Hazel Glass has established herself in the fine art world of her hometown, Portland, Oregon, as a prolific creator with a steady hand and an eye for detail. Her success is no accident. After two decades of traveling to study around the world, Hazel spent several years refining her skills at the Savannah College of Art & Design and at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. From the first time she picked up a blade to make a hand-cut project, Hazel knew all her other artistic disciplines would be set aside. When she first discovered papercut art, most of what she saw was made from a single black or white sheet of paper. Hazel immediately thought that she could push those boundaries by using color and multiple layers to create interwoven contrasts and compositions with depth.
There is a satisfaction for her in the meditative tactile practice of bringing designs to life one tiny cut at a time. “It is not only about how the shapes form and build, or how they feel in my fingers as I go. It’s also about the challenge, the desire to see just how complex or fragile or deep I can succeed in making my art,” she says. Prone to struggle with anxiety, Hazel found that cutting paper has given her a sense of balance in her life, an inner peace. Her inspirations range from the decorative symmetry of medieval illuminated manuscripts, Art Nouveau, and Islamic art, to the organic patterns of nature. The textiles, illustrations, and tiles of the former have for her a harmonious elegance.
Whereas in nature, there is a taste of chaos thrown into the repetitive textures of sediment strata, rusted metal, and weathered wood grain. Though visions can be sparked from so many places, Hazel strives to reinvent them all with nothing but paper. Each artwork begins as a single 2D drawing. Then she designs templates and hand-cuts each layer separately with an X-Acto knife. She then stacks them and glues them into intricate bas-relief sculptures. Hazel firmly believes that bigger is not better and finds both the technical challenges and the resulting delicacy of working with the small too intriguing to ignore. Some of her works are as small as 5×5 centimeters. “There is something very intimate about holding tiny meticulous art in your hands,” she says. Working in this small world, Hazel can indulge in all of those fine details that she loves, like making cuts as tiny as the head of a pin or cutting lines as thin as wire.
Her passion for design brings them all into focus in ornate patterns, elaborate figurative symbols, and abstract landscapes. Whether the design is nonobjective or representational, clean, flowing lines that move you through the entire image are present. Some of Hazel’s pieces focus more on intricacy, while others simply celebrate color and depth. She sometimes layers over 40 sheets of paper, creating precious windows that peek into abstract worlds. And her use of the full spectrum of color brings these worlds to life. She sees harmonious palettes everywhere: peeling paint on a wall, mountain ranges, a fallen leaf. If they jump out at her, she notes them down. Hazel has her favorite hues and schemes, but she also tries to challenge herself by using colors she wouldn’t normally be inclined to use. When colors she doesn’t even like look good in the finished piece, Hazel knows she’s done something right. Vibrant or muted, each palette it is an integral part of the work. “While the design is what my art is saying, color is the tone of voice through which each piece speaks.”