Studio updates
Moth infographics: paper-cut process

Moth infographics: paper-cut process

4 min read
An illustrated graphic icon by Ed Harrison of a hand wriring with a pencil.
Studio updates

National Insect Week is coming up and I’ve got an exciting project in the works with Butterfly Conservation. Here is the work in process so far...

It's June. The sun is shining, the studio hot, and I'm surrounded by hundreds of paper-cut objects — wings, antenna, leaves, cocoons, and tiny miniature clothes — scattered across the desk and floor.

I'm working on an exciting new project in partnership with Butterfly Conservation as part of their very first #MothsMatter campaign.

The BC team have brought me on board to curate a design-led event with the goal of getting people of all ages excited about moths, and I've chosen paper-cutting as my medium of preference.

After all, who doesn't love a paper-cut moth?

A screenshot of moth layers being digitally plotted out on a paper-cutter.

Plotting out the moth layers for the digital paper-cutter.

A row of lasercut moth antennae cut out of black card on a green cutting mat.

Freshly-cut moth components, straight off the Cricut.

The cause

Moths are so much more than winged insects that flutter around at night (or if you're really unlucky, eat holes in the clothes in your wardrobe).

Moths are crucial to habitats, ecosystems and food chains. And like canaries in a coal mine, they can show us early signs of negative environmental impacts. If the population of moths drop, an ecosystem is in trouble.

And that's what this campaign is all about.

Piles of red paper-cut moths scattered across a cutting mat in an artist studio.

Prepping the moth kits for the pop-up workshop.

The idea

After a series of calls with Emma (the lovely Moth Engagement Officer at Butterfly Conservation), we decided to plan an event for National Insect Week 2022 that would consist of two parts:

Part I: A large-scale infographic board showing fun facts about moths in an interactive, paper-cut format.

Part II: A moth-making workshop where children could craft their own paper Garden Tiger moths and take them home.

An orange and white Garden tiger moth with wings outspread on a green leaf.

I took inspiration from the beautiful yet endangered Garden Tiger moth for my colour palette. Image credit: Butterfly Conservation

The factoids

Whenever I create an infographic, my goal is to make complex ideas beautifully simple and easy to understand.

This all starts with the content. Butterfly Conservation sent this short list of facts as a starting point:

  • There are more day-flying moths than butterflies
  • There are 2500 moth species in the UK
  • Only 2 species of moths eat your clothes!
  • Many animals rely on moths for food, such as birds, mice, bats, beetles and hedgehogs.
  • The life cycle of a moth (eggs > caterpillar > cocoon > moth)
  • Moths play a ‘secret role’ as crucial pollinators for flowers and plants
A black and white infographic design with facts about moths.

The final layout for the moth infographics board (in Adobe illustrator). These components will be digitally cut out of paper and assembled onto the plywood board.

I created a canvas in Adobe Illustrator (matching the dimensions of my large sheet of Birch-faced plywood) and went through the motions of the design process; combining playful illustrations with typography and diagrams, and laying it all out in a four-column grid.

"We know that not everybody gets a warm feeling when moths are mentioned - we're here to change that!"

Emma Pestridge - Butterfly Conservation

Colour palette

After the content was decided upon and the layout finished, I had to figure out a colour palette.

I asked the BC team which UK species would be the most relevant to the campaign, and they wanted to specifically shine a spotlight on the Garden tiger moth, an iconic, beautiful yet endangered day-flying moth. What a perfect starting point for inspiration!

Since everything was going to be crafted from paper, I needed a range of stocks that would also fit this colour palette. Luckily Fedrigoni UK has a beautiful range, and very generously donated all of the paper for the infographics and moth-making workshop. Legends!

A caterpillar, moth, cocoon and eggs (of the metamorphosis cycle) crafted out of red and green card.

Components of the metamorphosis cycle - caterpillar, moth, cocoon and eggs!

Paper cutting

So, the design is complete and the Fedrigoni paper has arrived.

Next comes the paper-cutting process, using my trusty Cricut (a digital paper-cutter) which I use to plot out and cut the graphics layer-by-layer, colour-by-colour.

Side note: The Cricut has been an absolute game-changer for my artwork, enabling me to cut large batches of paper insects which I sell via my online shop.

I started with the minature clothes (1:12 scale) — a pair of moth-eaten socks, a chomped-up scarf, and a holey jumper, all carefully attached to miniature clothes hangers (sourced from Etsy). These will accompany the message about the number of moth species that actually eat our clothes - only two!

A hand holding miniature red paper-cut socks and scarf.

Moth-eaten socks and scarf, created on a scale of 1:12.

A power drill, pencil, sketchbook and minature paper-cut clothes, scatter across a wooden desk.

Time to start drilling!

A dowel plug being drilled into a wooden board, with sawdust around the work surface.

I’m pleasantly surprised with how the dowel plugs came out, giving the infographic board a clean, 'Scandanavian design' feel.

Let the drilling commence

The plan is to make the four stages of the metamorphosis cycle moveable, so they can be rearranged to test the knowledge of children (and adults!) at the event.

As for the number of moths in the UK, I wanted the 0's to be taken on and off so people could guess the total (approximately 2500).

But the biggest challenge of the infographic board was how to make it interactive...

A wooden educational board about the life cycle of a moth.

Measure twice, drill once!

A 3D diagram of the metamorphosis life cycle of a moth, crafted out of red and green card.

Aligning the metamorphosis components before drilling and inserting the dowel plugs.

My initial idea was to use magnets, but I soon remembered these are a big no-no for young children! So after some time pondering, I decided to try small dowel plugs. I made a quick prototype with some old plywood... and BOOM! They worked perfectly with the papercut components.

From a visual design perspective, I’m pleasantly surprised with how the dowel came out. I was imagining they might have appeared clunky, but in actual fact they give the whole infographic board a clean, minimal ‘Scandinavian design' feel when paired with the birch-faced ply.

I’ll be playing around with dowel plugs in future design installation projects…

A wooden board standing next to a power drill, with moth-realted graphics being affixed to the board.

Half the dowel plugs are in. The caterpillar and moth can be rearranged within the metamorphosis cycle.

A hand placing the number '5' onto a wooden interactive, educational infographic board about moths.

Carefully aligning the infographic numbers...

The final stage was to carefully fix all of the papercut elements onto the plywood (measure twice, stick once!).

As with all of these things, I wish I had more time to plan, cut, and make. The more time I spent building and finalising the design, the more ideas came to my head.

But for now, I'm seeing this as a 'first prototype' and I'm actually really happy with the final outcome. I'm, super excited to see this being put to use for the #MothsMatters pop-up event!

It's the little things that run the world.

E. O. Wilson

So, next stop is Wildwood Trust with the Butterfly Conservation team!

The pop-up event will take place during National Insect Week 2022 in the heart of the beautiful 40-acre ancient woodland and centre of excellence for the conservation of British wildlife.

Here, we will be teaching about moths and why they matter and invite children to get involved in making a paper sculpture of their very own.

I'll be sharing another blog post about the event, where we will be displaying the interactive infographic and inviting people of all ages to make paper moths of their very own.

Stay tuned!

An educational infographic about moths, crafted out of wood and red and green card.

The end result... an interactive infographic about moths. Next stop, Wildwood Forest school for the pop-up workshop!

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