Process #2

After I design a piece, I write out a list describing the order of the colors, which papers will go in the same slot in the frame, and what elements of the image go on each layer. Then I break out my Illustrator design into new template files for each separate layer of paper.

To keep myself from getting confused, I always make black what stays and white what gets cut out. This template is for the second black paper layer in this piece. This gets tile printed and taped together at actual size.

I tape down one edge of the template and the paper I'm going to cut to my cutting mat. If I see any places on the template that need to be adjusted (made thicker, connected, etc), I fix them up with a felt-tipped black pen.

The reason I only tape one side down is because I am constantly lifting the template up to check the cuts I'm making and frequently need to clean up or adjust things by sight. I also only tape my paper down on one side so that I can lift it up and brush away the little paper scraps as I go.

Usually I try to cut out the most detailed part of the design first, so that it's still surrounded by a solid and secure base while I'm working on it. Here's the finished layer:

Process #1

It seemed like a good idea to document my process for making these pieces. So here's the first part of a step-by-step look at how I work.

After transcribing the interviews, I re-read and re-listen to them several times to get a good feeling of what is most important or significant and to pick out which details I can communicate visually. I'm a huge huge fan of lists so the next step is brainstorming and listing all the key words and images. Then I do a couple of quick little sketches to help me figure out the content and composition.

This papercut was for Gloria's memory. Gloria is one of the women I befriended at the Ann Arbor Senior Center. Her memory was about how an older friend wanted to take pictures of her and her friend to enter into a local photography contest. There were quite a few adventures along the way as they climbed on icebergs in Lake Michigan and stood on top of ski hills. A photo of the two girls peeking over an iceberg ended up winning a prize. Gloria's mother cut the picture out of the newspaper; it was one of her prized possessions for awhile.

I wanted to focus on the fact that this was something important to her mother. Gloria's mom was divorced; a black mark at the time. Because she was a single, working mom, Gloria and her brother spent a lot of their childhood in a boarding house for children with single parents. I also thought that the visual of the photograph in the newspaper would be rather compelling and easier to communicate than some other parts of the story.

Once I have the general idea down on paper and in my head, I start drawing it out in Illustrator. This particular story took quite a few revisions and I almost scrapped it all together at one point, thinking a different memory might work out better. However, I came back to it and ended up being happy with the final design.