Lady Liberty

Through a family connection (thanks mom), I had the opportunity to contribute to a large piece to be displayed in the Hilton Hotel at Penn’s Landing. The location of the piece within the hotel is less important (near the head), than the fantastic way that it turned out.  For a such a success, it’s surprising it started the way most fiascoes kick-off; with my mom asking, “Hi! Can I commission something from you?”  It might sound odd that such a question would elicit a negative response, but usually the request is something unusual, and somehow “working” for my mom immediately reminds me of being a teenager; it’s like hearing, “I need to talk to you,” as soon as you get home from school.  But it worked out, in large part due to her having the base art completed before my part began. Overthinking and over-planning are my two worst enemies.

She asked me to cut the Statue of Liberty, poor gal (she’s feelin’ it right now), based on a simple photograph. She had already laid out a black background with torn strips of red, white, and blue, so all I had to do was design Lady Liberty out of yellow (goldenrod?) Canson paper and cut to fit.

That was it! I sketched it up, drew it out, cut it out, laid it down.  No drama.  It looks fantastic.  If you look closely you’ll see something very unusual for my work – she is in three pieces.  It’s very rare for my cuttings not to be one piece, but in this case, I wanted to be able to re-position her as-needed to fit the tall and narrow frame.

Gryphon Cafe

For the month of July (until the first weekend in August) I have the pleasure of showing at the Gryphon Cafe with two other artists. Within a day of taking down this show, I will be bringing the pieces to the Athenaeum in Philadelphia to be scanned, at which point I’ll have some high quality photos to share.  For now, please enjoy some snapshots in my signature style: rushed, blurry, and crooked.

A few familiar favorites, an assortment of throwbacks, and some of my newest work. Stayed tuned for up-to-date pictures (mid August).

 

Fur Babies

I have two Instagram accounts: @brownpapercutter and @lovelylucybrown. One for my artwork because not having one isn’t an option, and one for my dog because I only have one foot in the millennial pool and I also have an irrational fear that the thousands of pictures I take of my dog, Lucy, will somehow disappear. On varying levels, some much more natural and reasonable, I assume this is how most pet owners feel about their fur babies, so I was very excited when the Gladwyne Animal Hospital accepted my proposal to hang pet portraits in their waiting and exam rooms. These pieces will be rotating as I produce new work, and will of course be available for sale – commissions welcomed and accepted!

The pet portraits below are not hanging in the animal hospital, but I couldn’t leave ’em out… cute ‘lil guys.

 

Oh, What a Difference a Frame Makes

Until my second show at Waverly  Heights, I had never realized that it is standard procedure for many artists to frame their work generically or inexpensively with the expectation that the buyer will reframe the work to suit their tastes.  I had never considered that option, so for me, framing began as a necessity. Furthermore, because the work inside the frame is so delicate the idea of a buyer or framer handling it is an upsetting notion. Through the years the necessity has stayed the same, but the process has become so essential to the work itself that I don’t consider a piece finished until it is backed, matted, framed, and the brown paper sealed on the back.  The framing process can often be the most difficult, but it can also certainly be the most rewarding as it’s all that stands between a stand-out piece and one that stays in flat file on show day.

I typically maintain that unless there is a flaw in the selection or finishing process, there is a lid for every pot when it comes to selling.  I’ve said before, and it’s true, I’m more concerned with achieving a positive reaction than a sale. If people seem to love a piece, but it appears in show after show, I’m rarely concerned.  I love to show the work, and if it takes years for the right person to see it; so be it.

There are some conditions under which I will reframe work, however.  For example:

If it is with me so long that my taste evolves…

 I find the original materials aren’t up to my current standards…

If I selected a frame simply to “get it on the wall,” but was not committed to it…

Something about the piece just bugs me…

My mom has worn me down (and stylistically, she’s usually right)…

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Glow (the mason jar below) is backed over a beautiful hand-made metallic paper. It has a strong shimmer and I felt it stood out more on simple backing surrounded by a simple, shabby-chic frame. Three shows later, my mom convinced me that contrary to it’s name, it looked dull, and that sometimes, “shabby-chic,” is just shabby. Glow was re-backed with a muted gold/silver patterned paper, hugged by a black mat to accentuate the lid detail, and finished off with an unusual vintage frame that is true to the name of the piece.
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Keepsake is a beautiful cutting that was unnamed and unceremoniously framed in an inexpensive black frame to “get it on the wall,” of a previous show. It’s very simple, but very lovely and because I’ve passed the point where I accept tchotchke frames, I reimagined it. So much like a bunch of vintage pressed flowers, a keepsake from a memorable moment, it is perfectly surrounded in a “locket” made from black-cored white mat with an oval opening. The gold frame gives it a classic quality.
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The Carousel was a re-frame trifecta. First of all, my mom disliked its original frame from day one. She thought it was of poor quality (I disagreed), and that it wasn’t big enough for the piece and therefore made it look cramped. I loved the frame, but as is typical of me, I hand painted the background without measuring the dimensions, hence the black top and and bottom where the paper wasn’t long enough. I convinced myself that I liked the unfinished look of the paper and moved right along. So, (1) my mom wore me down, and once I thought more about it I realized the frame, while strong, wasn’t up to my standards (2), and the size and layout just bugged me (3). We found a gorgeous molding from Merion Art & Repro, had it built, had a wide white mat cut to put the focus on the cutting, and voila: A delight for the eyes.

 

Forethought

I sold my first paper cutting over 10 years ago off the sidewalk during Olde City’s First Friday.  I was a little excited to sell something, but even then I was disappointed I was haggled down from $35.  If I’m honest? Twenty dollars was generous given that I used black cardstock (acid-free or archival weren’t terms I knew then), and the frame was a $3 clearance special from Michaels.  The composition and style left a lot to be desired as well, but I think enough has been said on that…

Everybody grows, everybody progresses, and in fact, as an artist, that natural growth is all part of the process and can be part of the excitement for followers and collectors.  However, there is a delicate balance between honesty and the implication that your previous works simply weren’t as good or made from quality materials like the work you are currently producing. I can joke about the $3 special now because the “statute of limitations” for shiesty art dealings goes out the window when you don’t  sign your work, hock it on a street corner to an unknown buyer, and stop working completely for more than five years after said transaction**.  But as for work in recent history, there is something to be said for forethought.

Few artists (I would assume) have the forethought (and funds) when they are starting out to think, “I’d better do this first piece to the letter to set the bar for the future.” They just do it. I just did it.  When my mom first said to me, “You need to start framing with conservation glass,” I laughed.  The idea that I wouldn’t use the glass packaged up with the frame, but would rather spend 3 times over (or more) for glass was absurd.  But today? I’d never frame a piece without it. It’s a small price to protect your work (and avoid upsetting calls down the road).

That was then, and “this” (the last five years) is now.  When I hung my first show, a miracle in itself because I only had a handful of pieces when I accepted it, there were some glaring mistakes that I have since corrected.  Each time these differences or improvements come up, I have a moment of panic when I think, “Am I going to upset or offend an early buyer.” I am quick to remember, that while I have come a long, long way since then, I had enough forethought to honor enough elements of the process to ensure lasting work.  The pieces from my first show are lovely, and have stood the test of time.  Like a patient in a hospital gown, they may experience an occasional breeze from behind if they are not properly backed and lovingly sealed with my trademark “brown paper,”  the frames might not all pass my “litmus test” today, but they remain sturdy and adequate, and while the glass may or may not be conservation glass, the run-of-the-mill glass has done well to protect them all the same (or so those early pieces that hang in my home tell me).

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**If you did buy my artwork on a street corner all those years ago, like Travis from Clueless said, “Thank you for taking a chance on an unknown kid.” I owe you one.

Update

Here’s a tip:

Give a talk wearing a clip-on mic and you’ll feel like Tony Robbins.

The talk was fantastic.  The mic gave me power… a little too much, I might have tried my hand at a little too much comic relief. The only thing missing was me saying, “AmmIriiight?” over and over and over again.  I did mentally check myself several times to  reaffirm for myself that I was doing a Q & A on paper cutting style and technique, not welcoming my “audience” to their BRAND – NEW – LIVES! In a picture below you’ll see a shot that looks to be the moment I scolded the audience for not being their best selves. That moment never happened, that is just me over dramatically describing the painstaking process framing a delicate piece.

Here are a couple more tips: If you’re playing a slideshow of work in the background, definitely say “Yes,” when someone asks if you’ll need a projector. If you are demonstrating close work, definitely ask your tech-savy husband for help, so he can make sure the people you’re talking to can see what you are doing (that helps).

All in all, it was a great night and I cannot wait to do it again.

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The Art of (Brown) Papercutting

The last time I scheduled an “art talk,” a very integral person forgot to show up. Me.  I forgot to show up to my own talk.  Self-promotion is a rough gig for most people, and I am in the bottom of the bin when it comes down to it.  That was a new low.  However, I am ashamed to say I can go even lower. I said I’d be bringing by a bottle of wine as a “forgive me” to the person who set-up the show. Forgot.  She asked me to collect my business cards in their cool business card holder stand my husband personalized for me. Procrastinated.  When I eventually came for it, it had acquired new residents so I had to leave the stack of miscellaneous business cards that had moved in, and even though the holder was mine, I felt like the Grinch snatching the last can of Who-hash. But today is a new day.

I’m giving a talk at what has begun to feel like my home gallery space (Waverly Heights).  I made a list earlier in the week and I’m happy to say, I’m actually prepared. My stuff is loaded neatly in my messy car, and right off the bat it’s going to be an improvement because I actually remembered the talk is tonight; so I’ll be there. If I forget to go, then my problems are far worse than I ever could have imagined.

54, 55, 56…

For my third exhibition at Waverly Heights, I am proud to report that all goals have been met: Calm and timely finishing touches, 54 pieces hung (from a goal of “between 50-60”), cards and notices went out,  not a tear was shed, but most importantly, I received the compliment that makes any exhibition a success.  You might even forget how much you need to hear it until the words are spoken: “You have grown so much.”

If you hang a show and you hear those words, you don’t need to make a single sale to feel like you’ve achieved something.  I’ve been told to venture out and to experiment more with the medium, but I have been so truly happy doing what I am doing that I haven’t felt the need.  Hearing that I’m growing despite “staying put,” is just icing on the cake.

This being the season of giving, there are always a couple of pieces that come down to be gift wrapped. So, 54 became 52, and their replacements, 55 and 56.  I like to say that as soon a show goes up I’ll become “a person” again. I’ll have a drink after work, go shopping, read a book. Inevitably I keep drawing and cutting and framing.  For every hour I put into cleaning the framing studio at my parents house, I spend 4 undoing it all.

It ain’t over till it’s over, so until the show comes down in mid-January, I’ll be dropping in surprises. 57, 58, 59…

Just one pictures, the other 56 will be up shortly!

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