February 8, 2012
It’s been such a wonderfully busy week in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, but I’ve finally found time to finish off some papercuts and upload them to this blog and to my etsy shop. The first follows along the Valentines theme, with a decorated heart and the delicately cut words ‘You Make My Heart Sing’. I am very fond of the two little birds in this, and the ornate decoration took such a long time to perfect! When designing papercuts, it’s really important to make sure the lines are all connected so that it doesn’t ‘fall apart’ once you begin cutting. I quickly found a good way to work this out is to draw the image in pencil, then go over it in pen, checking all the joins. It sometimes takes a little while for your eyes to adjust to which bit is being cut out, so I usually scribble a pencil shading on the cut out bits if I keep getting confused! The image is then scanned into my computer and printed out on thin printer paper, and attached to a piece of card so that printer paper acts as a guideline for where to cut the card. It’s really useful to masking tape it to a self healing cutting mat to stop them sliding around as you cut!
The second is inspired by all the fairytales I’ve been reading lately, and features a fairytale scene with an elegantly written ‘Believe’ across the page. I spent such a long time picking out coloured card for backing, and eventually decided on a lovely light blue shade which always reminds me of the painted illustrations in old fairy story books.
I really love the imperfections that come from hand cutting paper, but I wanted to be able to sell multiples of these at a reasonable price in my etsy shop. I decided to compromise, by hand cutting both of the designs and cutting electronically cut duplicates for my shop. I am hoping to have many more papercuts availible soon, as I enjoy the process of designing and making them so much!
November 17, 2011
In original versions of Snow White the villain was her jealous mother, who had longed for a daughter with lips as red as blood, hair as dark as ebony and skin as white as snow. But she became envious when the girls adolescent beauty outranked her own and so took the young Snow White to collect flowers and abandoned her in the forest. The Brothers Grimm and other folklorists made alterations in various editions in order to tone the fairy tale down for children: a mother becomes a step mother, and a servant takes Snow White into the woods and is ordered to cut out her heart or her lungs. Apparently cutting out vital organs is less scary that being abandoned, perhaps because the latter is a potentially real situation.
When the Queen finds Snow White again she tempts her with objects to make her beautiful – laces for her corset and a comb for her hair. Both leave her nearly dead, through suffocation or poison, but she is saved by her co-habiting dwarfs (or, or in some versions, thieves) who arrive home in time to save her. The triple death-and-resurrection not only warned of the consequences of vanity but also warned children about taking gifts and food from strangers, particularly with the third attempt on her life is made. I wonder about the symbolism of the apple used to send Snow White to her deathly sleep. Like Eve, the adolescent girl takes a bite from the apple of knowledge. She suffers the consequences, but also discovers adulthood and relationships once the young prince finds her, and later, vengeance.
The part of the story of Snow White that disturbs me the most is what happens to the step mother, a part of the fairy tale that is frequently left out of modern retellings. The Queen arrives at the castle for the wedding, and realises that the princess bride is Snow White. Snow White and her new husband set about punishing her by making her wear a pair of heated iron shoes and dance until she drops dead, or, in some versions, dies from a heart attack.
I’ve always felt there was much more to the story of Snow White than first met the eye. As much as I take pleasure in the old non-Disney variations of the story and the symbolism within them, I also really enjoy reading modern retellings of the tale, such as Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, which transforms Snow White into an unnatural vampire-like creature who seductively influences all those who come into to contact with her, whilst the step-mother queen desperately struggles to stop her before she controls the realm, failing miserably and meeting an iron-shoed end.
This image is available on cotton tote bags in my etsy shop.
November 7, 2011
I never held for sinister stories of grandmother-hungry wolves and woodcutters with a passion for dissecting animals. The Brothers Grimm are perhaps the most well-known for being sadistic or gory, but early versions varied in their nature. Sometimes Grandmother was hidden in the cupboard and Red was saved just in time, or Red removed her clothes, got into bed with the wolf and realised what he was. But in other versions Red was eaten once getting into bed and there was no happy ending, or Red unwittingly cooked and ate her own grandmothers flesh and blood, or both Red and Grandmother were eaten whole and once they were cut out by the Woodcutter, the wolfs empty stomach was filled with stones so that he fell into the river and drowned.
In some of the early stories, there is no Woodcutter who arrives in the nick of time and Red Riding Hood has to escape using her own cunning, drawing on the clear themes of the safety of the village and the dangers of the dark and unknown forest. Supposedly the original was a warning to young women about sexual advances from men – an obvious example being the version where a naked Red and gets into bed the Wolf only to be eaten and have no happy ending. In any case, I’ve always preferred to see Red Riding Hood and the wolf as a coming of age story, with the wolf becoming a guide of sorts through the forest, as Red Riding sets out into the unknown and has to rely upon her own choices. In those cases, the woodland never seemed that scary at all.