St Valentineís Day in Ukraine is celebrated pretty much in the same way as anywhere else in the world Ė flowers, cards, confectionary, a romantic dinner and sexy underwear if you are confident of sealing the deal afterwards Ė thatís about it for this day dedicated to your dearest. So we scoured the city for a gift that will make you look especially hot this Valentineís Day Ė a gift with a uniquely Ukrainian twist Ė a hand-made cut-paper St Valentineís Day card. Amour, amour, amour!
Paper-cutting is an ancient traditional art form that traces its origins back to China, where paper was initially developed. Later, due to the global exchange of creative ideas and artistic techniques, paper-cutting came to Ukraine and by the middle of the 19th century had become a common decoration in Ukrainian homes. In Ukraine, paper-cutting is known as vytynanka and is recognisable by characteristically Ukrainian motifs and themes also used in embroidery and other crafts. Ukrainians in the 19th century would traditionally make vytynanka creations for Christmas, Easter and other holidays, and, in post-independence 21st century Ukraine, vytynanka is making a comeback as Ukrainians again embrace national traditions. As such, we invite Olena Myshanska to teach us to cut a St Valentineís Day card that can stand up to the best of the store-bought variety.
The technique is very simple and all the materials you need are available at any stationary shop:
two sheets of cardboard Ė one that is a bright colour (we choose purple) and white, beige or pastel a stencil board, or thicker piece of cardboard so as not to scratch your table
ē craft/stencil knife or scissors
ē pencil and eraser
ē glue and adhesive tape
ē a pattern of the design you wish to create
1. The first step is to fold both sheets of stiff paper in half, be precise; you want to make sure they are exactly the same size. For this, Olena uses a ruler and once the middle is marked, she makes a line to bend the paper using the blunt side of the knife to score it. ďMake sure you press hard enough to bend the paper, but be careful not to tear it,Ē says Olena.
2. When both sheets are bent, Olena explains the purple paper will be the cover, while the beige paper will form the inside of the card, which will feature the design. For the design, Iíve chosen a symbolic image of two doves, which in Ukrainian tradition, much like the rest of the world, stands for a couple and their faithful love. Olena draws a picture on the bent paper placing the drawings on the inner edge. If you are as deft at drawing as our artist, copy the pattern below. When your design has been transferred to the paper, itís time to begin cutting. If you look at the pattern, the black lines are those you need to cut, the grey parts are the sections to be removed; the dashed line is where a fold will be made later. For cutting, Olena uses a knife, which to me looks like a surgeonís scalpel. Again, you need to press hard to cut through both layers of the bent paper. Olena suggests you take care at this stage as even she still cuts her fingers on occasion!
3. Once the sections are cut out, the design becomes visible and when we open the sheet, the ornament is doubled. Now itís time to bend the dashed line on both sides of the cut out design and fold it so that the ornament pops up when you open the card.
4. Basically, the creative part is done, the next stage demands accuracy. Olena spreads glue on the edges of the insert card and attaches double-sided tape on the outer edges of the card. Then, quickly before the glue dries, she attaches the insert to the cover. If you followed carefully all the instructions, you get a card with a pop-up ornament
5. The final stage is creating a message in the card and here itís entirely up to you what to write!
Your hand-made Ukrainian St Valentineís card is now ready to present to your sweetheart, good luck!
Exhibition of Contemporary Graphics of Ukrainian Books
Olena Myshanska presents her calendar Lost Kyiv illustrated with various vytynankas
From 8 Ė 24 February, 12.00 Ė 19.00
House of Artists (Artema 1-5)