Among many places which produce imaginative and colorful folk art there are two which are very keen to me and despite the fact that geographically they are over 10 000 km apart there are many esthetic parallels between them: one is Łowicz, a small town of 31 000 inhabitants cituated in central Poland, famous worldwide for its unique folklore creations…, phantasmagoric cutout paper patterns called “wycinanki”, pajaki, embroideries and pottery and the other place is Oaxaca de Juárez, a capital city of a district of this same name situated in Southern Mexico which is also reknown for paper cutouts called “papel picado” among a great verity of other crafts such as brightly colored sculptures of fantastical creatures called “alebrijes”, talavera pottery, tin art, candelabras, religious art and papier mache creations.
Every year as I unpack the boxes with Christmas decorations I rediscover my cherished pieces from Łowicz made out of paper or very thin colored wood slices and the equally colorful ornaments made out of tin from Oaxaca.They are made of such humble materials yet they are really beautiful.
As I ponder today over these little creations I see an opportunity to bring up a topic of the paper cutout traditions in both places:
“Wycinanki”-Cutouts in Polish folk ornamentation became popular in the nineteenth century. The greatest flowering of this branch of art falls on the first quarter of the twentieth century. Cutouts were cut using shears sheep and created with different colored papers: tissue paper or thin cardboard. Glued to the walls, windows or ceiling beams, they accounted for decorative element in farmhouse interiors during various public and private festivities such as Christmas, Easter, weddings, baptisms etc. . The tradition of paper cutouts can be divided into two types: the first being monochrome cut-outs made from a single sheet of paper with one cut-out design, the second type is composed of multi-colored “naklejanki” in the form of flowers, animals, birds, human figures or in the form of thematic images. Currently paper cutting craft is popular in several regions of in Central Poland: Lowicz and adjacent to it Sanniki, Kurpie, in Opoczno near Kielce, in the Lublin region, near Garwolina and Kotbiel, as well as in villages near Sieradz and Łęczyca.
“Papel picado”- The technique of hand cut paper is traced to the 18th century when paper was imported to Mexico from China… thus the Spanish word “papel china” remains the word for tissue paper! Paper cut artisans, commissioned by the Church, would make thousands of strings of papel picados for religious festivals where they hung in church plazas and decorated the streets creating as many as forty banners at a time. Papel picado is made by folding tissue paper and using small, sharp scissors. Common themes include birds, floral designs, and skeletons. They are commonly displayed for both secular and religious occasions, such as Easter, Christmas, the Day of the Dead as well as during weddings, quinceañeras (celebration of 15th birthday), baptisms, and christenings.