When I first met Archie Granot, about two years ago
at his gallery/studio in the heart of Jerusalem, he told
me that he was working on a special commission – a full
length Haggadah, for a client from the United States. I
could only try to contemplate the amount of work that
must go in to a piece of work so monumental. Granot is a
master paper cutter, whose works can be found in private
and public collections around the world. He recently
told me that he is still working on the Haggadah and
that he will most likely be working on it for another
three or four years.
Granot’s tool of choice is a scalpel, not the
scissors that are typically used in papercuts. He has no
formal art education, yet his works are on display at
major public collections, including; Jewish Museum, (New
York), Victoria and Albert Museum, Jewish Theological
Seminary, Yeshivah University Museum. In Israel his
works can found at the Presidents' Residence, Bar Ilan
University, Hebrew University, and the Israel Museum.
The art of paper cutting has been a popular Jewish
folk art for hundreds of years. There seems to be an
agreement that the first apparent reference of Jews
involved in paper cutting was that of Rabbi Shem-Tov ben
Yitzhak ben Ardutiel, in 1345. In The War of the Pen
against the Scissors he mentioned that when his ink
froze during the cold winter nights, he cut the letters
Jewish papercuts became popular at about the
seventeenth century (although there seem to be differing
reports regarding the exact timing of their rise in
popularity). Jews who lived in Moslem countries were
familiar with the art of paper cutting even before it
became popular in Christian Europe. Among the Jews of
Poland, papercuts were popular particularly during the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, until World War II.
Most of the Jewish papercut artists were men, many of
who were Yeshiva students. This art form saw a decline
in the last century, with the dissolution of major
Jewish centers in Europe. In recent years, Israeli
artists such as Granot have been breathing new life into
the traditional Jewish papercuts.
In China it was common practice to decorate the
windows with papercuts featuring flowers and animals. In
Persia, the art reached its peak in the fifteenth
century, in the form of leather book cover decorations.
Jewish papercuts often had a religious theme and did not
feature human portraits that were so common in the
paper-cuts of Holland and Germany.
Two of the most common functional uses for Jewish
papercuts were Ketubot, or marriage contracts and
Mizrachs. A Mizrach (which means east in Hebrew)
is a special plaque that was placed on the eastern wall
of a Jewish home (or synagogue), so that during prayer
the worshipers would face Jerusalem.
Granot, (whose background is Russian Studies) didn’t
make his first paper cut until 1979. This year he was
only Israeli artist to be featured in the 2001 edition
of Nouvel Objet, a prestigious South Korean art
periodical, that specializes in 'Objet Art’.
Aside from the technique that he developed for his
works, one of things that make his works so special is
that they are not symmetrical, like most papercuts. His
work is heavily influenced by his surroundings and his
papercuts often include hand cut Hebrew inscriptions
that are somehow connected to Jerusalem. The precision
of his calligraphy is amazing.
To create his works he uses acid free art papers from
around the world including: France, Germany,
Sweden,Italy, Japan, USA, Spain as well as a unique
paper that is hand made from straw in Israel. His works
are made of multi layers of paper. For instance, his
Gematria Mezuzah™ is made from 65 layers of paper.
Granot recently returned from the United States where
he conducted paper-cutting workshops. Workshops are best
suited for 20-25 participants and can be adapted for
both children and adults. In these workshops
participants work with scissors, not a scalpel. His next
U.S. trip is planned for March 2002.
He now also offers limited edition laser cuts, which
can be personalized.
Archie Granot Papercuts, is located at 1 Agron
Web site: Archie