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John Speight

I've been a professional papercut artist since 1990. I am self-taught but come from a family with a tradition of silhouette profile cutting. Although I'm the third generation in the line of silhouette artists, I chose not cut profiles like the others, and instead decided to create my own style.

Why papercutting?

Over 30 years ago, or to put it another way, when I had hair, I did voluntary work in the foothills of Nepal as an Assistant Forest Officer. My little rural village was perched on a ridge about 20 miles south of Mt. Everest. At the time I heard that the Nepali Sherpa's were paid the equivalent of 15p a day to carry heavy loads up to Everest Base Camp.

When I returned to England I saw an unframed contemporary print for sale in an Art Gallery window in Newcastle upon Tyne. The price was £140. I was shocked. That's was the equivalent of two and a half years hard labour in Nepal. If that was just the price of a print, how much would the original be? I couldn't even afford the print!
The memory of this moment has always stayed with me because it implied that quite a large section of society wouldn't be able to afford or own an original piece of artwork. They were being priced out.

A few years later I discovered a carrier bag full of my grandfather's and uncle's black silhouette paper. There was no internet at the time for inspiration, and I was trying to think of a way to create a career in art, so I took the paper and began to experiment with it. It quickly occurred to me that if I could keep the cost of my materials and my overheads low, and at the same time learn how to work quickly, I might be able to create originals that almost everyone could afford. In that way they would at least have the opportunity to own a piece of original handmade artwork.

So that was the idea that launched my papercutting career. The intention has always been twofold: to keep the price low but to keep the quality as high as I possibly can



How my papercuts are made:

I use a scalpel to hand-cut all of my pictures. They are all made individually, so although I replicate designs, each papercut has small differences that make it unique. The coloured background tint on most of my pictures is a precice mixture of three acrylic inks. The background paper is watercolour paper.
My personal view is that I would prefer to choose one tool and try to master it, rather than have a large range of equipment that I'm forever trying to get used to. So, when I began cutting I chose a Swann Morton scalpel with a 10A blade and have continued with that to this day

I currently work at my open studio at Heatherslaw in Northumberland, England. The studio is really a shop that I share with my wife'Spirit of Colour Jewellery business.

Thank you for your interest in my work.

For more information please contact me.

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