Book Review: Paper Cut

Book Review: Paper Cut

The first time I thought about paper cutting as an art form was when I met the artist Béatrice Coron. It was the mid-1990’s and we were both living in NYC. One of the things she was doing at the time was selling her papercut illustrations to Lincoln Center to be used as illustrations for their playbills. 

The new(ish) book Paper Cut by Owen Gildersleeve (Rockport Publishers, 2014) features 25 artists who are utilizing this technique for stop motion animation, illustration, set design, graphic design, model making, advertising and art!


It is really a treat to be introduced to so many new artists – I was only familiar with five of the 25 artists featured in the book. The majority are from Europe (Gildersleeve, an illustrator and designer himself, hails from London).


The introduction includes an interesting history of the craft. I found this tradition particularly interesting: an early northern European tradition was to create cut-out letters called bindebrevs (binding letters) that were sent to loved ones on their birthdays or holidays. The bindebrevs contained a riddle (and the goal was that it would be unsolvable) and if the recipient couldn’t solve the riddle by sundown, he or she was required to hold a feast. Here’s an example that I found on-line:

Dutch Valentine and extracts from gækkevers the 1914 Post & Tele Museum.

Dutch Valentine and extracts from gækkevers the 1914 Post & Tele Museum.

The rest of the book features a short introduction of each artist followed by a series of questions that Gildersleeve poses in an interview format. I like this approach, and through it we learn about the artists’ training, inspiration, techniques, challenges, styles, and many artists are asked to offer up advice to those thinking of taking this up as a profession. 


Design duo Julie Wilkinson and Joyanna Horscroft run The Makerie. They met while studying graphic communications and work between London and Milan. They create lavish set pieces for international clients such as Gucci, Vogue and British Airways. 


Mandy Smith lives in Amsterdam and creates magical sculptures for animation, fashion and theater. She has directed a short film, made models for the art department on Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, and worked withclients including Coca-Cola, Waterstones and Velvet.



Jeff Nishinaka was born and still lives in Los Angeles. He’s been sculpting with paper for more than 30 years, and his commercial portfolio includes work fro Bloomingdale’s, Visa and Paramount Pictures.


Chiara Phelan is a freelance designer and illustrator working in London. She creates collage by combining vintage imagery with paper-cut patterns and three-dimensional shapes. 

There are many other artists featured in this book, which is chock full of gorgeous images. Here’s a link to the author’s website, where you can read the full introduction as well as the interviews. I love Gildersleeve’s sentiment that paper cutting has become popular as an illustration medium because viewers are hungry for human interaction in our digital age (even if they are just looking at paper cuts made by real hands).

1 Comment

  1. janice rine says:

    ” Paper Cut” What a beautiful book! I’ve just added it to my Christmas list. It was nice to see Helen Musselwhite’s name in the book. I’ve just discovered her work & am in awe. Thanks for keeping us informed of the “paper world”. I am always inspired by your blog.
    P.S. your last book is also on my Christmas list