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Jill Schramm, Minot Daily News, Published September 28 2012

Paper artist snips designs at Norsk Høstfest

MINOT, N.D. – Artist Rick Marzullo doodles with a scissors and paper.

The pieces he produces while doodling away the hours and chatting with Norsk Høstfest visitors are more than miniature artwork. They represent the preservation of a Scandinavian tradition. And don’t let the Italian name fool you. Marzullo claims Danish, Norwegian and Swedish blood on his mother’s side.

A resident of Solvang (“sunny valley” in Danish) in California, Marzullo knows of only two other professional Scandinavian paper-cutting artists in the United States.

“Even in Denmark, there’s not a lot that do traditional styles from the 1700s,” he said. “In Denmark, they worry about where they are going. In America, they care about where they came from.”

Marzullo, demonstrating at Norsk Høstfest for the first time, said it doesn’t disturb him to chat with visitors while cutting his designs. After more than 40 years of practice, using the scissors is second nature.

Marzullo started paper cutting at age 7 after seeing paper art at Disneyland.

“I couldn’t believe an art form with just a piece of paper and a pair of scissors existed,” he said. “I just fell in love with the design. I especially love doing the research into the art form.”

Paper cutting is about 2,000 years ago, originating in China and eventually becoming a part of tradition across Europe. Few ethnic groups have gotten as excited about paper art as the Danes, though.

Danish traditions began in the 1600s and range from Christmas ornaments to Easter “guessing” letters. The guessing letter is a decorated paper cutting that includes a poem. The creator signs the letter with a dot for each letter in his or her name. The recipient must guess who sent the letter. Failure to do so obligates the receiver to offer a small gift, typically something like candy or a party invitation. Marzullo said the sender and receiver may exchange letters for a couple of months before Easter, and whoever holds the last letter when Easter arrives also forfeits a gift.

In Scandinavian history, paper art styles changed with the era, as did art in general. Every region has its own particular designs, Marzullo said. Each of his paper cuttings reflects a design common to some region within a Scandinavian country. Marzullo said he has become familiar with Danish regions but still is learning when it comes to Norway and Sweden.

As a professional artist, Marzullo uses specially-made, imported paper that is of higher quality than most paper. However, his main tool is a simple surgical scissors. He has a second scissors with ground tips for cutting the finer detail.

He does minimal sketching when he creates, preferring to “draw with the scissors” as he cuts.

“Every single one of my cuttings – and I have cut thousands of them – are all different,” he said.

Marzullo also works in ceramics, watercolor and oil painting and textile design. But paper art is unique because the tools of the trade are so accessible to anyone who wants to try, Marzullo said.

Marzullo also can sit for hours and cut. Because he moves the paper and not his scissors hand, he doesn’t tire. His more complex pieces involve up to 600 hours of work.

Scandinavians appreciate the work that goes into hand-made items, which makes coming to festivals like Hostfest so much fun, he said. However, some of those visitors might go home, get out a piece of paper and scissors and try their hand. If that happens, Marzullo wouldn’t be surprised. But he would be pleased.


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