Custom Places in Paper

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From the beginning, my favorite part of crafting Paper Places is the potential for customization. I started by finding map data for the towns around where I live and creating Paper Places for those areas. It is delightful to share my work at a local art market event and have conversations with folks about which towns look interesting, which ones have boring shapes, and what color would look best for a map of Boston in a living room/bathroom/kitchen/bedroom/office.

The other most common conversation I had in that situation was “Do you have [insert random place here]?” So I decided to create custom maps of any place you can dream up. That decision has led me (via map data) around the country to California, Virginia, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Alaska, and more. I’ve even created a few Paper Places of spots around Europe!

I’ve learned so much about different areas of the U.S.:

Tucson and LA

I discovered that Tucson, Arizona has a really wild municipal boundary, but I can’t really tell why. I learned that Los Angeles bears a striking resemblance to Pikachu (the tail is an interstate corridor that connects the city to the harbor).

Framed rectangular map of Los Angeles, CA with a gray background and Tucson, AZ with a green background. Black frames hang on a dark gray wall with dramatic lighting from the side.

The Commonwealth of Virginia

To create the custom order below, I became well-acquainted with the coastal islands and rivers of Virginia. I can design Paper Places for states, countries, parks, lakes, etc. – anything with a discrete boundary! I also had fun adding a custom Place Marker to this map of Cape Cod for the same client:

Gray ladder shelf with plants and two framed Paper Places: Virginia with a gray background, and Cape Cod with a yellow background

Heading West and South

The more Paper Places I’ve created further away from New England, the more I realized that I’m lucky I started with little towns like Arlington, MA and Somerville, MA. As you head west and south of New England everything get bigger! The municipal boundaries get pretty intimidating to represent at the scale of an 8×8 or 8×10 piece of paper! I created these gorgeous gray and white custom Paper Places for a client who lives in Fort Worth, TX and grew up in Florence, AL. I carefully simplified the map data for each one to make something that could actually be cut out of paper.

Custom framed paper art map of Florence, AL with a light gray background on a white mantle near a small potted plant
Custom Paper Place showing the city of Fort Worth, TX with a light gray background hanging on a white wall with distressed wood surface below and to the left

As I design and cut out each map I find myself wondering who was responsible for all of the little zigs and zags in the boundaries. I wonder when those decisions were made, by who, and what their reasoning was! Sometimes I find myself getting lost clicking around Google Maps. I want to try to understand why that particular park or neighborhood was excluded, even though I’ll likely never visit that spot.

Maybe I missed my calling as a city planner? I don’t actually think so, but I do wonder what they were thinking sometimes!

How to order a custom Paper Place

Once you have a place in mind, all you need to do is fill out this easy customization form and place your order! You’ll hear from me in 1-2 business days to finalize any details and review the custom mockup illustration with you. Here are some examples of different mockups:

A collection of digital mockups of custom paper places, including Madison, NJ, Provincetown, MA, Seattle, WA, Isle of Palms, NC, Menlo Park, CA and Paris, France

This is a digital illustration that shows roughly what the finished product will look like. The colors and shadows aren’t true to life. They’re meant to give a general impression so you can decide if you like the design.

I created this map of Hamburg, Germany with specific attention to the rivers across the city, and the lake in the middle of the city. We finalized the design via the mockup on the left, and this is how the finished product turned out!

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.

Paint Chip Paper Art Commission

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I like to say that I can make anything out of paper, and every once in a while I get an inquiry that challenges that statement! A client reached out a few months ago to see if I could create a logo out of paint chips. Of course I said yes!

Even before I started this paper crafting adventure I’ve been a fan of paper art and paper illustration. There are so many talented artists out there making amazing work, like Nikki McClure’s beautiful black and white cut paper illustrations, this Sherwin Williams advertising campaign, and a huge range of work by the members of the Paper Artist Collective.

It was so interesting to learn how to work with paint chips, which require a slightly different handling than plain paper. It was exciting to work with such a range of colors, since I tend to work mostly with white paper. And it was a fun challenge to pull the whole thing together.

Reflections on a year of house portraits

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Porch detail of a custom paper house portrait

March marked the 12-month point from when I created my first paper house portrait. Since March of last year I’ve delivered 24 custom house portraits to art lovers in 7 different states. The commissions range from a famous church in Greece to a girlfriend’s childhood home in the Midwest, to a family’s vacation home in Florida, to a construction company’s office, and more. Several were gifted to clients or friends who just purchased a new home, or as a wedding, anniversary, or birthday gift. It has been remarkable to be a part of such momentous occasions in people’s lives, and be able to create an heirloom that will hopefully be a tangible reminder of the memories and relationships that center around these homes and spaces.

My primary observations after a year, in no particular order:

  • I’ve challenged myself to work larger. My original portraits were 8″ square, and lately I’ve been creating more pieces that are 11″ x 14″, and even one that’s 20″ x 20″. Working larger has allowed me to add more nuance and detail to the houses, since I’ve learned that one can only cut a piece of paper so small before it kinda just falls apart.
  • I’ve experimented more with using colored paper for different areas of a house, to add contrast between the roof and the walls, or the walls and the shutters. I look forward to exploring this more, and I’m currently trying to figure out how I can store more different kinds and colors of paper, so that I can expand what I keep on hand to include more colors that make sense for homes and buildings.
  • I’ve learned that porches are tricky to make, especially the kind with lots of posts and a roof. I can’t tell yet if it’s the sort of thing that will get easier with practice, or if every house portrait is so unique that every porch will be tricky. For one of my house portraits, I spent an entire day just trying to get the porch right. I may have to add an extra fee for houses with big porches, but I’m going to try a few more times first.

As I head into the summer art show season, I have temporarily shuttered my online shop so that I can focus on the house portraits already in my queue and spend some time coming up with fun new products (and hopefully making progress on organizing my workspace – it’s been a disaster for a long time). The shop will re-open mid-May, just in time for my first weekend of outdoor shows, the Bedford Plant & Art Sale and Inman Eats & Crafts.

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Wedding Invites that your guests might want to keep even after the wedding!

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yay banner wedding invitations

Some people can’t stand the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, or the squeaky noise that styrofoam makes. Some people get aggravated when they see garbage on the ground, and some people get annoyed by poor grammar in an email from a colleague. We all have our pet-peeves, our things that people around us probably don’t even notice, right?

My pet-peeve is kinda weird…I get riled up when I encounter situations that are awkward or inefficient because of poor design. Everything from kitchen tools that fall apart when you try to use them (spatulas with a rubber scraper and a wooden handle, I’m looking at you) to websites that make it hard to find key content. One of the things that landed on this list quite some time ago was invitations, especially wedding invitations, that have a lot of little pieces, and no good way to keep track of them.

In my invitation design work I typically address this issue by using pocket enclosures that go inside an envelope and have their own little pocket that holds all of the bits and pieces. This can be an expensive option, though, as the enclosure itself costs at least $0.70 per invitation, which can be a significant percentage of an invitation budget for a piece that doesn’t actually communicate anything, just looks nice.

It was the intersection of these two problems: lots of pieces, and expensive pockets, that I set out to solve, and I came up with this:

Custom wedding invitation with handmade paper belly band and gold envelope

Teal, gold, and triangles. A shimmery gold envelope coordinates with the metallic ink on the bright, handmade paper band around the invitation.

 

Wedding invitation in hand

The invitation is a generous 5″ x 7″ (A7 size) which feels big, but isn’t ridiculous.

 

Custom wedding invitation, open

The accordion fold reveals plenty of space to describe all of the details of your big day, from hotel blocks to directions and RSVP information, as well as a little note instructing guests that they can pull the three panels apart at the perforations to make this:

Custom Wedding invitation, converts to decorative "yay" banner with shimmery gold paper

 

With this invitation design, I wanted to solve the “loose bits” problem in a more cost-effective way, but I also started thinking about what happens to the invitations after they arrive at their destination. I take a lot of care when I’m designing and making these things, and it seems sad to just have the invitations be destined for the bin after the wedding is over, so this invitation doubles as a decoration that guests can hang in their home as a cheery pick-me-up for birthdays, holidays, or all year. The added bonus, I suppose, is that if they hang it up somewhere in their home, they’ll also know where to find it when your wedding day comes around and they realize they don’t know the way to the venue!

 

Watercolor & Lace Wedding Invitations

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Watercolor & Lace Wedding Invitation

mjinvite01

For this wedding, the bride wanted to bring in a lot of textural, textile elements: lace, burlap, linen, wood grain, flowers, and the colors yellow and blue. She was especially interested in incorporating paper doilies, to mimic lace.

mjinvite02

I pulled together a paper palette with the doily, brown “paper bag” paper, a beautifully textured cream-colored paper, and after a lot of searching, the perfect blue color. I also scoured stock illustration databases to find an illustration that incorporated the same flowers that would be featured in the bride’s bouquet, come wedding time.

mjivite03

I am a big fan of pocket enclosures for wedding invitations, since they keep all of the pieces and parts together and organized, hopefully preventing last-minute guest confusion. For these invitations we adhered the paper doilies to the pre-made enclosure (and went through an astounding number of glue sticks in the process). I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out the custom shape for the invitation and the invitation backing. The invitation actually tucks into the loops on the blue backing paper.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright-Inspired Wedding Invitations

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Elegant Autumn Wedding Invitations

Elegant wedding invitations Full wedding invitation suite

I designed these invitations for some good friends several years ago. They lived in the Chicago area at the time, and wanted invitations that reflected Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on the area. We went with a fall-themed green and brown color scheme and pulled in some delicate illustrated elements to add interest and reference wrought iron decorations.

The brown enclosure contains all of the pieces, and keeps everything organized so guests know what’s planned.