Papercutting

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2015.

I hope you had a great holiday. We spent the break road tripping through the South. I’ll gather my notes and blog about all our wonderful adventures soon. A highlight was meeting and spending the day with Joanne Bland in Selma, Alabama. She was born and raised in Selma and was very active in the Civil Rights Movement. (She was the youngest person to have been jailed during the civil rights demonstrations.) Bland began her activism in 1961, attending a freedom and voters’ rights meeting presided over by MLK. She marched on Bloody Sunday and Turn Around Tuesday.  More to come later…

Thanks SO much for all your love and support in 2014. I look forward to another great year of blogging.

Today’s post is all about Jewish papercutting. I hope you enjoy it.

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I love how old Jewish traditions prevail and evolve over time.

Papercut, early 20th century, possibly Eastern Europe

Papercut, early 20th century, possibly Eastern Europe, Center for Jewish History

Jewish papercutting has been around since the 14th century. Jewish papercuts are primarily used in the home to celebrate rituals, holidays and family life. They’re such a beautiful expression of Judaism.

At the height of its popularity in the 18th to middle 20th century, Jewish papercutting was practiced in communities throughout Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Each papercut had traditional Jewish symbols and distinct features revealing its origins.

 Jewish papercutters used to be men who were poor and untrained. Unlike many Jewish ritual objects that were expensive to make and to buy, all you needed for papercutting was a penknife, a pen and some watercolors. They weren’t made to last, though, and much of what was made didn’t. Unlike in the past, today Jewish papercuts are made by both men and women who are skilled artisans. They are lasting treasures often framed and hung in the home or synagogue.

Papercut amulet for protection of mother and child. Artist: David Elias Krieger (ca. 1900) Center for Jewish History

Papercut amulet for protection of mother and child. Artist: David Elias Krieger (ca. 1900) Center for Jewish History

Mizrah by Israel Dov Rosenbaum Podkamen. Paint, ink and pencil on papercut. Ukraine, 1877, The Jewish Museum

Mizrah by Israel Dov Rosenbaum Podkamen. Paint, ink and pencil on papercut. Ukraine, 1877, The Jewish Museum

Below are some of my favorite contemporary Jewish papercut artists.

It’s so wonderful that this incredibly beautiful ancient Jewish tradition lives on!

Jerusalem Synagogue Interior Mizrach. Artist: David Fisher. Laser-Cut Paper, Judaica webstore

Jerusalem Synagogue Interior Mizrach by David Fisher Judaica Webstore

To learn more about Jewish papercutting, Traditional Jewish Papercuts: An Inner World of Art and Symbol by Joseph and Yehudit Shadur is really the definitive guide. It’s also a gorgeous coffee table book. If you want to see some amazing non-religious papercut artists check out the round up on Design Sponge. Lastly, The Guild of American Papercutters is a great website for information on American papercutters.

Traditional Jewish Papercuts by Joseph and Yehudit Shadur

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7 Comments on Papercutting

  1. Lisa Wertheim
    January 4, 2015 at 11:14 pm (3 years ago)

    I didn’t know about this as a Jewish tradition. They are soooo beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Tyrrell
    January 5, 2015 at 12:21 am (3 years ago)

    Beautiful!

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      January 5, 2015 at 3:36 am (3 years ago)

      So glad you like!

      Reply
  3. Shikma
    January 5, 2015 at 3:18 pm (3 years ago)

    I love paper, paper cutting, jewish paper art and everything in between! Lovely post!

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      January 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much Shikma! I love paper cutting and Jewish
      paper art too!!

      Reply
  4. Lillie
    January 10, 2015 at 5:15 pm (3 years ago)

    A holocast survivor I knew used to cut beautiful floral designs out of scrap paper and got so much joy from the process. I would visit her and she would do it as we spoke about her experiences during the holocast and all the horrible things she endured and witnessed. By the time I had to leave, there would be paper clippings all over the floor around her. She would smile with great pride and hand me the conpleted design. I framed some and kept others in a box marked “Miriam ‘s Paper Art.” Thanks for reminding me about this fascinating experience. Miriam would be so happy see that this art form is thriving.

    Reply
    • Julie Levine
      January 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful memory. I bet Miriam was a very special person. XO

      Reply

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