Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hard work (and a little play)

The valentine's day orders are rolling in left and right, which is fantastic considering last year I literally did not sell a single piece that I knew was going to be a V-Day gift.

Right now the two biggies are my custom silhouettes and hand-cut valentine

Anyway, the real point of this post isn't to get you guys to buy stuff, but to encourage you all. Last January was the start of what I call "the rough months". My sales plummeted, almost nobody was interested in my work, and the entire country was in near-panic over the economic situation.

The incredible amount of "down time" allowed me to focus on my art, get some pieces cut, and come up with new ideas for my etsy shop. It got so bad that in February of last year I had $300 in total sales. That isn't profit, that's TOTAL sales. It was rough, and when you are working 40+ hour work weeks and seeing nothing for it, it hurts. Wasn't much better in January or March. Fortunately we were expecting a dip after Christmas and cut our spending WAY back and just managed to squeek by through March.

If you are also self employed and facing a minor crisis and possibly considering quitting, look at your goods. Look at your website, blog, twitter, facebook, etc. What can you do better? Think of it as a bit of a vacation and do something crazy as an experiment. Can't get much worse right?

I did some CRAZY pieces last winter, and I don't have them any more, because come summer and fall, I had a better blog, a better site, increased my items in my etsy shop (more items, the better I have found) and had a TON of new pieces that were ready to go any time a show came up and sold a bunch of pieces.

If you need help, tips or encouragement, especially these slow times, I'm a pretty good cheerleader. Drop me a note!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Terminal 22 Papercuts Show

Just sharing the announcement for the Terminal 22 Papercuts Show including seven of my pieces:
If any of you happen to be over in the San Francisco area, please attend the show and let me know how it goes. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I've been itching to make things, but lately it's been of the 3D variety.

For starters, I made a paper collar my wife was kind enough to model for:

Link to Etsy Listing:
Radiant- Avant Garde Paper Neck Piece

I have another collar that's all done, just need to photograph it and list it.

I also had an idea last night about combining papercutting with origami. Wasn't sure if it would work, and it, guess what, it did!

This one's 14x14x8

Etsy Listign: Origami papercut crane with branches

This inspired me to make this smaller one (7x7x4), which I cut out all the "panels" between the folds making a paper crane skeleton:

Etsy listing: Origami paper crane skeleton

Let me know what you think!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tools of the trade- Knives

I get a bunch of emails each month asking how I make my papercuts and the materials I use.

I thought it might be a good idea to make some posts about my techniques so others can give it a try themselves. Plenty of room in the world for more papercutters!

I'll be focusing on knives. I use exclusively Xacto products just because they are, in my opinion, the best available. Trust me, I've tried them all.

A quick note on terminology: Knife is the handle, blade is the sharp part that the knife holds.

Here are my two main knives (I have pretty much every product Xacto makes, but these are my most used ones)

Xacto X3627 Gripster Soft Grip Knife- available everywhere

and my piece de resistance: Xacto 3051 Professional Swivel Knife. (shown with some blue painters tape to thicken it a bit and make it more comfortable for my hands)

Xacto no longer makes the 3051, and I only have one that was given to me by a friend who did rubylith cutting for billboards in the 70s (that's how old the knife is). If you find one, I'll buy it off you! Actually, my birthday is coming up on Feb 3rd...

The Gripster takes standard #11 blades. I use this knife for all my straight cuts as it is very easy to cut a perfectly straight cut with a standard xacto knife/blade.

The Pro swivel knife, however, is pretty much the greatest thing ever and I'd love for Xacto to start producing the knife again (are you listening Xacto???)

This swivel knife, unlike the swivel knife Xacto makes today, is entirely made from metal. There are tiny ball bearings that allow the blade to rotate in the knife without having any wiggle to the blade. The currently available swivel knife allows way to much movement of the blade inside the knife, so trying to put the tip of the knife exactly in the right spot is difficult because the blade wiggles a bit as you press it into the paper (bad).

While they say you cant use the current swivel knives available at stores (they come in a tiny plastic tube and each blade is encased in a white piece of plastic), I found that you can still use the blades for the old style knife, you just need to take the blade out of the plastic case. This is very easy.

I really wish Xacto did not package these blades with the point down as they are very sharp yet delicate. When they get jostled around on the shelf or in shipping, the tips can sometimes break off in the package. At $1 each, I don't want to waste ANY blades in the package and I'll check every one before I buy them.

I use a pair of pliers and squeeze the plastic case just below the blade. This crushes the plastic and loosens the blade, then I take the pliers, pull the blade out, and put the blade directly into the pro swivel knife, which holds the blade in a brass mechanism. A bit of work, but totally worth it for the stability of the pro knife.

The best thing about the pro knife is that the blade swivels inside the knife so incredibly smoothly, you can cut your work just like you would drawing with a pen. Here's a video of my using my swivel knife to cut a piece. It doesn't cut straight lines very well though, that's why I use the traditional knife with #11 blades.

I hope this was helpful to all of you. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments, I read them all, and I'll try to answer them all.

I'll be doing another post on paper, adhesive, and design.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Papercuts By Joe the movie!

Just uploaded this video to youtube showing some of my work, and some in-progress photos showing them being made.

Happy New Year

So I'm starting this year off by actually following one of my resolutions: Blog more.

With that, here's my biggest announcement of the new year: A new gallery show!

Just before New Year's Eve, Jessie Wusthoff, of Terminal 22 Gallery in Oakland, CA (Just east of San Francisco) wrote me saying she her gallery has a show coming up in February featuring paper artists and she has openings.

I was quite surprised to hear she wanted several pieces, and more than happy to accommodate!

I will be sending SEVEN pieces, including two large pieces made especially for the show.

Unfortunately, because it's such short notice, I will not be able to attend the opening personally, but my spies in CA (fellow full-time Etsy artists) have agreed to attend and take some photos for me.

I'm extremely excited about the show! Rarely do I get the chance to have people know what my medium is before the look at the piece, so unless I get to talk to them personally, many think they are prints, woodcuts, pen&ink, etc.

This will be my first West Coast show, which is exciting for being what it is, and also I can now say I've shown in galleries across the country:)

I've read some great reviews of the gallery and I trust them to show my work well.

Show info:

The Paper Show
Terminal 22
2443 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612

Opening Gala: Feb 5, 6-9 pm

My birthday is the 3rd, so I'm considering this a great present!

I hope any of you Bay-area people can make the show and let me know how it goes (and buy a piece!)