Art View

Trim the edges

One artist’s joy for the art of paper cutting

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Remember back during those elementary school days when it was time for art class and you could not wait to see what project the teacher had in store? How about those snowflakes you were asked to make during the winter season that wondrously never came out the same? Who would have guessed the technique to make them is known as Scherenschnitte, the German art of paper cutting.

Scherenschnitte artist and Rhode Island resident Ingrid Lavoie discovered the craft around the age of 16 when visiting Denmark with her mother. Intrigued, she wanted to try it herself, and thus began her artistic endeavors. Lavoie went on to receive her Bachelors in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design, dabbling in other media along the way. Yet, Lavoie became taken with this particular expression of art. She explains, “It’s kind of like opening a present when you first open it; it’s that thrill when you don’t know what it’s going to look like when you are cutting it until you open it up.”

It is also quite simple and affordable to try at home. All you really need is a piece of paper, a pair of scissors (or an exacto knife, which is easier for cutting away smaller pieces) and a flat surface on which to work. You fold the piece of paper in half and start cutting. The tricky part is thinking positively and negatively. For example, if you were creating a bird you’d want to think about what you are cutting away, such as the eye or mouth. Once you cut it, it’s gone and you’ll have to start over if you make a mistake or are unhappy with the final outcome. For reasons such as these, Lavoie likes to double up and use two pieces of paper at times, so that she will have more than one final copy – one she can keep and another she can sell.

Depending on the size and details of the piece, Scherenschnitte can take from a half-hour to an hour on 4” by 6” pieces and up to a couple of days for 15” by 20”. Interested in a special piece that no one has? No need to be concerned – they are all originals. Lavoie will only produce and sell one of each. Her pieces range from $15 dollars to over $100 and she eagerly welcomes commissioned pieces as well.

The location of Lavoie’s shows will greatly influence the type of pieces being displayed. “If I’m having one in Newport, I’ll do a lot of nautical paper cuttings,” she explains. “If I’m doing RISD alumni shows, I’ll do something quirky, because they may be open to something not as traditional and I can be more experimental with my imagery.” Her work can be seen at many outdoor and indoor craft festivals or simply hanging in the windows of stores and homes throughout Rhode Island. Once you finish a piece, she notes, “You can hang them in windows, because they cast shadows; it is interesting to see how the light shines through them.”

If you would like to have a go at Scherenschnitte yourself, you can find Lavoie teaching workshops at the Providence Handicraft Club (though you must be a member). You may also view her work at Studio Hop in Providence, which often carries works by numerous local artists. If you are an overachiever and are already doing some holiday shopping, save the date for Saturday, December 3, because Lavoie and other local artists will be participating in RISD’s Alumni Holiday Art Sale from 10am-5pm at the RI Convention Center. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that snowflake adornment you’ve been seeking.

To contact Ingrid Lavoie, call 792-1062 or email marcinglav@cox.net.