TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Beth Acosta’s art supplies have their own bedroom in her Traverse City condo.

The hundreds of magazines and papers — each dated before the 1960s to avoid image copyright issues — are filed into folders by theme and neatly organized. That way, she can pull them out whenever inspiration strikes.

“The hardest part is just assembling the materials to work with,” Acosta said. “It’s all old papers. I’m intrigued by that mid-century stuff, the promises made and how women were treated in advertising.”

Her work joins dozens of other papercrafts at an exhibition — the first of the year — at Traverse City’s Crooked Tree Arts Center.

“It’s unlike any other show we’ve done here,” said Megan Kelto, associate director of Crooked Tree Traverse City. “This is the first show we’ve done dedicated just to papercraft.”

“Fresh Cuts: The Art of Papercraft” opened Jan. 12 and runs through Feb. 16 at the Sixth Street center. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

“I like to see what people do. It’s interesting to see how different everybody treats the medium,” Acosta said.

Local Sarah Bearup-Neal is one of them.

Her Crooked Tree piece incorporates collage and paper sculpture inspired by a past, unfinished fabric construction she created as a quilter.

“People don’t think of paper as anything more than you read it and then put it in the recycle bin,” Bearup-Neal said. “But there’s so many interesting things you can do with it.”

Her piece took about a week to complete, but Bearup-Neal said she pulled from her life experiences and skills to put it together.

She started papercrafting about two years ago.

“It’s the perfect medium for me to express my ideas about the world and my place in it,” Bearup-Neal said. “It’s a very expressive thing.”

Acosta’s papercraft passion began about 14 years back, when she got the idea to create "image journals."

“Instead of writing things, I used images because nobody else could read them,” she said. “It was a way to get my thoughts out and still keep them to myself.”

The artist once spent her time making jewelry and pottery as well, but downsizing to her Traverse City condo from a farm near Mesick meant difficult choices.

“(Papercraft) was something I could do here,” she said.

Each of her works flow seamlessly as one image; though each includes trimmings from 50-60 magazine pages, together they look like one picture.

Still, she’s limited a bit by paper size. Acosta says her larger Crooked Tree piece is among the largest she’s created. She uses no paint and few other materials — each piece is almost entirely paper.

Collecting materials proves a time-consuming challenge.

“You’d be surprised how many people call up and say, ‘I have this box of magazines that’s been in my basement for 50 years,’” said Acosta, who also spends her free time scouring thrift shops and garage sales for dated scraps.

The exhibition's 50 works range in size greatly, and include everything from papercuts to collages, book arts and paper sculptures.

“There’s a lot of variety in the papercraft world — some really exquisite, really creative approaches,” Kelto said. “Cutting out, reconstructing, deconstructing.”

The exhibition layout, she added, was carefully curated to give each piece enough space to shine. Several hang from floor to ceiling, and others create three-dimensional visual effects by hanging offset from the gallery’s walls. Others yet coat the floor with missing shapes and sprays of seemingly tree-shed petals.

Inspired visitors are welcome to purchase show artwork.

Crooked Tree, a nonprofit art center in Petoskey and Traverse City, offers concerts, classes and workshops. Its Traverse City exhibitions tend to rotate every seven weeks or so, totaling about eight a year. The Petoskey location boasts about 20 shows with its larger exhibition spaces.

“There’s always something new to see,” Kelto said.

Crooked Tree Traverse City’s next exhibition is an annual K-12 youth art show, which kicks off March 3. The Petoskey location’s first 2019 exhibition, focusing on photography, opens this weekend.

Call 231-941-9488 or see www.crookedtree.org/tc for more information.

Features writer