The Papercut Ketubah

Name: Archie Granot
Location: Israel

Born in London, England in 1946, Archie Granot moved to Israel in 1967. Prior to settling in Jerusalem in 1978, he was a member of an agricultural community where he milked cows and grew melons. Archie Granot created his first papercut in 1979. He has a M.Phil in Russian Studies from the University of Glasgow, Scotland and a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Studies from the Hebrew University,Jerusalem.

The papercut as art is believed to have originated in ancient China possibly at the time that paper was invented in the second century. As this art form spread from China to Turkey, North Africa, Persia and eastern and central Europe, it evolved in many directions. Cut paper, parchment and even leather was used for a variety of purposes such as to create the puppet figures used in shadow theater, as amulets to
ward against evil spirits, as decorations in bookbinding and book decorations, as window decorations and to create silhouettes of people.

References to a Jewish papercut date from the 14th century when Rabbi Shem-Tov ben Yitzhak ben Ardutiel wrote “The War of the Pen Against the Scissors” in letters cut from paper because his ink froze on a
cold winter night. Although there is some uncertainty regarding the history of the Jewish papercut, it is believed that Jews were familiar with the art for some time because of the travels of Jewish merchants and the close ties between Jews and the Ottoman sultans.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the papercut became an important folk art among both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, especially in countries where this folk art was practiced by the general population.
Requiring only simple and readily available tools—paper, pencil and knife—papercutting was available to all, even the poor. Few of the early papercuts survived, however, because their construction was
fragile (acid-free materials did not exist) and their purpose was usually short-lived. Used to fulfill hiddur mitzvah (embellishing the commandments in an aesthetic way), a papercut would be hung on the
walls of homes and synagogues and served a range of spiritual and ritual purposes in the Jewish calendar and life cycle. They were hung on eastern walls to indicate the direction of prayer (the Ashkenazi
papercut often had the word mizrach at the center while the Sephardic papercut often had the word shiviti at the center); they were used as holiday decorations (ushpizin to decorate the succah, shavuoslekh for
Shavuot, flags for Simchat Torah) and as amulets to ward off the evil eye (shir hamalosl, menorah); they were created to commemorate deaths in the family (yarzeit) and as calendars for counting the omer. They
were also used to decorate Ketubahs.

A traditional Jewish papercut was made by folding a sheet of paper in half, drawing one half of the design starting at the fold and cutting with a sharp knife to produce a symmetrical design upon opening the
folded sheet. These papercuts featured many traditional Jewish symbols including birds, lions, gazelles and other animals, menorahs, stars of David, tablets of the Law, columns to commemorate the Temple and
floral decorations that can be found on other Jewish ceremonial and ritual objects. Furthermore, calligraphic inscriptions were often used to supplement the imagery. Unlike other papercuts that were common in
the general population, a Jewish papercut did not feature human subjects or depict daily life.

Jewish papercutting continued to flourish in North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia during the 19th century. Unfortunately, however, during the first half of the 20th century this tradition almost
disappeared because its practitioners either emigrated or, tragically, perished in the Holocaust. Furthermore, many examples of this folk tradition were lost with the destruction of Jewish communities.

During the last fifty years, however, papercut art as a means of Jewish expression has been revived, both in the conventional form of folding paper to create a symmetrical work and by cutting freely.
These papercuts often use traditional motifs that are frequently inspired by the artistic romanticism of the Bezalel school – founded in 1906 in Jerusalem.

Although Granot started in the traditional fashion, he decided early in his career to experiment, to go beyond traditional bounds and not to limit himself to the repetition of classic motifs and styles. His
works are not symmetrical and often contain multiple layers of interlaced designs that create a three-dimensional relief in what is usually a two-dimensional medium. The resulting web of shape and color
reaffirm the positive and negative spaces and create a sense of infinity. Yet the subjects are reminiscent of familiar Jewish imagery. As with any art form, inspiration can come from anywhere. Much of
Granot’s work is inspired by Jerusalem, the city where he lives. His imagery and texts are usually biblical, Talmudic or rabbinical and often reference or contain allusions to Jerusalem.

In the workshops that Granot teaches he encourages his students to let their imaginations run. To start at home one need only fold a piece of paper, draw a design from the fold (for example, half of a snowflake
or half of a menorah, the center on the fold), cut with a pair of scissors (manicure make a fine cut) or a fine knife and open the folded paper. The result is a papercut! You can also photocopy a
design, staple it to another piece of paper and cut around the design to create a papercut. The papercut can be painted and mounted on another piece of paper, on cardboard or even on glass. The
possibilities are endless—you can play with the positive and the negative to create your papercut and derive much pleasure from this centuries old craft.

Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
Bet Torah, Mount Kisco, New York, USA
Cartiere Miliani Fabriano spa, Fabriano, Italy
Congregation Beth Jacob, Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Congregation Bnai Torah, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Cantor Jacob and Dr. Belle Rosenbaum Mezuzah Collection, Great
Synagogue, Jerusalem, Israel
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Jewish Museum, New York, New York, USA
Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, USA
Museum der Scherenschnitte, Vreden, Germany
Philadelphia Museum of Judaica, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Presidents Residence, Jerusalem, Israel
Rubenovitz Museum, Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Chestnut Hill,
Massachusetts, USA
Sir Isaac and Lady Wolfson Museum, Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem, Israel
Temple Shaarai Shomayim, Lancaster. PA, USA
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
Yeshivah University Museum, New York, USA

2008 “The Papercut Haggadah by Archie Granot”, Yeshiva University
Museum, New York, USA
2002 Temple Shaarai Shomayim, Lancaster, PA, USA
2002 The Heritage Museum of Temple Emmanu-El, Closter, New Jersey, USA
2001 Appel Art Gallery, Katz JCC, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA
2000 Art Effects Gallery, Merion, Pennsylvania, USA
1998 May Museum of Temple Israel, Lawrence, New York, USA
1997 Rubenovitz Museum, Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Chestnut Hill,
Massachusetts, USA
1997 Temple Beth Shalom, Roslyn Heights, New York, USA
1997 Koslowe Gallery, Westchester Jewish Center, Mamaroneck, New York, USA
1996 UJA-Federation, New York, New York, USA
1992 Elisabeth S. Fine Museum of Judaica at Congregation Emanu-El, San
Francisco, California, USA
1992 Philadelphia Museum of Judaica at Congregation Rodeph Shalom,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
1991 Yeshiva University Museum, New York, New York, USA
1989 Kuzari Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel
1989 Ariel Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel
1988-9 Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, Braunschweig, Germany
1985 Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel

2009 “Old Friends, New Work”, Elisabeth S. Fine Museum of Judaica at
Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, California, USA
2008-9 “Envisioning Maps”, Hebrew Union College, New York, New York, USA
2008 5th International Book & Paper Arts Triennial, Columbia College,
Chicago Center for Book & Paper Arts, Chicago, USA
2007 “Ombres & Lumières”, Musée des Miniatures et Décors de Cinéma,
Lyons, France
2007 Rye Arts Center, Rye, New York, USA
2006 The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, New York, USA
2003 Israel Wilfid Museum, Kibbutz Hazorea, Israel
2003 The Kansas Jewish Museum, Overland Park, Kansas, USA
2002 The Kansas Jewish Museum, Overland Park, Kansas, USA
1998 William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
1997 Bnai Brith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, D C , USA
1997 University Museum of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville,
Illinois, USA
1996 Visual Arts Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh,
North Carolina, USA
1996 Bnai Brith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC, USA
1995 Starr Gallery, Newton Centre, Massachusetts, USA
1994 The Jewish Museum, New York, New York, USA
1994 National Museum of Japan, Kyoto, Japan
1994 Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
1994 JCC Goldman Gallery, Rockville, Maryland, USA
1992-3 The San Francisco Craft and Art Museum, San Francisco, California, USA
1992 Hirsh Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA
1991-2 Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA
1991 Mizel Museum of Judaica, Denver, Colorado, USA
1990 Palos Verdes Art Center, Palos Verdes, California, USA
1989 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
1987 Museum of Music and Ethnology, Haifa, Israel

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