A modest sign directs me to the slanted-roof Emmental farm house tucked away in the small village of Rohrbach. Here lives Esther Gerber with husband Röbi. It’s the town where they were both born and raised, became high school sweethearts and raised their four children.
There can’t have been any looking back I realize as soon as I meet Esther at the door. She greets me with a warm smile and a hearty handshake. In unmistakable Bern Dütsch she introduces herself as “I bi’d Gerber Esther” and bids me to come in.
I follow her up a narrow staircase and as we enter the workspace, her passion, immense creativity and imagination immediately spring to the eye. Framed on walls and unframed all around me on the floor, tables, chairs and every other surface in sight there are intricate paper cut designs of trees, people, landscapes, animals, Alpaufzüge and more. All Swiss themed, in varying sizes from tiny to several meters long; winter and summer scenes; day and night; but always alive in action and teeming with detail. Here the Matterhorn, there the Titlis and Finsteraarhorn – immediately recognizable! A farmer’s wife extends her arms in a welcome as her husband returns from the alp, cows in tow. Flag swinging Sennen on meadows, surrounded by goats. August first celebrations with jolly dancers and fluttering flags next to Christmas scenes. A magnificent winter tree with bare branches reaching into the moon lit sky, throwing shadows onto the frosty ground and a warmly beckoning village in the distance. Two little birds snuggle against each other on a bare branch. I can almost feel the wintry air and hear the crunch of footsteps in the snow. Esther with her specialty scissors is a gifted artist and story teller. All on double folded silk paper.
Esther’s face lights up as she begins to tell. Every unique piece of art starts with a free-hand pencil drawing out of her imagination. Over the years, she developed her own style to depict each sujet in its silhouette. To work in even greater detail, she developed her own scissors. She picks up a pair and as I look right over her shoulder, it’s hard to believe my eyes when I see how minutely the artist cuts the tiniest detail. Of course, I had to ask Esther to design the logo to this website, and she pencils out the theme right as we talk about it.
The art of paper cutting originated in Switzerland in the Bernese Saanenland during the 17th century. The first known cutters were male farmers who’d pass the time during cold winter months, using any old scrap of paper. Esther was born with creative flair and an inquisitive nature. She wanted to become a potter but since there weren’t any apprenticeships, she settled for the florist’s trade. In-between, she tried her hand at pretty much every craft and art form there is. She discovered her passion twenty-five years ago when she attended a Ballenberg scissor-cutting course.
Today, Esther sells her original artwork directly from home. It is also available through Heimatwerk stores in Switzerland. Currently, her work is displayed in the windows of well-known Swiss Jewelry House Bucherer in Luzern. With the help of friends and family, she developed an on-line gift-item line and will ship overseas. In 2016, Esther celebrated 25 years in her art and it felt “as if the whole village of Rohrschach and half of Switzerland” had come into her living room. Give Esther a call if you’re in the Emmental or in the city of Luzern! This friendly artist is looking forward to meeting you and I am certain you will be delighted you did!
Be sure to say hello from me if you visit Esther Gerber in her home studio and leave a comment below.
Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends. More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »
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