Scherenschnitte is a traditional German folk craft that involves cutting paper to produce designs or pictures. The term itself means "scissor cuts," and the craft shares many techniques and design elements with other papercutting traditions.
Cutting is accomplished by use of scissors, razors, and other sharp tools. Folding may be involved to achieve greater symmetry in the finish product, but the resulting image is almost always displayed flat. Primarily, the difference between scherenschnitte and other papercutting art forms are the topic of the resulting image and the motifs used in the design.
Generally, a design is planned before any cuts are made. It may be drawn directly on the paper. Careful planning is required to ensure that the entire paper stays intact. Much like a stencil in reverse, all parts of the design must connect to one another so that the entire paper stays together. As such, planning can often be the most difficult part of this art form.
Usually, medium-weight paper is used in scherenschnitte, but lighter or heavier paper may be appropriate. Scissors and razors must be extremely sharp in order to accommodate the level of detail characteristic of this art form. While performing this craft by hand is usually important to the artist — both because it displays talent and is enjoyable — it is also possible to create scherenschnitte designs using lasers to cut the paper. A laser is capable of extreme precision and can create patterns no human hand could ever accomplish.
Once cutting has been completed, the paper may then be painted if desired. As many pieces of scherenschnitte are designed to give the effect of a silhouette, painting is often unnecessary as the paper is intended to stay a single color. Alternatively, a background paper can be painted different colors a way that harmonizes with the monochromatic scherenschnitte design.
Traditional designs usually depict scenes portraying people, animals, or stories. Modern designs can include anything from cities to ninjas. The design aesthetic is entirely dependent on the artist. With advancing technologies, even the most ambitious and detailed patterns can be accommodated.
A finished piece of scherenschnitte is usually displayed against another piece of paper, although some people incorporate the piece into furniture or place it against a window. Cut paper is extremely delicate, and it is therefore advisable to protect a papercutting piece with glass. Properly stored, a piece of scherenschnitte can last hundreds of years, and there are still some very old pieces existing today in museums and private collections.