Smoke & Mirrors

Up In Smoke

I’m so happy to be working on something a little different as far as the papercuts go! I’ll still be continuing my work on the Japanese Cinema inspired cuts for Sono but the change of subject is really refreshing. This style will allow me to incorporate some new techniques too, like adding a collaged background to the back of the cut. After laying the finished cut out on the red & gold tablecloth in our dining room and seeing how lovely all that color and pattern looks peeking through, I just can’t go back to a plain solid background!

This is the first cut I’ve done of this style and I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’m really glad I’ve been taking more time to work on my drawings before cutting and have noticed a marked improvement in my finished cuts. I was a little disappointed with how the samurai sequence panels came out and I really stepped up my sketching & prep work for the Seven Samurai cut to great effect.

I’m considering changing the hair a bit on this smoking cut – you can see that I went through several variations (one of which looked far too much like a pumpkin) before reaching the final design. There’s not a whole lot I can change now that the cuts have been made, but I think I’m going to slice out that line of shine on the hair. The very first drawing is still my favorite but I couldn’t seem to get back to it once I started filling in areas to be cut out – the expression on her face is lost in the progression of the design.

I’ll also be tracing the contours of this cut to make a mirrored version, that way I can fiddle with the design a little before cutting again. I’ll do a different collaged background for each so I can make prints in two different styles and then display the pair of originals together. I’m thinking one with mostly cooler colors and one with warmer colors for a nice contrast… unless anyone wants to lay claim to one and then you can customize your color scheme and pattern however you like :) Creating a mirrored version from the first completed cut, and skipping the long drawing process on the second, will allow me to bring the cost down on both pieces too. The final price will depend on the complexity of the collaged backing but I’m gonna estimate the cost of an original at about $300. My previous work has all been in black & white so I’ll have to get back to you on the cost of prints in color. If you’re interested in customizing one of these ladies just let me know via email or leave your info in the comments here :)

A not-so-quick update…

Hi! I just wanted give you guys a bit of an update following that last post. There will be some big changes around here in the next several weeks and I’m SO excited to share more with you all! I’ll be back to a regular posting schedule soon enough but, just to hold you over, here’s a little of what I’ve been up to lately….

Warning: I got a smartphone (FINALLY!!) so expect to be flooded with instagram photo updates for the next several weeks until the glory of my newly acquired camera phone wears off and I decide to tote around that heavy Canon again – Sorry, not sorry.

I finished up a few new papercuts recently (more on that below) and have been working with my dear, and all too generous, friend Andy down at Arrowhead Collective to build a custom frame study enough to display the largest of them – at 4×5 feet it was literally falling out of the existing frame because of the weight of the cut. The brick clad buildings are part of the Liberty Arts studio in Durham’s beautiful Goldenbelt complex where the Arrowhead guys create their incredible wood and metal work. I was so stoked to check out their shop last week and only hope that one day I’ll have the pleasure of creating my own artwork in such an inspiring space, steeped in local history. I will always be a Durham girl at heart! Also, new shoes.. can’t skip that. These hasbeen knock offs from Old Navy might as well be glued to my feet because they’re all I’ve been wearing lately. So cute, so comfy, so cheap.

This tobacco field on the way to Wake Tech’s main campus is one I’ve been driving past a lot recently. Evan’s broken his foot so I’ve been driving him to work until he’s ready to get behind the wheel again. As it happens, the injury came about an hour after we booked our flights for a last minute (and much needed) vacation to Montreal. I should probably warn you that you’ll be hearing a LOT about that too. He should be good for lots of walking and biking by the time we leave though, as long as things heal normally. The ring, I made last year but I haven’t worn it in a while and it just looked so pretty in this photo :) The dessert is there for shameless bragging – really, it was so delicious I couldn’t believe I’d actually created it. Mascarpone tart with a gingersnap crust, topped with blackberries, peaches, and an apricot glaze for Evan’s birthday. I’m gonna take full credit too because I combined so many different recipes (and improvised a large enough portion of the process) that I feel like I can claim the kudos. Sooner or later I’ll get it all down in writing so you guys can recreate the dish in all it’s fatty sugar-filled splendor.

I also snapped up this awesome 90′s Shaq jersey from a box full of Evan’s kid’s clothes, got my beloved muff pedal working so I can churn out some super gritty bass for our newest musical endeavor, purchased a $9 kiddie pool that was worth every single penny, and fell in love with some gerbils belonging to Evan’s little brothers. I want one terribly but, sadly, neither cats nor Evan approve. The other two photos were taken in downtown Raleigh on a very unfortunate day – a beautiful (and quite valuable) oil painting was stolen from one of the restaurants I was sourcing artwork for and I was downtown to help file the police report. It still boggles my mind that someone would do such a thing to a local artist! This was the 3rd theft of artwork from the same venue and we’ve now had to stop exhibiting work at that location all together. While I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s nothing more I could have done to prevent the theft or recover the painting, my heart still breaks for the artist who so lovingly and painstakingly created it. It’s just terrible that the heinous acts of one cruel person could destroy an opportunity that would have allowed countless local artists to share their talents with the community. All we can do is protect our works as best we can and try to move on right? Enter – frames that can be nailed directly into the wall. I’d actually like to see you try, art thief!!

This is the big papercut I mentioned above – inspired by an iconic scene from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s the largest work I’ve ever created! Evan and I made the trek to Sono to try and hang this baby on three separate occasions with no luck. It’s currently resting on the floor of my studio and MAN am I ready to get that thing out of the house and onto the wall! You would think an artist might have more attachment to her work… but after countless hours of cutting and hands that ache from dragging that stupid excato knife through thick paper, not to mention the pattern fatigue (seriously, it’s a real thing) that haunts me with images of my own artwork every time I close my eyes or try to sleep, I am SOO ready to move on to smaller projects. I’m working on sketches for several new commissions at the moment, and have photos of one currently in the works to share with you tomorrow.

Also, I lightened my hair again! I’m gonna add a little red back in though… still can’t commit to the full on blonde yet (read: WUSS) Thanks again for sticking with me guys! I’m finally excited to be blogging again and I’ll have lots more for you very soon :)


Hey guys! I know it’s been a while, sorry to leave you hanging around (for months, yikes!) with barely any content in sight :/ I’ve been working on lots of new things – blog related and otherwise- and there are going to be some big changes around here very soon! You may have noticed that the title of the blog has just been changed to The Life of Mrs. Z - and before you ask… no, we haven’t tied the knot just yet but we’re working on that too. So many plans!! Maestro & Muse will soon become a webshop/site – I’m designing my own using WIX and it has been so much fun! I’m really excited to get it off the ground but I want to take my time making sure every detail is in place before I make the big jump. When the time comes, the shop will be at the url and this little blog here will be moved to a new address. I’ll keep you guys posted on all that as soon as I have plans laid out.

Just changing the name of this blog has brought a wave of relief! I got so wound up in blogging as a way to promote my artwork and my business that I felt I couldn’t write about the other parts of my life outside the studio (however silly or trivial they may seem to others) and really let my own voice be heard. I wasn’t looking forward to posting anymore or even photographing my work – I’d let this awful sense of dread, worry, and self-consciousness creep into my life & studio. I’ll still be sharing plenty of studio stuff here, don’t get me wrong, you’ll see lots of art in the works! I want this new space to be one where I can share absolutely anything though – a way to express my ideas & creations without worrying about how it might affect my business or what others might think. I also want to be free to discuss issues I feel are important regardless of how controversial or political they are – something I was very wary of when the goal of blogging was to promote my artwork. I hope you’ll tag along as I venture out into new territory and check out the shop when it finally launches. I appreciate all of the support you’ve given me so far and I can’t wait to share more with you!

Lighten Up – Double or Nothing


Evan took this photo of me a couple of weeks ago. I had just lightened my hair to this color and I’m already set to do it again, despite whatever complications we encountered. Complications like… severely underestimating the length of my hair and thus the amount of dye I’d need to cover it? Definitely going with three boxes this time! There’s nothing worse than emptying that second bottle and then having to choose between a) frantically squeezing whatever tiny bit of dye remains slathered on your roots out so you can partially cover the last 4 inches of dry hair, b) maniacally speeding to Walgreens’ with your head in a towel to purchase said 3rd bottle and then frantically covering the last 4 inches before your roots are burned from their follicles, c) blending it down a bit and then trying to convince everyone you were actually going for this new reverse ombré thing, or d) destroying the evidence, i.e. cutting off whatever hair you didn’t get to. Now THINK FAST because your scalp is soaking in chemicals! My frantic relocation of dye from root to tip (option a) worked out okay in the end but I really wasted so much time freaking out while considering all of the above possibilities and yelling “no, seriously babe I need you to go to Walgreens’ right now! RIGHT NOW!! Take this box!” Anyways, long story short: don’t be an idiot and make sure you have more than enough dye to actually dye all of your hair.


The satin patterned top and shell necklaces are from a recent trip to Goodwill. I’ve been thrifting quite a bit and have really lucked out recently! I haven’t been updating the blog much lately but I’ve been keeping busy in & out of the studio and have a lot of new things to share, including some of my thrifted finds. The last installment of the vintage photo series will be up next week and there will be plenty of art making and outfits coming your way in the near future! Since my last post I’ve been busy making handmade paper, fusing & cutting plastic, designing a giant new paper cut for Sono, making new beaded jewelry, playing more bass, sketching tattoos, and planning for a big textile/embroidery project. Check back soon to see what I’ve been up to! Thanks for sticking around :)