Friday, July 3, 2009

Sheep Shear Cuttings

I recently discovered an artist that lives just over the Connecticut River in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Carolyn Guest practices a form of paper cutting called wycinanki (vee-chee-non-kee).

This art form originated in the early 19th Century when Polish sheepherders cut designs out of tree bark and leather with sheep shears. The designs were often used to decorate their homes or given as gifts.

Apple Picnic

The techniques were passed down from generation to generation. As the years passed, the paper cuttings became more detailed and intricate. Town and village competitions evolved, producing beautiful multi-colored and multi-layered wycinanki. Traditional subject matter included peacocks, roosters and other birds, circular or star-shaped medallions, flowers and decorative scenes depicting holidays.

Carolyn became intrigued with this traditional Polish folk art after working in Poland as an International 4-H Youth Exchange delegate. She began cutting with the traditional Polish sheep shears and continues to cut with her first pair of 13-inch shears using techniques she learned from Polish paper cutters.

Morning Call

Carolyn grew up on a farm in Lyndon, Vermont and was an active 4-H Club member. Folk art and crafts were always a big part of her life. Paper cutting has become a way for her express her creativity and portray her rural Vermont heritage. She has traveled to Poland and several other countries to study with paper cutters.

Carolyn continues to challenge herself by cutting ever more elaborate designs using her sheep shears. She was one of ten Vermont artists featured in a traveling exhibit “Ten Artists View of Vermont Agriculture” sponsored by the Vermont Council of the Arts and Vermont Department of Agriculture in 2002. She was also one of five Vermont artists who made ornaments for the 2002 White House Christmas Tree.

4-H Barn

You can find Carolyn’s work on her website at, and you can contact her at

1 comment:

  1. The second thing I got her was a pair of sheep shears. It’s not as if we’ve got any sheep about the farm, nor nothing like that. It’s just that I thought they’d be handy for dealing with those big, bushy armpits of her. sheep shears