Paper Wedding

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By: Claire Lui | October 22, 2009

When I was working on my story about cut paper for the October issue of Print, I interviewed Grace Bonney, of the popular blog design*sponge, and she said something that I found particularly interesting: “Rob Ryan is a cult figure for those Etsy people, but now he’s selling on Etsy!”

Image by Rob Ryan.

Rob Ryan is, of course, the British artist whose cut paper work has been at the forefront of the decorative branch of this trend. He has collaborated with Paul Smith, Liberty of London, and other big names with his wistful silhouettes and poems. What Bonney was saying intrigued me because of the rapid spread and democratization of visual trends, as compared to even a few years ago.

Case in point: weddings. Even six years ago (oh, those halcyon days of 2003), wedding trends moved slowly. Martha Stewart Weddings might feature cupcakes, inspiring a bunch of brides, while others might chat on a local board about which florist used hydrangeas instead of roses. Today, everything is blogged and even the most conventional couple is aware of the many websites posting a daily bombarding of visual ideas for their own “special day.”

Cut paper wedding cake by

So something like cut paper, which might have been relegated to the back of one’s mind as a pretty and interesting art form, has suddenly become an affordable trend. Bonney, herself a recent bride (and featured in the current issue of Martha Stewart Weddings), is super plugged into the Etsy community, and referenced the trend in her bridesmaids’ gifts: silhouettes of her friends cut out of leaves, made by artist Jenny Lee Fowler.

Leaf silhouettes by Jenny Lee Fowler.

Leaf silhouettes by Jenny Lee Fowler.

Other brides, emboldened by the seeming proliferation of Etsy artists willing to cut the most romantic words into complicated pieces, are taking it into their own hands, and trying to cut out their own paper masterpieces. I was actually quite surprised when I read a post by one wedding blogger who mentioned that she was going to try some cut paper work for her own wedding. Trends now quickly go from art to craft to commerce to D.I.Y., often in a matter of days. And even major artists like Ryan are participating, further blurring the distinction between the categories. (Not unlike when Andy Warhol used to change the background color of his screen prints to match clients’ décor, perhaps.)

Cut-paper portrait by Made By Julene.

But like all folk traditions, this use of cut paper as celebration is simply a return to the art form’s roots. Chinese and Mexican cut paper pieces were often used as decorations for weddings (and funerals, but that’s another story), an inexpensive and more decorative version of the crepe paper down at the VFW hall. Today’s Etsy entrepreneurs are just using the internet to sell what was once standard at many weddings around the world: a bit of cut paper, blowing in the wind, giving some color to brighten up a happy day.

Personalized Mexican papel picado banners from Ay Mujer.