Featured on “Making It” Season 3!

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A still from the "Making It" title sequence showing various handmade objects and plants decorating the inside of the barn, where the show is filmed and the words "Executive Producer Nick Offerman"

I wanted to share some exciting news: my work is being featured on this season’s set of NBC’s “Making It” with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman!

Airing nationally on Thursday evenings at 8pm Eastern (or streaming on Hulu), the show is a light-hearted, feel-good competition series featuring makers, artists, and designers from across the country. Now in its third season, executive producers Poehler and Offerman designed the show to celebrate the creativity and craftiness in all of us.

I was honored to create three custom pieces for the NBC set. When I sent them off for filming I had no idea where or whether they would make an appearance in the show. It’s been fun to spot them each time they’re shown on an episode!

The house with the orange background is one of my sample house portraits that I was able to rent to the production since I wasn’t doing any in-person events in the fall of 2020 thanks to a certain pandemic situation. But the most exciting pieces are the two others that I created specifically for the show:

The “Making It” Barn

Framed paper art depicting the "Making It" barn in navy and white.

This House Portrait Silhouette version of the Making It barn was a fun make! As I was gluing all those little bits together I imagined how it must feel to actually be standing inside the barn for the show. Maybe some day that will be me! I love the addition of the barn quilt this season, and I’m tempted to make an updated version that includes it!

Still from the "Making It" intro sequence showing the exterior of the barn on a sunny day
The barn, as seen in the show’s title sequence
Still from the "Making It" title sequence showing a pop-up book version of the barn surrounded by trees
A paper pop-up book version of the barn, as seen in the show’s title sequence (I love this SO MUCH as you might imagine)

The Cottage

Framed paper art depicting the "Making It" cottage in dark green and white paper

This House Portrait Silhouette version of the cottage was also a fun challenge. Those light fixtures are actually 3D! The dormer windows on the second floor are gorgeous, with the arch to let in even more light. The show doesn’t really use the inside of this space as far as I can tell, but the various hilarious exchanges that Amy and Nick have on the porch are what make “Making It” such a delight. Though it’s sad to say goodbye to whoever leaves at the end of each episode, I love seeing the different “farming” “jobs” they get to act out, often on the cottage porch or nearby, at the the very end of the episode.

Still from the show's intro sequence showing an aerial view of the cottage and the tree out front
The cottage, as seen in the show’s title sequence
Still frame from the show's title sequence depicting a paper pop-up version of the cottage
A paper pop-up book version of the cottage,
as seen in the show’s title sequence

Introducing: House Portrait Silhouettes!

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Framed house portrait silhouette depicting a three-story duplex home with the label "Arlington, MA" underneath, white and teal artwork in a black frame

I’ve been working behind the scenes for the last year or so to develop a new style of house portrait. Introducing, the House Portrait Silhouette! I’m doing this for a few reasons:

  • Sometimes simplicity is the best way forward! My 3D House Portraits have only gotten more complex as I’ve fine-tuned my ability to make tinier and tinier details out of paper.
  • Variety is the spice of life! Each 3D House Portrait takes hours and hours and hours and hours of work, and I find myself craving novelty (and burning out).
  • I feel bad about taking so long! I know there are folks who’ve been waiting for a chance to order a house portrait for a while, or who might purchase if the timing/pricing were less complicated. House Portrait Silhouettes will have a faster turnaround time, and will be available for purchase at your leisure. No need to set any alarms or rearrange your schedule.

I am still making 3D House Portraits! I’m catching up on my queue and fitting in a few projects for family this summer. I will reopen orders later in the summer / early fall of 2021. As always, the best way to stay informed of all house portrait details is to make sure you’re on my email list.

Framed custom house silhouette depicting a 2-story house with double garage, front porch, and sidelights around the front door

The Details

Your House Portrait Silhouette begins with a clear photograph of the home or building you’d like me to work with. I then carefully trace the outline of the structure. I draw in details like windows, doors, shutters, and other architectural elements that help describe the building. After you’ve reviewed the drawing and chosen a background color (there are 38 to choose from!) I will turn my drawing into files for my computerized cutting machine to cut. I use a computerized cutting machine so that everything is super accurate. My machine can cut straight lines, smooth curves, and beautiful details! With cut pieces in hand, I attach the detail pieces to the background, carefully lining things up to match the photograph, then frame it up and ship it to your door.

House Portrait Silhouettes are:

  • 11″ x 14″ and arrive framed and ready to display
  • Available in your choice of 38 background colors
  • One layer of paper in the foreground depicting the silhouette of your home, one layer of details glued to your background paper
  • Three rounds of design revisions
  • $264, including shipping within the U.S.

Simple and Modern

House Portrait Silhouettes are a beautiful, minimalist depiction of the essence of a house. Working from a photograph, I carefully trace the important details to make sure that all of the perspective lines are spot-on. This then allows me to create an image that subtly depicts implied architectural features like the bay window at the front of this Newbury Street house, or the deep front porch of the (above) gray background house with that gorgeous arched attic window.

Make your own Paper Place

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Packaged Make Your Own Paper Place kit on a desk

Have you ever noticed how places are always an important part of the story? Whether the story is a fairy tale, a fable, or what happened Tuesday afternoon, there’s always a setting. Over time, you collect places that are important to your story, whether that’s a home, a park, a school or campus, an office, a restaurant, a town, a state, a region, a country, or all of the above. My work is about celebrating places, and I love to do that by preserving memories of them with paper – something that is everywhere, and usually so ephemeral and fragile, but cut and sculpted and framed becomes an heirloom.

The video tutorial shows how to use my Make Your Own Map Shadowbox Kit (available for now exclusively through GarrettWade.com), which contains all of the supplies you need to, well, make your own map shadowbox! The kit includes:

  • Instruction booklet
  • Shadowbox Frame
  • Paper for the map cut-out as well as the background
  • Japanese Woodcarving Knife (for cutting the paper)

You will also need:

  • A prying tool or old credit card
  • A pencil or other drawing tool
  • Optional: collage materials like glue, additional paper colors or textures, photographs, memorabilia

The funny thing about remembering and celebrating places, is that they then become part of the story of the place you are now. If you’d like to share your paper places online, tag @yeioupaperobjects on Instagram, and use #yeioupaperplaces!

The story of yeiou paper places

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Three framed paper places on a wall near a potted plant

I started making Paper Places in the summer of 2019. I had already started making house portraits, and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make enough of them to keep my business afloat. The idea came to me sort of abruptly and at the last minute. It was the night before a craft fair I was participating in nearby in Somerville, MA. I made a few maps of Somerville and some of the surrounding towns, working into the early morning hours the night before the event.

The next morning, I hung them up with my other work to see what would happen!

The yeiou paper objects booth popped up at Art Beat in Somerville, MA
My booth at Art Beat 2019, Davis Square, Somerville, MA.

Throughout the day I had a lot of fun conversations about how weirdly-shaped places are! I sold a few, swapped out some background colors, and generally felt encouraged.

When designing my Paper Places, I focused on making them in a way that felt clean and modern. I designed them to be easy to hang on a wall in a grouping without looking weird. Pulling from the bright color palette of my paper craft kits, I offered a bunch of different color options. Once I had all of that, I focused my efforts on adding new place designs. It turns out there are a LOT of places in the Boston area, let alone the world!

Nine maps of Boston neighborhoods: Back Bay, South End, Mattapan, Roxbury, Brighton, Roslindale, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park
A few of the many neighborhoods of Boston, MA.

Custom Paper Places

I very quickly realized that I could never keep up with all of the requests for new places, nor could I reasonably predict which places people might want! In order to fill that gap, I added the option to order a custom-designed Paper Place! It’s been fun over the years to make gifts for parents, siblings, children, real estate clients, and friends, near and far.

Nov. 2019, one of my last in-person events before Covid lockdown – so many Paper Places!

Three years of Custom House Portraits

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In March of 2018, I was really burnt out from a busy holiday market season that happened immediately after several months of working full time while gutting and rebuilding our new kitchen and then moving to our new house. After running at over 100% capacity for something like 8 months, I decided to take some time to play, experiment and breathe. I made paper out of other paper! I painted pictures on paper for no reason! I slept in! I cooked dinners and breakfasts! It was glorious.

I haven’t been able to take time like that since, though, because the other thing that came out of that quieter season was the beginning of the custom house portraits! Based on a custom project I had finished for a friend in mid-2017, I stumbled my way through creating the first house portrait, a model of our little house in Arlington, MA. I shared the process on Instagram as I solved fun challenges like “the angle of the roof is NOT what I expected it to be!” and since there seemed to be at least a little interest, I decided to give it a go.

Abigail holding her first paper house portrait

I used the photos of this house portrait to list my very first “Custom House Portrait” in my Etsy shop for $50. I limited this pricing to 5 orders, since that would easily cover the cost of materials and shipping, but it wasn’t too much for what was essentially an excuse to learn and experiment.

A few brave souls took me up on it, and I embarked on this weird journey of figuring out things like “How do I give depth to a roof that you can’t really see in the photo?” and “How do I get the roof and floor of a porch to actually line up with the porch columns?” and “Just how thin can I make this sliver of paper before it disintegrates?”

I thought these first house portraits were SO detailed! I thought there was no way I’d be able to fit more detail into something like this! I did eventually have to move to a larger format (11×14 inches instead of 8×8), but still, three years ago me had no idea how far this was going to go.

One of the questions I get asked is some variation of “you’ve made a bunch of these, you must be so fast at it now!”, but because I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist, what I actually learn from each new house portrait I finish is how to pack even more details in so that it takes even longer to finish! I wouldn’t have it any other way, though, and I’m very fortunate to have the world’s most patient customers.

I created 17 house portraits in 2018, 34 in 2019, 22 in 2020, and 13 so far in 2021.

Looking ahead

In 2021 I plan to continue accepting orders in batches of 5-6 commissions, opening orders once every 2-3 months at a day and time announced only to those who’ve joined my email list. This is the best way I have right now of keeping my work queue manageable. At the beginning of 2020 I had an order queue 5 months long, it was incredibly stressful! I’m also trying to give a fair-ish chance to everyone – the day and time changes for each launch, to account for different time zones, schedules, etc.

This month’s launch will stay at my current pricing, but there will be an increase of some amount for the next launch (hopefully June or July 2021). I’m also hoping to upgrade to a higher quality frame and glass, either as a part of the standard pricing or an optional add-on.

I keep talking about carving out time to take another break like the one that started this all back in 2018, just some time to recharge and rest, but with everything else going on this last year it’s been all I could do to just keep going with the bare minimum. Making something that people want and want to pay me to make has been such a delight – after many years of struggling to make this business viable with products that just didn’t sell very well, being suddenly too busy is an amazing problem to have, but it still feels like a new problem that I’m actively learning how to manage!

Checking in

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Last summer’s political and racial unrest here in the U.S. kicked off a season for me of learning, listening, and reevaluating. I haven’t talked much about it here. Mostly because, well, I’m a naive white woman, and listening is what I feel like I need to be focusing on right now. If you’ve been following along though, you know I said I was going to do some things. I thought I’d take a minute to report back.⁠

  • I realized that even though in my personal life we have always made sure to prioritize generosity in contributing to organizations we care about, it wasn’t something I was doing as a business. ⁠Since June, I (yeiou paper objects, that is) have been making monthly contributions to a local organization that works to keep families housed, and also helps unhoused families find emergency and long-term places to live.⁠ I contributed a portion of each house portrait sale in 2020 to an organization in my town that distributes food to families in need (a need that grew exponentially in 2020). ⁠
  • Over the summer I also made a one-time contribution to an organization that was running a creative business incubator program for students, which was a no-brainer for me to contribute to, since my own business was bootstrapped by my husband’s income, not something I would have been able to do without financial support!⁠
  • In addition to these concrete things, I’ve been looking inward and reflecting, reading, learning, and having conversations about what it means to be white in this country, where the idea of “whiteness” even came from, the systemic atrocities of white supremacy, and how to move toward something better…all sorts of light things.⁠

This doesn’t feel like much in the grand scheme of things, but if you were curious, that’s the update!⁠

Oh, and P.S. Black Lives Matter⁠

And, if you’re interested, here’s some of what I’ve been reading / watching to broaden my horizons and to better understand the colonial and white supremacist backdrop of the world I’ve been raised and living in:

Reading & Watching List

Non-Fiction

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Heartland

All the Agents and Saints

Stamped

American Harvest

The NYT 1619 Project

Fiction

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Talents

Kindred

The Broken Earth Trilogy

The City We Became

Watching

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Thirteenth

Dear Georgina (I also want to watch their longer documentary, Dawnland)

This is of course just a tiny list in the grand scheme of things, I may add to it over time, but if you’re curious about other things to read and watch there are lists pretty much everywhere.

So Many Thanks – a free printable project

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I first created this printable project as a fun Thanksgiving craft a few years ago, but this year it felt like a good thing to talk about on Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Canada and the U.K.). I’ve been trying to be much more mindful of the world around me and specifically the struggles of people who aren’t just like me as sort of an ongoing personal project this year. Six years of working alone at home made my radius of awareness pretty small, it turns out! It took a pandemic, a major social justice movement, global Black Lives Matter protests, and a lot of thinking about my own privilege.

So, today, for the first time as an adult, I’m taking a moment to think about Veterans Day. Specifically, to think about it as more than just a day off, or a day when the post office is closed, or even a “bonus” day to get more work done. I don’t know what it’s like to serve in the military, but I know that every single person who has served or is serving has at a minimum given up time spent with their loved ones, and likely a lot more than that. Thank you, veterans, for all of the different sacrifices you have made. So many thanks.

Partially-assembled printed "So Many Thanks" banner

Whether you’re celebrating Veterans Day or getting a head start on Thanksgiving or have a random act of kindness to thank someone for, here’s a crafty way to do it:

Partially-assembled printed "So Many Thanks" banner

House Portraits: It’s all in the (architectural) details

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Tiny architectural details fascinate me.

One of the reasons I love living in urban Massachusetts is the sort of details prevalent in neighborhoods full of homes that are over 100 years old. The more detailed, the better!

Do you like looking at old houses and hand-crafted details?

I sometimes get lost walking around my own neighborhood because I look up and around at the houses instead of down at the street signs and where I am going. It’s still dangerous for me to drive around in new areas because I really just want to stare at the houses! If you like looking at houses in your neighborhood, online, on TV, (This Old House, anyone?), or in any form of photography, you’ll know just what I mean.

The tiny details are the reason I kept creating house portraits

There is magic in the details, and bringing that to life is one of my favorite parts of creating an architectural portrait. I excel at picking out the details that make a home unique, no matter how small. 

Of course, your house’s design and the scale of the finished piece, how closely the proportions match the frame dimensions, and the quality of photograph all determine the level of detail that brings your home or special place to life behind the frame. But if there’s something special, like this weathervane, that makes the home yours, please make a note of it when you contact me! 

The artist's thumb and pointer fingers holding a tiny paper weathervane that looks like a bird in flight.

This weathervane is one of the microscopic details I’m most proud of. The bird is 0.34 in (0.86 cm) wide and 0.2 inches (0.48 cm) tall. The entire weathervane is smaller than my thumbnail!

Sometimes I get to fully build the details like this bird, but details with more dimension in real life force me to create some illusions. Take a look at the chimney below. Using 8 separately drawn and cut shapes of paper I created the illusion of depth using layering and subtle scoring and folding.

Detail of a custom house portrait showing a double chimney and how it attaches to the roof

It’s all part of the process

Hand-cut corners and lines also give miniatures the feel of the real place. This is where a house portrait becomes a house sculpture! The scrollwork on this roofline is all cut by hand. The detail is about half an inch wide and crafted from three separate intricately scrolled pieces and some shorter straight pieces.

Close-up of intricate scrollwork that will be part of a custom house portrait's roofline, with scraps and other in progress pieces in the background

What architectural details make your home unique? Be sure to point them out when you purchase a house portrait slot!

Join my email list to get updates on when orders open, and to learn a little more about the process. You can also visit my Etsy shop to see more architecturally-inspired paper art.

Celebrating the Family Home

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One of the things I love about creating house portraits is that it takes a beloved family home and allows you to carry it with you. Many of my clients commission portraits when they are getting ready to move, and particularly when they are leaving a childhood or long term home.

As parents get older, they often want to downsize to something more manageable—or just something that’s less work! Why not spend less time managing a property, and more time doing something you love?

While it’s understandable, downsizing can be bittersweet for everyone involved. An architectural portrait preserves not just an image of a home, but the physical proportions and feel in a tangible way. 

Art to Remember a Family Home

When a good friend’s mother decided to sell her childhood home and move down south, she was beside herself. She knew it was the right thing for her mom, but the home had been in her family for over 100 years. She wanted something to commemorate this big change, so she turned to art. 

At first, she commissioned a photographic family portrait in front of the home, but the family members covered up key architectural details. She also realized that a photograph, while lovely, reflected the weather and season just as much as the house. She wanted to be able to take the architecture with her and capture the details she loved. 

I sent her some of the images of past house portraits my clients commissioned for their parents. Each of these gifts evoked special memories, and one family was so touched they decided to commission a second copy.

House Portraits to Celebrate Home

The gift tag on this home says it all:

“Mom and Dad, we wanted to give you something to remember the house where we grew up and have so many wonderful memories.”

Finished house portrait wrapped with brown kraft paper and baker's twine with gift note on top

I shipped the completed house portrait directly to the parents after they moved from their longtime home (the left side of the duplex below), so I worked with their children to make sure that the unboxing and unwrapping experience would be special.

Hand holding a finished, framed house portrait on a light gray background.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for your parents to downsize to celebrate the place where they raised you. The house portrait below was an extra special milestone birthday gift from a daughter to her father. 

Finished house portrait on navy background in black shadowbox frame
Paper house portrait with navy blue background on top of scraps from the design process.

This next house portrait was also a birthday gift from kids to dad. This home hosted extended family for countless occasions ranging from Sunday dinners to the birthday party where dad was gifted this portrait.

Completed house portrait, framed, with an orange background.

I accept new house portrait commissions every two months or so. You can find more details on the House Portraits page, or join my mailing list to get more information on the house portrait process and how to prepare photographs of your house, you’ll also get updates in your inbox when orders will open again.

Tissue Paper Flowers Video Tutorial

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Once upon a time, I taught this project as part of a workshop I led at Albertine Press in Cambridge, MA. It’s been a while, and I’ve since moved on to teach some more-intricate paper flower projects, so I thought I’d offer my take on this project in a video so that you can make your own tissue paper flowers at your leisure!

I go through all your needed supplies and tools (it’s a short list) in the video below, but in case you’d rather have it in writing, here’s what you’ll want to have on hand:

  1. Tissue Paper!
    This is pretty self-evident, but I’ll unpack it a little: if you have pristine tissue paper in perfect flower colors, go you! If you have random odds and ends from your stash of gift wrap, you’re in great shape! If you have an old phone book that you don’t mind tearing apart, I think this would still work for you. The thing you need is thin, lightweight paper. That cheap wrapping paper that isn’t opaque enough to hide what you’re wrapping might work. If you still get a paper newspaper delivered to your house, or you have a catalog or magazine with particularly flimsy paper, I think you’re in good shape. You want your sheets of paper to be at least 6″x10″ or so, and you’ll want at least four sheets that size. There’s no such thing as “too big” for this project, in my opinion, so go for it!
  2. Scissors!
    Or other sharp object capable of cutting through a few layers of whatever paper you end up with, just please don’t cut through yourself in the process.
  3. String!
    You could use yarn, a twisty-tie, a piece of ribbon, a pipe cleaner…anything that lets you knot or twist tightly around the center of your soon-to-be paper flower.

Once you’ve got your supplies, clear yourself a workspace proportional to the size of your paper, and let’s get to folding!

My favorite thing to do with these flowers is to wear them: