Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Spotlight on: Joe Bagley of PapercutsByJoe

A few months ago, I attempted to get into the art of papercutting.  I thought it fit in with the simple silhouettes I love to draw and paint, but I found I just don't have the patience for the incredibly artistry and intricacy involved in snipping away so carefully at paper (to make truly beautiful papercuts, one has to practically have the steadiness of a surgeon).  Joe Bagley, a twenty-six year old Boston native and proprietor of Papercuts By Joe, does have that skill and tons of it.  (He's and his wife are also archaeologists, which is just downright cool in my book.  Then again, so is papercutting).

Ibis Hand-cut Paper Silhouette

Tell us three random things about yourself.
I recently convinced myself that I like blue cheese, I desperately want a dog (but our aparment forbids them), and I play the fiddle.

Papercutting is an art that has it's roots in a lot of different cultures, from China to Mexico. How did you get into it? I first started cutting stencil designs when I was 10 during a summer art program for kids. I then copied designs from a book on paper art and crafts that my mom had. By 20, I started making my own designs using my photos as references, and developed my own style. I actually did not know about the regional styles until a few years ago when I started researching the history of my art and collecting books on it.

What’s your favorite piece you've made? Why?
My favorite piece is called Flour and Grain. It combines everything I like, impossible detail, stone texture, challenging patterns, and a bit of branch designs. The piece was purchased by the owner of the building and it now hangs on their office wall in the building.

You have cut everything from shapes of islands to squid to couples on bicycles. What makes you decide you want to cut something? I go through phases. I started with people and bikes, then did a bunch of map designs, and lately I've been doing a late 19th century anatomical/wildlife drawing approach. Fortunately, what I'm interested has sold well, so I just keep doing designs I think are good, and hope people agree.

Tall Ship Hand-cut Paper Silhouette

Name one piece of art you wish you’d created and why?
I wish I had made the "Bean" in downtown Chicago. When I was about 15, I had a half-asleep mental image of a gallery full of fancy mirrors where the glass was dripping and pooling out of the frame and making blobs on the gallery floor. I've been wanting to create a series of polished chrome framed drippy mirrors since, and the Bean would fit in well with that.

What are you doing when you’re not crafting?
I'm working on archaeological digs! I work for a company that does archaeological survey before major construction projects, then document, excavate, and publish important archaeological sites in New England before their history is destroyed.

If you had to give up papercutting and pursue another medium, what would it be and why?
I've always wanted to draw like the old masters (DaVinci, Verrocchio, etc).

Tell us about a time you were making something that came out better than expected and how it happened. I tend to work extremely close to the piece, especially in areas with lots of tiny detail. Because of this, I don't always get to see the overall effect of the piece unti it's done. I think Bass Harbor is a good example of it. I thought it was a good design, and I enjoyed working on it, but it wasn't until I had framed it and looked at it from across the room that I was like "wow, that came out good!"

Bass Harbor Hand-cut Paper Art

Who is one person living or dead, famous or not, who you wish owned one of your creations and why? I would be beyond honored if Tord Boontje or Peter Callesen purchased one of my pieces. They are major paper artists that I really admire.

How would you explain how to do what you do to an eight year old?
The same way I say to everyone else: I take a piece of black paper and cut lots of holes in it. Being humble is a very good thing.

What’s your favorite part of the process?
Cutting the last piece and holding the finished design up to see how it looks finished.

One random thing you think people should know.
My paper is actually white paper with one side painted matte-black. In other words, if you peeled the piece of the background and flipped it, it would be white! Its the best paper available for this art and is specifically designed and manufactured for silhouette artists.

What do you think you'll cut next?
I'm working on designing some less-literal designs that are combinations of two more literal things. The one I'm designing now is a large skull composed of tree branches.

Your shop address/facebook/Twitter/blog/website. Etc.

Adams Courthouse One-of-a-Kind Papercut

If you could have one superpower what would it be?
My wife and I have listed travel as our #1 priority so I would love to have teleportation abilities to avoid 12 hour plus plane rides.

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