By Chris Ricci

Although It may be a bit early to really start thinking about winter, a special show at Mercy Tavern this month has people excited for snowflakes. Paper snowflakes, that is. But, instead of diamonds and little squares, portraits of musicians and celebrities cover these wintery creations, and like real snowflakes, each is truly unique.

Local resident and now paper snowflake expert Brett Badolato started exploring the art of paper snowflakes in 2009 while working at an office. “Colleagues at an old job wanted to decorate the office for the holidays but had no budget, so I thought I’d cut some paper snowflakes,” Brett said. “Pretty quickly I realized that the magic was in the fold, and once I figured the fold out, the floodgates opened.” For the next eight years, Brett decorated the offices he worked at with snowflakes and, over time, he challenged himself even more when it came to style and design, but also changed the platform in which he presented them. “ A few years back I started a new job where I didn’t really have a place to hang snowflakes or anyone around who cared, so I started posting pictures of them on Facebook,” he said. “That opened up the conversation to my community.” But the major springboard that propelled him into truly finding his own stride snowflake-wise came in the form of an unlikely source.

“Two years ago I was deeply committed to Bernie Sanders’ presidential run,” He explains, “and someone suggested I should make a Bernie flake. I accepted the challenge and attempted to make a portrait snowflake. It turned out pretty good, and when I posted it people just went crazy! After that I was pretty committed to portrait snowflakes and more challenging designs.”

Brett has since graduated from the standard one-tone paper snowflake, and the results have been astounding. “This year I decided to add color layers, experiment with different shading ideas, and they’re coming out better than I ever anticipated,” he said. “So what’s keeping me going is the question of how far I can push this medium.” Of course, Brett has his favorites, but this isn’t keeping him from branching out and trying brand-new things. “The John Lennon one has a special place in my heart, it was my first experimental coloring with other snowflake designs utilized in the background and it came out better than my wildest dreams could have anticipated,” he said. “And the Chuck Berry one was a real pain in the ass, it was a very delicate cut that I had to re-cut multiple times to get a finished product.” He recalls. “And after I finally did get it where I wanted, it didn’t look strong enough to call it done so I experimented with some contrasting color star-shaped flake designs in the background which made it pop in such a surprising way. I never expected it to become one of my favorites but boy did it ever!”

One of his particular favorites, however, is one that’s rather close to home. “The one of my wife Sarah Seminski is of course near and dear to my heart, but it also pushed me to experiment with different types of paper like glitter paper and to push the background colors outside of the flake itself to create a framing spectrum.”

When asked what the future holds for the snowflakes, Brett made it clear he was pretty fluid. “For starters I intend to continue cutting snowflakes in the winter, and now I’m working toward creating pieces of art that people will hopefully want to have for their own,” he said. “ I’m looking forward to exhibiting my pieces in more art shows and venues as the collection grows, and with a little luck hopefully I’ll be building an Etsy shop, website, and maybe this can blossom into a nice side business.” Beyond that, Brett said that he wants to not only share his pieces, but also share something else. “Also I’d love to get involved teaching and hosting workshops for kids and anyone who’s interested in learning to further develop how versatile this classic art form can become,” he said. “ Ultimately it’s my aspiration that people may gain something from seeing my techniques and fuel their own creativity to create works of art that are even more impressive than mine so that I can learn from them!”

Brett’s show, “Paper Snowflakes” runs through the month of November at Mercy Tavern, and an opening reception will take place on Sunday, November 12th at Mercy Tavern.