Centuries of papercutting developed into beautiful visual Folk Art traditions in many cultures. By cutting folded paper designs or silhouette stories, ordinary people, without professional training or the influence of sophisticated artistic movements, have used cut paper to express themselves and to reflect on life experiences. Sometimes described as honest, charming, and even naïve, examples of the art form demonstrate how people have used common materials to celebrate and creatively mark special moments in their lives. Often the simplest of tools and paper have been used, and now specific tools, techniques, and stylistic traditions are associated with particular regions. Called Scherenschnitte (scissors/shears cuttings) in Germany, Switzerland, and Holland, the images have often been made as intricate black and white contrasts, sometimes with elaborate borders. Polish Wycinanki (veecheenonkee), Belorussian, and Ukrainian designs, however, were sometimes cut with available sheep shears, and resulted in bright, layered colors, repetition and symmetry. These decorative additions were applied to furniture and walls in homes. Papercuttings were sometimes created as calendars to commemorate births, deaths, and holidays such as for Mexico’s Day of the Dead (All Saints Day). In Judaic tradition papercuttings were hung in homes and synagogues to decorate for religious holidays. Asian and African nations have used cut paper designs as stencils for printing fabrics and as patterns for embroidery. Kathy Trexel Reed became interested in papercutting and Folk Arts while living and teaching in the Philippines and Germany.
Her travels introduced her to many styles of papercutting, which became the basis for multicultural lessons in her art classroom. She recognized and valued how those connections represent blended American heritages. The variations, fragility, and strength of papers, too, motivated her to appreciate the medium of cut paper and to adapt and explore it herself in both two dimensional and three dimensional ways. The distinctive, graphic art form of papercutting has always appealed to her as an extension of drawing and painting. Kathy has facilitated the establishment of the Guild of American Papercutters National Museum which she coordinates in cooperation with Laurel Arts, a non-profit arts organization in Somerset, PA. Kathy also serves on the board of directors of Laurel Arts and is the gallery committee chairperson.
As a rostered PCA artist in education, she has been a resident artist in many public schools in the six county region served by Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, as well as a teacher for the Arts for Healing Program through Conemaugh Hospital. Her work is represented by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, and for many years she has demonstrated and cut silhouette portraits at Somerset County’s Mountain Crafts Days and Springs Folk Festival