Meet Nicole Taylor-Stone – an emerging artist and founder of the paper-cutting artistry business Paper Pencil Stone. Inspired by flora and fauna that surrounds her humble abode, Stone hopes to offer her customers with the opportunity to enjoy her beautiful artworks that are one-of-a-kind, playful, and is easy to connect with on a deeper level. Using 160gsm archival quality papers that are hand-cut using a surgical scalpel, Stone works towards making striking, intricate pieces that mimic shadows and reflections.
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in October, I had a Q&A with Nicole about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Nicole?
Nicole: I grew up in the regional city of Whyalla in South Australia and moved to Adelaide after high school for University. I have always felt a strong connection to art, design, and construction – regardless of what form it takes. This originally led me to complete a Bachelor in Architectural Studies and studies in Building Technology and Architectural Drafting. After spending much time working in a field of detailed technical drawing, I was craving a more personal expression of myself through design. While I pursued drawing and illustrating as a hobby, I stumbled across paper cutting. The designing, planning, and physical process to end has a similar satisfaction, as it takes a concept and idea that eventuates to something tangible and can affect and communicate with the owner. I now live with my husband (my high school boyfriend, with whom I reconnected 15 years after we last saw one and other!) and our rescue dog Basil, who is the heart of our family. We live on the North Eastern Adelaide fringe after recently purchasing our first home, or as I say we bought a tree! Our property features several huge Eucalyptus trees of significance and a creek bed… the house just came with it! This is the perfect setting to run my home studio, which is surrounded by local wildlife. We are able to enjoy the suburban convenience and the landscape rolled into one! I love being able to help physically maintain this small part of it, as well as celebrate it through my work.
Tema: How did you decide on the name of your business – Paper Pencil Stone?
Nicole: Originally, when I was deciding on something to represent myself as an artist, and unsure whether my work would always remain exclusively focused on paper cuts, the one thing that remained consistent to my work in various forms was always Paper and Pencil. I have always loved drawing and designing and no matter what medium or purpose of my work, it has always begun with Paper and Pencil. Whether it continue through digital form, CAD-based technical drawing, or laser technologies, it always starts in the same place with Paper, Pencil and Stone (being myself). Even now, I never go far without taking a technical drawing pencil and small sketch pad with me (just in case)!
Tema: What made you decide on starting up your own business?
Nicole: The very first time I showed my work was at a design market in 2015 and it was very much about stepping out of my comfort zone and just seeing if anyone liked what I was doing. After a good response, I began to think I could take it more seriously. As I was still working my ‘day job’ and didn’t often have the time or or energy to pursue it with the same time and focus that I had wanted to (instead being involved in projects for other designers), it reminded me of how much I wanted to be focused on my own business. This year, I made the decision to go full time with my artwork and give it the time I needed to develop and nurture it to be what it is today. It really has been a case of now or never.
Tema: How did you decide on what to offer via Paper Pencil Stone?
Nicole: As an artist, most of my work has been a result of my own desire to pursue an idea or expression of myself, particularly celebrating floral forms that surround and intrigue me. I also respond from designs that my early customers seemed to connect with emotionally, which often centered around animals or local scenes. There also seemed to be a good response from people around something different as a medium, particularly the pieces that were for commemorations or celebrations and after being contacted for these I decided to offer a customizable range, where they can choose their design and submit their details easily to help the customer, as well as enable for easier ordering and scheduling for myself. Originally, my business was based on selling templates to other paper-cutting enthusiasts that enjoy cutting, but perhaps lacked the design and drawing ability. This was mostly an overseas market, where it seems to be amore known and popular art form.
Tema: What inspires you to create your designs? Where do you often go to get some inspiration if you’re going through a creative block?
Nicole: Into my garden! There is always something that needs to be done and swapping into physical work helps clear and calm my mind. Just being part of the landscape has proven to be very therapeutic. Alternatively, walking through the city or the Adelaide Botanic Gardens has always been a favourite. I often go there by myself – there’s always a wonderful atmosphere of activity and something new to discover amongst the paths. Several times a year, I also travel to the Eyre Peninsula to visit family, which is a complete contrast through the open arid landscapes and costal air that is always refreshing. Usually, the escape provides reflection and new ideas.
Tema: On average, how long does it take you to fill up your website with your products? Or do you prefer to work on a pay-as-you-go basis?
Nicole: For me, it’s a gradual process. I tend to add things to my website as they become available. But, I also offer custom orders, which I usually turn around within a few days, depending on what I’m working on at the time. I generally have a lot more artwork waiting to be uploaded as the process can take time due to working on pieces. So it is a balancing act. Often, anything that can be seen on my social media is available for sale, even if not already listed.
Tema: Do you do custom designs as well? Would you like to share any customs with us – particularly those that pushed your creativity to the limit (in a good sense, of course)?
Nicole: Most custom designs have been for weddings and anniversaries incorporating personal elements of symbolism to the couples or person. It can be tricky operating off a brief without always knowing or meeting the recipient. While creating a meaningful piece, you are also trying to create something they will graphically like, rather than storing at the back of a closet once the time has passed!
Tema: How long has Paper Pencil Stone been in business for? How have you found the journey so far?
Nicole: I began the journey in 2015, but during this time, I was also working in my day job at the time, so I was unable to give it the love I wanted to. This year has been my first year putting Paper Pencil Stone at the forefront and while it’s been a challenge, it’s been great to concentrate solely on it. Definitely a mental, emotional, and financial balancing act at times!
Tema: How did you hone your skills around paper cut artistry – was it something that you took formal training for or are you self-taught?
Nicole: I am completely self taught. A lot or trial and error, in planning and technique of each piece and always pushing myself to improve.
Tema: What are the key materials that you need to source for your artworks?
Nicole: I am quite particular with what papers I use for their quality, longevity, thickness, and the texture, as this affects the ease of cutting. This initially involved a bit of trial and error, which is now established, in the sense that I use the same handle for cutting with interchangeable surgical blades for a much clearer and easier cut.
Tema: What caught your eye to pursue this form of art?
Nicole: It was more of a feel. It originally started as a way to produce a particular personal gift idea and I soon fell in love with the effect it creates and the calming concentration and focus it requires. I love that the image itself becomes a tangible object that you can lay and touch in your hands. Now I enjoy exploring and pushing my methods to create strong graphical imagery.
Tema: Do you primarily run online or do you have a physical shopfront / stockists where people can access your hand-cut paper-based artistry?
Nicole: At present, I’m mostly run online via my website and Etsy stores. Markets are a great way to get up close to properly experience the pieces before purchasing. I am currently seeking and welcome local stockists as well.
Tema: What do you think helps Paper Pencil Stone unique and a stand-out?
Nicole: Although I love drawing, illustration, and loads of other mediums, I think specializing in paper cutting and honing my skills in this medium allows it to be a stand out in itself. While my work doesn’t have the same colourful expression of other local illustrators, I think the planning, creation, and uniqueness of the drawing being entirely made from paper allows it to be eye-catching and interesting. The fact is that it is not a print, but rather a carefully constructed image of line and form entirely from paper.
Tema: What have you found rewarding about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Nicole: Having an idea and putting in all the time to eventually lay the finished paper cut in my hands or hold it against the light and see that the image has worked. Then, in person, when I see people connect with my pieces and get up close to look at how it’s been created. We have a great local community of makers and businesses with growing public shift towards in attitudes towards consumerism. I believe people are wanting to connect with what they purchase more and more. They want to know how, why, and where things were made and connect with its story.
Tema: What have you found challenging about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Nicole: As a self-confessed introvert, I would always much rather be at my desk quietly cutting away at a new design than having to wear so many hats to get everything up and running. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and putting myself out there, however, is what is required to continue doing what I love.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Nicole: I have previously attended as a customer at the market last year and followed it through social media. I loved the unique atmosphere of Queens Theatre Adelaide and the effort that goes into the styling to create such a different experience. This is what attracted me to apply. It is different to any other market in Adelaide and I really hope suits the uniqueness of my work.
Tema: What are you anticipating from the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Nicole: A great atmosphere and fun event. Getting to meet lots of other South Australian-based makers and businesses, as well as meeting people that might be interested in having a closer look at my work or understand the craft form of paper-cutting to try themselves. I’ll also be accepting orders for people leading into the Christmas and summer wedding season, so it’s a great time to get ahead of it.
Tema: What can people expect from visiting and/or supporting your business at the Market?
Nicole: They can expect to come and have a chat and take a closer look at what it’s all about and understand how my pieces are created. I’ll be bringing lots of framed original pieces from small gift pieces to larger statement décor pieces. Every piece purchased helps me to continue to pursue and improve what I do.
Tema: What would you like your customers to experience by buying something from you?
Nicole: To feel a bigger sense of connection to the artwork and how it is created, to know that it’s not created based on trends alone. To feel the piece was created just for them, through a very human process (rather than an impersonal mass produced product). To know they are supporting local and encouraging local makers and artists.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and your business Paper Pencil Stone?
Nicole: All paper cut off-cut pieces are kept and made into hand recycled paper over the summer holidays, to be reused as gift tags and products, so waste is kept to a minimum.
You can visit Paper Pencil Stone at the Gathered Design Market on October 26 + 27 from 10am – 4pm at the Queen’s Theatre in the Adelaide CBD.
Entry to the market is $2 and there is $4 (flat rate) parking available on Saturdays and Sundays at K Park along Playhouse Lane.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity.
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers + images supplied by Nicole Taylor-Stone // Paper Pencil Stone