During our “Gstaad Tour” the other week, we came across “very traditional” looking paper cuttings by Gstaad’s own “paper cutter” Beatrice Straubhaar.
I’d always thought that paper cuttings were a bit yesteryear. That is, until Beatrice asked me if I wouldn’t mind taking a “hurry up” picture of the Beyer Watches & Jewelry store’s display window in Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse with my smartphone and sending it to her. Well, I did, but not before I almost had my socks knocked off! Right there, on Bahnhofstrasse!I’m known to be more partial to linear or abstract art, for instance like that in the 16 Art Bar Restaurant by Saanen‘s Herbert Buchs, the painter.
So it was that I paid no particular attention to the paper cuttings in Gstaad: the country motifs and partially rounded-off form vocabulary do not instantly speak to me. And if Beatrice Straubhaar had not taken a special interest in our Blogger Tour it’s possible her name would not have stayed with me like it did.
I took shots of a few paper cuttings, more than anything for the sake of covering all the bases. I supposed it to be part of the Gstaad scene. After all, there has to be some local color.
That’s fine. It’s very nice. Now we’ve seen it.
Papercuttings by Beatrice Straubhaar
It was a few days after our return to Zurich when Beatrice asked me to kindly send her that quick smartphone photo of the Beyer Watches & Jewelry store’s display windows on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse. She said something about them having been done with paper cuttings.
Huh? Say what? they’re displaying watches and jewelry on the intricate paper cuttings? That works well? And it works for a display window on Zurich’s ritzy Bahnhofstrasse? Wait until I see it?
No problem, the Beyer jewelry store is practically on the way home from work. The smartphone camera is always along and ready. Up and at ‘em.
And then: whoa!
Even from a distance, it was dazzling. It stopped me in my tracks. It looks like a million dollars! Beatrice had reinterpreted the traditional form vocabulary and, in collaboration with the Hauser & Partner, an ad agency specializing in three-dimensional communication, she had conceived a thoroughly modern looking display.
It made me a fan!
I‘m so impressed that I’m curious now! So I just had to ask Beatrice some questions:
Walter Schärer: Beatrice, how did the collaboration with Beyer come about?
Beatrice Straubhaar: The contact and the commission came my way through the firm of Hauser & Partner there in Dübendorf. This is our third successful collaboration to date.
Walter: How did you get from the rather traditional forms to the large format surfaces?
Beatrice: Since the contact and commission happened on short notice, there was not enough time to create special paper cuttings. The motifs all evolved from already-existing winter motifs. Since I’m able to scan and digitize most paper cuttings with a high resolution, there was no problem coming up with suitable motifs. The files were transmitted and processed by Hauser & Partner – vectorized, enlarged, and then cut out.
Walter: Your studio in Lauenen outside Gstaad is heavily booked. Who are your customers?
Beatrice: Yes, Walter, you’re right! It’s really going very well and the waiting list in any event is not getting shorter. I have customers all over the place. Many are located here in Saanenland, who make presents of my paper cuttings to themselves or others. I also have many customers who are apartment and chalet owners in Saanenland, also tourists that take paper cuttings home as souvenirs. I have customers in Canada, America, Australia, Norway… all over the world, in fact. ;-)
Walter: What do the customers commission? Do they give you a subject or do you trust your intuition?
Beatrice: Of course, customers who order something from me can tell me what they want. Sometimes, these are special subjects like houses from photos, personalized motifs having to do with profession and hobbies, family, children, grandchildren, and many more. The most popular motifs, luckily, are still the traditional paper cuttings with a pretty Saanenland chalet or Alpine hut, of cows, goats, chamois, deer and ibex, marmots, etc. These motifs are best sellers in my studio, too, to the extent that I have something “in stock”…
Walter: Currently there is a paper cut exhibition in the Zurich State Museum. Tell me more.
Beatrice: Yes, the exhibition at the State Museum is wonderful. It’s the 8th Swiss Paper Cutting Exhibition organized by the Friends of Paper Cuttings. After Schwyz and Chateau Prangins, the exhibition was extended again and so will be shown next in a third museum.
About two years earlier, I unfortunately had problems with my hands for a time and had to pass up the call for the exhibition. But after two operations I’m now able to cut intensively and free of pain.
Walter: Are we in the midst of a paper cutting revival?
Beatrice: To me it doesn’t seem like a revival! I did my first paper cutting 30 years ago and, especially here in Saaneland, the paper cutting is everywhere. There is hardly a farm house or chalet in the region that doesn’t have a paper cutting hanging in it either by an earlier or contemporary paper cutting artist. It’s simply part of the tradition and a very popular present for weddings, birthdays, births, retirements and anniversaries. Many hotels have paper cuttings hanging in them. Over the last few years, this use has really grown and that’s why today you get, for example, a picture of a stage set, hotel room and hotel bed, why, even a carpet based on one of my paper cuttings. I was on a few TV shows already, have been mentioned in books and magazines and a tour operator published his travel magazine with one of my paper cuttings as cover. A big honor for me at the moment is the brochure for the Gstaad Tennis Tournament. For this year’s 100th Tournament anniversary I was able to furnish the paper cutting that became the magazine’s front cover.
Companies have discovered the paper cutting for advertising and use the motifs as customer gifts and giveaways. Maybe that’s why it feels like a revival! But unfortunately the copyright violations have increased along with the increased uses; I’m fighting them every way I can.
It’s not by chance that my motto for life is:
We all come into this world as originals, but most of us leave it as copies!
Hah, a pithy last word!
More information on Beatrice Straubhaar and her paper cutting art can be found on her web site scherischnitt.ch
The Exhibition at the State Museum in Zurich will run from January 9th through April 19th.