Artist Emma’s moment of Christmas TV fame

Date: Friday 10th November 2017
Emma Boyes
Emma Boyes

INTRICATE designs created using just a blade and some paper are the forte of papercut artist Emma Boyes.

Emma Boyes, Cow
Emma Boyes, Cow
Emma Boyes, Peacock
Emma Boyes, Peacock
Emma Boyes Robin
Emma Boyes Robin

The 33-year-old, who is now a full-time artist, painstakingly hand cuts each piece of work, for which she takes inspiration from the Lake District around her.

Her work has now received national attention after she was invited to take part in the crafting TV show Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas.

The Channel 4 program, which features estate agent-come-TV presenter and dedicated crafter Kirstie Allsopp, airs in December and Emma took part in a four-hour homemade gift challenge.

It was the culmination of a month of working seven-day weeks in preparation along with honouring existing orders, but well worth it, said Emma.

“I was competing against three other creatives in a category, completely new to the show, ‘The Handmade Gift Challenge’. We had a strict four-hour time limit to produce our handmade gifts. I was filmed throughout the challenge, asked questions and Kirstie also came to sit with me and chat.

“The whole experience is one I will never forget and I still can’t believe it actually happened. I will be eternally grateful to the producers of the show for contacting me and giving me such an amazing opportunity.”

Amazingly, it was by pure chance that Emma started papercutting at all.

Trained in three dimensional and spatial design, she worked as a freelance designer in her native North East for a while before doing a masters in design. She fell pregnant with her daughter, Amber, now aged seven, not long after graduating, and it was while on maternity leave that she started paper cutting as a way of keeping her creative hand in.

“I made a personalised piece of papercut art for a friend and then other friends starting asking for them, too,” she said. “My passion quickly turned into a small business and I never went back to my old job in design. It was an absolute dream come true as I was able to work from home doing what I love while fitting it in around my family.

“Once my daughter began primary school I was able to dedicate more time to my little business. I began teaching papercutting workshops and exhibiting my artwork throughout the UK and even worked on some exciting commercial paper projects for companies such as Fossil and Watch Station International.”

However, Emma admits there were times when she thought she would have to give it up.

“The work was often inconsistent. I would have really busy periods where I was working all hours, just to get done in time, followed by quiet periods and not knowing when my next commission would come in,” she said.

“At the end of 2016 my fiancé and I decided that unless things changed, it was no longer sustainable to continue and that I would need to rethink my options. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up what I had worked so hard to achieve, so I decided to give it one last push and that we would re-evaluate at the end of 2017.

“The beginning of the year started off much the same as the last with work coming in inconsistently, but in spring, I won a competition to design an outdoor light installation at this year’s Durham Lumiere festival in November. From that point on work seemed to be flooding in and I was struggling to keep up.”

It was in August, while on holiday, that Emma was contacted by Channel 4, asking if she would like to apply to be on Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas.

“I couldn’t believe it. My jaw literally dropped to the floor,” she said. “This was the most amazing opportunity, but the worst possible timing as I was already so busy. I knew that I would always regret it if i didn’t give it ago, so I applied and was quickly told that Channel 4 had chosen me to appear on the show.”

Emma, who has lived in Penrith for a year with fiancé James and daughter Amber, said she draws her designs on to paper before cutting each line.

“Amber is almost seven and she definitely has the artist bug,” she said. “She often spends hours drawing away in my office while I’m working and has done ever since she could hold a pencil.”

Emma added: “I’m originally from the North East but used to visit the Lakes every summer as a child. It captivated me and has inspired my artwork ever since. It had always been our dream to live over here and finally, just over a year ago, James found the perfect job which allowed us to make the move.

“Working from home, I can work anywhere, so pretty much without hesitation, James said yes to the job and we’ve lived in Penrith for over a year. All our free time as a family is spent exploring the Lakes and I often come back bursting with ideas for a new piece. Even after a year, we still regularly pinch ourselves that we actually live here.”

Original pieces of Emma’s work sell for up to £1,200, but she also sells prints and printed merchandise featuring her designs. More of her work can be seen on her website at emmaboyespapercutartandillustration.com.