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The Fascinating World of Paper Cut Art
Restaurant Hüsy and Gallery, Blankenburg

The peaceful hamlet of Blankenburg just a hen's race from Zweisimmen harbours a treasure trove. The restaurant Hüsy is not only a renowned address for a delicious meal; its chef Hans-Jürgen Glatz is as skilled with using tiny scissors as he is with kitchen tools. He's as passionate about paper cut art as he is about cooking.

Coming from the train station a little outside the village center, we were the only ones walking along Main Street, which is lined with typical wooden Simmental houses. The small seating area with a few chairs and tables, and surrounded by flowerbeds outside the lower entrance looked deserted. It was only then that we discovered with dismay that the restaurant and the paper cut art gallery were closed due to the annual holiday.

Paper cutting has been done since paper was invented in China. Some of Switzerland's best art work including some international works is housed in Blankenburg, Bernese Oberland

Since the door was half open, we entered anyway and found ourselves in the beautifully appointed dining room cum gallery. Paper cut art was hanging everywhere. Boldly, we followed the works of art up a flight of creaky wooden stairs and found Hans-Jürgen Glatz on the top floor, where the museum and his office are housed.

We introduced ourselves and apologised for ignoring the closing sign and explained that we just couldn't help ourselves following these beautiful works of art. He graciously allowed us to continue our exploration and generously took us through the gallery and showed us his treasures that he collected for over 20 years.

Hans-Jürgen Glatz and his book about paper cuts Hans-Jürgen Glatz has written a book about Paper Cut Art.

When he, together with his wife Marianne Ueltschi, took over the Blankenburg Guest House and Restaurant Hüsy in 1997, his sizable collection found a new home. He soon turned house and restaurant into a gallery which integrates beautifully into the charming 300-year old Simmental House. Since 2007 he also hosts the archive of "Switzerland's Silhouette Cutting Association".

Hans-Jürgen Glatz first put a pair of scissors to paper in 1990. He was instantly hooked to the art of paper cutting, and soon, his hobby occupied all his free time. He's self-taught. There is no training for it. You learn as you go. The most important thing he says is fantasy - and then the ability to translate it to paper. One incorrect cut, and the work is ruined and hundreds of hours lost. Gluing is not an option. One firmly felt his passion for the art of paper cutting. The more he talked, the more his eyes lit up. Not one minute did we feel as the intruders we were.

Hans-Jürgen Glatz and his book about paper cut art Hans-Jürgen Glatz sharing his enormous body of knowledge with us.

Nowadays he works only on demand. Most of his free time is spent hunting historic paper cutouts, rare silhouettes, as well as works by contemporary artists. Finding historic treasures fills him with excitement. "It's like solving a mystery" he told us. He often travels far to find a rare paper cut, or searches the internet for outstanding pieces. It can be an equally exciting and anxiety filled time until he has the delicate paper cut in his hands. What's the history behind it? On what paper was it cut? Will it be worth it? Will it arrive intact? Will it be handled with care by customs? Oh that suspense! Just listening to him was infectious.

The extensive collection in the Gallery Hüsy in Blankenburg

These old and rare finds are frequently in a derelict condition. Quite often he has to restore them and then seal behind airtight glass to keep them from falling to dust.

A collection of some of the oldes paper cuttings in the Gallery Hüsy in Blankenburg

He patiently explained various cutting styles, the importance of the topic, and made us aware of the often hidden tiny subjects and their meanings. Older works of art often don't mention the artist, but rather the recipient. Therefore it's frequently impossible to find out who the artist was. Among his treasures one finds elaborate scenes, love letters, silhouettes, heraldic and devotional images which have been created mostly for religious dignitaries. Traditional Swiss papercuts often tell the story of Alpine life in elaborate scenes and with minute details.

The oldest paper cut in his gallery dates back to 1701. It's an astonishing work of art, a "Letter to the Name Day of the Virgin of Elisabeth Fanckhauser". The letter is written on a filigree heart intertwined with impossibly delicate branches, angels, flowers and deer.

A treasured paper cut letter in the Gallery Hüsy in Blankenburg, Bernese Oberland

The Simmental Valley, the Saanenland and the Pays-d'Enhaut are considered the cradle of traditional Swiss paper cutting. For over 150 years, artists have transferred alpine life to paper with their scissors and knifes.

I still marvel at the intricacy of such delicate paper cut art, and I can hardly believe that it is possible to cut such intricate pieces, often by hands that have done hard labour work for most of their lives.

A collection of historic paper cuttings in the Gallery Hüsy in Blankenburg, Bernese Oberland

My companion who has eaten here many times and had only eyes for the culinary delights, was so inspired by Hans-Jürgens' infectious enthusiasm that he became an instant convert and now sees paper cuts everywhere and in everything.

Good to Know

Blankenburg is reachable by train from Zweisimmen in three minutes (stop on request). In 1:40 hours from Interlaken and approx. 40 minutes from Gstaad.

The village is a little outside the train station, and you reach the Restaurant and Gallery Hüsy on foot in about six minutes.

The restaurant's excellent cuisine is widely known and the extensive midday salad buffet exceptional. Anyone who appreciates a delicious and freshly prepared meal, a tranquil night in one of their five rooms, wonderful and personal hospitality and shares the joy for art - will feel right at home here.

From time to time he and his wife organize exhibitions, and the opening nights are often accompanied by jazz concerts.

Before you visit, check for opening times on their website.

  • Restaurant Hüsy and Gallery
    Marianne and Hans-Jürgen Glatz-Ueltschi
    3771 Blankenburg

For Restaurant and room reservations call Tel. +41 (0)33 722 10 56 or email.

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