Let me show you some beautiful examples of the folkart of papercutting. Papercutting originated in China (paper was invented in China). Instances of papercutting in China can be traced to the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (A.D. 386-581). Later, in the T'ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906) references to papercuts can found in a poem by the poet Ts'ui Tao-yung. Other sources from this period describe papercuts being worn as hair ornaments by ladies in form of flowers and butterflies.
Above is an example of a Chinese paper cut using red paper. Chinese papercuts can also be white paper that has been coloured with ink to create full colour effects. This image is from wikipedia's Chinese papercut page which has lots of good information about the Chinese paper cutting tradition.
Japan uses the art of papercutting not as festive decoration but as a method used in dying fabric. These papercuts are often extremely elaborate and the pieces are reinforced with hair or thread fine enough not to be seen once the printing has occurred. The picture below has been decorated using this method known as Bingata; these colourful cloths originated in the warmer climate of Okinawa in the 14th century.
These pictures have come from the books: Japanese Floral Stencil Designs and Dyeing Originated in Okinawa: Bingata (Japanese Designs and patterns, Mitsumura Suiko Shoin, ISBN 483810104x.
Scherenschnitte (pronounced shear-n-SNIT- a) is the Swiss name for papercutting and they have a rich tradition of their own. While mainly know for its black paper silhouette many fine examples of Swiss scherenschnitte exists that use coloured papers in layers as well. Above is a heavily worked piece capturing aspects of village life and symbols of love by Johann-Jakob Hauswirth (1808-1871). The image above comes from the book: Paper Cuts by Jakob Hauswirth and Louis-David Saugy, Charles Apotheloz, Thames and Hudson, 1980 ISBN 0500271704.
Polish paper cutting is called wycinanki (pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) and has two types: the bold, black symmetrical style called Kurpie (coor-pye) originating in the Kurpie district of Poland; and the layered paper style that features animals and people from the Lowicz (wo-vitz) district which is shown above. For a quick look at some more examples of Lowicz papercut designs click here, and for a neat little article on the history of Wycinanki: Then and Now from University at Buffalo State University of New York is quite good. The image above comes from the book: Traditional Papercutting: The Art of Scherenschnitte
The distinctive designs of Hawaiian quilts (example above) are based upon papercuts of the lush sub-tropical Hawaiian flora. This quilt was designed by Kathy Nakajima and was appliqued and quilted by Studio K , 2000 (dimensions 109" x 84"). I loved the way Kathy Nakajima describes her inspiration for the quilt:
"The Queen Emma Summer Palace is my favourite place to visit when I'm one the island of O'ahu. Near the entrance, I always see Hawaiian flowers blossoming in a vase. From the windows comes the cool, soothing wind that always takes me, momentarily, to another world. The colours of this quilt are the colours of the wind at the palace. And the pattern is the flowers that are blossoming in the vase."
The applique technique using papercuts for designing can also be seen in the American Baltimore quilt style. The quilt and quotation above comes from the book: Hawaiian Quilts: Tradition and Transition, Reiko Mochinaga Brandon and Loretta G. H. Woodard, University of Hawaii Press, 2005, ISBN 082482928x, page 125.
Papercutting was recently taken up by some British artists; this website of Mister Rob Ryan was passed along to me by Rebecca the Wrecker. Above is an example of his very fine work called "Rise Above It", 2004.
This is hardly a comprehesive look at papercuts but if I do find some good images of the Mexican Papeles Picado and white lace-cutwork I'll do Papercuts of The World - Part 2.