Work/Life: a papercutter's one-day diary

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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Poppy Chancellor, 29, is an illustrator and papercutter. She lives in South London with her boyfriend Jonny, a creative director.

My alarm goes off…

Never! My boyfriend’s alarm goes off at 7am and he leaves around 8.30am then I get up at 9am. My job is to make the bed – he’ll score me out of 10 when he gets home – he’s military. Then I shower and get dressed. I work for myself so my uniform is whatever feels good; I like black and white with a red lip. I don’t eat breakfast – I’ll do anything for a longer snooze time before I leave around 9.30am.

I’m responsible for…

Being the creative force behind Poppy’s Papercuts, my brand. Papercutting is illustrating a design on paper, then cutting it out – I create them for personal commissions, brands and artworks, for example, when Nike sent shoes to 50 influential women to celebrate the Olympics I designed shoe boxes with muscular women running across them.

I got my job…

After studying for a degree in illustration at Kingston University. For my final exhibition I spent every day drawing and cutting out people I saw on the bus and made a city from shoeboxes. I’ve been obsessed with silhouettes since childhood (my favourite story book was A Necklace Of Raindrops, which was full of silhouettes) so papercutting came naturally.

I did a postgraduate degree at what is now The Royal Drawing School. I was featured in A Little Bird’s newsletter [an insider guide to London] for Valentine’s Day 2012, which led to 80 commissions. As crafting started becoming popular again I was inspired to create art to exhibit as well as taking commissions.

My typical day…

Starts at 10am when I arrive at my Brixton studio and write a long to-do list for that day. It gives me structure. I email clients and talk to my manager about what I have to do. If I’ve got a commission I draw that on paper in pencil and cut it out, frame it in my studio and send it off. I’ll eat a sandwich over a lunch meeting in Soho to discuss projects such as my second book or choosing a venue for my upcoming exhibition Modern Venus.

After, I visit stationery shops for supplies (mostly paper and folders), head back to my studio and pack my suitcase of 20 scalpels and cutting mats for a regular papercutting workshop which I teach until 9pm, usually in King’s Cross.

My most memorable work moment…

Was when The Prince’s Drawing School received its ‘Royal’ title and they chose me, along with a few other alumni, to exhibit my work. It was a real honour. 

The worst part of my job…

Is the scalpel accidents. I have a scar on my thumb from getting four stitches without anaesthetic. I’m bad with pain and squeamish so I get emotional when I cut myself. I’ve decided not to work with a blade beyond 9pm because tiredness makes me slip.

The best part of my job…

Is meeting people who own and admire my work – realising there’s someone at the other end who loves what you’ve made.

After work…

I often order Deliveroo, usually from Chicken Liquor in Brixton – the hippie sauce is incredible. Then Jonny and I watch TV – I’m really into Hunted at the moment. I’ll go to bed about 11pm. 

Poppy’s book Cut It Out! is now available from Virgin Books.  


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Moya Lothian-McLean

Moya Lothian-McLean is a freelance writer with an excessive amount of opinions. She tweets @moya_lm.