Hand Cut Paper Artist
"I've started going political which is new for me. I typically cut urban landscapes or make biographical pieces by cutting paper plates and paper towels. Now I feel called to cut images of the uprising that's happening across the country."
Tell us about yourself what you're currently working on.
All of my work is cut from a single sheet of paper using an X-Acto knife. I've mostly been working small during the quarantine (like 5x7") because my detailed cuts take so long but I really need the comfort and satisfaction of being able to complete something relatively quickly these days. It makes me feel better about everything else being so up in the air. Until about a week ago I was a kindergarten teacher but I've now transitioned to pursuing art full time, which is equal parts scary and exciting.
Has your work shifted in response to the pandemic? How?
I've started going political which is new for me. I typically cut urban landscapes or make biographical pieces by cutting paper plates and paper towels. Now I feel called to cut images of the uprising that's happening across the country. I took great photos to work from during a recent BLM protest here in Baltimore.
In your opinion, what is the role that the creative process can play in helping us confront our "new" reality?
Being an artist has been a real blessing during all of this. For years I've been known to spend hours and hours in my studio without remembering to do things like eat or walk my dogs so the fact that I can lose track of time doing something I love is great. I know many folks are taking up new hobbies, having trouble staying home, and just plain bored but that hasn't been too much of an issue for me. The reality is that the best thing I can do for my community right now is stay home as much as possible, and that's no problem as long as I've got paper! Whether you're stressed or just bored, creativity can be a big help.
Art has also been a great way to connect with people. We're all feeling uncertain and we've all got extra time to mess around on Instagram or Facebook. I've used Instagram and this "extra" time to connect with artists I've followed for years and to find new artists to admire. That networking and sense of community is invaluable. I've also had a lot of great conversations with new customers and folks who just like my cuts. People have been really open about the fact that, maybe for the first time, they're trying to support local, independently owned businesses, and POC owned businesses. I had one gal inquire about a piece but she decided she couldn't really afford it. A few weeks later she bought it anyway. The cut reminded her of her pre-pandemic travels and she decided it was important to support local artists. I hope that people continue to think this way and keep spending in a way that supports their values.
I think quarantine has forced a lot of people to confront truths about themselves and how they typically pass their days. I've got quite a few friends who don't consider themselves to be artists but have taken up papercutting, knitting, or other creative pursuits under quarantine. I think there's something freeing about doing it to pass the time and not with the intent of making "the very extra most bestest sweater of all time" or trying to be the next Kara Walker. I hope that everyone keeps up their new creative passions once the world settles!
Rosa Leff is a hand cut paper artist based in Baltimore, MD. She also serves on the board of The Guild of American Papercutters. See more of Rosa's work here.