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Wycinanki: The Art of Polish Paper Cuts

Home > Thurso > Art | Craft | Cultural Events | Exhibitions | Free
by Lindsay Law (subscribe)
I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Event: -
Much more intricate than Christmas snowflakes
Paper-cutting was traditionally used by Polish peasants to decorate their cottages in repeating, symmetrical, and beautiful patterns. These paper-cuts would be replaced with new decorations every Easter.

Unlike in other parts of Eastern Europe under the Soviets, in Poland this traditional folk-art was encouraged and potentially even used as a way to legitimise the regime and differentiate it from the old bourgeois antecedent.

Whether this was the motivation or not, and whether this potential propaganda was successful, is not a matter of history. The result has been that wycinanki has been preserved, and now delights a new generation with its intricate beauty.

The exhibition in the Swanson Gallery in Thurso Library displays two different styles of paper cutting from two regions of Poland where it is still widely practised: Kurpie and Lowicz, and also shows some of the more modern adaptations that are being made by those continuing the art form.

Tree of Life Paper Cuts
A traditional Polish paper cut showing the Tree of Life and goats, both traditional images.


There are a number of iconic images that are repeated throughout the paper cuts including the Tree of Life, cockerels, and images of peasant women performing traditional tasks. The Kurpie tradition uses a single sheet of coloured paper to create repeating designs, while Lowicz paper cuts are multi-coloured, using more than one sheet of paper.

The Tree of Life
Another version of the Tree of Life, but with cockerels, which are another traditional image.


All of the paper cuts are labelled, and provide additional information about the motif, or the artists' backgrounds. There are also extra placards which provide more information about the history of paper cutting. They have handy pronunciation guides to try out, which my children found quite fun.

Information Caption
One of the handy guides, which explain the tradition of the art, and provide a key to each of the paper cuts on display.


We stumbled on the exhibition by accident, but I'm very glad we did. The paper cuts are intricate, and beautiful and I was quite awe-inspired by the skill that it would take to create them. If you've ever enjoyed creating paper snowflakes at Christmas time, then you will love this exhibition too.


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Why? Experience the intricate beauty of traditional Polish paper cutting.
When: Mon and Weds: 10:00 - 18:00, Tues and Fri: 10:00 - 20:00, Thurs and Sat: 10:00 - 13:00, Sunday: Closed
Phone: 01847 893237
Where: Thurso Library Davidson's Lane Thurso Caithness KW14 7AF
Cost: Free
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