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CRAFT PROFILE: Paper cutting - is it a snip?
As the parent of a 3 year old who has just discovered scissors, I’ve recently been reminded of the simple (sometimes terrifying) fascination of applying blade to paper. No wonder then that the craft of paper cutting is an age old tradition of so many different cultures across the globe. To describe the craft is easy – it’s all there in the name – and this is one of the most accessible of crafts for a beginner. But while my daughter applies a technique I like to term “attack and hack”, the artistry involved in dedicated paper cutting is truly awe inspiring.
Believed to have originated in 6th Century China as a symbolic and decorative art form, initially for those wealthy enough to afford the expensive commodity of paper, Chinese paper cuts often use red paper.
The Japanese paper cutting tradition is called Kiri-e and applied to origami techniques is known as kirigami –paper cutting applied to a folded base, with amazing results. Think paper snowflakes... on steroids...in 3D!
Other countries strong paper cutting heritage include Mexico, India and the craft also has strong links with the Jewish religion. Across Europe, paper cutting is closely linked to folk art and common themes include nature and rural life. In Germany, paper cutting is referred to as Scherenschnitte, which literally translates as 'scissor cuts'.
Paper cutting does not exclusively use scissors – in fact, most forms use a craft knife and sometimes tools such as a chisel or punch. Although the basic principles are simple, it is in fact a highly technical art form. Every design must be a single, continuous piece - unbroken. So, a steady hand and lots of breathing are essential!
This is definitely not a craft for the impatient as explained by Claire Munday from Beetle Cherry: "Papercutting is such an absorbing craft, you have to get into a little bubble and really focus on what you're doing. Each one is cut from a single sheet of paper, so I have to really think about the design to make sure all the different elements connect and will hold together. This design challenge really pushes me to try new things and be more creative!"
The Lady and her Butterflies - red by Beetle Cherry
The Butterfly's Ball by Beetle Cherry
Wedding gift papercut by Beetle Cherry
Lydia Crook’s passion for paper started 8 years ago when she embarked on a career as a paper engineer (“a pop-up book designer with a swish name!”). Lydia takes her inspiration from “the innocence of childhood rhymes, fairytale stories, classic song lyrics and lovey-dovey romantic quotes”. Her special relationship with paper is evident in her work - “I love all things paper and everything thing you can do with it - fold it, bend it, curve it, cut it, rip it, roll it, colour it.... oh and write on it!"
Hickory Dickory Dock by Lydia Crook
Perfect Match: Sunshine by Lydia Crook
Rosie of Rosie and the Boys explains more about the unique appeal of working with paper " Each piece reflects the environment in which it was created: knives slip; your hand gets tired; different papers blunt blades at different rate. As the designer I have to incorporate these events into the work to create something of beauty. I love this interaction between tool, material and designer, for me it is one of the most enjoyable challenges of papercutting." Her themes are broad – and often unusual – from the shipping forecast to butchery.
Butcher's Cut - Pork by Rosie and the Boys
Shipping Forecast Folklore by Rosie and the Boys
Wedding Papercut by Rosie and the Boys
Having a go at this craft is as simple as picking up a pair of scissors, but, if you’d like some guidance on more complicated techniques, or design ideas, there are a range of paper cutting kits available such as this one from Beetle Cherry and workshops at places like The Make Lounge. and We Make London (see this From Britain With Love article for a taster).
Rosie and the Boys will be demo’ing at the Renegade Fair in London on 15th-16th September.
All the artists featured here undertake bespoke work, so if you love the art, but not the craft, why not commission an affordable peice to commerate an occasion - perfect as a wedding, anniversary or christening gift.
Other amazing UK based paper cutting artists include