Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cut Paper - Gwiazdy

The children make traditional Polish paper cutouts, learning the power of repetition in design. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 1 to 2 sessions.

  • Learning about an art of Poland
  • Experiencing the power of repetition in design
  • Practicing more advanced cutting skills
repetition, crease, decorative

Click to see a four-folded paper cutout resulting in sixteen repeats and a three-folded paper cutout resulting in eight repeats.

  • Thin origami papersolid colors with white on the undersidecut into 8- to 9-inch circles
  • Scissors
  • Pencils
  • Spray adhesive or white glue
  • White paper for mounting
Various forms of paper cutouts called wycinanki (vĭ-chee non-key) originated in the 19th century in Poland. Each spring the people white-washed the walls of their homes and decorated them with the colorful cutouts. Two styles that developed in the northern area of Warsaw are leluja (le-lu-ya), cut from paper folded lengthwise, and gwiazdy (g-vee-azda), cut from a round piece of paper. In this lesson, the children will be learning about gwiazdy cutouts which are drawn in a simple and decorative manner reflecting the countryside and include trees, birds, flowers, and farm animals. When unfolded, they result in intricate patterns repeated eight, sixteen, or sometimes thirty-two times.

Although these cutouts are still pasted to the walls of farmhouses in some rural villages, they are now mostly made for framing.

  • Cut the origami papers into 8- to 9-inch circles.
  • Set out papers and pencils.
  • Have scissors ready, but set them aside until the drawings for the designs have been completed.
How to Begin
  • Tell the children about the wycinanki paper cutouts called gwiazdy and share any examples you might have. Explain that they will be making paper cutouts similar to those made by the Polish families.
  • Show the children how to fold their papers with the colored sides facing in, emphasizing the importance of carefully lining up the sides and firmly creasing, or pressing, the edges. Explain that they can make three or four folds. Three folds will give eight repetitions or repeats of the design. Four folds, which will require good cutting skills and sharp scissors, will result in sixteen repetitions.
  • After the children fold their papers, have them draw their designs on one side of their wedges. The designs should be simple and decorative, rather than realistic, and include something from nature, such as trees, flowers, birds, stars, or farm animals, especially roosters and ducks.
  • Be sure the children understand that to keep the gwiazdy in one piece, no lines should intersect with each other or cross from one side of the wedge to the other side. Each planned cut should finish on the same side it started. Cuts on the top of the wedge should maintain its roundness.
  • Have the children use pencils to lightly shade the areas to be cut away. Check to be sure that no shaded areas cross from one side of the wedge to the other side.
  • Have the children cut away the shaded areas of their wedges. Be sure they understand that they should not open their papers until all of their cutting is completed. It is almost impossible to refold the papers.
  • When cutting is completed, have the children carefully open their cutouts, working slowly so that no small pieces rip off.
  • Flatten the gwiazdy in a book overnight.

    Note: The children can use small dots of white glue to attach their gwiazdy to white paper. However, spray adhesive works much better because it secures all edges tightly. This must be done by an adult in a well-ventilated area.

    • The darker colors of origami paper mounted on white backgrounds usually result in the strongest images.
    • To keep the gwiazdy symmetrical, it’s important to line up the sides of the folded paper and crease the paper carefully after each fold. 
    • Cutting four-folded gwiazdy requires sharp scissors and good cutting skills.
    • Incorporating aspects of nature into the gwiazdy designs makes them far more interesting than the snowflake cutouts to which they are often compared.
    • If the children accidentally cut off parts of their designs, encourage them to continue with their cutouts. Often these result in some of the most interesting gwiazdy.
    • Since these cutouts are almost impossible to refold, be sure the children understand that all cutting must be completed before they unfold them.
    • In the completed cutouts, the original shapes from nature will not necessarily, nor need be, recognizable. 
    • Discuss how the use of an image makes the cutting lines more interesting.
    • How does repetition affect the original designs?
    • Discuss the differences between the four-folded gwiazdy and the three-folded gwiazdy.
    What the children might say…
    • I've made these before. They are snowflakes.
    • I don’t need to draw my design first. I already know what I want to cut.
    • Oh no! I cut my wedge into two pieces.
    • It’s hard to cut four folds at one time.
    • Wow! Is that my gwiazdy. I had no idea it would be so beautiful.
    What you might say…
    • These paper cutouts are similar to snowflakes, but the use of an image from nature in gwiazdy causes the artist to make complex cuts that result in more intricate patterns.
    • Since you need to include at least one image from nature in your gwiazdy, it’s helpful to draw your design first.
    • If you accidentally cut off part of your design, your gwiazdy will still work. Continue cutting out the shaded areas from both pieces and we can glue them together on the white paper.
    • Instead of trying to turn your scissors while cutting your pattern in a four-folded gwiazdy, it is easier to make each of your cuts start from the outside edge cutting towards the inside.
    • Repetition makes even the simplest designs result in striking gwiazdy!
    Click to view this lesson in a printer-friendly format.