Tom Sacco makes intricate multi-layered paper art with antique scissors and x-atco knives. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)

Tom Sacco makes intricate multi-layered paper art with antique scissors and x-atco knives. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)

This beefy ex-cop has a delicate hobby: intricate paper-cut art

You can see Tom Sacco’s creations at the upcoming Everett Art Walk.

The arms on this guy look like they could rip apart phone books.

Instead, they power his thick fingers into making thousands of teeny cuts in paper.

What’s up with that?

Tom Sacco is Everett’s version of Edward Scissorhands.

Sacco, 70, does paper cutting art. From a single sheet of paper, he creates intricate silhouettes of anything from animals and angels to ballerinas and cathedrals.

He places the cutouts on a painted canvas, topped with museum glass.

It’s deceiving to the naked eye.

“I love to see the initial reaction that people have,” Sacco said in a heavy Brooklyn accent. “They can’t wrap their head around that what they’re looking at is cutout paper.”

His tools: X-Acto knife. Antique scissors. Cuticle scissors. Tweezers.

He doesn’t use a stencil. He draws some lines by hand. Then he just cuts.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

“The silhouette actually changes as you cut,” he said. “It’s very emotional. You spend a lot of emotion trying to create expressions and a lot of time to get the curves flowing a certain way.”

He doesn’t repair errant cuts with glue or tape. Typically he can make it work.

“If it’s real bad you start over,” he said. “I start over maybe once every 10 times. I always hope it’s at the beginning.”

This former New Yorker and Navy veteran’s pastime is a far cry from his former professional life, which included Seattle policeman and enforcement officer at what is now the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Sacco traces his retirement passion to childhood visits with his aunt, Sister Mary Amata, who was a Dominican nun in Everett.

“Her best friend, Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, would take a piece of paper and put it in her hands,” he said. “She had small scissors and she’d sit there and talk to you and just cut. And when she was done she would have this lace. I was always just fascinated. I still cannot do what she did.”

He tries to emulate Sister Dorcy with his own take.

Sacco creates his art in the sunroom of the Everett home he shares with his wife, Cheryl. His art gets its time in the sun on display at Everett’s Port Gardner Bay Winery, where he is curator of the gallery.

You can meet Sacco Scissorhands in the flesh at this Thursday’s Everett Art Walk at the winery. Most of his designs sell for between $500 to $700, with some fetching $5,000. Price is based on time Sacco spends on each piece.

“It takes me anywhere from 18 hours to the longest one I’ve ever done is five and half months,” Sacco said. “My average is 35 to 50 hours. It all depends on the detail.”

What if he spills coffee or red wine on the paper?

That’s simple, too. He doesn’t.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

Where to see it

Port Gardner Bay Winery, 3006 Rucker Ave., is on this Thursday’s Everett Art Walk, from 6 to 10 p.m. Art walks take place the third Thursday of the month at downtown businesses. Other artists at Port Gardner include Brigitte Bolerjack, Tom Heins, Michal Loudal and Kari Quaas. More at

For more about Tom Sacco, go to

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