_ _ _ _ _ cut

Polish paper cut, photo © Lizzie Ridout

My current obsession with shadows, which I've been thinking about a lot lately for a new body of work, reminded me of a small collection that's been growing in my plan chest over the course of the last year. The two themes of silhouettes and paper engineering have long been hanging around in my head and last year when I made trips to both China and Mexico, I picked up pieces of incredible paper workmanship - all similar, all different. A collection was started, and the above Polish paper cut, from Warsaw, was recently made the newest acquisition.

Below are a few of the hand cut and hand painted patterns I bought in a supermarket in China. They're sold in sets of similar themes, from birds to flowers, cats going about their cat tasks to men wrestling. Each piece is trapped in a folded sheet of tissue and then contained within a small wallet, or sometimes placed in a little bound book. Even the most expensive of these cost a few pounds.

For more images of Chinese paper cutting, have a look at this post on
Olga Llopis' blog Trampas de Tinta.

Chinese paper cuts, photo © Lizzie Ridout

The following - stylistically very different from the Chinese paper cuts - are a few examples of the papel picado or papel china that I found in Mexico.

The art of paper cutting is a long standing tradition in Mexico and is used in decorating homes and exteriors for many rituals including weddings, christenings and funerals. Designs vary depending on the occasion - the two series' of flags below depict patterns created for Easter celebrations and also for a wedding. Other popular designs include portraits of Frida Kahlo,
images of La Catrina, based on illustrations by Jose Guadalupe Posada and other skeletal imagery for the infamous Dìa de los Muertos.

Similar to our own tradition of cutting paper-snowflakes at Christmas, this custom is considered an art form due to the intricate nature of the pieces. Although not as detailed as those I saw in China, these paper-cuts serve much more of function. Throughout Mexico City, the patterned paper (and now increasingly, plastic) flags and banners could be seen fluttering on their strings, left over from some celebration or another. Attached to the idea of papel picado is the art of the ofrendas, or the domestic alter. In Mexico, there is still a culture of creating personal shrines within domestic interiors. Alters, made from papel picado decorations amongst other things, are built around photographs, and are perpetually altered and adapted in an ongoing ‘dialogue’ with the dead relative.

Click on the photos to see them enlarged.

More things from Mexico soon. It's been far too long…

Mexican papel picado, photo © Lizzie Ridout