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Make and design


Made today

Papercut Christmas

By Michelle Brown | 22 December 2022

Image of a paper cut diorama of Queenslander houses

The State Library's laser cutters at The Edge can support an amazing amount of creative projects and over the last six months I've been experimenting with vectorising collection items and using them for various design ideas.

You may have seen some of the work we did with the Queensland Architecture in Miniature workshops, inspired by the 99 everyday homes for Queenslanders from 1934 in our Built Heritage collection. During this workshop we taught participants how to use the free and open source software, Inkscape (which is a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator), to trace images from the digital catalogue of house designs which included casements windows and doors, archways and the house images themselves, to then cut on the laser cutter to create individually designed book nooks. 

We now have some fabulous Queenslander house designs vectorised, which means these can be used for a variety of other purposes as they can be scaled up or down in size for print, cutting or any other design uses. Of course we didn't stop there, as myself and other workshop participants have become quite fond of making small scale items, including creating tiny pot plants to add to the Queenslander book nooks. 

Small scale laser cut paper plant fronds

I decided to follow a similar process for our crafty Christmas workshop, Paper Boutique, teaching participants again how to trace images from the State Library collection, this time with a holiday Australiana spin.

During the workshop we took a look through SLQ's Flickr albums dedicated to the holiday season;

Christmas Greetings

12 Days of Queensland

Santa Claus Down Under

Christmas poster koala vector trace

I provided an example using one of the State Library's collection items, a Christmas poster featuring a koala dressed in Santa hat and boots ca 1920, which I traced and test cut on paper and plywood to show workshop participants and together we went through the pen path tracing process in Inkscape using a Christmas card in the collection sent by Sargeant Walter Guess, 41st Division, U.S. Army, Rockhampton from 1942.

A Christmas card sent by Sargeant Walter Guess, 41st Division, U.S. Army, Rockhampton 1942 with traced animals

You can get a level of intricate detail using a laser cutter that you can't really get by cutting things by hand, even the popular Cricut machines which use a knife, can't provide the same complex line work that a laser can do. The only downside to using a laser on paper and card is that it does leave slightly darkened edges and discolouration from the cutting and engraving process.

We chose to use white paper and card for the workshop for a couple of reasons, mainly to keep things focused on the designs themselves rather than colour or pattern of material choices, which can overwhelm in a design process. 

Composite image of paper cut Christmas designs

The Paper Boutique workshop participants had a great time pulling together their designs, using the templates provided and creating their own, for example Rachel (pictured below) added a cello to the kangaroo design for her hanging ornament, Phillip (also pictured below) created a card and posted to a friend and Kelly traced an emu from the SLQ collection items for her design. 

Composite image of people with their paper cut Christmas designs

Without a laser cutter it might prove a little tricky to follow along with our workshop, but lucky for you, the State Library has two laser cutters at The Edge and you can book and use them once you complete a laser induction! Find out more here.

You can checkout the workshop documentation on our Wiki and if you do want to use any of the designs, they are available for download. 

Papercut Christmas cards


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