If you’ve lived in Baltimore for even a month, you’ve probably seen Annie Howe’s work. The fiber artist turned papercutter’s illustrations and original cuts are everywhere in this town, adorning walls, cabinets, and the sides of buildings. A laundry list of Howe’s pieces I saw around Baltimore this past holiday season: the signage for a school, an original cut-up in the Zoom background of a friend’s house, labels on jars at the grocery store, paper bags at a different grocery store, original brass ornaments, and the cover of a book at a bookstore.
Howe’s unique style feels tied to this place and time in Baltimore. Her hand-cut white designs on colorful backgrounds retain the essentials of her illustrative style no matter how distant the final medium and venue, feeling at once classic and contemporary. When working on her own projects, Howe typically selects subjects that interest her, a nature lover and longtime Baltimore resident, but that also have universal appeal, her lettering, animals, and occasional Hamilton lyrics tapping into the affordable handmade zeitgeist popularized by Etsy where people buy art for their homes and their friends to demonstrate their tastes and preferences.
Howe has made the solo career of an illustrator into a rotating collaboration with numerous businesses and other artists, and she’s done so with a signature softness (has anyone mentioned she is a DEAD RINGER for the folk artist Joni Mitchell?) that it seems odd to refer to her as an empire, despite her success and the unified aesthetic she has achieved. I chatted with Howe over Zoom about what she’s learned from her almost fifteen years as a freelance paper artist and illustrator.