We’re kicking off the week with the first in a new series of posts from our 2017 guest blogging team. Joining us today is Mette – our queen of all things sartorial (and Scandi), who is going to teach us how to make papercut art, Danish-style. Spring is just around the corner and it’s a time for lovers. And there’s just enough time to perfect ‘the art of drawing with scissors’ for Valentine’s Day! Over to Mette…
Images via Scherenschnitte. While scissors is the more traditional way, some artists use knives to cut intricate designs.
“Almost all European cultures celebrate spring as a time for lovers and most countries have symbols of love, fertility and fresh beginnings in many different ways. The old tradition of celebrating Valentine’s was celebrated by the Romans and Shakespeare gives it a mention in Hamlet, but the way we know it now, really took off in Victorian times. No cards could be bought, so they were all handmade.
“The Germans and then the Danes have, since the 17th century, sent a kind of “Teaser-letter” – a “Gækkebrev” it’s called in Danish; Gække is old Danish for guessing and brev is letter. The tradition came with the more Southern European tradition of writing a poem to your loved one as a declaration of your love or as an actual proposal. Only, many Danes at this time were illiterate and had no way of declaring their love in writing. So they took help in the proud Danish tradition of using paper craft – also called Psaligraphy (the art of drawing with scissors). Many would declare their love in a papercut letter like this.
Papercut art by Lene Nikolajsen
“Today in Denmark, the tradition is as big as ever – it has inspired so many children and adults to send one of these letters to a dear friend or indeed a husband or wife-to-be. You write a poem and you put as many dots – “Gæks” – as you have letters in your name and you weave a snowdrop into the letter. You post it off and sit back and wait… should the person not have guessed the letter came from you by Easter, then you can ask them for an Easter egg, and if they guess, they are due one.
“Many Danish artists have worked with paper, it’s almost a compulsory media. Hans Christian Andersen used paper a lot and many of his characters are shown in his paper cuttings.
“Paper cuttings are available everywhere in Scandinavia, all children learn to make things in paper, especially for Easter and Christmas, along with some “Gækkebreve”. If you go to to Denmark, you will find paper art available in most art galleries and even in Copenhagen airport.
Main photo: Helle S. Andersen; Psaligraphy: Karen Bit Vejle; Danish/Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle at work with her psaligraphy; the art of making pictures of paper and air, using only a pair of scissors
“One of the leading Danish-Norwegian paper artist is Karen Bit Vejle, I am more than a little in love with her work, she makes long big paper cuttings almost like a paper lace wall.
“Many other artists around the world use this cheap and available media to express their art.
“Why don’t you give it a shot? Here is a very basic video on how you can get started on writing a “gækkebrev” to your loved ones, you can add your own designs of snowdrops, daffodils and all symbols of spring and fertility.”
I can’t wait to give this a go! I suspect my first few attempts may have to be shredded, but I will report back. Who else is excited to try? Christina x
Originally hailing from Denmark but having now made Edinburgh her home (it was love at first sight!), multi award-winning designer dressmaker Mette Baillie is the incredible talent behind Freja Designer Dressmaking.
Video by Mette