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PC Ballard artist Margret Darrah creates incredibly intricate Scandinavian inspired folk art scenes using just paper and scissors. (Photo: Margret Darrah/Instragram: @nordiccuts)
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Ballard paper cutting artist Margret Darrah is a real 'cut up'

Her Ballard studio looks like it's straight out of Scandinavia. Snowshoes decorate the walls, dala horses line shelves, and charming artwork creates a feeling of cheer.

"I love the meditation of it and I find it magic," said artist Margret Darrah.

These intricate designs begin in her imagination.

There is a German word for this centuries old art form.

"Schrenschnitte," Darrah spelled out. And what does it mean? "Scissor cut!" she laughed.

You probably know it as paper cutting, and chances are that you did it yourself as a kid. Remember those snowflakes in first grade?

While it sounds simple, this artist takes it to a whole new level.

"You take a piece of paper and take your scissors to it and alter the shape."

The detailed scenes of cottages and trees, windows and wildlife - were all created by making tiny cuts into folded paper.

"The whole idea is to have your whole piece connect," she said. "So one little blip connects to another piece, to another piece , so when you open it up it’s one piece."

Darrah, who calls herself a 'Half Swede Viking Paper Cutter' was a kid when paper first piqued her interest .The name of the book that got her started was "Creating with Paper," by Pauline Johnson, a professor of Art at the University of Washington. The book came out in 1960 and was given to Darrah as a gift.

A lifelong artist, it was only 10 years ago that she started working with paper as a medium.

"I’m very fond of folk art, always have been," said Darrah. "I always feel like it’s the people’s art."

She starts with a piece of tracing paper.

"I do a little bit of a doodle," she said. "Wherever I’m going with this or make my drawing. I attach that with paper clips to a folded piece of black paper."

Then she starts cutting.

"Starting on the fold, working your way out," the artist explained.

It's painstakingly precise work. One scene can take up to eight hours.

"I think when you’re really involved with something, it just feels so good to see it come alive."

After all the shapes are cut out, there's a moment of truth.

"And then at the end you open this thing and you reveal and you have a wonderful piece - or sometimes you have a total failure."

It looks complicated - but Darrah says anyone can create this type of art. For her, this tenderly handcrafted art is a way of celebrating and sharing her Scandinavian heritage.

"I think a lot of times when I’m creating too, I’m telling a story," she grinned. "And I love storytelling within art."

You can see more of Margret's paper cutting art at The Gallery at Grace Episcopal Church on Bainbridge Island from March 8 through April 26, 2020. Follow her on Instagram for more beautiful art.

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