More about Hobby Day!

The Fountaindale Public Library District will be hosting its Second Annual Hobby Day on Sunday, January 24th from 2 pm to 4 pm (at the Bolingbrook facility). It’s a showcase for our staff to show off the hobbies that they love when they’re away from the workaday world of the library. Maybe, you can learn about a new hobby from one of us!

As a lead-up to the big day, we’re going to share on the various library blogs biographies of our staff and a little description of their hobbies from time to time. Now we’re going to learn about the papercutting from Wendy Birkemeier, our Children’s Services Department Manager:


I love paper! When I was a kid, cutting out and playing paper dolls was a favorite pastime of mine. I liked dolls with really fancy clothes that were intricate to cut. On a trip to Cape Cod many years later, my husband and I visited an artist in her home.  Mira-Slava Pissarenko made elaborate cuttings in the traditional Polish style called wycinanki. Many of her cuttings were built of multiple layers of colored paper. She even decorated blown eggs with miniature cuttings of birds and flowers. They were exquisite.  On a return trip Mira showed me how to cut paper and I shared with her how to make pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs.

On slow winter days in the ice cream parlor and confectionery where my husband and I worked in Vermont I started to sketch designs based on the chocolate rabbits that we molded for Easter. Each design fit within an egg shape. I cut them from origami paper, using nail scissors, and turned them into greeting cards. I followed that up with a series of Valentines cut in heart shapes – cats, houses, flowers, coyotes and cactus, palm trees and leis – all found their way into my work.

A PBS television series about Hawaiian quilting provided my next inspiration. Hawaiian quilts are bold, appliquéd patterns that often represent plants and flowers such as breadfruit, hibiscus, pineapple, and anthurium. I knew that I was unlikely to undertake the creation of a quilt, but the patterns excited me.  When we vacationed in Hawaii, we saw some incredible quilts and the plant life they were based on. These and the quilting books that I purchased gave me lots of ideas for more cuttings.

Most of my work has found its way into small books that I give as gifts. Each book includes some paper cuts and quotations – and lots of open space.  A blank book can be intimidating. A book that already contains some material is an invitation to add more.

Papercutting has been practiced for thousands of years. It has different names and styles around the world, among them: scherenschnitte in Germany and Switzerland, monkiri in Japan, papel picado in Mexico, chien-chih in China. The basic skills are easy to learn, the supplies are simple and inexpensive, and the design possibilities are endless.

Wendy Birkemeier, Children’s Services Manager

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