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.
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.