“To Be Safe / Loved / Warm” Process

Finished “To Be Safe / Loved / Warm”

About 5 years ago, I wanted to make another hole punch piece after finishing the underwater scene of “Discover”. While working with embroidery floss is my favorite medium, sometimes there is an image that I want to create that would be best made with another material in order to really sing. What I like about paper hole punches is that they are also assembled pieced by piece to create the image, but with the layers each circle of paper creates a tiny sliver of a shadow. These pieces are framed under glass like a painting or drawing, but are still three dimensional.

I wanted to create an art piece inspired by a location near Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota where my now-husband and I had our engagement pictures taken in 2014. I often get questions about how I decide what I want to create images of, and I explain that I always have to show some place that I have a connection to or have a reason to spend months (or years!) of my life reflecting. This piece was no exception.

With this piece, I used three sizes of hole punches instead of just two, and I included patterned papers in addition to the solid cardstock ones I had used on “Discover”. I also tripled the size of the piece in comparison to the one I had done before. Because the hole punches are more abstracted than I normally work, a piece has to be of a certain size to give the viewer enough space to see the image come together. However, since I have to lean directly over whatever section I am working on, I am limited by working any bigger than 16″ x 20″. So my solution to these practical issues was to do a triptych. A very large one.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the standard hole punchers you buy in the store are not meant to punch this many holes. They quickly got dull, and started to shred the paper holes rather than cleanly punch them. The smart thing would have been to just buy several punchers of each size. I refused to do that though, so in addition to the time of punching out the holes and gluing each one into place, I also painstakingly arranged each paper circle to be sure that the shredded edge was covered by other layers of paper. Not to mention the fact that I live with two cats who found too much joy in knocking my little canisters of paper dots onto the carpet, and it was easier to get on the floor and pick them up one by one than punch new ones.

When I started this art piece, I knew it would take a while. At the time, I didn’t even know where I would hang it because I had a small apartment and was not part of a gallery. I wasn’t even selling or seriously displaying my art when I first decided to make this. However, as time when on and I had more and more opportunities to get my work out in public, I realized that I did not have the time to finish this and put it away in order to work on other projects. Periodically over the years I did pull it out from storage and made progress, but I could never devote enough time to it to wrap it up. In early 2022, I became determined to finish the triptych and after some marathon gluing days and very late nights, I attached the last dot, made some frames, and hung it on my wall at Northrup King.

Finishing any large piece is a big accomplishment for me, but completing one that has been in process and on my to-do list for years is especially satisfying. My estimate is that 30,000 dots were used in this final piece. That sounds like an overwhelming number, and is one that I’m glad I didn’t know when I started this piece!