Photos by David Ellis
What do you get when you combine 100 hours of meticulous work with 45,000 strips of folded paper? The answer is one of Toni Glotter-Dachis’ PaperCuts, works of art constructed from old magazines, newspapers, and repurposed print materials that she combines to create brand-new images and stories. Though trained as a graphic designer, she’s dabbled in all kinds of mediums, from painting wall murals for homeowners to partnering with interior designers to create custom décor pieces.
Today, Glotter-Dachis focuses mainly on creating PaperCuts, and while she is often commissioned to make portraits of loved ones, she continues to push her abilities and find new ways to incorporate materials meaningful to the work itself (for example, a portrait of Minnesota’s own Prince framed in purple was partially made of sheet music, and one of Jimmy Fallon was constructed with maps of New York City and the night- time personality’s signature thank-you notes). We had the chance to take a peek inside the artist’s studio and hear how she got started.
What drew you to begin creating art that uses recycled paper?
I was getting three different newspapers a day and saving all these magazines, and my recycle bin was always so full. I was looking at all that material and wondering what I could possibly do with it. Then one day I was writing on one of those notepads that has an image printed on the side, and I saw it and thought, “What if I stacked magazines and paper and used their edges as the surface of the image?” My first big piece ended up being a portrait of Thomas Friedman, and it sold right away.
What is your process of creating a PaperCut?
I begin with a headshot or photo of the subject and outline their portrait on a board, and then I cut the print materials into one-inch-wide strips, accordion-fold each one, and then glue them to the board so the folded edges face out. The strips of paper are my palette, and then I just piece it all together like a puzzle. I tend to fold at night while watching Netflix and glue in the morning. I actually find it very meditative and therapeutic to do that repetitive motion of folding, and luckily, my hands have been okay so far—no carpal tunnel yet!
Any tricks you’ve learned along the way?
To keep [the process] from being the same thing over and over, I found some new materials to incorporate. I had just started experimenting with diamond dust—a material made from high-quality glass that is very sparkly and looks like glitter—to keep myself busy during the first few months of the COVID quarantine when a client came to me wanting a work of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. I thought to myself, “I have just the thing to make those slippers sparkle!”
What are a few interesting commissions you’ve created?
A woman wanted a portrait of her husband to give him for his 65th birthday, and I had been working on it for a few months when I went to a wedding and the couple was there as well. I recognized the man instantly, but I had to pretend like I didn’t know him even though I felt like I knew every detail of his face! Another was of a little girl whose parents wanted one of their 4-year-old daughter. She came over for an “art day,” and we colored and painted and then I used all her art in the piece itself.