Pleasurable Layered Paper Cuttings by Milwaukee Mandalas

I've long admired the talent and patience of paper cut artists who create amazingly intricate pieces by hand, however, there are many who find just as much satisfaction via electronic paper cutting technology. A whole new way of making eye-catching paper decor came along when cutting machines arrived on the craft scene about a dozen years ago. The result isn't instant gratification, but close to it.  

layered paper cuttings of beach and foamy waves with human and dog footprints in the sand

Christina Destrampe of Milwaukee Mandalas is one such artisan who has embraced the process of using a Silhouette Cutting Tool to create multilayer paper cuttings. 


A professional sign language interpreter who teaches in the interpreter training program at University of Wisconsin, she was introduced to digital cutting by her mother who showed Christina how to use a Silhouette Cameo to make decorations for her son's birthday party several years ago. 


colorful paper cutting of two roosters and flowers

Christina became interested in learning about all that electronic cutting machines can do and joined a group of friends in a small crafting business. Vinyl Christmas ornaments were her specialty. 

Soon she came across layered paper cut mandalas, and perhaps it's safe to say she's now thoroughly addicted to making them, having completed about 3,000 to date!


layered paper cut mandala in shades of turquoise and lavender  


Christina still has the Cameo machine that was given to her by her mother when she upgraded, but now prefers the smaller Silhouette Portrait 3. She runs eight dependable Portraits at once (see all 8 humming along via Facebook video) in order to fulfill client orders, stock local shops, and prepare kits for class students.


layered paper cut mandala of bee and honeycomb design in shades of yellow, blue and black

Because Christina doesn't have a background in graphic design, she buys SVG files (scalable vector graphics). "But I’ve made relationships with several designers as I have a knack for picking colors. Designers often reach out to me for test cutting."


"Every file I purchase has a commercial license, meaning I can make and sell the design as many times as I like, but I can’t resell the file itself." 


 layered paper cut skull in black and cream

Taking one of Christina's popular workshops in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area sounds like a very fun way to spend a couple of hours with like-minded crafters. Participants choose their favorite from four designs prior to class, as well as the color palette; they can even select a dominant color. 

During class they assemble their mandala by adhering foam dots to each layer (generally a design has 9-12 layers cut from 65lb solid core cardstock) and place the masterpiece in an 8 x 8-inch frame.


store display of framed, layered paper cuts in many color palettes, hung on wall and standing on shelves

Christina told me that her students truly seem to enjoy the process and proudly take home a finished mandala at the end of the session. "It’s putsy in the beginning, but once they get the hang of layering, many say it gets a lot easier."


"There are other adhesives [besides dots] that are quicker, however, the margin for error is very small. Once stuck down, there’s no turning back. The dots are extremely forgiving and you can separate layers without ruining the cardstock." 


layered paper cut of blue jay perched on pumpkin surrounded by autumn leaves on branch

If you'd like to try your hand at electronic mandala making, a huge selection of artist-designed SVG cutting files is available on Etsy. And if you are an artist yourself, YouTube videos will walk you through the steps of creating original designs.


selfie of smiling young woman dressed in black and white Milwaukee Mandalas tee shirt

Christina Destrampe's website is Milwaukee Mandalas. Her work is available for purchase via Facebook Marketplace, the Milwaukee Mandalas Facebook business page, and a half dozen shops in the Milwaukee area. She is also on Instagram. I was introduced to Christina via this recent TV segment in which she was featured. 

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Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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