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Sunday, April 22, 2018


Antique Scherenschnitte design from 1763
When I first started designing crafts, I met a woman named Betty Christy who designed Scherenschnitte (pronounced shair-en-shnit-the). Below is one of her books. The word is German and means “scissor cuts.” Scherenschnitte is the art of creating paper-cutting designs.
One of Betty's books
You may be familiar with black silhouette cutouts. Prior to the advent of photography, people who couldn’t afford to have their portraits painted would often sit for a silhouette cutout to present to a loved one. Framed silhouettes are often found hanging on the walls of historical homes. Today street fairs and bazaars will often have a vendor snipping out black paper silhouettes. For a few dollars you can have one created of yourself, your children, or even your dog.

Traditional Scherenschnitte can also be far more complex than simple silhouettes and often employs rotating symmetry. Common themes were nature, folklore, and biblical stories. It was a popular art form in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century and was brought to America in the 18th century by Swiss and German immigrants, many of whom settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, now considered Pennsylvania Dutch country. (The Pennsylvania Dutch weren’t from The Netherlands. “Dutch” is a corruption of “Deutshe”, which is German for “German.”)

However, the art of ornamental paper cutting has been around since the invention of paper and can be found in most cultures in one form or another. Examples can be found in China as early as the fourth century A.D. The Chinese called the art form Jianzhi, the Japanese called it Mon-kiri and the Poles called their craft Wycinanki.
Paper cutting design by Hans Christian AndersenSource: Odense City Museums
One famous paper cutter was Hans Christian Andersen. He often cut designs while telling his stories to his audience, displaying the finished artwork at the end of his tale. He’d often present his cuttings to friends as gifts. You can see some of his work at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.  

Betty Christy is no longer with us, but every time I see a paper cut design or silhouette, I think of her.


Angela Adams said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for stopping by, Angela!