Tuesday, January 31, 2023

What is Scherenschnitte by Vickie McDonough

Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Scherenschnitte, pronounced SHARE-en-shnit-tah, is almost as difficult to articulate as it is to create. Scherenschnitte, the art of “scissor snipping” or “scissor cutting,” probably originated in China, although some sources say Switzerland. Early paper cuttings in China were made by wealthy nobles as a form of entertainment. The intricate craft traveled across Asia and Europe, and later, made its way to America in the eighteenth century as German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania. Scherenschnitte literally means "scissor cuts" in German. The term “Chinese shadow” was also used for early paper cuttings but was replaced by the term “silhouette” in France—a term it is still referred to today.

Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Early cutwork often consisted of religious themes. Monks and nuns painstakingly created religious hand-lettered texts with elaborate cut designs. Scherenschnitte focuses on life’s significant events like birth, schooling, courtship, marriage, family, and death. Farm life, flowers, trees, animals, birds, hearts, and other figures are also incorporated in the intricate designs. Profiles of people were a popular subject. Scherenschnitte resembles a stitched sampler, and fancy scrolls were often inscribed with verses, names, and locales.

Breman's Town Musicians
Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Experienced paper cutters generally worked freehand, without the aid of drawings or guides. For less practiced cutters, a design was planned before any cuts were made, making sure that all parts of the design connect to one another so that the entire paper stays together. Using sharp scissors, or sometimes sharp knives, they cut their motifs with exact precision, most often from a single piece of intricately folded paper. Cutting techniques varied with some designs created from cutting folded paper while others were cut from flat sheets. A finished piece of scherenschnitte is usually displayed against another piece of paper. The Swiss developed a method of layering cut paper, which gave it a 3-D effect.

Scherenschnitte is nearly a lost art, although some Dutch people are determined to keep it alive. You’ve probably made a scherenschnitte creation yourself without even knowing it. Remember when you were a child and you folded paper then cut away small pieces to make a snowflake? Viola! You made a scherenschnitte design. Next time you come across a paper cutting, maybe you’ll consider the rich history of the art. 

Gambler Gabe Coulter is confronted by a drunken cowboy who wants his money back. Gabe refuses and a gunfight ensues. The dying man tells Gabe the money was for his wife and son. Though the shooting was self-defense, Gabe wrestles with guilt. The only way he knows to get rid of it is to return the money he fairly won to the man’s widow. Lara Talbot sees Gabe as a derelict like her husband and refuses his help. But as she struggles to feed her family, she wonders if God might have sent him to help. 

Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA and Amazon best-selling author of 54 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, OWFI Best Fiction Novel Award, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com



  1. Thank you for posting today. I am in awe at the scenes created by this art form. Can you imagine, one wrong cut toward the end of a project would ruin the whole image! Amazing.

    1. I know! They probably didn't have tape or glue back then.

  2. Beautiful artwork and what skill is needed to make every little snip count. When our two oldest boys were little, we went to a craft show and there was an artist there who did silhouettes like this. She snipped each boys perfect profile from black paper then mounted it on white. She even snipped in one of the boys' cowlicks. I couldn't believe how accurate she was. That really takes talent. I had no idea the craft went that far back and with such intricate details. I still have them.

  3. Martha, my mom had silhouettes of my sister and I on her bedroom wall that someone had clipped. I wish I knew what happened to them.