As easily as Alice falls down the rabbit hole, Laura Heyenga's compilation pulls us into the magical land of paper cutting. Page by page we encounter amusements, contemplations, and oddities that reveal the depth flat paper can convey in the hands of 26 paper artists of diverse talent. Natile Avelia's introduction briefly covers history and provides important, well-written narrative snippets on each artist. To readers' delight, Rob Ryan was chosen to preface the book.
So why four stars?
My list of criticisms, preferences & observations:
Every photo is of a finished piece. I crave process shots beyond the two small photos of two separate pieces in the introduction.
The materials list for each piece is pitiful. Some examples: paper and acrylic paint; paper and emulsion; black paper. Uhm, what kind of paper? What weight? What type of acrylic?
Few pieces show scale. No measurements are provided. Some have reference in relationship to walls and books. The very last page with Hina Aoyama's delicate cutting held in a palm accentuates the importance of scale to the viewer.
I would have liked specific history on a few pieces: the amount of time a selected work took, how it was born, the difficulty. Fortunately at the beginning of each gallery we are provided a paragraph of insight into the artist's overall motivations.
Each artist's work covers 4-8 pages. On many pages a photo fills just 55% of the page with small type at the bottom of the page. (The type gives the title, year and/or material used.) Those small photos obscure the art. A larger easier-to-read font should have been used. I'd have paid more for a better layout.
Nearly all the featured artists are art/design graduates. I think Nikki McClure was the only autodidact. I'd have enjoyed seeing more self-taught artists. (Nikki's bio in the book delights.) But, this does not diminish the featured artists, each deserves their place in this creme de la creme book.
The majority of pieces are ethnic neutral. No papel picado, wycinanki, kirie, etc. That's an observation, not a gripe.
Much of the artists' work is available for viewing on the web. (But really, how handy is that?)
Biases and shortcomings aside, the book contains variety, surprise, skill and joy. Life tumbles from one page to the next. Paper Cutting lays an engaging visual feast at our fingertips and is worth the groceries forfeited to buy it.