You have good fortune indeed if your audience includes little two-legged creatures of five years old or older. Wycinanki is something you can share with a youngster. First, start cutting quietly while the children watch. When they ask if they may try cutting too, say "Yes, but first watch me while I tell you the story".
Begin with a colorful paper rectangle. Fold this diagonally, corner to corner, and then trim off the left-over piece, making a square (fig.****. Fold the square back into a triangle, and hold it in your left hand with the point up and the bottom fold down (fig.****). Explain, "Now you have a pyramid, a triangle, or an arrowhead, see? Now I know it looks like a triangle but It really is a policeman named "Gus". You can see him very clearly if I show you." At this point indicate with your finger Gus' head and two hands' as shown in figure
Go on with the story, "Gus, the policeman, is waiting for a parade to start and as he waits, his chin begins to itch so he scratches it." (Illustrate this by scratching your own chin). Fold the paper Gus' arm at the elbow (fig.****) and make a little pinch in the paper after you fold the arm as a guide for the next step (fig.**** ). This pinch is very important, so emphasize it.
Continuing, "The flag goes by and Gus puts his arm across his heart and rests his hand where the elbow bent and you made the little pinch mark."
Meanwhile, Gus stands there while the rest of the parade goes by and as he waits on this hot day, he buys an ice cream cone. Now as you know, he's in uniform, so Gus turns around like this." (fig. "He stands with his back to the curb, and now you can see why he scratched his chin and saluted the flag. These are the steps we need in folding the cone." "Gus finishes the ice cream, and now we have just the cone left, nice and flat and even." As you say this, cut the cone top flat with scissors (fig.**** "Gus has to be dressed just right when he goes on duty. He isn't always on foot patrol as Gus is a sergeant and has three stripes on his sleeve"(fig. "Gus wears his ~p right on line with his eyebrows"'(fig.****) "and just to be sure, here are his eyebrows and here are his ears." As you mention parts of Gus' figure, cut them as in the accompanying illustrations. "He has buttons down the front of his jacket, and here are his stripes, one two three chevrons (fig.****). If he was a patrolman he'd have one stripe; a corporal has two; but he's a sergeant so he has three (this means he has more authority than one and two-striped policeman). Of course Gus stands just as straight as an arrow" (fig.****). "After the parade, a child named(use the name of the child watching you, but for purposes of illustration I'll use the name "Sonia") "Sonia became separated from her family in the crowd. (Yes, just like the time you got lost in the department store and you got off at the second floor while mother got out at the sixth). Sonia goes up to Gus, as she knows that the only stranger she should speak to is a policeman. She tugs at his sleeve and says, "I'm lost, I can't find Mother." Gus asks her name and lets her know she is not lost because she is with him, it's her mother who is lost. Gus tells Sonia to wait right here near the fountain."
At this point cut a little child on the other fold of the cone, and a flower or a bird and if you have room, a fountain too (fig.****).
"While Sonia stands right where Gus tells her, Gus tags a car parked by a fire hydrant and then calls headquarters on his walkie-talkie to find out where Sonia's mother is." As you tell this story or a variation of it, cut the items you mention on the fold of the cone opposite those cuts you made telling how Gus' uniform looked (fig.****). End the story, "Before you know it, there was the happy mother and child together again"
When you unfold this five-point papercut, call it the "Sonia" design, or whatever is the name of the child who watched you, and give the cutout to the child. I then show children the folding several times as a dry run before they are able to fold the five-fold star themselves. Now, looking at the papercut you made, have your little friend pick out and identify as many of the A.B.C.'s as are included in the design. Children can make simple papercuts almost at once, using arrowheads, birds, chevrons, and little egg-shaped cuts.
After your little "cut up" has made several papercuts, show how to cut two designs at once holding both cuts together with paper clips or pin curl clips, using white typewriter paper of the cheapest grade. Help them to cut within a circle four or five inches in diameter, which they can pare down and cut to produce a mobile or plastic can lid decoration. These papercuts should be symmetrical medallions, preferably of birds and flowers or some other favorite motif. Flowers, a child, and squirrels make a lovely combination. Matching papercuts are mounted back-to-back on each side of a plastic can lid, with a generous hole punched near the top edge permitting suspension in a window or on a Christmas tree (fig. ).
Alternatively, combine several of the Wycinanki mounted on lids for a mobile (fig.****). Red lids come from one pound tins of tobacco. Peanut and some coffee cans have yellow plastic lids, and look striking with bright blue or bright green papercuts. The clear four-inch lids from coffee cans are eye-catching with red cutouts, or other bright colors. As it is too cumbersome to make star-shape papercuts small enough to fit on lids, variety of design is essential. The illustrations (fig. ****) show how the same design can be used for both a mobile and in multicolor in a ready-made little frame. Remember that photocopying is a great help in developing different versions of the same design. The illustrations (fig. ****) are from actual papercuts made while watching TV, cost virtually nothing to produce, and have a personal quality that so delights the recipient.
The clear coffee can lids are ideal too as background for small- scale Lowicz flowers. These can be very simple with three flowers and a conventionalized base made of shades of green overlay and additional stylized leaves (fig.****). If several versions of the same flower arrangements are tried in several color combinations, these can all be cut out at once, one on top of the other. I have had considerable success teaching children of many ages how to cut Wycinanki. The final illustration in this chapter (fig.****) is by a sixth grade student.
Copyright © 1997, 2008 Sheldon Brown and Arlene Eskilson