Janina Maher is one of our new tutors at Ardington. An international water skiing champion in her other life, Janina has achieved instant popularity with our students who rave over her patience, detailed knowledge and their ability to create some really beautiful work in her workshops.
Janina’s most recent workshop saw students making up two large pieces of ‘vegetarian leather’ to use to cover their hand-made books. This is actually made from curing strong brown paper, building-in texture through crumpling and soaking, colouring it with special inks and then finishing the whole ‘skin’ with an acrylic wax. The effect was a luscious mock leather which was really strong; students made enough to cover several books. To see all the different coloured results hanging up to dry in the Back Workshop was a feast for the eyes. Muted reds, browns, greens, greys, blues – gorgeous! And no animals were harmed in the making process.
Christine Green, a tutor at Ardington School of Crafts, began her recent papercutting workshop by introducing her students to some wonderful descriptions of the multiple worldly influences in the art of paper cutting. From Polish paper cutters who use sheep shears, to laser cutting in schools and then to Haitian steel drum designs – we saw them all. Christine just happens to be super interested in the different vernacular that people use to make designs. ‘Cut-out things’ really appeal to her graphic designer mindset. They are clean, the lines are strong, and the design has to work. She also likes the hand-made artisan quality you get with paper cuts. The O’s aren’t always perfect – and that's just fine!
Simple and Accessible
The low cost and accessibility of papercutting as a hobby are also a bonus – anyone can do this at home with minimal equipment and mess. And while sophisticated laser cutters are now freely available in schools, kids won’t necessarily be cutting but they are moving straight into designing. They will have an understanding of the design process from an early age, but it won’t be as authentic as hands on papercutting. Christine argued that papercutting is akin to the William Morris reaction to the Industrial Revolution. People began to realise that there is no authenticity in miles of printed wallpaper and clamoured for the artisan style of production. Papercutting is very William Morris - creative, simple, beautiful.
What are the basic tools?
A surgical Swann Morton blade, exactly the same as used in surgery is a must. You may use three or four blades in a day, using the very tip of the blade to make neat, precise cuts which is what will wear them out. Craft knives are just too chunky to get the finesse of the line on the paper. Invest in blade type 10a with a number 3 handle. And that’s it for tools – unless you fancy the sheep shears option that is.