Inspiring Designer: Diana Keeler

July 26, 2016 by Erin Behan

Some people collect shoes. Diana Keeler collects paper. "It's ridiculous," she says. "I have rolls of it in my house. The way some people buy shoes they never wear but they love — that's how I am about paper."

Inspiring Designer: Diana Keeler
Keeler, who splits time among San Francisco, Paris and Brooklyn, channels her love of paper into paper cut-outs, mostly of maps and botanicals, which she sells on her Etsy shop, Faraway Places Handmade (she also runs Far Away Places Vintage, selling vintage French and European homewares). Her work has been featured in Apartment Therapy, on The Nate Berkus Show, in Barneys, and more. She's also working on a novel.

If her tri-city lifestyle and the name of her shop didn’t give it away, Keeler loves travel, far away places and the practical things that go with it, like maps and navigation, but also that moment when a place blows your mind. "I’m not sure there’s anything better," she says, reflecting on a recent moment at the Pena Palace built on top of a hill in Sintra, Portugal, "than going on a trip and having it beat your expectations." (For a closer look at her travels, see her blog and Instagram account.)

Keeler didn’t start with maps or paper, at least not the cutout kind. She got her bachelor's in English at Columbia and a BFA in New Genres, or conceptual art, from San Francisco Art Institute where she discovered the papercut work of Rob Ryan. She looked for shapes to cut, moving from rivers to text to circulatory systems in the body, but says “I think I was always going to get to maps eventually."

Inspiring Designer: Diana Keeler
Her delicate hand-cut paper-cut maps of cities such as Paris, London, and Jersey City convey the beauty of each city's lines and curves, bumps and inconsistencies, and when viewed from a distance, look as much like a skeletonized leaf as a transportation grid. They also take time. A lot of time.

Her favorite piece, a feathery paper-cut of trees outside her Brooklyn apartment, took four months. She accidentally destroyed it at a Renegade Craft Fair a few years ago (all that remains is the acetate for screenprinting and the original photograph).

The delicacy and impermanence of paper stands in opposition to the digital world, which she says she "finds terrifying and confusing, as much as I enjoy, like my Instagram accounts and all of my friends' vacations on Facebook." Instead she turns to “making something tactile and time-consuming."

Yet, despite the digital divide, Keeler provides digital downloads of her work. Originally, after executing a paper-cut, she would produce screenprints, but she admits to being "a terrible screen printer, so it was time-consuming and money-losing." With digital, people can enjoy smaller versions of her work for a fraction of the cost of an original.

Inspiring Designer: Diana Keeler
Beyond paper, Keeler has branched out into fabric maps and glitter maps ("I have glitter literally everywhere in my apartment," she confesses). She uses a glue-like substance to stiffen the fabric and then uses it much like paper. Since "fabric can speak to a place," she likes to carefully pair the pieces to a place, like with the fabrics in her Africa map.

More than anything, she says new customers and admirers are surprised to see that her work really is cut by hand. "There's no mistaking it. You can see the errors and small cuts. It feels handmade when you get up close, which I think is somehow really soothing," she says. "I think we just want to feel like we live in a space created by humans, not lasers, or robots."

SHOP AT Distinct Papers for your papercutting projects.

Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


Visit Distinct Papers to buy high-quality paper or card stock for your next project or to find the right copy paper, correspondence stationery and envelopes.


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