Janus and the Zig-Zag Lady


Above: Peter Lloyd’s sketch for a proposed paper-cut

Peter and I continue to collaborate on our paper-cutting project. He’s just completed a head, and I’m working on the drawing for its lower half, prior to getting busy with the scalpel and black paper.

Peter’s Janus-head in progress.


The finished cut, with my drawing for the body below it.

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My inspiration for the lower part came from the old stage illusion of the zig-zag lady.



I’ve added in a sprinkle of burlesque, played on the duality of Peter’s bi-gendered head facing in two directions, and referenced the Goddess Kali in the multiple arms, each hand clutching a phone.


Of course this may yet all change. The fun of projects like this is that the ideas flow as a part of the collaborative process, and the studies proliferate.



Sometimes the roughest sketches are the ones I get the most out of. The one below is my favourite, though it’s pretty scrappy!


Today I start cutting.

11 thoughts on “Janus and the Zig-Zag Lady

  1. Ooh, these paper cuts are so full of life, sharp and shocking and intriguing. What a truly extraordinary collaboration. All power to you both.

    I’ve come across your wonderful wonderful images before – but found you here yesterday quite by chance. I made an appointment at Gloucester Folk Museum yesterday, to view the William Simmonds puppets. The museum staff didn’t have time to be with me so I was accompanied by a very young intern who had started that day – who was there simply to see that I didn’t steal the puppets, I suppose. I wanted to cry through most of the handling of the puppets – discovering each one as I uncovered them from their tissue paper and hopelessly tangled lines. They didn’t seem to have been packed with very much care – and were so unspeakably beautiful – both enough to make anyone cry. The black and white photos I’ve seen are such a dismal representation of these extraordinarily lovely puppets. Every part of them seemed to have been made with such exuberant love. I’ve waited five years to get a chance to see them – and would have crossed half the world if I’d known how breathtaking they actually are. Why they are languishing in cardboard coffins in the folk museum’s attic is beyond me to understand. I know that the museum is desperately short of staff and funding – but these puppets represent the life’s work of one of the most talented puppet makers Europe has produced – surely, that’s true, isn’t it? To see his work, apparently uncared for, unvalued, is a sort of crime.

    I have a lifelong fascination with all the same things you seem to write about so eloquently here. Working with grotesque imagery and folk idioms, circus, puppet and fairground motifs – all of these things make my heart beat faster and I have no more understanding now of why that is than I did then. It was a lonely route through a Fine Art BA and then an MA – at best I was tolerated as a kind of lightweight oddity, but there was also an undertow of suspicion about me because this imagery does stray into the bizarre and frightening, the anarchic, earthy and out-and-out dirty. That’s where its vast energy is. Bland it ain’t.

    Really wonderful to find you here. THANK YOU

    • Sally, I too have handled a few of those beautiful puppets, and in fact untangled some of them while I was at it. What seemed clear to me when I did… and it was a few years ago now… was that the museum didn’t really know what to do with the marionettes, and that there wasn’t the expertise present to look after them as well as they needed. They simply shouldn’t be handled by people who don’t even know how to untangle them, or how they work. Marionettes are such fragile, operator-sensitive creations, and it’s a specialised field. Shameful too, that they are so badly represented online. Someone needs to photograph them well and get them out there on the web, for everyone to see and appreciate. The last time I searched they were damned hard to find, and there were dire warnings plastered everywhere about copyright infringement. I e-mailed to ask for clearance to put some images on my blog, as I was writing about the puppets, but received nothing back. It’s all a shambles, really!

      The paper-cut project is great fun, and yes, a little shocking. (And getting more so by the day.) Peter Lloyd is quite simply the best sort of collaborator. Full of liveliness and wit, and forever challenging and mischievous. He brings out the worst in me, which I think is all to the good!

      Sally, do you have a blog or website?

  2. I’m really enjoying this! Those dark line images have something of the very early comic strips and early cartoons…like this early Mickey Mouse (er…the hot dogs in the image being perhaps very apt….) (Sorry I don’t know how to insert this as an actual pic)


    I’d love to see your images animated…those body parts cry out to wave about a bit!

    • Thank you, Shellie. What’s interesting here, is that though Peter Lloyd and I have different drawing styles, the medium of paper-cutting pulls our work together. It means we can each concentrate on being creative, rather that worry about how the finished works will splice together.

      I love those early Mickey Mouse shorts. So much more vital and anarchic than what came later.

      (I tried to insert your image in the post, but couldn’t get it into i-photo, so it will have to remain as a ‘click-on’.)

  3. I sometimes feel Janus-faced in my ambivalent feelings towards social media, so this image resonates with me. Some days, I love the access to the connections, creativity and future possibilities that the internet undoubtedly brings, but on other days I am with the author, Douglas Coupland, who wrote in 2014: “…I miss my pre-internet brain. The internet has burrowed inside my head and laid eggs, and it feels as though they’re all hatching.”

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ project develops and how you and Peter choose to further explore the contemporary folklore and rituals which surround social media and modern communications.

    • Peter Lloyd’s suggestions for this project left me raring to go. The world web has infiltrated all aspects of our lives. So many friends tell me that they’e stepping down from Facebook, or rationing themselves, and I absolutely get that. It can demand too much.

      But for me social media has opened countless doors to fascinating projects, and perhaps because I’m disciplined by nature, and because I see Facebook as a fantastic ‘tool’ of collaboration, my attitude toward it is perhaps more professionalised than many users. As such I enjoy the opportunities and explorations it offers me, while being conscious of its potential to intrude. And if it has burrowed inside my head and laid eggs, then I see those eggs as being interesting, and full of potential to hatch into extraordinary things. (As opposed to what happened to John Hurt in Alien!)

      Good to see the Curious One avatar I made for you being used as your calling card. I hope that she may represent you well.

      • I thought it was about time ‘The Curious One’ made an appearance! There will hopefully be further sightings of my enigmatic avatar later on this year!!

        • Dear Sarah : I love your new Avatar;

          Those eyebrows, that posture, those closed eyes. One imagines them huge and slanted, and looking sideways, and noticing all, like the eyes of beautiful Guinevere. SHE looks innocent and tranquil in this image, but with discipline and potential menace. Great.

          • Dear Maria

            Happy New Year!

            Thank you so much for your kind words and I’m glad you like this beautiful incarnation of The Curious One, created for me by Clive. I’m delighted to say there is much more to come, thanks to the talents of Clive and Johann.


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