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Colorful Paper Folk Art is Our Design Inspiration

November 20, 2010 2 Comments

What is the inspiration behind our beautiful new look at

Wycinanki (vee-chee-nan-key) is the expressive, decorative art of Polish paper cutting. Using bright colors & natural forms like peacocks, flowers & roosters. These colorful handmade crafts celebrate the seasons & tell stories. Like amber itself, the roots of Wycinanki stretch deep into the heart of Europe.

Wycinanki- Polish with colorful rooster motif.

It’s easy to see the influence of these beautiful handmade crafts in our tufted amber butterfly and the curvy, organic path of her flight. We opened up our color palette with an airy, feminine feel that draws on Polish culture. What could be more lovely? Lucky for us, the traditional paper arts translated beautifully, the leap from paper to pixel was like magic.

Glass was rare & costly in earlier centuries. Houses in harsh Northern European climates used heavy sheep skins to cover windows & doorways. While this kept things cozy, it also blocked the light. Enter clever (& doubtless, bored) shepherds who cut patterns into the sheepskins or leather coverings, with sheep shears, revealing chinks of light. Soon complex patterns began to emerge with a strong decorative aspect. Regional specialties developed & spread. The earliest of the types of paper cuttings are believed to be from the Ukraine in the mid-1800’s, once paper became widespread.

Such intricate cutting & crafting takes the one thing most of us don’t have today&#8212 time&#8212. These shapes are cut freehand, not sketched, by moving & angling the paper more than the scissors. Similar to the way chef Julia Child describes proper knifework&#8212 you keep the knife in place & carefully feed¬† the vegetables smoothly under the blade, keeping your knife in the same position. Only here, you are moving the paper, keeping the shears stable. Once the technique is mastered, your fingers can fly, with the blade in a predictable location.

The distinctive graphic personality of the craft of Polish paper arts is something special. They remind me of being a child, making snowflakes. For a moment, I can hear the edge of the paper shearing as scissors carefully cut out lacy Valentine’s Day decorations, or perhaps cutting strips of paper make garlands. It’s this spirit of that childlike wonder, imagination & creativity we hope to capture with our new web design.

This is the festive world that Wycinanki transports us to– a world of color & imagination, a departure from the ordinary. These were also made to mimic the paintings seen in wealthier houses. In the humble homes, the papercuts & garlands were changed annually & took up large spaces on the walls or hung over doorways, often changing with the seasons.

Wycinanki embroidery featuring tulip motif

There are a huge number of Polish crafts… from traditional costumes & wooden figurines to pottery, paintings and glass. In part, some artistic handiworks have survived because these endeavors received official state support & incentive during the socialist era at a chain of stores called Cepilia, the Polish and Handicraft Foundation, an organization that is ubiquitous in tourist areas.¬† This is why they are sometimes disregarded by the Poles themselves, because these & similar items were sort of mass marketed in may remind some of a historic time they would rather leave behind. For others, they remain charming reminder of a familiar world.

There can also be cross-cultural differences in how amber is regarded. For us, Baltic amber is a an exotic substance, not something we grew up with in the backyard. My mom & I have traveled over the ocean countless times to obtain more of this glittering gemstone. Amber is nature’s time machine, a deep connection to the past. As Americans it may be that amber holds special significance, another layer of meaning that it wouldn’t necessarily hold for native Eastern Europeans. A longing to explore our roots, at least, for those of us whose families emigrated generations ago. In addition to falling for amber flowers, hearts & butterflies, we also fall for something that is also captured in Polish amber, memories we must imagine.

In this way, the circle of creativity is enlarged. We imagine a trip or past that stretches into Poland. The wycinancki maker wiles away a snowy evening by cutting a colorful spring garland of a farm scene. Mother nature created playful marvelous forms out of amber into drops, icicles, impressions of trees, nuggets. It’s the living culture of the liing gemstone, and by wearing amber, we participate in this imaginative wonderment.

We are pleased to present to you our new website based on these inspirations, featuring the finest Baltic amber from Poland, handcrafted in small batches by artisans who are skilled in the trade, schooled in design &

Julia Balfour and her team designed our new logo over the summer, based on elements in our rooster amber care card that ships with every piece of jewelry. We knew we wanted to change our color scheme from a dark, figgy purple & Julia came up with the perfect color scheme. We waited a ridiculous amount of time to have a real logo- not because we didn’t want one or didn’t try to get one- Finally we just kind of limped around without one. Little did we know, we just needed the fates to align us with Julia.

Then, for several reasons, primarily because we decided not to change ecommerce platforms, Volusion designed our new site. I was nervous about this because of the thoroughness & highmindedness & listening-to-us-ness of Julia’s design process. I decided we would keep it simple, stick to the color scheme & keep tapping the ornamental papers, translate those into pixels. And I’m happy to say that it came out in a way that makes us very happy. They say lightning never strikes twice, but again, we were fortunate in having Maren & Andrew team up to deliver an outstanding design. And a shout out to Janice & Co Web Design, who implemented & integrated this very Word Press blog seamlessly.

So- here we go! We have lots coming up & many new ways to connect the dots as we delve ever deeper into the mystery that you will soon know as Amberology. –Holly

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