A STEP-BY-STEP FOLK ART TUTORIAL
A open palm. A generous offering love. These cheerful cut paper tokens represent ideals of charity, friendship, and love. They date back to Shaker traditions of 19th century New England.
These are so fun and satisfying to make. With some practice, I’ve developed my own style which I’m sharing with you. Follow along with the steps below to make some for yourself! Don’t strive for precision or perfection, remember the most charming elements of folk art are the idiosyncrasies and unique “flaws”.
Tip: Consider practicing steps 5-11 on some scrap paper before attempting it on your beautifully drawn and cut hand.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS
Scissors with a decorative edge
Glue or double stick tape
Step 1 Using a pencil, lightly trace your hand, wrist and a couple inches of your forearm onto paper. The tracing will look a bit bumpy, which you’ll fix in the next step.
Step 2 Clean up your lines and stylize the hand shape. A stylized hand is part of the folk art charm, it doesn’t have to be realistic. Next, draw a flared, decorative cuff to the wrist. (You should use a pencil for this step- I used a marker for visual clarity)
Step 3 Cut out your hand shape and erase any stray pencil marks.
Step 4 Select a contrasting piece of paper about the same size as the palm. Gently fold in half to cut out a heart shape. Trim as needed so the finished heart fits in the palm.
Step 5 With the heart folded, draw a vertical line about halfway over from the center fold.
Step 6 Starting at center, draw a diagonal line from the center fold to meet the vertical pencil line. It is important that it is at a slight angle. Draw two more lines above and below your first diagonal. Make sure all five lines are parallel and equidistant.
Step 7 Place your heart upside down and centered on the palm.
Step 8 Gently fold the hand and heart in half vertically. Cut into the fold along the five lines.
Step 9 Place the heart right side up. It should look like this, with chevron slits pointing in opposite directions.
Step 10 Starting at the bottom, tuck the downward (green) points behind each upward (yellow) point. Gently shimmy the heart as far down as it will go, without ripping the paper.
Step 11 Starting at the top, tuck the upward (yellow) points behind the downward (green points).
Step 12 Now let’s work on the cuff. Eyeball the center of the cuff area and mark it with your pencil
Step 13 Make a horizontal fold at center, folding the bottom half of the cuff up and behind.
Draw a small triangle above the center mark. Working from the center outward, draw 3-4 more diagonal lines. The lines should be parallel to the triangle and equidistant. You’ll be cutting into these lines, so check the back to make sure you won’t be slicing through the bottom edge.
Step 14 Cut into the fold along each line. The center triangle with cut out completely, the other lines will make slits.
Step 15 Unfold the cuff and weave a narrow strip of contrasting paper through the slits. Make sure it goes behind the center diamond cutout. Once the strip is centered in place, trim the ends. I trimmed mine into a dovetail shape.
Step 16 The final step is to embellish and personalize the piece however you like. I used zig-zag scissors and some blue paper to add another layer of ribbon at the cuff, and some smaller scraps to make a ring!
You can give it to your loved one as-is or mount it on a paper backing or card. They look great framed too.
Once you get the hang of it, experiment with more elaborate embellishments and small lace-like cutouts. I used an x-acto knife to make additional cuts in the blue hand below.
Look at the antique references at the beginning of this blog post. Can you figure out how to make some of the more elaborate interlacing?