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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.