Monday, 1 October 2012

Book Review: The Crafter's Guide to Papercutting

The Crafter’s Guide to Papercutting
Emily Hogarth
Search Press
ISBN – 13: 978-1-84448-895-7
Paperback £12.99
September 2012

Artist Emily Hogarth has written the right craft book at the right time. The craft of papercutting is having a moment – note the well-deserved mainstream mega-popularity of papercut artist Rob Ryan. Why? Papercutting is a craft for hard times. With just a cutting implement and a piece of paper, you can create a thing of beauty. Plus, papercuts have an irresistible graphic appeal.

This is a well-thought-out and beautifully produced book that has a usefulness beyond its lovely projects. The book begins with a whirlwind, worldwide illustrated history of papercutting and continues with a how-to guide for novices. There are tips on tools and materials, notes about paper choice, cutting advice for scissors or craft knife, info on how to transfer design to paper, single and multifold designs, layering and multicutting. Beyond the basics, the chapter on designing papercuts is chock full of practical advice and presents material I haven’t seen before - such as how to get your head around backwards papercutting patterns (they are copied reversed onto the flip side of the paper).  There’s also a section about the importance of positive and negative design elements, which is the nitty-gritty of papercutting.

Emily Hogarth’s projects, which have heaps of personality and playfulness, form the core of the book. The projects have a contemporary feel, while taking on board traditional papercutting styles. Emily came to papercutting via her textile studies – cutting stencils for silkscreen printing. You can see that the project designs have the eye of a textile artist – they have plenty of flow and movement. 

Best of all, Emily has thought outside the box for her projects, not limiting her ideas to the usual 2-D cards and silhouettes. There are lots of 3-D and layered projects, and several projects make use of double-sided paper (a simple, but show-stopping trick).  (The Accordion-Fold Garden Card makes superb use of double-sided paper.) Other projects include a Flying Bird Mobile, a Shadow Puppet Theatre (the puppets have articulated joints), and some sweet cupcake wraps with cake pokes (simple, but effective – do-able in quantity). The zig-zag fold NYC skyline has wow factor, yet is achievable by relative newcomers to the craft. Nice. 
Each project has a step-by-step photo tutorial. A handy feature is the “Take Special Care” corner, which flags potential tricky spots.

The back of the book consists of a template section. The brave can actually cut up the book. The timid and the reverent can photocopy or trace the designs. A nice feature: there are more templates than projects in the book. The “extras” refer you to similar projects in the book for how-to guidance.

My thoughts on Man vs. Machine:  I am a keen advocate of digital papercutting. I couldn’t let a day go by without crafting on my new best friend, my Silhouette Cameo machine. But I still believe that there is a place for handcrafted papercutting. Like the e-book/real book kerfuffle – no need to choose – there’s a place for both. Handcrafted papercuts retain a charm and personality – the maker’s hand is precious. Digital papercutting enables the crafter to create amazingly ambitious papercut projects quickly.

Digital papercrafters will find lots in Emily Hogarth’s book that applies to their craft. Many of the design concepts - such as positive/negative and layering - apply to both hand-cut and machine-cut papercraft designs.  And Emily’s beautiful designs can supply inspiration.