Tag Archives: Paper cutting

Mirror, Mirror

Recently I showed you how I made a mask, starting with a six-sided paper cut-out. The framing for the face, shown in burgundy, started with a single piece of paper. Even though there are pieces cut out of it, the frame is continuous around the outside edge.

It certainly doesn’t have to be. Consider using, say, three pieces of paper that are the same, but arranged symmetrically around a center point. It would give the same type of symmetry as you see with the mask.

Here’s another paper cutting I did in six sides. I cut it into thirds. Hmm, I like the separation. Then I wondered, what if I only had one of them but wanted to see what it looks like with three? And what if I change direction? That’s something I can’t do if it’s all in one piece.

In the last two of those photos, you are seeing one segment of the original cutting, as reflected in mirrors. Using mirrors gives me a lot of flexibility. For one thing, I don’t need to cut multiples of an intricate design in order to see the possibilities; I can have just one. Also, I can see more than three images (two in the mirrors plus the actual paper one.) For instance, I can see what it looks like if I have four images.

Using mirrors isn’t my original idea. I’d already been thinking a lot about symmetries and playing with paper cutting when Toby Lischko visited my guild. Her presentation to us was about using pairs of mirrors to find interesting patterns in our fabrics. I also took her New York Beauty workshop and used her mirrors to choose the focus of my block center.

The turquoise fabric offered an infinite number of choices for fussy cutting, and I could try them out with the mirrors.

Toby offered mirrors for sale, but she ran out before I had a chance to buy mine. She also has them on her website, shown as Marti Michell Magic Mirrors. Not surprisingly, Marti Michell also has them for the same price, $13.98.

I was so impressed after the workshop, though, that Jim and I searched online for a substitute solution, at a lower price. 🙂 We didn’t find just the right thing, and other priorities took over. I had a bit of serendipity recently, though. While walking through a department store, about to close because of bankruptcy, I noticed two small mirrors hanging on a costume jewelry rack. Everything in the store was for sale. Everything! So I asked how much they would cost. I bought two mirrors for less than $4. (Last week my 14-year-old granddaughter bought two mannikin’s arms for 50 cents apiece. Because who doesn’t need two mannikin’s arms?)

Handy for scratching your back! Photo credit to my daughter.

The next challenge was how to get the mirrors to stand up at the correct angles. (Toby’s/Marti’s mirrors come pre-hinged, but you still have to set the angle.) After trying different possibilities, Jim and I both thought of using velcro (hook-and-loop) to hold them together. Between the two of us, we had both self-stick squares of velcro and also strips. We put squares of hooks on the back and cut short strips of loop-tape to grab them on either side. The angle can be set either with a protractor or simply by checking for how many images are created. (Remember, there are 360° in a circle. There are 120° in each third of a circle; there are 90° in each quadrant; and there are 60° in each sixth. To see three images, including the actual thing, set the mirrors to stand at 120° apart.) If needed, a simple piece of tape can be run across the top to hold the angle desired.

I have some other projects in mind that can make use of the mirrors, so while I wasn’t prepared to spend $14 and shipping for them, they are well worth the investment made.

Some people make the kaleidoscoping “stack and whack” quilts. I can’t imagine doing that, even though some look fabulous. I’ve also seen a lot of fussy cutting for hexagon projects, and mirrors could help visualize those. Have you ever explored shape symmetry in your quilts? Have you used mirrors to do so? Tell us about it in comments. 

Making A Mask

I wrote recently about masks and other faces in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Depictions of faces are one of the most common types of visual art, because we humans find faces fascinating. They are so interesting that we often perceive faces in almost any combination of shapes, in any media. And I do mean any media, including Swiss cheese, bowling balls, and on bug bodies! This article in Mental Floss magazine says the phenomenon of seeing faces everywhere is called “pareidolia,” and it is a function of a healthy brain.

Human brains are exquisitely attuned to perceiving faces—in fact, there’s an entire region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus that is dedicated to it. Its functions are evident even from early childhood: Studies have shown that shortly after birth, babies display more interest in cartoon faces with properly placed features than in similar images where the features are scrambled.

The “face neurons” in people with healthy brains are so overactive that they scream FACE! in many situations where there are no actual faces to be found. Those sophisticated face-detection skills, combined with our brain’s compulsion to extract meaning from the sensory chaos that surrounds us, is why we see faces where there aren’t any. Typically these sightings are nothing more than our mind’s interpretation of visual data …

Well, fortunately I have a healthy brain and see faces in all kinds of things. One sighting was in a paper cutting I did late last year. While playing with the classic, six-sided snowflake method of cutting, I quickly drew and cut this:

Well, no, that’s not a face. (I’ll bet I could find one if I look.) But I did several more cuttings, and this simpler cut-out shouted FACE! to me.

For months this piece of paper has been floating around my studio, sometimes “put away” and sometimes in a stack of other paper cuttings on my counter. For months I’ve wanted to create a mask from it, but until recently I wasn’t really sure how to do that.

If you have spent time around children, you might know that both toddlers and teens can be cross a lot of the time. My theory is that it has a lot to do with them being ready in some ways for the things they want to do, but not fully capable in other ways. They get frustrated in their desires, which makes them cross. Though I haven’t been particularly cross about it, my desire to make a mask from the paper cutting didn’t match up with my skills. Now it does. 

I chose fabrics first and ended up with a completely different color set than I’d expected. That’s okay, right? With a background of brilliant gold-yellow, I chose a deep burgundy to provide the framing. I adhered Wonder-Under fusible web to the burgundy (and no, I don’t use affiliate links or payments, so this isn’t an ad.) Next I traced the shape on the web paper in pencil, and carefully cut it out with small, sharp, scissors. Click either picture to see detail better. 

As I chose the features for the mask — eyes, nose, teeth — I added them one at a time, using parchment paper as my pressing sheet. I pulled the paper away from the fusible on the burgundy mask framing, just for the part I was about to adhere. While fusing shapes together, I left as much of the fusible paper on the framing as I could, to maintain the stability of the shape and avoid damaging the fabric. With the paper removed from the feature (eyeball, for instance,) I placed it behind the framing and ON TOP of the pressing sheet, and pressed the edges together. After the fused pieces were cool, I could peel them away from the pressing sheet as one unit.

I continued to build the face, adding more features as I went, and then adhered the whole thing to the gold background fabric.

Now the features are adhered under the frame and the whole thing is pressed to the gold background. The background isn’t attached to the batik print around the edge.

In the last photo you see it lying on top of a piece of batik. I might frame it with that, or I might choose a different border arrangement. Those are decisions I haven’t made yet.

If you’d like to try six-pointed paper cut-outs, whether to make snowflakes or to make a mask, this is a reasonably good video of the process.

You should note, though, that my “snowflake” has six SIDES, while the video shows how to make a six-POINTED snowflake, with twelve sides. Here is my mask paper-cutting refolded into sixths, not twelfths as their snowflake is. 

The difference in construction is that they’ve folded the paper an extra time. While it allows a more intricate pattern, it’s also substantially harder to cut cleanly. Try playing with some plain copy paper to see what pleases you more.