Apolonia Nowak lives in Kadzidlo village in Kurpie Zielone. She learned her skills from her mother and grandmother and sold her first paper cutting via Cepelia, a co-operative for folk artists, at the age of 11. Traditional paper cuttings are created with sheep shearing scissors and Apolonia still uses the ones she inherited from her uncle. Her scissors are over 100 years old and with repeated sharpening they are now only half their original size (only two men in her village still have the skills to sharpen the scissors to the required standards). She does not draw the patterns beforehand but cuts directly into the paper. Her paper cuttings, crepe flowers, flowers made of feathers and traditional decorative Easter eggs haveenriched many private collections, Polish ethnographic museums around the world Among other in the Vatican, the United States. In England her paper cuttings are held in the Herniman Museum in London and the Cartwright Art Gallery in Bradford.
She has taken part in craft fairs in Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Iceland, France, Turkey, Italy and the USA. She has exhibited her work in the Gilbert Scott Gallery in Leeds, Herniman Museum in London, Cartwright Art Gallery in Bradford and Olympia in London. Paper-cuttings (wycinanki) were originally used in 17th and 18th century Polish towns to impress stamps onto official documents. Jewish paper-cuttings decorated the windows and walls of houses and synagogues during festive seasons. Peasant paper-cuttings developed in 19th century when coloured and shiny paper became readily available. These had a purely decorative character and each region developed its own characteristic style. Those from the Kurpie and Lowicz regions are the most famous. Kodra are pictorial paper-cuttings depicting scenes from rural life. Other distinctive styles are: leluja, a symmetrical, single-folded cutting showing a central tree with a pair of birds, roosters, flowers, chevrons, eggs or religious elements on its side, and gwiazda, circular pattern of chevrons and flowers repeated eight or more times. Paper-cuttings displayed on white washed walls and beams created colourful and joyful decorations for even the most modest interiors. At Christmas and Easter new paper-cuttings replaced the old. Those, which were too good to throw away, were moved to stables and barns to make the life of the animals more joyful too. Paper-cutting is a very fragile form of art owing to the delicacy of the materials used. Its value lies in the beauty of its form. These small objects of art when kept away from the light and protected from damage can survive for a long time and provide pleasure for many years.