Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Annie Howe

March 24, 2017

Annie Howe - UncommonGoods

When you hear the words “paper cut,” it’s likely to conjure up some past painful feelings. Sorry! Allow Baltimore-based artist Annie Howe to replace those memories of ouch-moments with a much friendlier kind of papercut – her (completely painless) designs made from strategically cutting into paper.

Annie isn’t totally new to the Uncommon family–we’ve had her Love You to the Moon Personalized Papercut and Love Birds Personalized Papercut in stock for a bit, but since she has a brand new Personalized Family Papercut on offer, we figured it’d be a great time to introduce her. Read on to hear from Annie about how a hobby making presents for family and friends turned into a fun, full-time gig.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I basically knew I wanted to be an artist in high school – I applied only to art schools and was proud to go to Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD where I received a BFA in Fiber Arts.

I read in your bio that in the past you specialized in making large-scale puppets and shadow puppets. What made you transition to these smaller-scale papercuts?

I spent many years after graduation from MICA working with an amazing Baltimore arts organization called Nana Projects. We made shadow puppet shows using overheard projectors and silhouettes that we cut by hand. I spent hours and hours cutting out tiny little silhouettes and imagery for our shows using a knife and drawing. Using the same materials and techniques, I started toying around with papercutting as a way to make gifts for friends and family.

People liked what I did and encouraged me to show my work. I began building an audience for my papercuts. I started doing some craft shows and commissions then I expanded to clients and brands and taking on lots of clients. Now I work full-time as a papercut artist. Baltimore is an amazing place to be an artist.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I like to get to work by 8:30 or 9 am. My studio is close to my house and also on the second floor of a hair salon, which means I can get my hair cut anytime I like! It’s also fun to listen to people get their hair cut all day – people are always pretty happy when they’re getting their hair done. I usually stop at the excellent cafe next door to grab a cup of coffee (it is my weakness). Our community is tight-knit, so I love to say hello to my neighbors and friends. Then I get right to work.

I share my studio with another fantastic artist named Monique Langely, so if she’s around we end up chatting and brainstorming ideas and troubleshooting things we are working on. I’m a podcast junkie and so I’m always listening to some kind of podcast while I’m working. Since I’m a one-woman operation I have to balance my time between administrative tasks like answering emails and putting together proposals for clients, making papercuts, framing, and shipping out orders. The best part of owning my own business is I get to make my schedule and plan my day.

Can you explain how you make your papercuts, from start to finish?

I start by folding my paper in half. I draw and cut what I can that is symmetrical then I unfold the paper and cut the non-symmetrical parts, like words. Everything is hand-drawn on the back of the papercuts so the lines don’t show up, so that means all the lettering is written backwards.

Annie Howe - Making Papercuts
Once the whole piece is finished I go back in and neaten up any edges and lines using a super sharp blade. I use 70# drawing paper and Excel cutting knives and blades to cut.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

I don’t have a trinket, but my desk faces the window and I love to look out on the alleyway behind my studio. It’s fun to watch the sun set and the birds on the telephone wires.

How do you hope people will react to your personalized papercuts when they receive one?

I love to see where my papercuts are heading – they really go all over the country! I want people to feel like the papercuts are helping them mark a special memory in their lives.

Annie Howe Papercuts - UncommonGoods
I hope that people can see the love and care I put into each piece. I work with a local frame shop to build all my frames so I hope they can see the love and care that goes into the frames, too.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

I was lucky to see Hamilton last year when it opened on Broadway – we got tickets before the show totally blew up. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack non-stop ever since. I even make papercuts inspired by the songs. You can see them on my Instagram page. My favorite song is “Non Stop.” It reminds me to just keep on working and making and reaching to be the best I can be. I listen to that when I need motivation.

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