In Haunt

Miniature works of art that are created by using only paper, a scalpel and a tiny bit of glue — that is the focus of Paper&Blade! Set up by Manchester-based artist Ange Shepherd back in 2013, this independent business brings themes of the Gothic, horror, alternative culture and the fantastical to the fore; with designs incorporating everything from striking silhouettes of iconic film stills to intricately detailed portraits. Paper&Blade will also feature in an Online Alternative Market Event on Saturday 27 June, presented by Haunt Manchester and Bristol in collaboration with Bristol Goth and Alternative Market.

By Paper&Blade

So what exactly is paper cut art? Papercutting is a long-practiced technique, creating patterns using single or multiple sheets of paper by cutting and removing sections. Designs can therefore incorporate elaborate detail, and Ange certainly explores interesting possibilities within the work of Paper&Blade.

Taking inspiration from her passions for horror films, books, metal and alternative music, Ange’s designs have included the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, the infamous poster image for The Exorcist (1973), the enchanting settings of Little Riding Hood and whole array of interesting characters! Using a variety of cutting styles, every piece Ange makes is unique; from layered multi-tonal images and detailed portraits to simple colour cuts. Beautiful as they are, or framed and mounted, there are many possibilities for a Paper&Blade design.

In turn, Haunt Manchester’s Academic Lead Dr Matt Foley (also a member of Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University), author of Haunting Modernisms, has reflected on some of Ange’s work below:

By Paper&Blade

“Paper&Blade’s hand-cut presentation of Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) iconic scream from the famous shower scene in Psycho (1960) is devilishly powerful. The image transports you immediately into the sonic and visual world of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. We see and sense blood. We hear not only Marion’s screams, but the cutting of Norma(n) Bates’ blade against her flesh, represented so powerfully in the film by the screeching violins of Bernard Herrmann’s original score.

“The influence and reach of Psycho stretches into the slasher film genre that would follow it, and this lineage is partly what makes the shower scene so special to horror fans. That Ange Shepherd’s own art is ‘cut’ together makes the image of Marion particularly fitting. Such artistry provides an apt metaphor for Hitchcock’s and Joseph Stefano’s own cutting apart (or adaptation) of Robert Bloch’s novel of 1959. In Bloch’s original Psycho, Mary (rather than Marion) Crane is beheaded by Norma(n) with a single swipe of a butcher’s knife – she is allowed only one, in Bloch’s words, ‘cut off’ scream from the bath tub. Ange’s version of the scene demonstrates that Hitchcock’s Marion (not Bloch’s Mary) will keep screaming and calling to us, arousing our primal fears, even if she is framed neatly and beautifully in the more comfortable surroundings of our living room walls.”

Readers can browse the Paper&Blade range for themselves on Instagram and Facebook, with orders possible via Ange’s Folksy shop. Commissions are also available, with Ange no stranger to creating bespoke and personalised designs including portraits.

By Paper&Blade

Ahead of Paper&Blade’s involvement in the Online Alternative Market, Haunt Manchester spoke to Ange to find out more:

Hello Ange! Paper&Blade has such an intriguing approach… when did you begin working in this way and what was the inspiration?

“Paper&Blade began its life as Kittens Mittens back in 2013 a craft stall that I had at local craft fairs with handmade cards, mini clay gnomes and other crafty bits to appeal to a goth/alternative/heavy metal/horror film audience.

“It was while searching for craft ideas online that I came across the art of Scherenschnitte (German papercutting) which reminded me of the shadow puppets of South East Asia and the intricate designs and filigree patterns. A bit of research and a few purchases later I had a cutting mat, a pile of paper and a very sharp scalpel on my workbench. I spent an entire weekend absorbed by cutting the perfect circle rather than a 50p piece shape and once I'd done that, I challenged myself to cutting more intricate designs, flowing text, mice the size of the 'p' on a one pence piece.

“It kind of exploded from there. I realised that I could use a simple photo editing programme to play with contrasts on pictures and create striking silhouettes, then I found out how to tonally stack different images and started making multi layered portraits of friends and family.”

By Paper&Blade

Can you tell us a little more about the process?

“In short, I find an image, manipulate it and re-draw it to create a piece that I think would work then I transfer it, (in reverse - words can catch you out!), onto the paper that I have chosen. It's then just a case of cutting out the parts that you want to see the background through. I cut anchor lines to stabilise delicate or floating parts of the image which are removed at the final stage of gluing. And it's better to cut the finest detail first otherwise it gets very easy to tear the paper. The more detailed the image, the thinner the paper that I use, anywhere from 80gsm to 160gsm is the normal range.”

A number of your pieces seem drawn to dark and mysterious themes. Why do you explore these in your work, do you think?

By Paper&Blade

“I truly love the macabre and unusual. I've always been fascinated by the stranger sides of life and that does generally mean I'm attracted to what's seen by most people as dark and frightening. I've been into heavy metal since I was 15 (that's 32 years ago!!) and horror films since I was allowed to watch them. I was called a goth as a teenager, was a total glam metal girl, then I got very into 1960s psychedelia and spent a wonderful summer walking around Scarborough in long floaty skirts with no shoes on trying to relive the Summer of Love, then I met my husband in '95 and he re-introduced me to extreme metal. We spent a lot of time in those early days watching every horror film in the local video rental and going to a lot of gigs. We still do!

“I am definitely attracted to the darker side of things and almost certainly the more 'Old School' style. I love the imagery from the early album covers and film posters, the attention to detail that goes into the special effects rather than them being computer generated.

“There is a lot more to me than just horror films and loud music although that is where I find the majority of my inspiration. I still love to cut portraits, the quirkier the pose the better, I occasionally cut fairies and Alice in Wonderland too, but let's face it, even they have their darker sides!”

By Paper&Blade

How does it feel to be involved in the upcoming collaborative market?

“I am really excited to be taking part in the Alternative Online Market, it's a fantastic opportunity to show support and provide an outlet for independent traders and to gather a community of alternative makers together and show people that there is beauty amongst the darkness. There are so many people out there that see the world differently to what is regarded as the 'normal'. But that is the joy of being human. We shouldn't all be the same. Everybody walks a different path.”

The Alternative Online Market presented by Haunt Manchester and Bristol in collaboration with Bristol Goth and Alternative Market takes place on Saturday 27 March on the Facebook event page here, featuring almost 30 traders with a range of Gothic, unique and intriguing items!

Article by Dr Matt Foley and Emily Oldfield

All images by Paper&Blade/Ange Shepherd

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