I’ve always had a soft spot for papercuts. Not the nasty kind you get trying to pry open cardboard packaging or the razor sharp slices resulting from a simple flick of the page. No no…I’m talking about Papercutting as an art form. Papercut Art that is fragile, delicate and handcut – these intricate paper artworks often defy belief.
Well known papercut artists include England’s Rob Ryan, Japan’s Hina Aoyama and Melbourne’s own Emma Van Leest – each with their own style and aesthetic. These artists possess an undeniable talent combined with uncanny precision and their papercutting mastery leaves me in an absolute state of awe.
In my mission to support and connect with local Melbourne artists I decided to search Etsy for homegrown papercut artists. It was here that I stumbled upon Henni & Bean – a lovely little place with a unique collection of handmade papercuts designed and created by Kristine Tay.
Henni & Bean papercuts are made from a variety of papers – be it recycled office paper, disused envelopes with pretty security patterns or any other interesting paper that might be transformed with a cut or a slice and surgical precision. Whimsical imagery and text is then illustrated onto the chosen paper before being patiently dissected to life.
I recently caught up with Kristine in a noisy vibrant café in Melbourne’s CBD and got to hear all about the Henni & Bean journey thus far…
I noticed from your bio on Etsy that you are actually a qualified Zoologist – how did you come to papercutting?
I’m actually still continuing my never-ending undergraduate degree in Law and Zoology at the moment! I came to papercutting whilst I was living and working in London within the charity sector. I enjoyed my job but I soon realized I needed some sort of creative release.
I’ve always been interested in art that involves clean lines with bold shapes and colours and experimented with screenprinting and letterpress for a while but it was messy and expensive and involved many different tools and chemicals.
So papercutting for me is a way to get the look that I want without having to go into the expense (and mess!).
Once I started investigating further I realized I really loved papercutting because it is a pure 2D form in which you have to try to convey 3 dimensions. Papercutting is something that I love to do and it’s really satisfying to feel the pieces coming away in clean lines.
Getting on Etsy was a great way of meeting people and fostering a sense of community whilst in London where it can be a bit of a rat race with everyone so busy and the days in winter being so short. Papercutting was a way of doing something different at the end of the day that didn’t involve computer screens or TVs.
Your illustrations for the papercuts are so lovely! Have you had any formal training?
No formal training in illustration – I just like to draw and create. My mum is a brilliant artist – she creates her own papercuts that she lacquers and sets into sculptures. She also uses beautiful wood veneers to create intricate artistic patterns. I think it’s safe to say creative artistic talent must run in the family!
Is there any significance behind the name of your Etsy store – Henni & Bean?
Yes it comes from one of the stories by my favourite children’s author and illustrator Elizabeth Honey. She wrote a book called ‘45 & 47 Stella Street’ and a sequel called ‘Fiddle Back’ – both of which I read and loved as a kid. She has amazing female characters and Henni was the hero in ‘45 & 47 Stella Street’ and Bean was the hero in another of her books titled ‘What do you think, Feezal?’ The locations for her books were roughly set in and around Melbourne and you can imagine being in Carlton or Brunswick when you read them.
I think Elizabeth’s an amazing illustrator with such a great eye for shape. She can draw a line and it will look like a frog or a tree or a cow and she doesn’t need anything else like shading or colours, using only a sharpie in her drawings.
I love children’s books and one of my best friends is a children’s librarian so that’s really helpful to keep in touch with all the latest books and novels.
A future dream would be to create children’s fiction and picture books.
I noticed that for some of your papercuts you use discarded envelopes – do you have a secret stash of envelopes you use specifically for papercuts?
Haha! I have sooooo much paper – not just envelopes! When I moved back to Melbourne I had to throw so much away – I shipped back as much as I could especially the really old maps I’d found in Op shops – they’re the kind of things that are everywhere in London and so inexpensive. Although I’m not sure I’ll actually cut into them as they are so beautiful!
Any tools of trade that you swear by?
Not one brand in particular. For me as long as I have a pencil, paper, cutting mat and a sharp knife I’m happy!
What about your workspace? Any place in particular that you work in?
No one place – I work anywhere. Whether it’s cafés, or outdoors or indoors – as long as it’s well lit. I’ve learnt to use a good desk lamp at home.
How long does it normally take to complete a piece?
It depends on the detail really and if it is a custom piece. For simpler pieces it can be around 90 minutes and larger A4 pieces perhaps 5 hours. How inspired or tired I feel can affect this too!
Any current projects you are working on?
Well… funny you should say that. I decided to create a little piece just for Paperlab.co. I started this morning and will finish it now whilst we chat if that’s ok?
At this point Kris takes out a gorgeous custom design she has illustrated and begun cutting just for us at Paperlab.co! I squeal with delight and get a little bit excited! She really can work anywhere and below is a shot of her in action and the gorgeous finished piece.
Is your work mainly commissioned based?
Yes at the moment it is. I’m in the process of completing an A3 piece for a 1st wedding anniversary (FYI- Paper is the traditional gift for a 1st wedding anniversary! Get on it people!) for a couple in Brisbane at the moment. It has lyrics from their wedding song along with some other special features.
I love that it can be custom-made and be unique to someone.
Any disasters when you’ve been cutting? Pesky slips?
Yes! And I’ve learnt it can be covered! It’s about the order that you cut in so now I start from the centre and work outwards as it stops the paper from moving too much and helps to avoid slips. I cut away the small holes first so that if I do slip it means there is still a whole lot of paper that can be cut. I also connect things twice just in case the other end accidentally gets cut through!
I’ve used foam blocks before to set the papercuts and try to avoid using any paper that is too thick or fibrous, as it doesn’t really work well for papercutting.
Do you have any favourite artists?
Before I got into papercutting I worked a bit with collage and one of my favourites is an English artist by the name of Kate Slater. Her collages involve amazing animal details and displays.
So what else do you do with yourself when you aren’t papercutting?
Besides studying I also sing in the amazing Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Youth chorus – a great group and a lovely bunch of people. I’m the Rep of the Youth Chorus and so get to organise performances in schools and other outreach activities.
Other than that I play soccer and try to keep on top of my studies!
I found you on Etsy – is that the best way others to get in touch and purchase your gorgeous papercuts?
Yes! Etsy is best.
Head over to Henni & Bean and support local Melbourne papercut art today!