Category Creating Spaces

Dylan Metrano: Crafting Tiny Marvels in a Cozy Space


Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

Dylan Metrano perches atop an adjustable office chair that—along with his drafting table—dominates his top-floor home studio. Glow-in-the-dark stars cling to the ceiling, remnants of a bygone nursery. A bookcase and artwork adorn the walls of its 8×10-foot interior.

“I’m in the space that I need, because I don’t work particularly big. My cutting mat is only 12′ x 12′ so I don’t really go much bigger than that,” says Metrano, a paper cutting artist based in Bath, Maine. “I wish I had more wall space to hang more art up in, but in general I’ve got everything I need in here, he says. “I can’t imagine working without it.”

In this cramped space, Metrano meticulously crafts paper designs, melding shapes and colors for cards, logos, T-shirts, posters, album covers, calendars and more. “My tools for paper cutting are basically an X-Acto knife, a glue stick and a ruler,” he explains. His sole extravagance, the rolling chair, came from an advance for illustrating a children’s book years ago. “I have to have a nice surface and a nice seat,” he explains.

Bending over his table, knife in hand, Metrano swiftly carves a black piece of paper with a stenciled design. The paper measures perhaps six inches square. It’s an animal—a bird.

Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

“Birds are definitely one of my favorites. There’s so many varieties and they’re so colorful and interesting. The feathers are really fun to create,” he says.

Metrano grew up in Massachusetts but frequented the coast of Maine as a child. He later worked on Monhegan Island, where he met his future wife, Mandy. They eventually married, settling down and starting a chocolate-making business called La Nef Chocolate. Throughout it all, Metrano continued crafting paper art, even when lacking a dedicated space. “When I first moved to Monhegan (Island) I was doing paper cutting in the cafe there, but it’s distracting with people coming and going.”

Metrano pauses, glancing up at his MacBook. The screen reveals a reference image of the subject that is gradually taking shape, cut by cut, on his board. It’s a Killdeer, a small shorebird. Metrano adds bits of colored paper—red for the eyes, brown for the head and feathers, white for the breast. Almost done.

Birds are easier to create with than people, Metrano observes. “You don’t have to be so specific with birds or animals because they’re not recognizable as an individual. If I try to do a Prince portrait and the nose is not quite right, it’s not going to look like him. That’s where it gets more difficult. Those are harder to do ultimately, but they’re really gratifying when they come out well,” he says.

When creating purely for personal enjoyment, Metrano—a lifelong musician as well as an artist–prefers to create musician portraits. “That’s what I do just for myself,” he remarks, displaying a few past creations: Deep Purple. Prince, of course. The Beatles, and others—both famous and obscure.

Beatles Portraits
© Brian Fitzgerald

Despite its limited size, Metrano’s studio is a sanctuary. When he enters, he disengages from the world outside. “It’s more like switching off,” Metrano chuckles. “It’s a meditative exercise for me. Once I’ve got my pencil marks down on paper and I start cutting, I don’t really think about it. A couple of hours goes by and I’ve got a piece done.”

Killdeer Bird
© Brian Fitzgerald

With the Killdeer finished, intricate cuts highlighting texture and color, Metrano rises from the table. His workspace is illuminated by a solitary desk lamp in the now-darkened room. It’s late, and his work is done.

“I do it because I enjoy it. If I ever find that I’m not enjoying it, I just won’t do it,” Metrano says, glancing around his close confines. “I’ll just go make more chocolates.”



Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

Neon Dave: Shining Bright in Portland’s East Bayside

Neon Dave
Dave Jacobsen, AKA, “Neon Dave” at his East Bayside studio.  © Brian Fitzgerald

Dave Johansen, known as Neon Dave, pauses and surveys his workspace in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. Filled with piles of cut glass tubes, a various boxes and hand-drawn designs on paper, the cluttered area is one of three he utilizes in a shared space. “As a self-employed single person, it’s nice to have other people around sometimes,” he says. “Other times, it’s nice to rock out by yourself and get a lot of work done. But having people around makes everything more fun.”

Neon Dave has been a neon artist since 2003. “I was already doing art and painting and was using a lot of reflective, fluorescent colors and metallics,” Johansen explains. “I started thinking about incorporating light into the art, then researched neon, and I just decided to do it.”

© Brian Fitzgerald

He clarifies that while ‘neon’ traditionally refered to the use of neon gas–which produces a distinctive orange light–the name has come to encompass the use of various gasses and chemicals that produce a variety of colors used in glass tube signage and artwork.

Johansen’s studio is divided into sections: administration, assembly and paint, storage, and a glass flash shop, where tubes are heated, shaped, filled with gas, and bombarded with electrons.

Dave likes his studio’s location, amidst other art studios in a now-trendy neighborhood peppered with breweries and coffee shops. “It’s been interesting to have a front-row seat to a changing neighborhood as one of the first wave of artists,” he reflects. “The character has certainly changed. But I like being close to the action. For my local clients, if something goes wrong, like a transformer failure, I can respond quickly without spending the whole day.”

© Brian Fitzgerald



Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

A Space Called Home: Joe Rosshirt



Artist in his studio
Joe Rosshirt, owner of FortHouse Studios. © Brian Fitzgerald

“Kids from an early age all think they’re artists. They’ll raise their hands if you ask them in kindergarten class, says Joe Rosshirt. “Every year that goes by, less and less hands will come up, to a point where you’re self-conscious to put your hand up.”

Joe Rosshirt is an illustrator, animator and artist who operates FortHouse Studios out of his home studio in South Portland, Maine. Over the past 15 years, the Maine College of Art (MECA) graduate has worked with all types of clients incuding national and regional marketing agencies and sells his own creations at art festivals and other venues.

© Brian Fitzgerald

It’s a long way from his childhood, when he remembers doubting his dream of being an artist. “I thought, I shouldn’t be an artist because all artists are poor,” Rosshirt says. “You think that ‘starving artists’ is the one rule for artists. It’s a limiting belief.”

Rosshirt has operated out of other spaces, but this studio—he’s been here for about a year—is the first he’s owned. “I love the security. I don’t have to think where I’ll be next year. My rent’s not going up and I’m not getting pushed out. That was always a back-of-the-mind issue with all my other spaces,” he says.

Rosshirt’s previous studio was larger and ‘gorgeous’ but he says he realized after a few years that it wasn’t the space that made him an artist. “The space affects your creativity, turning into a creativity vacuum chamber. If you make the space your own, your ideas can live there. It feels like I can just access those ideas by being here.”

Rosshirt doesn’t have a set schedule, usually getting into the studio by 10 but often working odd hours. “I transition into work mode easily. Even in the middle of the night, I act on it,” he explains. “Nine-to-five never got me into a flow state. Lightning strikes of creativity can’t be predicted.” He adds: “The Stephen King style isn’t for me: ‘Show up, do work, get out.’ Not my approach.” 

One of the things Rosshirt loves most about his work is going to art shows, where he sells directly to the public.  “I have this tagline, ‘Make Happy Happen'”, he says.   “I just want to spread smiles.  That’s enough.  I don’t need to make the sale.”

© Brian Fitzgerald


Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.