Bird Mafia: The world imagined in cut paper

Emily Brown, the Monterey artist who works under the name Bird Mafia, makes intricately cut paper scenes. She had been cutting figures as patterns for screened pillows and cloths, but now they are art unto themselves.
(Bird Mafia)

We first caught Emily Brown at the Renegade Los Angeles indie craft market a month ago, where the Monterey artist said she was exhibiting her work in Southern California for the first time. Recently we checked back to ask Brown what kind of reaction she got for her picture-box scenes, each crafted of intricately X-actoed paper. Her response?

“Amazing,” she said.

Working under the studio name Bird Mafia, Brown turns cut-paper trees, waves and wild animals — formerly used only as stencils for screen-printed pillows and clothing — into miniature shadow-box dioramas that sell for $50 to $300 depending on the size and complexity.

Her materials are simple: cutting knife, matte board, paper and a lot of patience. It helps, Brown said, if you can see negative space and “imagine the world in cut paper.” Sounds easy, but one look at how she renders a bear’s textured coat shows it’s not.


“The most difficult subjects are always people,” Brown said, who cuts the images of real people in her commission work. “In cut paper it can be a matter of how I position the X-acto knife on a single cut that means the difference between getting a key feature perfect or absolutely wrong.”

You can read more on her Bird Mafia site or buy from her shop on Etsy.

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