(pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) is the Polish folk art of papercutting.
Wycinanki is a centuries-old art form, going back at least to the early 1800s. Polish peasants used heavy sheep shears to create gorgeous hand-cut decorations to liven up the white walls of their homes. Depicted in these artworks were images of their daily lives. Common motifs are birds, flowers, trees, stars, and scenes of farm life and cultural ceremonies.
It is traditionally made with sheep shears and grasping scissors (as opposed to the kind of scissors you operate with just a couple fingers). The cutting tool becomes an extension of one’s hand. Most other forms of traditional papercutting use tiny sewing-type scissors or stamps to create cuts, and most modern techniques use a knife, so wycinanki is unique in its use of larger shears to create intricate designs.
My name is Megg Sorensen (they/them), and I’m the artist behind Sparrow Papercraft. I am Polish on my mom’s side, and our family’s name means “sparrow.” I learned wycinanki from our family friend, Doris Sikorsky, when I was a child. We received two master/apprentice grants in ethnic art from the Illinois Arts Council so that she could teach me. As an adult I worked as a grocery store sign artist for many years and mostly made illustration-type artwork. In recent years, I have returned to papercutting, and it has been a renaissance in my life. It is a connection to both my ancestral culture and to my personal history.
After years of full-time travel I have been drawn to South Louisiana. As wycinanki artists in Poland traditionally drew inspiration from their daily rural lives, I am inspired by the beauty of Louisiana that I see in my life today.
There are two major styles of wycinanki that I learned. One is from the Kurpie region, which typically involves a design cut from a single sheet of paper. The other is the of the Łowicz region, which features layer upon layer of bright colors. This use of layered color is also unique in the world of traditional papercutting. I cut in both of these styles in my work.
Wycinanki is considered a dying art. Even in Poland it is not done by many people anymore, and most of those artists are older. I am humbled and honored to be able to carry on this beautiful, rich tradition. Thank you so much for your support!