Meet Paper Panda: Exclusive Interview

paper panda

Following on from the success of our Papercutting for Beginners post, I have spoken with the very talented Louise Firchau, aka the Cotswolds-based artist better known as Paper Panda, to find out just what makes her tick.

I’m sure you will agree that Paper Panda’s whimsical woodland-inspired papercuts and the breathtaking Alice in Wonderland series show the art of papercutting at its finest. There is also a beautiful range of typography-driven pieces, each one as delicate and stunning in equal measure.

Paper Panda - Bunny and Bird

We're All Mad Here

But just how did Louise hone her skills and develop the Paper Panda brand in a few short years, after coming up with her business’ name in a 10 minute brainstorming session four years ago? I caught up with her to find out her inspirations, how she got started and just how beginners can improve their papercutting skills.

Hi Louise, or should I say Panda?! Thanks for talking to me, I really appreciate your time. First things first, I would love to know what first attracted you to papercutting and how did you learn the craft?

Louise: Hello! I have always been a huge geeky fan of typography. I saw a papercut on Etsy that really showed the font off beautifully and I fell in love. I couldn’t afford to buy one so I made my own using Elbow lyrics. I ordered a knife from eBay that just so happened to be the right one straight away and I still use it now (a Swann Morton if you’re wondering). I started cutting on an old box file using recycled paper on the arm of the sofa. It was all very hit and miss.  It took me a whole year to source black paper that was white on the reverse (so you can see the design). It was infuriating, haha!

So were you pretty good straight away and did you create your own designs in those early days?

Louise: I was a bit rubbish, really, for a long time design-wise as I wasn’t confident enough to just draw my designs and used chopped up vector graphics instead for swirls and decoration. Instead of kicking myself, I like to see that time as honing my knife skills before I picked up a pencil.

Workspace of a Panda

But looking at the beautiful pieces of art you create I would say that’s very much time well spent! So back to the present day, who or what inspires your paper cuts and which papercutting artists do you admire?

Louise: I get a lot of ideas from old stories, classic books and my surroundings, material patterns, prints…anything really. My favourite papercutter is Julene Harrison. Her designs are beautiful.

How would you suggest is the best way for beginners to start papercutting? (apart from your excellent introduction kits!)

Louise: Haha, buy the kit or just wing it! It did take me a long time to source the right materials – especially the paper – but at the end of the day pick up a pencil, draw a design and cut it out with a craft knife and see how you get on.

Alice in Wonderland

 

What key pieces of advice would you give to crafters who are keen to start paper cutting?

Louise: A lot of crafters are moving into papercutting. I said years ago it would be the new sock monkeys! I think it’s great that it’s something that everyone can do, there are so many different styles and ways to create with paper that there’s room for everyone.

How long does it take for you to create a design and turn it into a finished piece?

Louise: Wow, um, anything from half an hour to three days. Some of the designs take months to put together, like the houses and Pratchett characters. The new Wonderland design took six months to develop.

Wonderland - Paper Panda

What is the favourite piece you have done?

Louise: The new Wonderland piece, hands down. I just love it. It hasn’t sold yet, either, so I’m kinda looking forward to it coming back to me from the art gallery so I can hang it here :)
(Wonderland is available to buy here).

I know from looking at your site that you both hand draw some of your designs but also use digital software. Which software do you use for your designs and what would you suggest is the best method for beginners who are keen to try their own designs?

Louise: I use Corel Draw to add some fonts and anything with a circle, for example. I print it out then draw the decoration afterwards. Beginners can get a taste of digital software by downloading Inkscape free online.

Tiny Love Birds

Rainbow

How long were you doing paper cuts for before you realised it could be a successful business? How did you go about launching Paper Panda?

Louise: I intented Paper Panda to be just a hobby, a way of making a few extra pennies for Christmas. I guess I knew it was taking off when I had to sell my gift shop as I didn’t have time to run it anymore, I was just busy cutting morning, noon and night. That was about a year after starting, but it was never hugely profitable, more a labour of love. It really took off with a bang when I started drawing my designs. For someone that had convinced herself she was rubbish at drawing this was a huge boost for me – much needed, too! I’d put away my pencil in the 90’s after art school thinking I’d never pick it up again…who knew?

For more information on Paper Panda and her beautiful papercuts, visit:

Wise words from the craftiest of all Pandas. So have you been inspired to give papercutting a try? I would love to see your papercuts and I’m sure Louise would do too!

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Good Friday Link Love

Hello everyone, and here’s wishing you a happy and sunny long bank holiday weekend! I hope you’re able to find the time to get outside in the sunshine, even for just half an hour.

It’s been a busy week for me. I finally got Beak Up Crafts on Facebook, I launched my first crochet pattern which is available to buy – Monty the rabbit – which you can get in my brand new Etsy Shop, and I started to learn the art of papercutting thanks to Paper Panda’s brilliant introduction kit.

Here’s a few pictures from my week:

Pics of the week - April 18

Top (l-r): Crochet fox in progress; Papercutting #1; Papercutting #2.
Middle: Getting out on my bike on a sunny day; Introducing Monty, my new crochet pattern; A beautiful sunset in the park.
Bottom: Quick and easy paper animals; My new watch; The new bandstand.

Also, I think it’s nice to share the love, so here are a few crafty things that have caught my eye this past week:

Here are some of the other things I have loved this week:

What has inspired you this week?

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Papercutting for Beginners

Cut out hedgehog - Beak Up Crafts

I’ve been a big fan of papercutting for a long time. I love the delicate and intricate nature of this art form and how stunning a finished papercut can be. My favourite artists are without doubt Rob Ryan, who specialises in whimsical figures paired with sentimental and sometimes humorous pieces of writing, and Paper Panda, whose teeny tiny woodland papercuts are cute and yet stunning in equal measure.

Rob Ryan:

Rob Ryan - I Can't Forget

 

Paper Panda:

Paper Panda

The only thing is, getting into paper cutting seems to be so hard: Where do you start? How do you learn the techniques? All of the paper cuts look so DIFFICULT. I wanted to give it a try, but I will admit, I was a bit scared to do so.

That was until I found Paper Panda’s Introduction to Papercutting DIY Pack. I bought it way before I started this site and I’ve got to say, now I’ve finally opened it and wielded my paper knife, I’m annoyed that I didn’t try it sooner because it makes learning how to cut paper a joy. (As long as you don’t wield your knife too wildly and cut yourself!).

I’ve got to say too, that cutting paper is properly addictive. Well, I think so, anyway!

Included in the pack is a self-heal cutting mat, a super sharp cutting blade, a brilliant “how to” guide to paper cutting and a practice sheet where you learn to cut straight edges, curves, text, stars and even a cute hedgehog to help you master the art. When you’ve got the basics under your belt, there are also some Paper Panda designs for you to have a go at.

Practice sheet in progress

I won’t lie – at first, cutting a straight line is a pretty wonky experience, and getting used to holding the blade (firm but not too tight) and learning how to turn your work lots to get the best cut – it all takes some getting used to. But that’s why the practice sheet is so good, as you get to try it on some real paper cuts over and over again.

Stars - look great but are quite simple

Papercutting in action

Please do!

It's addictive!

I’m yet to move on to the designs included in the pack which can be framed, but I’m going to tackle them in the next few days – have a look at my Instagram feed as I will be posting them on there.

What I would say, though, is that if you have ever wanted to have a try at paper cutting but have stopped yourself as it seems to intricate or difficult, then give it a go. I think you will be surprised as to how much you enjoy it and how quickly you can pick up the basic skills. After that, the sky is the limit!

I would love to see your paper cuts and hear from you if you are going to give it a try. Don’t be shy – please get in touch!

Oh and if you’re keen to try out papercutting then head here, as I’ve got a free downloadable template and a DIY to make a pretty papercut ‘Love’ card, perfect for Valentine’s Day (or just because).

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