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Introduction to Paper cutting: a Chinese treasure

Minh Chau

Papercut is currently one of the most common practices in crafts and contemporary illustrations. Quite often I would find myself stricken by a fairytale book or birthday cards featuring intricate works of paper cutting. The delicacy of details, the contrast between the cut out areas and the backing paper, the sequence of lines, altogether inform a visual poetry reminiscent of shadow play and Chinese line drawing.

An example of paper cutting at Chau Art

An example of paper cutting at Chau Art

Popularized by Cai Lun in subsequence to the invention of paper in the Eastern Han Dynasty, paper cutting is now a renown Chinese art form with worldwide influences into Swedish and Jewish folk cultures. The handmade craft - Jianzhi in Chinese, explores the space and shadow on paper as a mean to home decoration and textile patterns. Jianzhi is often cut out from red paper, a symbolic colour of wealth and fortune in Asian culture, and employ popular motifs of zodiac animals and folklore imagery. When travelling to the West, paper cutting has been transformed into a limitless art form to which Jews employed to depict marriage contracts, illustrators with fairytale scenery, and artists explore silhouettes as part of their social narratives.

Thanked to the boldness in colours and subtlety in visual refinement, paper cutting pieces blend well to minimal home decor while maintaining their solid artistic statements. Displays of papercut supplements a sophisticated touch for your working space and give a highlight to the immaculacy of white walls. 

by Minh Chau, 2014