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Sanjhi – The Art Of Paper Cutting

In today’s post on our Indian Art form series, I’m gonna talk about the art of paper cutting or better known as Sanjhi. Like the name itself suggests Sanjhi or paper cutting art is an art of paper cutting. The paper is cut in a way that the paper holds together and yet it shows a beautiful intricate pattern on it. For the complete tutorial on Sanjhi, watch the video below.

Origin:
Sanjhi is practised in Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh in India. Though the paper cutting work is done all across the world, Sanjhi is little different. Sanjhi is said to have originated around 400-500 years ago in the 16th or 17th century. So like all the other Indian Artforms I have shared here previously, this art form is also very ancient. Some craftsmen believe that Sanjhi word is derived from Saanjh or Shaam which means dusk, the time of day when temple floors are decorated using these stencilled papers and on the other hand, some craftsmen believe that Sanjhi word is derived from saaj-sajja or sajavat which means decoration because these papers are used to decorate temple floors.

Paper Cutting Art
Image Source: The Hindu

Theme:
Since it is a traditional art form of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the theme mainly depicts the life of Lord Krishna and his leelas. Temple floors and walls are decorated using these stencilled paper and rangoli (powdered colors). This art form is highly refined so it is mainly done by the Brahmin priests. Nowadays only a few families to be precise only 14 or 15 families are there in Mathura and Vrindavan who practice this art. If you are interested in seeing Sanjhi in temples then Radharaman temple in Vrindavan is the place where you can see this art. It is believed that Radhe (Radha) used to decorate her walls and floors using colored papers, foils, colored stones and flowers and leaves to woo Krishna and then all the other Gopis followed the suit. But during the Mughal period, the art form began to depict more scenes like Mughal architecture, floral and geometric patterns and various other scenes.

Paper Cutting Art

Style:
Like I said earlier, it is an art of paper cutting so only paper, specially designed scissors and sometimes blade is used to cut paper and then intricate mythological figures, floral and geometric patterns are cut into the paper. And here I would like to share an amazing fact that in its traditional form, craftsmen don’t draw or trace the design on the paper they would just make the paper cutting directly on the paper and it is done precisely that you wouldn’t be able to find any flaw.
Here I would like to mention two names who are still reviving this art form and keeping it alive. They are Mr Mohan Kumar Verma and Mr Ram Soni. They are fourth generation Sanjhi artists.

Process:
The process is simple. I have divided it into two steps
1. Draw/trace/print the design on paper and
2. Start cutting the design

Below are the supplies you’ll need to make paper cutting artwork.
Supplies: 
1. Paper
For paper cutting art you will obviously need a paper. It can be a handmade paper,  good quality printing paper, watercolor paper or any paper from 90 gsm to 385 gsm. But remember the thinner the paper is, the easier it is to cut but that will increase the chances of making mistakes. The thicker the paper is, the harder it is to cut but then there will be fewer chances of tearing the paper accidentally. I’m using 120 gsm A4 size scrapbooking paper.

         

2. Cutting Mat
You will need self-healing cutting mat so that your work surface is protected. Otherwise, you’ll end up making the surface of your desk full of scratches. I would suggest you get the bigger mat as having a bigger cutting mat gives you enough working space and allows you free hand movement while cutting the paper. The mat given below has grid and patterns marked on both sides. This is a must-have item for a crafter or for people who love DIYs.

3. Blade or Scalpel
You will need a scalpel for cutting paper. So make sure you have some spare blades too in case you need them during the process. Keep all the spare blades safe in a case to protect yourself from accidental blade cuts.

4. Pencil, ruler and eraser
You will need a pencil to draw a design on the paper and ruler to cut straight lines.

1. Draw/trace/print the design on paper
 Place the paper on the work surface and for design either you can draw your own design like I did. If drawing isn’t your cup of tea then below is the template for you to copy. Just download and print it. There are several other websites from where you can download free paper cutting templates (Goole it). The printed side will be the wrong side so make sure you print the mirror image of the design. The design is cut on the printed side of the paper and once the other side will be the right side where no pencil marks or print will be visible. 
*Tip: Do not apply cream or moisturizer on your hands otherwise you’ll end up staining your paper.

I drew the fish with Pichwai lotuses especially for you all so that it is easier for you to start the paper cutting art with this easy template. All you need to do here is just cut out all the black or shaded part of the design carefully. For the outline of the fish please draw one more outline as I forgot to click that picture and while cutting that outer outline leave some tabs too (Watch the video for clear instructions) Once you are confident enough to cut complex designs, you can start cutting the fish design with intricate patterns. All the instructions are given in my YouTube video above.

Paper Cutting Art
Design Created by Disha Mishra Dubey

2. Start cutting the design
Now place the paper on the cutting mat and hold the knife like a pen and try to keep even pressure. Enjoy the process and relax. Don’t do it in a hurry. This process requires enormous concentration, patience and skills but it relieves your stress and you will love getting lost in it for hours. There’s no set way to learn paper cutting art. Keep practising and you will learn it.

Paper Cutting Art
Sanjhi – The Art Of Paper Cutting

For cutting straight lines you can use a ruler but for curved designs it is better to move the paper around. While making cuts hold the paper with the other hand for better control. Cut the paper deeply enough that it goes through the paper but not too deep. Remove the pieces of paper as you cut them out.  You can use the blade’s tip to lift the chip of paper and pull it with your fingers gently. If it doesn’t come out easily then use the blade to cut the paper where it is stuck and then it will come out easily.

Paper Cutting Art
Sanjhi – The Art Of Paper Cutting

To cut complex and intricate patterns, cut as close as you can to either side of the pencil line. Do it slowly and enjoy every bit of the process.

Paper Cutting Art
Sanjhi – The Art Of Paper Cutting
No matter how pro the artist is the blade sometimes slips and can sever the element of the design. Don’t panic. Use either sticky tape to fix the element or use a chip of paper to stick on the tear. Once the design is complete, reverse the paper to reveal the right side of the design. Now either you can get the design framed as is pressed between two glasses or you can stick the design on the contrasting paper to make it more interesting.
I have tried to place my paper cutting artwork on various colored papers and now I am totally confused about the right color background. Please help!!
Paper Cutting Art
(From top left to bottom right
Sapphire, Ochre, Maroon, Cyan, Brown, Black)
I hope you liked today’s post In case you try to make this art then don’t forget to share your creation with me on my Instagram or Facebook. I’ll be coming up with more creative posts. Stay Tuned!! 

Till then connect with me here:

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Inspiring Eminent Artist: Pooja Ajmera

So it’s time again to meet inspiring and talented artist. 
Introducing you to a girl who creates magic with her “Teekhii Chhurii”. Readers please welcome Pooja Ajmera, a paper cutting artist and founder of ‘Teekhii Chhurii‘. You will be amazed to know that she left her corporate career and followed her heart, her passion for art of paper cutting(Sanjhi). 


Paper Cut


Warm welcome on 3D Pooja, I am very happy to have you here. We are desperately waiting to know more about you and your artwork.
Thanks for having me here. I am a paper cutting artist who started Teekhii Chhurii, where I create one-of-a-kind artwork.

I haven’t come across this kind of art before. Will you please enlighten me on this. 
Paper cutting is an art form which is very slow unlike everything else in today’s world. It requires tons of concentration and patience. The paper is hand cut and designs come to alive. I am also trying to revive a dying art form of India called Sanjhi.

Papercut Vintage Key



I am glad to know Pooja that you are trying to keep the age old art form alive. Being an artist I can understand that art is a passion for an artist. So when was the first time you came across this art and how it became your passion.
I knew about paper cutting since sometime before starting with Teekhii Chhurii but had never really tried my hands at it. So this one day, when I had to gift a birthday present to my sis-in-law, I thought of creating something unique for her rather than picking just one of the things available at shelf in the stores. I made a papercut out of the design that was there on my bedspread that day and then after finishing it, I created one more design and then one more design and it went on for few days when I realized, this is something which I want to for rest of my life. It was a AH-HA moment for me!

So this is how destiny knocked on your door 🙂
Share your experience when you finished the very first project, were you completely satisfied with the result, did you find any difficulty cutting the paper in desired shape and pattern for the first time.
When I made my first papercut, I was so happy with it. I was amazed and didn’t know I have so much of patience within me. Since it was the first time, of-course it was difficult to cut it as I didn’t know the do’s and don’ts of the art. But yes, anything done with love is bound to look great. That art piece adorns the wall of my sis-in-law’s house now.

What are your tools that you use for creating such beautiful master pieces. What are the challenges you face as you work with sharp objects. What are the safety measures you use.
The tools used for paper cutting are very simple. I just use a pencil, a knife, a mat and a single sheet of paper. The only caution to be taken is to be a little careful while using the blade or you might end up cutting your finger.

Paper Cut Rose



If you look back at the year when you started paper cutting how long have you come and how has been your journey so far. 
It’s hardly been time, so I can’t really call it a journey but yes, it has been like a ride of roller coaster which was full of ups and downs and I am happy it was that way or else what is the fun when life just goes on a plain road without any turns and hurdles. It has been a good experience so far where I met and interacted with so many good people who cherish the work I do and support and encourage me to move ahead.


Paper Cut Auto Rickshaw


True that hurdles in life come to make us even better.
You have created so many wonderful art pieces. Which one is your favorite and why.
All the papercuts I create have a hidden story behind them and hence they are all so close to my heart and sometimes I find it really difficult to let the artwork go. It is extremely hard for me to choose the best one that I made till date because I put my heart and soul in each paper cut I create and only after I am completely satisfied I get them framed.

Other than paper passion what excites you and you love to do in your spare time. 
I love to learn new things. But paper cutting is a very time consuming art form. It requires lots of time to create a single piece. So frankly I am hardly left with time to practice and do different things. As I work on weekends and on all holidays too! I recently learnt tarot card reading and that is taking up all my spare time lately. So sometimes its music, sometimes its jogging or sometimes painting..anything that interests me.

Paper Cut



You have some amazing pieces of artwork. Can you share where one can see and buy your artwork. 
As of now, some of my work is there on my facebook page – Teekhii Chhurii. People can message me on facebook or drop a email at pooja@teekhiichhurii.com and the rest will be taken care of.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and I would love if you say a word or two for my readers also.
All I would like to say is, “Dare to dream and follow your passion. There are no substitutes to hard work. Success will come sooner or later”.

Thank you Pooja that’s a beautiful mantra of successful and happy life. Thanks for taking time out for us and letting us know about this beautiful art form. I wish you a great success ahead!!

Folks have a look of her art work on her Facebook page and you will be spellbound. Leave a word or two here in comment section to let her know what do you think of her art work.
In case you missed earlier post on Inspiring Eminent Artists Click here to read. Wish you a lovely and creative weekend ahead!!