​​                by artist Jupi T. Das

The art of papercutting

 

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It is a craft dating back hundreds of years, yet it is still very popular today. The following description reveals a short history of Paper Cutting. Paper was invented only around A.D. 100 in China .The art of Paper Cutting began almost at the same time. Soon it became very popular in China, especially at the time of the Sung Dynasty (10th - 13th century). Paper Cutting at China was wide spread as folk art and people used it for many reasons, such as: window decorations, pasted cutout pictures for lanterns, house door decorations, etc. Large Paper Cuttings were used as decoration for sedan chairs, boxes, chests, and saucers that were burned at funerals. The patterns for Chinese Paper Cutting were mostly taken from Chinese mythology. Silk paper (a very thin paper) and parchment are generally used for this art.

It has been found that Paper Cutting came from China to Austria and then to all over Europe. In Europe, cut patterns were used to decorate furniture, which were much cheaper than carved ones. People started doing Paper Cutting in different places and at different times with individual traits and cultures. So, it is difficult follow the exact path of Paper Cutting.

In Europe white cut work is much older than black. Early examples are found in the 16th and 17th centuries. In Germany Paper Cutting became known as Scherenschnitte. R. W. Hus was one of the first well-known artists who used to make comical little works of art between 1645 and 1677. Hus made decorative white cut work from paper and parchment and demonstrated great skill in making ornaments and figures. White cut works were also popular in Holland in the 17th century. Educated class women who had enough leisure time cut paper as a hobby and used the cuts as gifts or wall decorations. People in high rank and nobility collected those artworks.

Silhouette is another form of Paper Cutting. The first silhouette in Germany was made around 1631. From early times, the shadow of loved ones was preserved. It reflects the desire to capture the likeness of people by the use of simple paper cutting. In Germany, cutting portraits became a very popular fashion, but remained among the upper classes. Other than R. W. Hus, other Paper Cutting artists were Luise Duttenhofer (1776-1829), Otto Runge ( 1777-1810), Karl Frohinch (1821-1898) and Wilhelm Mueller (1804-1865).

In Poland, Paper Cutting reached its high point between the 1840's and the beginning of World War I. Ornaments, borders, and colorful pieces for collages were made with sheep shearing shears. Even today most Polish Paper Cutting is still made with rough sheep shears and is made mainly as wall decorations for the house. They were mostly in the shape of a wheel or square, and roosters and hens, which are some common motifs. In Poland eggs are also decorated with Paper Cutting.

Paper Cutting in Switzerland traces back to around 1800. Some of the most popular artists in Switzerland were- blacksmith Johann Jakob Hauswirth (1809-1871), Louis Sagy (a postman), Christian Schwizgebel (1914-1993). Schwizgebel mostly worked on animal life. His prized ornamental cuttings are considered true masterpieces. These folk artists laid the foundation and are still models for today’s artists.

Characteristics Of Paper Cutting

Paper Cutting has been a popular folk art in many countries such as China, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Mexico, etc.
To give a more natural, original, and clear look most of the paper cuttings have been done with Black & White paper.
Artists generally uses the same theme with variations in most of their works.
Some Scherenschnitte are made with folding and cutting techniques.
This is one kind of art that needs very minimal tools and setups, requiring only paper, pencil, scissors, knives, rulers, etc. These supplies are easy to acquire and affordable to everyone.
This is the folk art that evolved hundred of years ago and is still alive. Through Scherenschnitte artists can express their feelings, like story tellings, and can reach the hearts of the people at the same time. Because of its simplicity and details, a piece of Scherenschnitte can be enjoyed forever.

Same Art With Different Names:

Papercutting English
Scherenschnitte German
Knippen Dutch
Wycinanki (vee-cee-non-kee) Polish
Monkiri (mon-kee-ree) Japanese
K’e-chih (kuh-jeh) (paper carving) Chinese
Chien-chih (jian-jeh) (paper cutting) Chinese