I had a very nice afternoon learning to do Polish paper cutting. The word in Polish is "wycinanki". The workshop was part of the "Through Polish Eyes" exhibit of the work of Alice Bak at the Castellani Art Gallery on the campus of Niagara University. I felt lucky to be able to participate because I was on the waiting list and got a call on Friday that I could join the class. This red tulip is my finished project.
The teacher for this workshop was Barbara Frackiewicz. She brought along quite a few examples of paper cuttings from Poland and a portfolio of her own work.
The winters in Poland are long, and Easter is anticipated with great joy. The homes are decorated with fresh, new paper cuts to decorate for the season. According to Barbara, the old pictures are taken out and displayed the barns for the animals to enjoy.
The basic technique was demonstrated and almost each participant was able to produce a lovely greeting card. Examples:
The elaborate yellow flower (lower right) was accomplished by an eighth grade girl. Very impressive. Barbara's samples were interesting. In order to pique the interests of males who might not want to make floral motifs, Barbara showed some insects she designed. Her samples also featured the use of papers such as pages from telephone books and shiny catalog images.
One of my favorite works was an original by Barbara. I love the way she layered the colors on the birds. Sorry for the glare, it was really lovely in person. Another idea she mentioned was using these motifs in a tiny scale and decorating eggs with them. Hmmm...
The workshop did make me think of something that annoys me. Say a person signs up for a workshop. This wycinanka class is a good example. So, the instructor gives directions for a folk art technique which has been handed down for generations. Why, oh why, do some of the folks in the class decide not to follow the traditional manner of construction and jazz it up with their own spin? Do they really think they will "improve" an age-old art? What generally happens is the wanna-be artist ends up with an unattractive project and does not really know how the technique is done. For example, one person in today's class decided to do her card with a Matisse influence. It was, in the end, neither Matisse or wyncinanka. Sadly, it was neither pretty or interesting. And, after attending the class, she still doesn't know how to create a Polish paper cutting.
I think the reason I am sensitive about this is because I have led workshops where somebody decides to ignore what I am attempting to demonstrate. They end up frustrated with an ugly end result and tell all and sundry about the mediocre class they attended. So... I think people need to make up their mind to actually learn what is being taught and then experiment with the technique.