Mention paper-cutting and many people would probably think of the Chinese traditional art of red paper-cutting. However, the art form can be found in various cultures and countries, ranging from Japan to Poland.
Chinese paper-cutting originated from the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). The Chinese first used these intricately patterned artwork during festivals to decorate gates and windows. The delicate handmade cutouts always symbolise luck, good fortune and happiness.
In 2009, Chinese paper-cutting joined Unesco's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Over the years, the art form has evolved into various techniques, including pop-ups, silhouettes and 3D works.
During the stay-at-home period due to Covid-19, more people are taking up the art form because it helps improve agility and skill, in addition to calming the mind. A 2016 study – Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art-Making by Philadelphia's Drexel University – found that making art using paper, markers and collage materials can help reduce stress-related hormones in your body.
Over the years, the art form has been introduced to many European and Asian countries. Here's a snippet of different paper-cutting techniques from different parts of the world.
The term kirigami comes from the Japanese words kiru (to cut) and kami (paper). Similar to origami (the art of paper folding), kirigami is made from a single sheet of paper and incorporates folds.
This popular folk craft originated among shepherds in the mid-1800s. Back then, sheep herders used to cut designs from tree bark and leather. The cutouts were then pasted as decorations on roof beams and windows. Techniques include paper punching, cutting and carving. There is also naklejki, a technique where paper cutouts are glued and stuck on Easter eggs.
This Mexican folk art is created by snipping 40-50 sheets of tissue paper into ornate patterns. A mallet or chisel is used to cut the designs to create many banners at one go. Papel Picado sheets are usually displayed on altars during religious festivals like Easter, Christmas and All Souls Day.
In German, scherenschnitte means the art of cutting paper into decorative designs. Popular forms of this artwork include silhouettes and love letters. This artwork is a popular folk art in Germany as well as neighbouring countries.
This ancient art of stenciled paper is practised across Madurai in South India and Vrindavan in North India. Artists create intricate stencils depicting animals, flowers and Hindu gods, filled with coloured powdered dyes. In the past, artisans created stencil works on banana leaves. Today, handmade paper is the preferred choice for these ornate works of art.