Papercuts, sometimes called paper lace, are what I call “my big, fast, and cheap medium.” I learned this technique from Nancy Chinn, who is a master of this technique. It involves cutting holes in paper so that light passes through, creating a design.

They can be created from colored paper, but more often white paper, which can be painted or left unpainted. I use 90 lb drawing vellum, which has enough weight to hang well and hold up reasonably well for repeated uses.

Papercut technique

I draw outlines of the major design components on the paper and improvise freehand the patterns which fill the design. Each small hole is individually cut with an Exacto knife. Small bridges of paper must be left connecting the larger negative spaces for structural integrity. This seemingly tedious process goes rather quickly and lends great individuality to each part of the design.

Sylvia Everett Papercut cutting

If I decide to paint them, I have to find a large surface and protect it with plastic sheeting. I then spray it with selected colors, as I am doing with one of the pieces commissioned for a church in Grapevine, Texas. As you can see, for these I used a section of our home’s exterior wall.

Sylvia Everett painting a large papercut painting

One of the things I like about this medium is that it can be read from both sides. In all my work for the local church I attempt to create pieces that are the same but in reverse from both sides, so that the choir and others on the chancel platform have a view of something beautiful rather than the backside of something.

I also like that they are relatively temporary. With care, they can last a considerable time and be used repeatedly, but they do not represent a huge investment, and fresh and new pieces can be created as needed for various occasions.