The Rural We: Maude White
Photo by Joel Brenden
An eagle from Brave Birds
Photo by Melissa Hope
Photograph of artwork by Gary Gold; hand-cut paper Maude White; reproduced from Leading with Love, Parallax Press, 2018.
Photograph by Laura Glazer; hand-cut paper by Maude White; reproduced from Brave Birds, Abrams Image, 2018.
Hudson, New York-based papercutting artist Maude White is celebrating the release of two new books this year. Her first book was released this spring alongside an accompanying note card set, journal and notebook. “Brave Birds” features 65 cut paper birds alongside comforting and encouraging affirmations on joy, creativity, patience, kindness, resilience, communication, strength, awareness, action and transformation written by the artist herself. She is also the illustrator of the book “Leading with Love: Inspiration for Spiritual Activists,” edited by Hisae Matsuda and released just last month. Raised in a family of puppeteers, toymakers and writers in Buffalo and the Hudson Valley, White is a big proponent of using your hands to create. You can meet her when she signs copies of both books at The Chatham Bookstore on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 5 p.m.
Leading with Love is a collection of quotes from spiritual leaders from across the board. The publisher contacted me in November of last year and it was a rush job so that it could come out before the election. Which is perfect because this is a time that you can lead with love, and that can be your motivating factor. When I read the manuscript, it was a really intense, transformative experience. If you read it in order, it gets really dark, but it’s a sort of recipe book on how to get through these hard times. There are a lot of quotes by women from all over the world, including a lot who I’d never heard of. It exposed me to people of all ages who have important things to say. Hisae did an incredible job making the book inclusive.
I had a few months to create the work, and it was completely up to me what I cut for it. It was intimidating because it has quotes from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rumi who I asked to be put in. I tried to create artwork that was inclusive and a lot of it is nature-based because I do a lot of animals and birds. It was down to the wire, a couple of pieces I created one or two days before it was due. I’m really happy and proud of it.
As for Brave Birds, I already had the name “brave bird” as a sort of alter ego I created for myself. I’m a big word person and the word “bird” is something you call a woman that is not respectful, or you refer to someone as an “odd bird.” I find that fascinating because birds are really incredible — they’re dinosaurs! I would like the world “brave” to encompass more than physical prowess. Bravery can be just getting out of bed in the morning.
I also love alliteration, and birds themselves. I enjoy cutting birds because I like to cut the same thing over and over again. Part of what I like about cutting paper is that it’s a healthy way to obsess. I usually work from reference photos. Normally the cuts I make are so small that, if I make a mistake, I can adjust as I go along.
Brave Birds is a hard book to categorize, it’s not a guide book or self help. It’s a “comfort book,” in that you can open any page and find something to comfort you. I researched the birds and found something special about each one. I focused on one thing that each bird can teach us and how we can use that as humans. So we can be brave birds.
Learning how to create things with your hands brings a certain satisfaction. It’s not better than cerebral creation, but it’s a physical body happiness that can be more fully experienced because you can visually see what you’ve created. Whether it’s in your spare time or its your job, physical manifestation of beauty is important.
I turned 32 a few days ago, and I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. I hope I can find ways to help others feel safe, comfort and beauty. I’ve been working on a new project since the summer, specifically for those who identify as women. There will be art in it, but it’s mostly a workbook on how to feel whole and how to feel safe in the external world.
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