Aoyama Hina, Bovey Lee, Danish traditions, Gaekkebrev, German traditions, Hans Christian Andersen, Josefine Allmayer, Kaku Uedo, Karen Bit Vejle, Norwegian traditions, paper art, paper cutting, paper eyelashes, Paperself.com, psaligraphy, Scherenschntite
I was recently re-introduced to the very patient work of psaligraphy or fine paper cutting. I remember seeing this type of work in my grandmothers house especially around Christmas time. It hung as a garland or as delicate ornaments on the tree. I knew that it was beautiful and very delicate, but as a child I didn’t understand all of the work that went into each piece.
I found out from an exhibition that I attended that the art of modern day paper cutting evolved from the old Danish tradition of Gaekkebrev—this was a letter sent around Easter time to a person whom one is in love with. It included a paper cutting with a verse. This custom was also practiced in Germany and Norway in the 1600s.
The Danish poet and storyteller Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was the best known paper cutter in Scandinavia of his time. He loved to tell a new story while cutting the paper and he would finish both at the same time. The unfolded content of the paper would then be revealed to the spellbound audience. Another term for the craft is called Scherenschntite, which is German for ‘scissors snips.’ It began in China with the invention of paper, around 100 A.D by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Cuttings were placed in windows and on doors as protective images from evil and were also called chuang hua (meaning Window Flower).
Paper-making was taken by Chinese war prisoners into the Arabic region of the world about 750 A.D. and from there spread to Europe. Papercutting came from China to Austria by way of Indonesia, Persia, and the Balkan Peninsula. By the 14th century, it had spread to the rest of the world.
I had the pleasure of seeing the work of Josefine Allmayer (1904-1977) from Vienna Austria at the University of Oregon art museum and it took me back to my grandmothers home.
In a modern world where speed, efficiency, production are the norms, I’m inspired when I see this level of detail.
There are those who still practice this art in a modern day context.
Such as Aoyama Hina.
and Karen Bit Vejle
“My heart and soul are at peace when I have the scissors in hand and the paper dances between the blades. If my scissors can manage to make you stop and wonder for just one instant, I will be happy” – Psaligraph Karen Bit Vejle (born 1958)
This fine art has now found its way into personal adornment. The company Paperself has a line of cut paper eyelashes that can be applied and re-used once or twice.
I’m not sure I will be able to start practicing the paper cutting art of my Danish ancestors anytime soon, but it was a pleasure to acquire a deeper knowledge about those beautiful garlands that hung on her mantle so many years ago.
Images courtesy of Ponoko.com, copenhagenet.ek, peggymclard.com, toxel.com, abduzeedo.com, paperself.com