Papercuttings from around the world… Part 3!

To continue our papercutting adventure…

The second day of Collection was FULL! Right after breakfast, Dena Levie introduced us to Judaic papercutting. Jewish papercuts go back for many centuries, but the art was nearly lost due to the Holocaust. Since then, however, papercut artists have worked very hard to pass on their skills to younger generations. The pieces they create are very beautiful and full of Biblical symbolism. I especially loved the ketubot… marriage certificates were also very important to the Pennsylvania Germans, and they’re a mainstay of our business. It was neat to see how Dena incorporated each couples’ interests in their special papercuttings!

After that we went to our first official workshop! I had a very hard time choosing which ones to go to when signing up for Collection… but the ones I got in were great. And so were the ones I didn’t get in. We all stuck our heads in the other classes whenever possible! My first workshop was on the Polish Tree of Life, taught by Susan Throckmorton. We were given some very bright, shiny, colored paper, and Susan showed us how to cut out a rough design, and then embellish it with little snips around the edges. Here’s my first attempt… I did it with very little pencil sketching, and ended up cutting a weird-shaped hole out of the center. It was supposed to be a heart blooming from a vine, but something happened.

Beside it is the pack of paper we were given. Papercutting is so popular in Poland, these pads of paper are sold in grocery stores, much like construction paper here in the USA. This type of papercut is called a “leluje”… it’s pronounced just like “alelujah,” except without the beginning syllable. Although there are many variations possible, each one has a tree shape, and usually roosters under the tree and birds in the tree. Artists take great liberties with these, though, and you can find all sorts of critters or people under and in the tree!

I’m going to stop there… our day was only half way through, but the second half was right up my alley! To be continued!

My Stash of Stuff… or Adventures in Papercutting Part Two!

Okay, so “every day” may not have been a good thing to promise! (Jordan teased me about that last night!) Yesterday started as soon as my feet hit the floor… and I guess after so many relaxing days, I needed the real world to come knocking at the door! It was nice to be busy and to have an actual list of tangible things that needed doing! Mom and I helped a couple of people order furniture, I drew up a couple of ads and put back all the papercuttings I had removed from the store for the weekend, and in the evening Kate and I tackled the weeds in the front garden and cooked dinner while Chris cut the grass. Productive day.

This morning I made an attempt to gather up all my goodies from Collection 2008 in one heap. I’m sure as I dig through my baskets and notebooks and artbox and bags and… you get the idea… that I will find more things. However, this is a pretty good sampling of the stuff we each brought home! Some of it was from workshops, some from decorations at meals, and a lot from just swapping and trading with folks we met. I was completely unprepared for the “swapping” aspect of a convention, and am currently putting some thought and effort into developing some “remembrances” to take with me the next time! Okay… the stash:

On the first night of Collection, we had a presentation by Steve Woodbury on how to tell if a papercutting is old or new, or if it is hand-cut or reproduced mechanically or by some other method. It was a very fascinating presentation! One of the best methods to use is to LOOK CLOSELY. Use a jeweler’s loop if needed. “Papercuttings” can be prints, ink drawings, reverse-painted on glass, die-cuts, or laser-cuts. Some of those types are still collectible, but may have a different type of value to the collector. If you look closely, you can see clues…is the paper slightly raised from the background or does it seem flat? Are the edges bent downward, jagged, or slightly burnt looking? Are there little snags of paper that didn’t get cut out properly? All those little clues can give you an idea of what type of artwork you’re looking at! We then had a “show and tell” of sorts, and I got to talk to a couple of folks about a treasure I’ve had tucked in a drawer…

My uncle found this for me years ago, and eventually I learned it was called a “Devotional.” I still wasn’t sure about its age, how it was made, or where it came from. It is so finely cut, I couldn’t imagine anyone doing it by hand! (The entire cutting is 3″ x 5″!) Marie-Helene thought it was German, and said that it is truly cut by hand, and is from the late 1600’s or early 1700’s. Wow! Now I know I need to go get it framed properly!

Okay… off to do some work! Have a great day!

Just because Valentine’s Day is over…

… doesn’t mean we should stop drawing hearts!

The “doodle” for February is a heart… fat ones, skinny ones, wind-blown ones, perfect or lop-sided ones. Teen-age girls will have no problem with doodling hearts. Grown up girls like doodling them too. Ask my girls… they will tell you without a doubt that Mom doodles hearts everywhere!


Hearts are great things to doodle, because they can help us practice important art sorts of things like shading and symmetry. Symmetry is when both sides match, like a mirror image. To make a heart that is symmetrical, you can try to draw it freehand, which is a VERY good skill to practice… or you can use some technical drawing skills that I’m about to show you!

…AND with these technical drawing skills, you might just be able to talk a BOY into drawing a heart!

I found out not too long ago that Pennsylvania German folk artists often used tools like compasses and rulers to draw the hearts they used on their artwork. A few weeks back I had a chance to see a large amount of fraktur, and being able to get “up close and personal” with them (couldn’t touch… but my nose was just inches away from the glass!), and I could see definite proof of them using technical drawing tools… holes in the middle of circles and very lightly drawn straight-edge lines bespoke compasses and rulers!

So, without furthur ado, here’s how to make a really fat, folky, symmetrical Pennsylvania German heart…

First, use a compass to make a circle, using care not to move it from its original position. You can use a professional compass, or an inexpensive one you find in the school aisle. With the cheaper ones, make sure the pencil is in nice and snug. The most frustrating thing for young or new artists is having tools that don’t work! You know what I mean… those stubby brushes that come in watercolor sets, “safety” scissors that are dull and won’t even cut butter, big fat crayons with no point (Hey kids, peel the paper off those and rub them on the paper sideways for background color!), and compasses that the pencil slides out of while you’re trying to draw a circle.

Anyway, make a circle…


Then, matching up the pencil part of the compass with the outside edge of your first circle, draw another one right beside it. The two circles should touch…


Next, take some sort of straight-edge… a ruler or a triangle… and draw a line down from between the center of the two circles. I like using a clear ruled triangle, because I can see through it to make sure I’m lined up where I want to be, and having the ruled marking elimantes the need for a separate ruler, unless I’m working on something very large. If I need a slightly longer straight-edge, I can use the “C” side of the ruler (think Pythagorean Theorem).


Then make the bottom of the heart by drawing curved lines from the middle of the circle bottom to the line… this is pretty much freehand, and it takes a little practice to make them match on both sides! And check out the pink flamingo/retro trailer aqua blue flannels PJ’s. Aren’t they cool?


Now you should have a sort of odd looking creature… if you have boys and don’t want to tell them they’re making a heart, then you could tell them this is an ostrich or some sort of strange alien bird!


Finally, darken your outer lines and erase your technical lines. I used a Micron pen (you can find those now in the scrapbooking section of craft stores… they used to be in the drafting section!) for my outer edges, but you could even just use a darker pencil line.


*Special note on teaching children to draw lightly… for demonstration purposes, I drew my circles and technical lines very dark, but try to impress on young artists to use light pressure when making those first few strokes of a picture. If they’re light enough, you may not even need to erase them. Young people, and boys in particular, tend to have a heavy hand when learning to draw, and those helping them learn will need to constantly stress “drawing lightly.” One trick I’ve used is to have children use a yellow colored pencil to make those first guidelines. Erasing can be another issue with the very young, as they also have a tendency to scrub away at the paper until there is nothing left… so avoid needing to erase as much as possible!*

Here’s a picture of some hearts made exactly this way a very long time ago! See how they added color, decorations, and words to their hearts? If you look closely, they also used their compass to make some of the other designs in between the hearts. The star looking things are very much like a compass rose, which the artist perhaps saw on a map and tried to duplicate… now THERE’S a compass activity the boys will go for! (Future lesson is whirling around in my brain!)


Before I sign out, I wanted to show you one more picture of the tools I typically use for technical drawing…


I like to use mechanical pencils… usually the cheapy ones because I leave them all over the place and am always looking for my pencil. If I only had one, I’d be crazy by now. I’d recommend getting the ones that take .5mm leads, because they have a hard lead and draw a nice fine, sharp line. You can get refills for them right in the grocery store.

Another treasure is my “eraser pen”… it has a nice long clean white eraser that seems to never run out. This is very helpful, because I DO erase a lot, and those technical pen erasers are microscopic. I also buy these in bulk, and leave them in strategic locations around the house (and in my purse, and at the store, and in my car…).

The other doohickies are the compass, triangle, and Micron pen.

Now… an assignment, if you should choose to accept it. Decorate your heart (or ostrich), and e-mail it to kim@thistledewmercantile . I’d love to see them and share them with blog visitors! You could inspire others!