Vol. 7, No. 3
PICADO: THE ART OF MEXICAN CUT PAPER
picado (perforated paper), refers to the traditional art of decorative
cut paper banners. Papel picado are usually cut with sharp fierritos
(small chisels) from as many as fifty layers of colored tissue paper at
a time. Designs may incorporate lattice-work, images of human and animal
figures, flowers, and lettering.
picado are made especially for the Mexican festival of the Days of the
Dead and include skeletal figures engaged in the everyday activities of
the living. Other popular designs include the Virgin
of Guadalupe and Christmas nativity scenes. Individual papel picado
banners are strung together to create festive, colorful decorations for
papel picado, a paper patron (pattern) is first drawn as a guide. The
pattern is laid on top of fifty layers of tissue paper that are placed
on top of a lead sheet. The pattern is cut out using a hammer and different
sizes of chisels. Though tissue paper is still preferred by the villagers,
artisans also use metallic papers and plastic for other markets.
in the Village of San Salvador Huixcolotla, Puebla, Mexico
Salvador Huixcolotla, Puebla,
is the village most noted in Mexico for the art of paper- cutting both
for local festivals and marketing in Mexico City and abroad. Paper cutting
is a family tradition and spirits of rivalry between two families of artisans
(the Vivancos and the Rojas) in the area maintain competition and pride
in the folk craft.
Rojas, an artisan from the village, described his work in 1989:
commissions form a large part of my work, just as they did in earlier
days. For village festivals, here and elsewhere, I show patron saints,
the blessed Virgin, and heroes from history for las fiestas patrias
(September 16, Independence Day). On the Day of San Salvador (the patron
saint of the village), there is always a profusion of paper banners
outside our church."
also make banners for local families. I do christenings - babies with
feeding bottles and doves - first communions, fifteenth birthdays and
weddings. Houses look festive during celebrations, their yards festooned
with paper banners."
Traditions Around the World
has been a folk art around the world ever since paper was invented in
105 A.D. by Ts'ai Lun, an official in the court of Ho Ti, emperor of Cathay,
China. The humble nature of its origins and the anonymity of its practice
has caused paper cutting to be ignored as an art form, though artists,
artisans, and collectors are becomingly increasingly aware of this valuable
folk heritage. Worldwide traditions include German scherenschnitte,
Polish wycinanki, Chinese hua
yang, Japanese kirigami or mon-kiri, French silhouettes
(named after Etienne
de Silhouette, Controleur-General of France in 1757), and Matisse's
painted paper cutouts.
Simple Papel Picado
Fold a rectangular
piece of paper in half. In pencil, sketch one half of a design on one
of the folded halves. Rulers may be used to divide the paper into grids
or sections. Objects or designs must touch and connect to other areas
of the paper as they form the positive shapes on the paper. Negative areas
to be cut away may be shaded in pencil to aid in cutting.
or a craft knife to carefully cut away negative areas of the design (cut
over cardboard if using craft knives). Open slowly, flatten, and glue
to a background paper. To create more complex designs, fold the paper
more than once. Try using different kinds of paper: butcher paper, fadeless
colored paper, origami paper, and colored tissue paper.
Elizabeth, and Chloe Sayer. The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the
Dead in Mexico. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1992.
Ramona. The Paper Cut-Out Design Book. Owing Mills, Maryland: Stemmer
House Publishers, 1976.
Online A Papel Picado web site.