The Kindest Cuts

Susan DetjensClose observers might have noticed the black and white place cards on the summer table in the last post. These were created using the Scherensnitte craft technique.

 BBG Cutting silhouetteEarly in the month, I took a workshop in Scherensnitte (literally ‘scissor cut’ ) at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. They often offer these unusual courses taking advantage of the fact that so many artisans live in the Berkshires.

c Pamela Dalton

c Pamela Dalton

Pamela Dalton, our master teacher, is an uber-talented artist with a real feeling for her work and the generous ability to teach it to others. Her work is collected avidly by many, and she has illustrated several books like the one above. The cover illustration above was cut from a single sheet of paper which she then hand-painted.

c Pamela Dalton

c Pamela Dalton

This is an end paper from another of her books, “Giving Thanks”. Because of the neutral colored paper, the exquisite precision of the cutting is more visible but it still seems slightly diminished on the printed page. In person, these cut paper pages look like wonderful pieces of lace! This design repeats in quarters, so the entire border would have been cut from one page folded in quarters!

 Scherensnitte GirlsThe workshop began with trees and girls, using folded, thin origami paper which is easy to cut with an Exacto knife. The paper is folded in half vertically and the designs are mirror images when completed, rather like the snowflakes the children make.

BBG Cut paper and patternPamela provided the templates for us to use. Some, like the girls, were cardboard and were traced around before cutting. More elaborate patterns like this were drawings on paper traced with graphite carbon paper before cutting out.

 Cutting traced patternBBG finished pageAt the end of the workshop, we ‘graduated’ to the most complicated of the projects. The cutting was all done with an Exacto knife with a #11 blade on a cutting mat through the folded paper, thus cutting two pieces of paper at once. The cutting mat, green – in the second photo, is self-sealing and seems to really help in keeping the knife from slipping and wrecking the whole thing. This double plaque is 5”X 7”.

Summer table place cardsThe cut work design of the ‘Dahlia’ placemats (by Chilewich) inspired me to do Scherensnitte place cards. With no origami paper to hand, I used plain Xerox paper for my printer. It is heavier than the origami so a little harder to cut both pieces of paper cleanly at once.

 Cutting vines and  circlesI used circle templates to trace the shape of the design and the inner circle. And then copied some of the branching from one of Pamela’s templates for the design itself. The template and graphite carbon paper were stapled to the paper so nothing slipped while the cutting is happening.

 Gluing and NamesAfter all were cut, the names were written and all were glued to folded pieces of black paper. Only in August does one have the time for this kind of delightful workshop and project.





About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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2 Responses to The Kindest Cuts

  1. Lisa Gerard says:

    Fabulous Susan and beautiful too.
    Did you use that white glue for the final attachment onto the black card? What about spray adhesive instead?

    • Susan says:

      Hi Lisa Pamela Dalton uses the smallest dot of Elmer’s white glue to adhere her paper cuts – think like the head of a pin. I’m too clumsy for that. Spray adhesive would be good but I hate it all the over spraying it does and as I mentioned only a dab’ll do ya’! Cheers

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