Wearing Folk Art

I was raised in a community where “papirshnit” or Eastern European Jewish papercutting is a traditional folk art form. Jewish papercuts are used as holiday decorations, to commemorate life cycle events and even just to remind us of the direction of Jerusalem. The traditional Jewish papercut is made with one piece of paper from which shapes are cut out to create a design and images. They are beautiful and meaningful, as well as a great departure point to explore other culture's papercut traditions! 

 

  Jewish Papercut Arts class  taught by Shifra Whiteman. Chicago. Fall 2012.

Jewish Papercut Arts class taught by Shifra Whiteman. Chicago. Fall 2012.

Lets talk wycinanki! Pronounced “vi-tshi-nan-ki” these are papercuts from Poland and the Ukraine.  Like Jewish papercuts they are used to depict traditional holiday images and for every day decorations. They are traditionally cut in multiple layers and saturated paper colors give a completely different vibe. The most common traditional images are of flowers or birds, connecting to the surrounding nature. I find wycinanki to be so vibrant and fresh even though its roots go back a few hundred years. 

 Wycinanki - Traditional Polish papercut arts.

Wycinanki - Traditional Polish papercut arts.

Last year, I noticed there was a folksy vibe in our trend forecast. It focused on getting back to hand made traditions like embroidery, needlepoint and appliqué. The imagery was focusing on nature and animals - the simpler life and I could not help but feel this was the perfect collection to create a textile design based on wycinanki! 

 Starling Pocket Dress and Sweetheart Lace Dress. Textile Design by Shifra Whiteman for Mata Traders Fall 2013 collection.

Starling Pocket Dress and Sweetheart Lace Dress. Textile Design by Shifra Whiteman for Mata Traders Fall 2013 collection.

Mata Traders produced two dresses with this pattern for their Fall 2013 line. Here is the Starling Pocket Dress and the Sweetheart Lace Dress that share the same rooster fabric. Most designs I create are a fun creative way of expressing myself and solving design problems. However, this print really is a design that connects my past with my present - a traditional inspiration with a contemporary edge. The techniques used for hundreds of years to create designs from paper are beautifully adaptable to fabric and when I wear my dress with this design around the streets of Chicago, I really do feel like I am wearing a contemporary piece of folk history. 

 Sweetheart Lace Dress. Textile Design by Shifra Whiteman for Mata Traders Fall 2013 collection.

Sweetheart Lace Dress. Textile Design by Shifra Whiteman for Mata Traders Fall 2013 collection.