The other day I picked up a book titled "The Amazing Paper Cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen" and it totally blew my mind. I had never thought to research Andersen in detail up to now and I have to say that I think I am subconsciously savoring it until I resume my schooling. I have been giving 'doing my Masters in Children's Literature' quite a bit of thought in the past year and think that once time permits it, it might be an inevitability... However, when I saw this book I had to cheat a bit and immerse myself in the super magical world that was Andersen's life.
Growing up poor he really made his own luck by sticking his foot into all sorts of noble and elite doors, mastering his art of verbal and written storytelling and ...as I have now discovered... Paper Cuttings.
According to the book and it's sources, Andersen would perform his fabulous fairy tales to an enrapt audience whilst seemingly randomly cutting away at a piece of paper with a gigantic pair of scissors. At the end of the story he would unfold the paper to reveal all sorts of absolutely amazing and original works of art. They did not have to coincide with the story he was telling but did feature a steady repertoire of his established character favorites that inhabited his stories such as bakers, dancers, 4 armed - windmill type men, as well as more macabre images like men hanging on gallows, and Andersen's favorite and perhaps his symbol for himself, ... swans.
Andersen never made any drawn plans for these cuttings, they are so to say, spontaneous cutting, like you would create a drawing without prior planning. A doodle-cut so to speak. Because of this and because of their imagery they were quite different from the many other paper cuttings from this time. Paper cuttings in general were quite popular in the 1800's when Andersen was alive and many people would commission a paper cut like you'd commission a portrait so that one's image would be remembered for the next generation of one's family. Camera's were still new, very expensive and not commonly used until later.
Here is an excellent and super fun podcast on Andersen and his life by 'How Stuff Works' Podcast that my good friend Rebecca turned me onto, after having told her about my new discovery.
I am sure there will be at least one more entry on Andersen in the future here somewhere. I am quite fittingly enchanted by his own fairy tale.
Here are some sites on Andersen and his work.
And here is a small blog post on him by a very beautiful blog that I just discovered and one one the daddytypes blog here.