Monday, March 28, 2011

Paper Cutting, Art and Magic

My own experience with paper cutting began in childhood, instructed by my mother in the simple charms of making linked paper dolls, joined by their outstretched hands and the edges of their wide skirts. The planning and decorating of these - each with a different face, hair and dress - passed many happy hours. From time to time I still revisit the craft, deliberately or by serendipity.

Some years ago I spent hours in waiting areas at the hospital while my youngster had appendicitis. Too fidgety to read, I delved into my handbag and found pair of sharp little nail scissors and some paper (a church bulletin as I recall). I accordion-pleated the paper into eight widths and improvised with the scissors, cutting the shape of a bird, leaving the wingtips uncut at the fold-edge. A half an hour later a cascade of little white worry-birds lay on my lap amid the confetti of irregular scraps. I picked up the larger remnants of paper and refolded them to make even smaller bird chains. By the time my son was waking up from surgery I had a small menagerie of paper creatures to show him: birds, dogs, angels, mermaids, dragons and cats-on-roofs.

Here is the dog, springing at the birds,
then unfolded to romp with friends,
and all standing up to play with their shadows.

I still have the Mermaid chain too, here posed on their heads and facing their shadows, as though diving to meet their reflections.

The other inventions have since disappeared but were the inspiration for a variety of hand-cut Christmas cards that year. I discovered that beautifully executed paper-cutting only looks simple - that hours of skillful work have gone into the pieces that take your breath away.

If you have not already seen the beautiful paper-cutting work by Elsa Mora, give yourself a treat and visit her blogs about art and miniature books. There is always something new, something fresh in its vision and execution, with links to other contemporary artists who are also exploring paper craft in extraordinary ways. But Elsita is my personal favorite.

From nature, a different kind of fine design: last week's storm (the last hurrah of winter, we hope) left behind this glittering tangle of ice - not unlike an extraordinarily fine paper cutting.


  1. Oh what exquisite work! I love them stood up casting shadows. Haven't done any paper cutting for a few years, it is, as you observe, more time consuming than one imagines.

  2. Beautiful! Really lovely to look at the photos you posted -- thank you!

  3. Gosh, Frances, these are brilliant! Alison sent me the link to your blog, and I am so impressed!

  4. Your paper chains are really wonderful, Frances!

  5. I meant to leave a comment before,there is nothing more terrible than waiting for your child to come out of surgery. I can see why you needed that distraction, and what a lovely thing you created.

    On my last visit to you I followed the link to Elsa Mora. WOW !!!

  6. What beautiful cut paper designs!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Congratulations Frances, you won my blog give away!

  8. Such beautiful & delicate paper cuts, i cant imagine how hard it was for you to be sat there waiting. I love the photograph of natures designs too.

  9. I can grasp a word in my mind to describe your master piece,its very outstanding....congratulations!!!! EPSON Premium Glossy Photo Paper