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Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Blog, Inspiration & Thoughts, Thoughts | 29 comments




I’m doing some research for a project that involves scissors. Scissors have fascinated me since childhood. It all comes from my materially poor life in Cuba. We had a single pair of scissors that Mom kept locked in a drawer. I was allowed to use them for the first time when I was 8, but never for cutting paper, only fabric. I still remember the old man who came around the neighborhood to sharpen knifes and scissors once a month, for 1 cuban peso a piece. Mom’s scissors were sharpened so many times over the years that the metal started wearing out. I was worried that one day they were going to vanish in the old man’s hands. In developed countries most tools are taken for granted, because they’re easy to find. But while living in Cuba, it wasn’t like you could just go to the store and buy scissors. Where I grew up, scissors were passed from generation to generation as you do with other valuable objects. That’s why one the first things that I did when I traveled out of Cuba (at age 23)  was buying 3 pairs of scissors. Now I have a large collection of them in all sizes and for different uses.



But my fascination with scissors goes beyond their use as tools. I see in scissors a symbol of independence, transformation and change. Scissors are used to separate us from our mothers by cutting our  umbilical cord. Scissors can be very sharp and dangerous, that makes of them potential weapons. But with skills and some creativity they can also turn different materials into something amazing.


In 2001, when I first moved to the USA to live with Bill, I created this series of porcelain scissors (there’s over a hundred of them). I didn’t know why I was making them at that time, but several years later I realized that they were my way to process the experience of going away from my roots to start a new life in a new country. It was like cutting my umbilical cord for the second time. Those porcelain scissors are not sharp or dangerous, they’re organic, like something alive. Making them gave me great comfort, it was a way to turn a difficult experience into something full of potential for growth. I believe that most things in life, like scissors, have two sides; one is negative (being sharp, dangerous, they could hurt) and the other is positive (give shape, build something) it is all about how we look at them. I am all for putting focus on the positive side.

my Pinterest board





Below is a pair of paper scissors that I made. The oposite side of these scissors are blank, with no drawings. Using that other side I created the GIF animations on the bottom of this post. It might take a few seconds for them to load and move.

story teller small









  1. Interesting.
    Have you seen the movie “Dead Again”?
    (1991,with Emma Thompson, Kenneth Brannagh, Robin Williams & Andy Garcia)
    Not that is my favorite but there’s something in it about scissors and an artist.

    • Hi Wanda,
      I haven’t seen that movie, but now you mention it, I would like to find it.
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  2. Elsita! I noticed some time ago scissors in your art, and kind of knew that there should be some story behind it. Thanks for sharing now your story! I am also hiding one pair of scissors (which is very sharp and has good quality) from my children! But there is definately some magic with scissors, since my daughter (3 years) likes to cut paper with scissors a lot 🙂 She has even made up a new word. In English it would sound something like ‘scissoring’ 🙂

    • Hi Kaiva! I also hide my sharp professional scissors from Diego and Natalie. But they use the little ones for kids. Kids love it when they can finally hold a pair of scissors and cut paper. With Diego it was a whole learning process because his fine motor skills were low as well as his muscle tone (due to Autism) but with therapy, he was finally able to learn how to use them. He know loves “scissoring” 🙂
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  3. I love the scissors that you have as your header.
    I would use the first picture of the porcelaine scissors as a salt and pepper holder on my table.
    Maybe you became a paper artist because of your Mom hiding the scissors when you were young and you are catching up! 🙂

    • Hi Jeanne, I never thought about it, but you’re right, maybe the fact that my Mom kept our scissors hidden planted the seed of my love for papercutting 🙂
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  4. lovely, meaningful, deep.

  5. Do you have a supply list of your paper cutting materials? I’m loving your pieces and curious if you use special scissors? I’m thinking they are tiny! Ha! But also imagine you use an exacto knife?

    • Hi Rebecca. My humber one tool is an X-Acto knife with a #11 blade. Then I use scissors (in different sizes) specially for the parts with almost no details.
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. Having grown up in Canada, it never occurred to me that scissors might be a treasured item to others in the world. My only ‘scissor woes’ were that the ones we used for school were so dull & ineffective! There’s something special about fascinations that follow us our entire lives.

    • Yes Miyuki, maybe fascinations come from wanting something badly when we’re little 🙂
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  7. This story is about so much more than a pair of scissors. It makes me ache with its sadness and beauty.

    • Dear Kirsten, I think that you can see what I see with my scissors 🙂
      I wanted to let you know that I just saw Sophie playing the piano. What a treasure she is. How can someone be a star at sports, visual arts and music? All your three girls are an inspiration, so are you 🙂
      Elsa Mora recently posted..ScissorsMy Profile

  8. I never thought of scissors that way before. Sometimes in antique markets I see huge bags full of scissors and have always wondered who would have so many and why.

    These porcelain scissors are so beautiful. I also love the explanation. How did you fire the porcelain at home? or were these made in a ceramic studio place?
    Scritch recently posted..Jalebi Ink LogoMy Profile

    • Hi, Scritch. I fired these porcelains in a professional studio, in 2002. It was at Eastern Kentucky University where I spent about 2 months, I think, as a visiting artist. Best experience ever! Me, alone in a huge studio with several large kilns and every material available. I produced tons of pieces.
      Elsa Mora recently posted..Do you love Birds? Here are some for you.My Profile

  9. I have always loved scissors as well and have always claimed them as my favorite tool. It’s funny this post was in my inbox as I was cutting out a bunch of little applique pieces and thinking again about how I love scissors.

    Your blog is beautiful!

  10. Now i understand why you choose scissors(both in art is a way & Elsa Mora) out of millions of your creation as the big picture. Your story always like movie to me as i have live picture in front of me while reading them.

  11. Another imaginative post! I too, love scissors. And so does my 90 yr. old Mom! She still loves to cut out images ever so carefully and with much more caution than she did when I was a child. To see her beautiful artist’s hands now arthritic, but oh so willing to try… makes me happy to see her still gleefully cutting in her twillight years, as she once snipped away at her paper dolls in her youth…..ah yes, las tijeras…..

  12. an incredibly deep and meaningful story, that i think you might have shared with me before, or I just “knew” it. I think the things we use everyday in our lives to cut, sew, bind, sweep should be beautiful and meaningful like your childhood scissors. I think in that way it makes us appreciate the task more and feel connected , if that makes sense.
    margie recently posted..wearing thankfulnessMy Profile

  13. When I grew up there was only one pair of scissors in the hour, but we did not have the sharpener guy to come and fix them. Anytime I needed them I would first have to hunt them down. My husband had trouble understanding my need for so many pairs, leather, pinking, large tailor’s, tailor’s, fine sheer, embroidery, various paper scissors and some just because they were pretty. And extra pairs in case I couldn’t find the one I was looking for ;-). Scissors are magical because they allow one to create.

  14. I’m going to try this way again Elsa. One of the few things I took from my grandparents house were my Pa’s scissors. I also love bottle openers..they are so well constructed.
    tiel recently posted..vintage posters just for himMy Profile

  15. I also love scissors, and the ties we have to seemingly insignificant items. I have the same feelings about scotch-tape. Although I had a typical, middle class upbringing in Canada, my mother was very frugal, and the tape was doled out about 1″ at a time only when we could justify it’s use in no uncertain terms. I took my children to an art workshop about 15 years ago and when one asked me to pass the tape I was floored that there were so many tape dispensers:) We were told we could hang on to that one for the duration of the class! I felt as though we had been given a bucket of gold and told ‘oh, use whatever you’d like’:)

  16. I will be fascinated along with thinking about what you will be talking about right here.

  17. Oh my goodness! an incredible write-up dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing problem with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody finding identical rss issue? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

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