05/16/17 — Cutting paper to create art

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Cutting paper to create art

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 16, 2017 9:57 AM

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Glenn Knox gets ready to glue the silver silhouette of a boy that he cut out onto a piece of blue backing.

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Anita Collier is in her own little world when cutting out her silhouette during a class at the Wayne County Public Library.

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Clara Dietrich, standing, gives instructions to participants in a Scherenschnitte papersnipping class at the Wayne County Public Library. Templates were themed for Mother's Day.

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Cuticle scissors are one household tool that can be used to make the intricate cuts in some of the more advanced silhouette designs.

As a young girl, Sandy Thompson would sit for hours and watch her grandmother meticulously cut all kinds of silhouettes out of paper.

"It's amazing how intricate they were," Sandy said. "My grandmother would do mostly cards and give them to her older friends. It was always nice to watch her."

Sandy had wanted to try her hand at it, but her grandmother thought she was too young to do it by herself.

That's why she jumped at the chance to try the German art of papersnipping, Scherenschnitte, at a free class at the Wayne County Public Library.

Clara Dietrich, instructor, said Scherenschnitte is a centuries-old art from countries like Germany, Japan and Spain.

"Scherenschnitte mans papercutting or papersnipping," she said. "It's pretty much snipping because a lot of the cuts are small, intricate cuts. So you're constantly snipping."

Clara learned how to do it while she was in the Army stationed in Germany.

"I lived on the economy, not on base," she said. "My landlady had some beautiful pieces that generations and generations of her family had done and handed down.

"The intricacy of them intrigued me. They were just so beautiful. Hers were primarily black on white, and the contrast and the way they just popped got my attention."

Clara was looking at the framed silhouettes on her landlady's walls one day and mentioned how she'd like to learn how to do it.

Her landlady asked her why not today?

The two women sat down and Clara learned the art of Scherenschnitte. That was in 1983, and Clara has been doing the papersnipped silhouettes ever since.

But she has nothing to show because she gives them all away.

"It's usually a piece I do for a gift or cards," Clara said. "My latest was three little girls, which I framed and gave to my daughter for her baby shower gift. It's three little girls playing 'Ring Around the Rosie."

But her most favorite ones are the Valentine's hearts she's made.

"They are just so intricate," Clara said. "They are just beautiful pieces. And the joy it brings people to see those. It's not something a machine did; it's something you took hours to do."

Clara explained to the class that they would pick out a pattern from the ones she had provided that were from beginning to advanced, and cut them out.

She provided patterns with little girls and boys and moms with their child or infant. She picked up the embossed paper sheets at a local craft store. She said you can use patterns from a book or from the Internet. All you do is transfer a pattern onto the embossed paper using a computer. This allows you to make it the size you want it.

Clara provided each participant with cuticle or embroidery scissors, craft knives, pottery tools for circles and curves, paintbrushes and even toothpicks and baster needles for those tiny little holes you need to cut out.

To help her get around curves without messing up the pattern, Clara also uses buttons.

Once the class members had their silhouettes cut out, they glued them onto a piece of colored backing. Then they were ready to be framed and given to their mom for Mother's Day or some other special person in their life.

The Scherenschnitte Mother's Day class was the second class for Sandy, who also attended the one at Easter time.

For this class, the 37-year-old chose an intricate silhouette of a mother and a son with flowers at the top.

"I have two sons so I wanted a silhouette with a boy," Sandy said. "This one is a pretty silhouette."

It was Anita Collier's first time doing Scherenschnitte.

"I had the time today and I just thought it would be fun to try -- and it is," the 56-year-old said. "It's fun and relaxing. I'm kind of in my own little world when I'm cutting out this silhouette."

Glenn Knox, 58, was coaxed into going to the class with Anita, but was having a good time doing not one, but two silhouettes. His first was a silver boy, which he put onto blue backing.

Helen Ochoa was making a silhouette to frame and give to her 80-year-old German neighbor in Florida, where her family still owns a home.

"She helps me out a lot down there," the 37-year-old said. "She was born in Germany. She doesn't know I'm make it for her. I think she'll be tickled with it."

And Helen has a second reason for learning Scherenschnitte. Her son, 14-year-old Aiden, will be taking German at school next year.

"I'm going to take this Scherenschnitte back to him so it will add what he's learning in German," she said.