So, Chris, can we start by you giving us a bit of background about yourself?
I guess I’d summarise myself as a curious creative with a love of the unusual. This has often found expression in a professional career in communications lasting over 20 years, and where it hasn’t, it escapes in a range of creative endeavours, including songwriting, music, photography and, of course, papercut art.
Have you always worked in the medium of art?
If you consider working with words as a means of expression and communication to be art, then the answer would have to be yes. While my professional life has involved elements of graphic design, photography and video work, the majority has been helping people and businesses creatively and authentically express themselves by sharing their stories. My papercut art journey only started in 2014, when my then girlfriend (and now wife) Helen Lawn set up the collaborative art venture, Pope & Lawn.
Can you tell us more about how you started creating artistic papercuts?
My wife (who also has a successful career in communications) and I had long shared a fascination with the visual impact of papercut art and its ability to engage and ultimately communicate with people of all ages. We were both especially fascinated by the degree of skill that’s involved, where the cutting is done entirely by hand. This led to the beginning of an artistic journey exploring what other forms of expression are possible within this art form, and in doing so, to the creation of a growing and unique body of work. While our original papercuts and related pieces build on the traditional practice of papercutting by hand, they introduce a contemporary twist through the addition of colour and the use of mixed media.
You have your work displayed in a number of local establishments, including Trinity Theatre and Fuggles. Is there anywhere else in the UK where it’s on display?
While our papercut art journey has necessarily been one that’s had to fit around work, we’re proud that our art has featured in a number of international art exhibitions as well as several galleries, including the prestigious Chalk Gallery in Lewes which we were previously part of. Personally speaking, the work I’m most proud of currently on display is a piece featuring the iconic Maxi Jazz from legendary dance band Faithless. It’s based on a photograph I took at the launch of his solo music project and is currently hanging on the wall of his home.
What do you think makes papercut artwork so appealing?
That’s a good question and one that’s hard to answer fully because, for me, so much of the appeal of papercut art is instinctive and visceral, especially when it’s complex and created by hand. (Some of our more complicated works have in excess of 10,000 individual cuts, all made by hand!) You see something and some part of you just goes: “Wow – how on earth did they do that?” And that’s for me part of the power and appeal of papercut art when it’s done well – it has that effect on people irrespective of age and background in art.
How did your project for Trinity’s The Snow Queen come about?
We were approached by Elizabeth Mahony from Trinity, an admirer of our work, with a view to commissioning a genuine one-off design and final artwork for The Snow Queen. From the outset it was clear Elizabeth and myself clicked in terms of sharing creative ideas, which helped the finished design to be completed within the tight timeframe of the project.
How long did it take to make?
In terms of the actual design, the excitement and positivity we shared about the project saw the final artwork completed in a matter of days after exploring a number of different ideas and variations on a theme. In terms of the actual finished papercut original, the actual cutting, all by hand with a scalpel, took about 4-5 hours. It was then delicately sprayed with a special acrylic paint before being mounted in its wooden box frame. So all in all, about a day.
The original artwork is being auctioned off for charity. Can you tell us who will benefit and how much are you hoping to raise?
As much as possible hopefully! All proceeds will go back into helping the work of Trinity to continue to be a vital hub of the performing arts in Tunbridge Wells.
Do you have a local gallery space where people can view your work?
We did used to have a gallery space – the only gallery space dedicated to hand-cut, original papercut art in the South East. But sadly when we moved to just outside the town, we had to let that go. It’s an area we often look at revisiting so watch this space.
However, for now, the majority of our papercut originals are available to view, and buy, at popeandlawn.com – or by appointment if people get in touch via the website.
We have also undertaken a number of bespoke commissions for individuals and businesses, and again can be reached via the website or by emailing: email@example.com should anyone be interested in something unique.