There’s nothing like having a group of three- and four-year-olds as teachers. Six years ago, when my husband and I visited schools in China, we got to spend a couple of hours in a lab preschool connected to a university. The parents of the youngsters were university professors.
Paper-cutting, creating beautiful designs and scenes out of flimsy red paper, was part of the arts curriculum. Remember kindergarten scissors? The kind with rounded ends that worked best on tissue paper, also on other kids’ hair? The Chinese teachers armed these children with sharp-pointed ones. The teacher handed me a pair and instructed the four-year-old sitting next to me to teach me a lesson, which she did, though not in the way intended. My good fortune came after a few vain tries, when the girl agreed to complete my assignment by cutting an animal figure for me in about a minute and a half out of a fresh sheet that I hadn’t had a chance to ruin.
The whole paper cutting adventure came back to me when a friend and I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum last week to see the exhibit, “Scissors for a Brush,” by Danish artist Karen Bit Vejle. Vejle uses large pieces of folded construction paper and cuts with sewing scissors. The precise name of her art is “psaligraphy.” Unlike the small sheets of paper I tested my lack of skills on in China, some of the pieces in this exhibit are four feet wide. All are so delicate that it’s hard to imagine cutting away as much of the original sheet as the artist does without tearing the piece to shreds in the process.
Despite differences in subjects, sizes and colors in the work of the artists in the two countries, both show fine craftsmanship.
Paper-cutting as well as sewing and creating sock animals are among the artistic pursuits that are off-limits for me. I’ll leave them to people with finer motor skills, those not afraid to run with scissors.