OLFA interview – Margery Couper McDonnell

Instagram: @couperspaperart

Etsy: CoupersPaperArt (by Margery) 



Check out Margery's Lifeguard Stand Layered Paper Sculpture project, here. 


Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What is your community like?

Hi!  I’m Margery McDonnell and I’m a paper artist.  I live in Virginia with my husband and 3 kids.


On Etsy, you describe your work as ‘hand cut, layered paper sculptures’. Can you explain what this means?

I draw a template in Adobe Illustrator and then print it onto a stack of cardstock.  From there, I cut a little bit from one layer of paper at a time until I’ve built my piece!  I always leave the entire outside border intact and just cut away from the inside of each layer of paper.  I like to think of my artwork like a big stack of paper, where I’ve just whittled away at the inside of it to create a shape!



Are you professionally trained in this technique or did you learn on your own?

While I’ve taken my fair share of art classes over the years, I’m really just a self taught paper artist!  I’ve always loved paper and sculpture and putting them together was probably inevitable.


How long have you been doing this?

I have been working in this style of paper art for 9 years.


Where do you do your work? Are you happy with the space you work in – what are its limitations and benefits?

I have a small studio in my house where I do everything, from the actual paper cutting to shipping.  I love my studio, but I’m always looking for more tabletop space!  In my dream scenario, I have a table for each stage of my work (drawing, cutting, gluing, framing, shipping).  But having a small studio keeps me organized and focused!



How many layers typically make up one piece of art?

A typical piece is about 25-30 layers.  Some pieces seem to soak up the layers and before you know it I’m at 40 layers, and some I realized I’ve completed in 18!  Each one is different.


From conception to completion, how many hours of work are typically expected?

A piece typically takes about 12 hours.  It takes me about 5 hours to first draw my template.  While I’m drawing my template I’m thinking about how the layers will be cut and how the lines should connect, so it’s a big piece of the puzzle!  Cutting the piece also takes about 5 hours, though that definitely depends on how many layers I’m cutting and how intricate they are.  Then it takes me about 2 hours to glue the layers together and frame it!


When you’re working with art knives, what kind of features to you want them to have?

Because I’m cutting so much and for so long, it’s really important that I have an art knife that is comfortable in my hands.  That’s why I really like the Olfa AK-4 Precision Art Knife - the cushion grip and the weighted bottom make long hours at the cutting mat more comfortable for my hands!  I also really like the Precision Blades for when I’m making tiny cuts.



What other supplies and tools make it easier to do your work?

A gigantic cutting mat makes it much easier to do my work!  I need a space to cut on, of course, but I also like to have my piece right next to me while I’m working.  This way, as I’m cutting my layers, I’m watching the piece come together in real time.  I love the Olfa 24” x 36” self healing rotary cutting mat for this purpose!


When someone asks you to do a consigned project, what are the steps that go into it?

For a consigned project, I first start with a photo from my customer of the building (or other object).  Then I draw my template and send that back to my customer to make sure that I’m going in the direction that they’ve envisioned.  If that looks good to my customer, then I get to work cutting, gluing, and framing!


Are buildings primarily what you cut?

Yes, I primarily cut buildings.  Architecture is so beautiful to me and lends itself so easily to this medium.  But I have also cut other subjects, from instruments to bridges.



Do you use glass on the front when you frame your sculptures?

I always have a piece of acrylic or glass on the front of my frames! 


Are there other creative hobbies you enjoy? How about some you’d never do!

I am also a cellist!  And I love dabbling in all kinds of different arts, though I don’t have much time to pursue them at the moment!


Fill in the blank: When I have time to get away, I head to _______.

When I have time to get away, I head to the beach with my family!  I think that probably inspired this lifeguard stand that I’m making with you here!