with new ones… Either the former or the latter takes over, and something always falls between the cracks. However, the idea of “Home” has been consistently coming to the front of my foggy brain, and a new design has recently emerged…


I’ve been wanting to try cutting something larger with my brand new Silhouette Cameo, and this is the first cutting of this design that came “off the press,” so to speak! When I learned about the Cameo, I had mixed feelings. Something similar to how the lacemakers, weavers, and spinners must have felt when the Industrial Revolution hit and factories began making in a few moments what took them hours, or even days to create. Watching that amazing machine cut away at paper had me and my entire family standing there in awe… And in my mind I was thinking “I’ve just been downsized!”

But then I tried to look at the other side of the coin.

I’ve been cutting paper for almost a quarter of a century. Every day. I love it, but must admit that I often fuss about how my eyes hurt now when I push them beyond their daily limit, and  grumble about a sore arm and neck when I’ve been doing lots of papercutting. Maybe it WAS time to take on an assistant. So, during the rest of March, I’m going to play around with this design, exploring the many ways that it can be expanded into products… and hopefully make the best use of technology in the process. Stay tuned!

And… A Giveaway!

The above electronically-cut papercutting
Home is Where the Heart Is
(Mounted on Lime card stock, Fits an 8″ x 10″ frame)
will be given away at the end of this month!

Leave a comment on this post to enter…

…You can include ideas for ways to expand this design if you’d like…

… And we’ll have a drawing on March 31st to determine the winner!

How do I love thee?

Are you getting geared up for Valentine’s Day?


I didn’t realize it, but over the past year I’ve been decorating our new
hand-me-down bedroom with some really sweet memories!


I didn’t want to “over do” the decorating,
or just quickly fill the room with a lot of “things,”
but as special little treasures caught my heart
I tucked them in our room, sort of here and there…


Some have a REALLY special place in my heart,
like this tiny little painted rock…


…which I got for my 12th birthday…

…from Guess Who?



Sometimes a little trinket like my rock will be
tucked away in a box or drawer for many years.

Or maybe a special card will be saved…


We just added a few new designs to our shop…


…Just in case you haven’t found the perfect card yet for your Valentine!


Better Late Than Never?

Hubby and I have been squeezing in lots of frame-making and art-making time this past week! I’ve had a couple of special orders that HAD to get in the mail… one is on its way, and the other should go out tomorrow! That is cause for rejoicing! I LOVE it when I can turn “To Do’s” into “Did Its!”

Anyway… short blog post today… but I just wanted to let you know that I got those Valentine papercuttings up on the Shop today! After lots of scanning and uploading, they are finally online. And if I keep on “Did-It-ing” this week, we can get them to folks by Valentine’s Day!

Here are some of them…

Sweet Rembrances

And here are the tiny versions…
…The Mini Page needed some serious housekeeping!

Miniature Papercuttings

And even put some on Etsy!
Our shop there has been empty for some time…
Maybe this will revive it.

Unmerited Favor…

Sometimes a word can become so familiar to us that we forget its actual meaning.

Or the depth of its meaning.

Like Grace.

Grace is not just a little singsong ditty we teach our children to say before meals. Or even the prayer of an eloquent adult. As a matter of fact, you have to go all the way down to definition #19 in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to find that definition of Grace. However, if you look at the first few definitions that Mr. Webster assigned to his entry for Grace, it’s a rather meaning-full word:


1. Favor; goodwill; kindess

2. Appropriately, the free and unmerited favor of God,
the spring and source of all the
 men recieve from Him.

3. Favorable influence of God;
divine influence or the influence of the Spirit
in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.

4. The application of Christ’s righteousness
to the sinner.

5. A state of reconciliation to God.

I was speaking to a customer at our last show while I was working on this papercutting. Her church had been doing an extensive study on Grace, and she commented on how we need to relearn the meaning of words like Grace from time to time. It seems nearly everywhere you look… on blogs, in bookstores, in artwork, in sermons… Grace is a popular theme, and people are getting excited about it as it begins to take on more significant meaning in their lives.

About two hundred years ago, a man named John Newton discovered the real, true meaning of Grace. Having been the captain of a slave ship, Newton experienced a spiritual conversion and soon gave up his career on the sea to follow the Lord. Convicted by his past, he penned the words to probably our most well-known hymn…

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind,  but now I see.

Grace… It’s free.

All we have to do is accept it.

This week…

This past week, I worked on a couple of Really Tiny Papercuts.

3″ x 4″


Staining them always makes them curl a bit,
but an iron fixes that easily.
I’d say we iron more paper than fabric at our house,
but Kate sews, so that may not be true.

Then out came the paint…
…and on went North and South.
Excellent movie to paint by.

I usually paint at our coffee table while “watching” a movie,
sitting on a stool meant for little kids.


A tiny detail… about 1 & 1/2 ” Square!

And in the frame…

No Greater Love…
The Pelican plucking its breast to feed its young.

Strange icon for our modern eyes…
but it’s found in early American Christian folk art,
symbolizing Christ’s self-sacrifice.

And you’ll recognize this one…

The Fall…

Traditional Adam and Eve.

Took a bit of artistic liberty
and gave them leafy coverings ahead of time.

I’ve been known to give
Michelangelo’s David
a Post-It Note toga.

Which caused quite a stir among my
12-14 year-old art students.


Preserving the snow…

Some folks save snowballs in the freezer (really, I know a few!), and some folks take pictures, but we got out the scissors and started snipping! In honor of the Double Blizzard of 2010, this papercutting went into a frame this morning…

Paper Blizzard
9 & 3/4″ Square, Outside Framed Edges
$115, plus $10 shipping

So far, it’s a “one of a kind.” Those snowflakes are buggers to paint… the white gouache is thick, and tends to stick the papercutting to the painting surface. I had to keep lifting the soggy snowflake tips off the surface as I moved on to the next flake to keep it from sticking permanently! Hubby was outside fighting snowflakes, and I was inside fighting them!

Here’s a glimpse out the back door after the blizzard was finally over… thought my California girl would like to see it…

And a glimpse of where Kate and I hibernated… it got a little too cozy at times, but the art room was too cold to stay in there for long!

And before I go… take a peek at these two unexpected visitors to our yard…

A killdeer running along the ditch bank! It’s a little too early for her to nest!

And a very cautious deer peeking through the cedar tree at us! She stood by the pond for several minutes watching the cars go by, and then ventured into the front yard.

Hope you all have a happy Valentine’s Day!