Posts Tagged ‘Kasia Drake-Hames’

Hands-On Wycinanki

June 30, 2015

Readers have been wondering where they can try their hands at wycinanki, the art of Polish paper cutting featured in Tradition of Deceit. (Learn more about wycinanki here.)

If you live in Wisconsin, try contacting the Polish Center of Wisconsin, the Polish Heritage Club of Madison, or other local Polish heritage groups. (Similar groups in other parts of the country can probably also provide information.) I’ve taken several workshops with Kasia Drake-Hames.

wycinanki class

Kasia (in the tan sweater) holds workshops and classes that are low-key and fun, most often in the Milwaukee area.

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My very first wycinanki project. Yes, it is just like making snowflakes.  I took a class on wycinanki Christmas cards at the Polish Center of Wisconsin.

If you can’t find a class, don’t despair. It’s easy (and inexpensive) to get started.

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Materials needed: paper (I use origami paper), scissors, glue. Tweezers can be helpful for placing pieces, and Q-tips work well to spread glue.

I wanted to feature symmetrical flowers from central Poland’s Łowicz region in Tradition of Deceit, and I’ve learned a lot about this type of wycinanki on my own. Ornate flowers are made by layering different colors of paper.

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After gluing, I put the flowers between sheets of waxed paper and press them under heavy books. This keeps the flowers from curling as the glue sets.

When you’re starting out, it’s easiest to use printed patterns.  I’ve found posts at Papermatrix particularly helpful. I also picked up a couple of vintage books.

wycinanki books

After you’ve used someone else’s patterns for practice, it’s pretty easy to start experimenting with your own. Google wycinanki, study examples, and see what appeals to you.

When I design my own flowers, I use graph paper to help keep the diminishing sizes in order.

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Patterns show half of a flower layer. Fold the origami paper in half, place the pattern against the fold, and trace around the pattern. (Trace on the back side, so any pencil marks that remain after cutting don’t show.) Use the fold line to help you align each new layer right in the center of the one below.

I started small by making simple wycinanki cards.

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wycinanki KAE

My big goal was to create a piece like one described in Tradition of Deceit, described as “Two very pretty chickens, flanking a bouquet of flowers, printed in vibrant colors.”

Roosters are very common, but I needed to create my own chicken pattern. I started by making a simple drawing, and then sketched in layers.

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Then I transferred the layers to origami paper.  You can see how some of the details evolved.

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I wanted to have this piece finished before Tradition of Deceit was published.  I wanted to have it finished before putting this post together.  It’s still not complete…

Tradition of Deceit wycinanki

In process!

That’s OK, though.  I started with a very simple flower bouquet, but kept wanting to add more blossoms. Then I decided that the open space above and below the chickens needed to filled. The two flowers above the chickens haven’t been glued down yet because I’m still playing with ideas.

I’m sure more experienced paper cutters would have prepared a complete pattern layout before beginning.  My piece has been growing more…shall we say…organically. (Hey, I don’t outline before beginning a novel, either.)

I’ve had a lot of fun with wycinanki, and if you’re so inclined, I hope you do to. And if you do try it, I’d love to see the results!

Wycinanki

March 30, 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.