Papercuts By Joe

Papercuts By Joe is a showcase of original papercuttings made by hand from a single piece of black paper by artist Joe Bagley.

Not being familiar with the art myself, Joe had this to say to educate me about the history of his artform and his place within that history:

Papercutting is approximately 5000 years old and arose with the invention of paper in China. Over many millennia regional styles have developed around the world with varied appearances and traditional motifs. Since my pieces do not fit thoroughly into any of the traditional styles of papercutting, I consider them part of a new category: American Papercuttings. The numerous regional names for papercutting (Scherenschnitte, papel picado, Jihanzi, Wycinanki) all translate loosely to “paper cutting” so I call my art, simply, papercutting. Most papercutting artist in the US will refer to them selves as *insert regional style* Artist since they follow one of the older regional styles.

Currently, I am working to blur the line between “craft” and “art” (aren’t we all?) by deliberately pushing papercutting to places it has never been before. I keep pushing myself as well to make larger pieces with even greater detail and improbable complexity in them.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
About 12 years ago I went to a summer program in my home state of Maine for creative youth. We could sign up for many different activities, one of which was an art class. As part of that art class, and for reasons I do not know, papercutting was one of the tasks we could do (along with more traditional mediums). I fell in love with the artform, but didn’t do another papercutting for many years. Spurred on by a book I found on papercutting, I began copying many of the designs in the book. In college, I began experimenting with my own style and designs resulting in my current style focusing on architecture, nature, and ancient designs.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Explore new places with my wife, Jen. Every weekend we try to visit a place we haven’t been before.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your shop?
This seems to change weekly. I guess it’s trying to juggle the custom pieces and my own original “Fine Art” pieces. The custom pieces pay the bills, but the designs are completely dictated by the customer. I get much more satisfaction creating my own pieces, but until I can become more successful selling them, I rely on the income from the custom pieces. It’s a catch 22- I need to make more custom pieces to afford to pursue the fine art market, but the more custom pieces I make, the less time I have to make and market my own pieces.

What item in your shop would you most like to receive as a gift if someone were shopping for you?
A piece called Odyssey in my newest collection. I absolutely love the piece and it really sums up my home state of Maine.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I had NO idea. None. Hated being asked too. In High school, I finally settled on Archaeology, went to Boston University as an undergrad and completely fell in love with it, and spent several years as a professional archaeologist before losing my job due to the slump in the construction business (most US archaeologists are hired to do surveys on land prior to construction/development). After losing my job, I created a custom papercuts webpage that with google advertising immediately drew in clients. Since June of 2008 I have been papercutting full time.

What other shops out there do you love?
Anabella Designs

What does your future hold?
Wow, I would love to know. Here’s my current fantasy: A wildly successful art career in papercutting (with perhaps a little dabble in dorodango) exposing the art to millions and creating a renaissance period in American papercutting. After an amazing show on Newbury St. in Boston and the interview for the CBS Sunday Morning show (my two biggest goals) the momentum should be enough that I can them decide to continue papercutting full time, or move back into archaeology while continuing my art in my “free time”… whatever that is.

In addition to the main website be sure to visit Joe's Etsy shop and blog. Right now you can get limited edition Christmas ornaments in the Etsy shop. Each is hand cut, numbered, and signed by the artist and would look great on your tree!