A Crafty Paper Cutter

The Crescent Arts Studio in Scarborough is full of talented artists.

The studios are currently located in the basement of Scarborough Art Gallery and they offer studio space for up to seven artists at any one time.

One of the local resident artists, Steven Potter, spoke to us about why he got into creating pieces of art through paper cutting.

Steven said: “I started at Leeds College of Art in 2009 where I was promptly sent home to Scarborough before Freshers week began because I’d contracted mumps.”

As he contracted mumps, he saw that there were a few posts about his classes regarding ‘ice breaker activities’ and art exercises.

“I felt like I was missing out, like for some reason I would be at a disadvantage when I returned because I had not been there to hop on one leg and draw a straight line,” he said.

“I spent the week bitterly doodling repeated patterns into a sketchpad.”

When he returned, he ‘felt lost in a sea of experimental sculptures and groups of newly formed friends who had all already exhausted the novelty of exploring a new city.’

With all university students, there is always an issue with Student Finance; however, Steven did not receive any funding up until halfway through his second year.

He said: “I needed a cheap way of producing art, I found myself on paper but being as interested in illustration as I was in contact sports I dragged out my old sketchbooks to find away to make it work and stumbled upon the doodles I did when I was sick nearly two years ago.

“I decided to recreate them to see how subconsciously my unconscious thoughtless scribbles had changed.”

As he couldn’t afford the materials, Steven was unable to make his ‘doodles’ into 3D which is what he was hoping for.

“When I tell people about this I like to describe it like the scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Harry picks up the wand and there’s a wind machine and lighting effects and dramatic music, in reality I saw a scalpel handle and blade by coincidence and bought them for 60p on student discount, there was no wind machine,” he said.

He then started to use the scalpel to cut the shapes and wrapped them around a lamp.

“I liked the way it looked and so did Leeds City Gallery who requested a window display for their Christmas art fair,” Steven said.

“Still working by hand I scaled up the A4 paper I had been working on to fit their 8ft window and so ‘griffonage’ was created.”

The question that he has been asked many times is ‘why do you not use a laser cutter?’

According to Steven, a laser cutter could produce what takes him months to produce by hand in less than a day.

“I guess using a laser cutter would be more efficient and a lot more accurate then I could ever do,” Steven said.

“It would be easy to assume at this point that a mixture of personal circumstance and ridiculous quirks had set me on a predetermined path of hand cutting over machine production and at first it definitely started that way however as I worked more and more with the medium I began to favour the time consuming process involved with the conception of large scale paper cut installations.

“I think it all circles back to that first week when I had mumps and missed out on the ice breakers and me not having any confidence in the work I produce.”

Hand cutting takes a lot of time and Steven believes that ‘the sacrifice involved in making these pieces isn’t just time, its personal dedication. ‘

The culmination of this practice came to fruition with his first solo show ‘10A’ at crescent arts which consisted of 10 8ft hand cut repeated pattern pieces suspended around a single light source.

According to Steven, there is a personal history involved with hand cutting that laser cutting doesn’t contain.

“Laser cutting is perfect. Hand cutting is a practice of mistakes. The art exists within the slipping of the blade,” he says.

More recently he has been scaling down his cutting to a more commercial level that combines the medium of paper cutting along with his sense of humour: ‘kitty’, ‘penguin’ and ‘bunny.’

He said: “I feel having worked with paper cutting for so long and in the same sort of way these pieces are the bridge to what is next and I have begun an experimental phase while my residency at Crescent is still in effect and I have access to the space.

“It’s exciting in the sense that it allows me to have fun outside of the artistic persona I have invented for myself but it’s also scary because it’s venturing outside a medium I have built a practice and a fan base around.

“What if what I produce isn’t as good? What if I waste time I could be cutting on something that won’t matter in the end?

“Basically I just have to constantly shove an apple in the mouth of my existential crisis and continue with a stiff upper lip and hope for the best.

“All in all if I end up back on paper cutting at least I’ll return to it with the same rejuvenated conviction I have after sacrificing to produce work.”

Crescent Arts is a local Scarborough gallery and arts council funded charity that houses a rotating artist residency program.

Steven interviewed for a studio whilst he was still at university and had his first solo show there.

“I have also exhibited in Leeds Light Night where I was awarded an independent artist bursary to participate,” he said.

Crescent Arts is to support and promote contemporary visual arts in Scarborough and beyond.

They support emerging, developing and leading artistic talent and seek to enhance access to the visual arts.

The resident artists benefit from subsidised rates for studios, equipment, facilities and resources as well as from professional support and training opportunities.

Steven said that he uses his full name ‘Steven Malorie Potter’ as a passive aggressive reply to the fact no gallery or submission seems to be able to get his name right.

“I have kicked off at so many printed typos below my work that for a brief period I insisted on being called Steven with a V.

“By giving my full name I relinquish responsibility and am providing all the letters of my name for interpretation of whoever is receiving my submission.”

To find out more information please visit his website at: http://www.stevenmaloriepotter.com/

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Photograph courtesy of Steven Malorie Potter

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