From sweet collages of roses and blossom, to silhouettes of sprawling ferns and veined leaves, Bristol-based artist Jessica Baldry begins each of her papercut creations with a hand-drawn sketch. These are often made while strolling in her local botanic garden. Each tentative bud or tender stem is then painstakingly cut by hand, creating finished artworks that are as delicate as they are beautiful.
What is your background?
I’ve always loved making and knew that I wanted to be an artist from a young age. I studied Ceramics at university and went on to work as a surface decorator for Dartington Pottery, which taught me the value of my own ideas and artistic skills. I started experimenting with designs of my own during my lunchbreaks at Dartington, before leaving and finding my own little studio to create in independently. This is when I began trying out papercutting projects: creating illustrative pieces to sell at local markets and shops. Eventually, I took the leap and set up my own design business.
When did you first discover papercut illustration?
Papercutting originated in ancient China, and it is still a popular traditional craft today. I first saw handmade paper silhouettes on a trip to China during my degree, and I was entranced by the delicacy and intricate detail. I bought myself a paper butterfly, (which I still have!) and desperately wanted to try and produce something that beautiful myself. Once home, I began to experiment with simple cut designs for friends and family, and I began to notice papercutting more and more in the work of the designers and illustrators that I admired.
What inspires you?
I love nature and the outdoors, so a lot of my work is based around sketches made at botanic gardens, or while walking in the woods. I also find myself drawn to folk art and vintage botanical illustrations – they influence my style of design.
How do you make one of your papercut illustrations?
All of my original pieces begin with a sketch. This is then fine-tuned and either cut out from a single sheet of paper using a craft knife to form an intricate silhouette, or different elements are drawn and cut from layers of coloured paper to allow me to create a collage. These designs then go on to become greetings cards or limited-edition prints. I have also recently begun to laser-cut some of my paper flowers, as making replica petals by hand can take a long time!
Do you have a favourite design to create?
I’m always challenging myself to produce pieces with more complex details, and I have just finished one of my botanical papercuts inspired by zinnia flowers. Cutting each of the gorgeous layered petals has made it my most time-consuming project yet, but it was so rewarding.
How do you display your designs at home?
I don’t have any of my own creations on display at home, as I enjoy collecting prints by other designers so much! I have lots of pieces by Rob Ryan, Katie Scot, Lara Hawthorne and Naomi Wilkinson, all of whom I admire. I also love Elizabeth Olwen’s textile pattern designs, and I have framed a couple of her fabric of-cuts. My family have a few of my creations on display as they have received so many papercut gifts over the years. My parents have one of my poppy silhouettes hanging in a floating frame from their kitchen window, which looks really effective in the light.
What are you currently working on?
My priority right now is to complete a personalised wedding gift commission for a customer – I love the creative challenge of creating one-of designs for people. I’m also designing a botanical logo for a florist and I’ve started to create a new series of large-scale botanic papercuts. And, one day, I’d love to design a collection of floral repeat patterns for home textiles.