The One-Color Wycinanki, Kurpie Style


Madalyn Joyce

The One-Color Wycinanki, Kurpie Style

Wycinaki is not as difficult as may be imagined. This beautiful folk art of Poland is unique and different from all other national papercuts, although all nationalities do some form of papercutting. It is up to this generation to keep ~ycinanki alive in a creative way.

What makes Wycinanki unique are the motifs and treatment of the basic designs used in rhythmical repeat. Items illustrated in this book are the most used, and any two or three of these used together makes a dycinanki.

Getting Started:

Materials Needed:


There are three ways to begin with Wycinanki:

  1. Freecutting while looking at a traditional design.

  2. Making original designs or adapting traditional designs into a pattern (clipping the pattern with paper clips to the center fold of a piece of paper and cutting right through, pattern and all).

  3. Freecutting the designs creatively using the various motifs listed in my A.B.C.'s in combinations.

To excel in papercutting, practice all three methods, for then you will eventually be able to do at will anything in this medium.

The A.B.C.'s of Wycinanki (fig.**** ) are basic motifs and because of the alphabetical arrangement are easy to recognize and remember. First, practice making rows of "arrowheads," in groups, horizontally, vertically, and in combination (fig.**** ). Next try the "chevron", a cut you will use constantly, as it is the basis for many variations in making the "meshes" which are found in almost all traditional Wycinanki designs.

Next come "dolls" and "dove-tails." Make bands of these first, and then incorporate them into designs using the motifs you have already learned, varying the way you use them each time.

"Flowers" come next. Of all the motifs requiring much practice, flowers and birds are the ones which must be attempted over and over again. For example, one flower is like a life-saver, another like an ice cream cone, and another like a raindrop. The first becomes a daisy or aster, the second a lily or carnation, and the last a tulip (fig.**** ).

Notice that the diagrams in this book indicate the direction of the scissor stroke by arrows. Note how often the cut is from the edge inward. In cutting curved edges and arcs, do not hesitate to use manicure scissors. Otherwise use the largest scissors you can handle with ease, for a more fluid line. Sharp kitchen scissors are ideal, and a paper punch or icepick is useful for puncturing inside areas.

Start cutting most of your designs on the folded center line and always takecare to leave a "connecting bridge" to hold the symmetrical papercut together. The center fold provides the essential "hinge" at the core of the papercut.

If you are right handed, hold the paper lightly in your left hand (like buttered bread), and turn the papercut as you cut. Always turn the paper while cutting, rather than moving the scissors around the paper. This is the big secret that must become second nature to you as you develop more skill. As you must crawl before you walk, you should practice simple cutting in this manner before going on to elaborate patterns. The turning of the paper is important in both freecutting and pattern techniques. I learned papercutting by freecutting by trial and error some of the designs in Grabowski's1 1955 publication. I only wish someone else had already developed this teaching method.

It is a good idea to use standard size paper: 5x7, 8xlO, or 11x14 to start with as these sizes will then fit standard size mats and readily available frames. Round cuts, six or eight inches in diameter, also fit ready-made frames. Mount your designs with glue, rubber cement, library paste, or whatever you like, on construction paper, colored cardboard, or on index cards. If you are making many Wycinanki, or working on a group project, consider purchase of Lectro-stik, a hot wax mounting method used in many silk screen and poster projects. This costs about thirty dollars and is well worth the investment.

After you have practiced freecutting the A.B.C.'s, try cutting from a pattern. The illustrated "Ada" design (fig.**** ) was adapted ftom the sapphire blue original in Grabowski's publication. This is an old style paper cut from the Kurpie area ~r Poland, north of Warsaw. When making a Wycinanki from a pattern, clip the pattern to the paper along the fold line with two paper clips, and cut right through the pattern.

There is no reason not to use the same motifs for both rectangular and circular designs. Diagrams and indicate respectively how to fold the paper so that the finished product ressembles a circular five or eight pointed star. The many variations which may be produced in this way are shown in the "Tree of Cockerals" (fig.**** ). 3y the same token, the same basic design may be used for both the Kurpie form discussed in the present chapter and the Lowicz form which is detailed in the following chapter.

A last suggestion: try mounting white cutouts on a red background, as these are the Polish national colors.

FOOTNOTE Grabowski, , 1955.

Wycinanki Reproduction Wycinanki
Artists &
Contents Designs
& Kids
Kodry Kurpie Lowicz Wydsmuski Bibliography
spoke divider

Edited by Sheldon Brown and Arlene Eskilson

updated Monday, November 10, 1997
URL: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/org/joyce/wyc-kurpie.html
Copyright © 1997, 2008 Sheldon Brown and Arlene Eskilson