Workshop: Annyen Lam
made in Canada
Nice to meet you Annyen. Who are you?
I’m an artist currently living and working in the west end of Toronto.
Working across several different media platforms, my practice includes lithography, screenprinting, book arts, installation, and paper-cutting.
For the last few years I have focused more on the latter, completing projects that range from extremely small pieces to large-scale, layered paper works.
“My ideal world: One with more compassion and justice. One where everyone has a voice. “
TINY BLADE PROJECT
What are you exactly?
I am an artist.
My practice has a few branches: creating and exhibiting original, one-off pieces (Including Tiny Blades Project), making multiples (prints), and then partnering with other small businesses to offer in-person workshops.
I started Tiny Blades Project by cutting something out of paper every day for 365 days. Initially running as a year-long endeavour, I’ve since cut over 760 pieces to date.
MY HOME IS TORONTO
``People build small towns wherever they go``
I was born and raised in Ottawa (roughly 550km away) and moved to Toronto at age 17 to attend OCAD University. For short periods of time I’ve also lived in New York and Hong Kong.
I heard a saying once: “people build small towns wherever they go”. I’m fortunate to have been able to travel, and have my own ways of making myself feel at home anywhere, but Toronto has a special place in my heart from the experiences that I’ve had here and the unique energy that the city embodies.
I’ve recently had several clients approach me about making portraits of their homes. Each project was a lovely experience; for some clients I got to hear some history and personal stories with the house. I also got a sense of how much they loved their space. Now I pay even more attention to vernacular architecture when I’m out on my bike.
HOUSES – PAPER CUT [Originals], Annyen Lam.
A TYPICAL DAY
Tell us how is your typical day going by
I’m most productive in the morning or evening, so I wake up as early as I can, work with something in the background (Netflix, podcasts, or streamers on Twitch), and then take some time the afternoon, when productivity wanes, to do other things (bike errands, work out, read). In the evening I’ll either teach or work with dinner in between.
PAPER, MORE PAPER!
Paper is central to your work, explain what is so special about it.
I also work with printmaking (lithography and screenprinting), draw, and make installations.
If we were to trace it back to my early childhood, I was a huge bookworm; I loved interacting with different book forms, which probably informed an early love for paper. I’d also go through popup books and try to figure out how it was put together.
Paper is seen as a humble medium; it’s been around for centuries and is found virtually everywhere. So there’s something magical about putting it under a slightly different light – in my case, cutting away at it, or exploring its sculptural possibilities – that underscores the fundamental strangeness of our everyday objects and surroundings.
FROM YOUR WINDOW
What do you see, hear and smell?
A giant pine tree. A few springs ago, baby birds were hatched and raised right in front of me so I got to see them (and their mother) all the time.
I hear the neighbour’s dog barking and the bell from the school around the corner.
I smell the tea from across my desk.
The tools of paper-cutting are relatively simple: a cutting mat, a variety of papers, a good source of light, and of course a sharp knife. Some people work with tiny scissors instead of a knife, so I’d suggest experimenting with different tools until you can find something that you’re actually comfortable with using.
My pieces almost always start with a drawing on a separate sketchbook. This process helps me visualize the end result and also troubleshoot areas that I might find tricky to cut.
In terms transferring this drawing onto your “good” paper: if you’re just starting out, you can always draw on the back of your paper and follow the lines as you cut. You can also tape your drawing directly on top of your paper and cut through both sheets at once. What I do, however, is burnish my drawing onto the paper (I use a ballpoint pen with no ink). I’ll see indentations on the paper surface, which I use as a rough guide while cutting.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to cut out the smaller, more finicky details first, because the paper will get more and more vulnerable as you go. I cut out the perimeter of the piece last!
A CLOSER LOOK
If shapes and curves were emotions, which one would you be?
An equilateral triangle.
Share a little secret...
I enjoy the thrill of heights. My first bungee jump was 233 metres (765 feet). It definitely brings you into the present moment!