Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ode to a Dexter Mat Cutter

My trusty Dexter Mat Cutter has been with me for more that forty years now. There is a real, err, art to using this sleek, heavy, ergonomic piece of streamlined chrome without destroying lots of mat board. It's certainly one of those instances where "practice makes perfect" - or close enough. A bit like bike riding, you never quite forget how it's done.

The blade hides in that central gap and can be tilted to several angles. But once you get ready to cut, with the left edge flush against a straight edge or T-square, the blade is hiding out of view under your thumb. The pointy end does you no good at all when it comes to aligning your cut. A Lefty would find it a very difficult thing to use. Still, cutting mats is a slow, delicate and dangerous process that takes an extremely steady hand (at least with one of these). A constant recitation of the old carpenter's mantra "measure twice, cut once" is a good policy. These really are one of the classic tools of all time.

Over the last few weeks I've cut nearly fifty mats, mounted my paintings on a foam backing behind the mat and then gently slipped each one into an archival acetate envelope. There are more to come as I get ready for Jamaica Plain Open Studios. Each one is a little seed of hope and joy, presented as efficiently as possible.