The Kindest Cut

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Rob Ryan
Rob Ryan
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"British illustrator Rob Ryan began cutting paper, as an art form, in 2002. "I just fancied a change," he says. Since then the "papercut" has come to define his style, which continues to evolve in work that is at once sentimental and sublime. A Ryan papercut, which could take from "one to 200 hours" to complete, might feature anything – picturesque birds, a quaint home, a fire at night, underpants – along with text that tends toward the heartbreaking. "Other planets cannot be as beautiful as this one," is the message inscribed on a nestful of eggs in one piece. In another, titled "Tears I Cried," a Victorian boot bears the caption, "I honestly believed that you didn't care for me." Once complete, these cuts go on to become limited edition screen prints and an array of other products. Ryan recently opened his own shop – Ryantown, in East London – where he sells everything from pillows to ceramic tiles inspired by his decorative designs. Meanwhile, the commissions roll in. Ryan has created CD packaging for Erasure, a papercut dress for British Vogue, window displays for London department story Liberty, and even wrapping paper. Most recently, he illustrated the 2008 Christmas catalog for august British department store Fortnum & Mason.

"I do a lot of commissioned stuff, but at the moment I think a bit too much," says Ryan, who was born in Cypress to Irish parents while his father was in the RAF. "At the moment I am doing about 80% commercial
work and 20% my own work. I think I would like to reverse that to 70% my own projects and 30% commissioned stuff for other people. Depending on the client, if they just want me to redraw their ideas then I can be quite awkward, but if they actually want me to do what I do best – that is, my own ideas – then I am open to suggestion and am fairly pliable. It's a tricky one because I actually enjoy meeting the challenge of a brief – but sometimes it can get a bit out of hand." Meanwhile, his personal work is currently on view at St. Jude's Gallery in Aylsham—for which Ryan also designed a Christmas card, with all proceeds from sales going to charity.

As for what's next, Ryan – who has dabbled in short films and animation – says such experiments remain sketches at the moment. "Because I now have my own shop, I am always trying to think of new things to make to sell in it," he says. "I would like to make some cast iron trivets."
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