Wycinanki: The Art of Polish Paper Cutting
Our Canfield Fair Ethnic Barn was enhanced this year with a live art demonstration

Reknown Detroit area folk artist Marcia Lewandowski will be creating rare wycinanki paper cut decorated Easter eggs live in the Poland booth in the Ethnic Barn near Gate 5 all day!  

Folk artist helped us celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ethnic Barn by joining us for live demonstrations of her unique craft on Thursday August 23. Lewandowski was a guest of the Polish Arts Club of Youngstown who has decorated and staffed the booth in the Ethnic Barn since its inception.  

Lewandowski supported the booth's theme of
Wycinanki (vee-chee-non-kee). These intricate paper cutouts originated with sheepherders cutting designs out of tree bark and leather as a way to occupy their time in bad weather. As paper became more widely available, in the mid-1800s, this became their medium.

Inspired by tapestries and painted decorations seen in homes of wealthy people, these designs were translated to paper by Polish peasants who used them as gifts and to decorate their houses.  Handmade by the family, they usually hung along the white ceiling beams, around doors and in windows and on the white washed walls inside and out. Wycinanki were even used on cupboards, cradles, shelves, and even coverlets; all to make the house more cheery. Often they were replaced several times a year.

Designs vary by region. The most well-known modern styles of wycinanki come from two districts. One is the Kurpie cut out. This is usually a symmetrical design, cut from a single piece of colored paper, folded a single time, with spruce trees and birds as the most popular motifs. The second style comes from the area of Lowicz. It is distinguished by the elaborately cut and arranged overlays of various-colored paper. Subject matter includes peacocks, roosters and other birds, flowers and scenes telling the stories of village activities such as weddings or the harvest.

Techniques to create these pieces of art were passed down from generation to generation, with new themes and ideas developing as the paper cuttings became more detailed and intricate. Today these include cutting, clipping, punching, tearing and carving of paper as well as sometimes gluing together multiple layers.

This same technique is used by egg artists from this Lowicz region of Central Poland. They use miniature version of the same intricate paper cuts of roosters, flowers and leaves to decorate eggs. Traditional images are cut from colored paper and pasted on the eggs.