Aymujer is a colorful Etsy shop run by two sisters, Yreina and Elsa. One of the products they offer is papel picado. The banners using this technique serve as a beautiful decoration for many occasions! Yreina was kind enough to write about papel picado for this blog.
Papel picado literally translates to ‘punched paper’. It is also sometimes referred to as papel de China or ‘Chinese paper’. Chinese paperwork arrived on trading ships from the east— along with ivory, spices and porcelain. The very fine, thin paper that the porcelain was wrapped in surpassed the existing natural fiber paper papers of Mexico. The Spanish also contributed to Mexican papel picado, bringing their styles of paper-cut lace from Europe. These, along with the tissue-thin Chinese paper, were quickly absorbed into Mexican folk art.
Traditionally, Mexican artisans punch their designs with mallet and chisels through thick stacks of tissue paper. In this way, it is possible to produce many flags from a single template. Families have sustained themselves over generations by passing down their unique designs, methods and styles of making papel picado.
Today, papel picado can be found on home altars, at gravesites on el Dia de los Muertos, and virtually any celebrations such as baptisms, weddings and funerals. Modern designs have expanded to include: Easter, Halloween, Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day and more.
What I make is, technically, papel cortado or ‘cut paper’. Depending on the design, I use scissors or an exacto knife. I draw out my original patterns and create a template. I can’t cut through as many flags at once like the chisel method, but I prefer the more intricate and delicate patterns that the exacto blade produces.
I’ve been making papel for a while now. I only recently started taking pictures of my flags. I don’t know why--- I guess that when you take something for granted, it doesn’t seem possible to sell it. My sister-in-law and I conceived our Etsy store in June of this year. Originally, I listed my papel because it made our shop look pretty! It really surprised me when it became our best-selling item. I have pushed myself to become at least a part-time capitalist, so I make sure to shoot pictures of the flags as I make them and list frequently. I enjoy building our little shop. Hopefully, it will keep on growing.