Wycinanki

Folk art plays a role in most of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. Since Tradition of Deceit features bits of Polish culture, I decided to include wycinanki—the Polish form of paper cutting.

Wycinanki (pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) originated in the 1800s when shepherds passed quiet hours by snipping designs from leather or tree bark. Soon people were making intricate designs from paper, and pasting them on the walls or roof beams of their homes.

phoca_thumb_l_cottage interior

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce.

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce.

In the way-back days, folk artists used sheep shears to cut their designs.

sheep shears

Distinct styles emerged from different regions of Poland. Cuttings from the Kurpie region are often quite intricate, and usually a single color.

Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century The tree of life motif and monochromatic scheme suggest that this paper cutting represents the Kurpie or Lasek regions of Poland. Gift of Mrs. Maria Laskowski.  Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4630a

Early 20th century.  The tree of life motif and monochromatic scheme suggest that this paper cutting represents the Kurpie or Lasek regions of Poland. Gift of Mrs. Maria Laskowski.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4630a

Wycinanki from  Łowicz in central Poland is made by layering different colors. The example below most closely matches the wycinanki I imagined Magdalena making in Tradition of Deceit.

Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century This paper cutting reflects the Lowicz region of Poland, famous for its multicolored paper cuttings. Separately cut pieces are pasted atop a basic design, creating a layered effect. Gift of Mrs. J.J. Gostomski.  Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4624

Early 20th century. This paper cutting reflects the Lowicz region of Poland, famous for its multicolored paper cuttings. Separately cut pieces are pasted atop a basic design, creating a layered effect. Gift of Mrs. J.J. Gostomski. Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4624

Circular or star-shaped medallions are called gwiazdy.

sheep shears

c. 1950.  Gwiazdy incorporates geometric designs with circles, stars, polygons, and snowflakes. Gift of Irena Epler. Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.1051

South Side Settlement Museum

Floral pattern, Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Two examples of bird patterns, Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Artists have continued to develop the art of wycinanki.  Masters produce amazingly intricate designs.

wycinanki RoosterPapercut0064_500

Rooster papercut by Magdelana Gilinsky Jannotta. American Folklfe Center, Library of Congress.

While writing Tradition of Deceit I enjoyed several workshops with artist Kasia Drake-Hames, seen here with her grandmother (left) and mom (right).  Kasia’s grandmother makes exquisite traditional wycinanki…

Poland Under Glass wycinanki

Poland Under Glass, Milwaukee Domes, 2015.

..while Kasia often adds a modern twist.

wycinanki kasia drake-hames

From simple cuttings made with sheep shears to amazingly detailed pieces painstakingly snipped with scissors, wycinanki has a rich history—and colorful—history.

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2 Responses to “Wycinanki”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    The wycinanki in your photos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      And they’re so cheerful, too! They cheer me up even now, so I can imagine a century or so ago what it would mean to have such colorful decorations inside on gloomy days.

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