A Kanawha Snowflake
of Amazing Proportions
Story by Tim Ackarman
An eye for art, a head for math, and a heart for a speed-juggling husband might propel a Kanawha woman to a Guinness World Record.
As a young girl, Christa Hanson adopted the German folk art of Scherenschnitte, the strategic cutting of carefully folded paper to create delicate silhouettes and other figures. Her initial designs were rather random, but on occasion she would quite accidentally create recognizable shapes such as hearts or stars. “If I can put one thing in there, I can put others,” she remembers thinking.
Soon Christa progressed from the predictable designs — Christmas trees and angels — to the challenging and unexpected — the face of a pug dog for a pet-loving friend, tractors and corn for a retiring farmer, even gas pumps, coffee cups, and cigarettes for the local convenience store.
Christa was satisfied to practice her art on 8.5x11-inch sheets of paper until her husband, Mark, set a Guinness World Record juggling the most throws in a minute (420. Yes, 420!). He soon began chasing other records and encouraged Christa to think big.
Discovering there was no world record for the largest paper snowflake, the Hansons petitioned Guinness to create the category. “They love ‘huge’ anything, so the idea was a natural,” says Christa.
Although there’s no previous record to break, officials with the famous book of feats weren’t about to let Christa in easily. They set the snowflake bar high at 4 meters or larger and insisted the creation be an exact replica of a normal-size original. True to her modus operandi, Christa enhanced the challenge by incorporating elaborate shapes with local commercial or historical relevance. “The things I put in it are all Kanawha.”
She settled on an eagle, a church, a tractor, a train, an ear of corn, a pod of soybeans, a tulip, and a cluster of grapes. Online research helped her perfect the shapes, some of which she drew freehand; others she traced directly over the computer screen.
With a bit of trial and error, she perfected the standard snowflake. And so commenced the math.
Christa measured lines, contemplated angles, and calculated exact dimensions needed to transfer her designs to 15-foot paper squares taped together using pieces from a 35-inch roll. Finally she designed full-size templates for tracing the shapes onto “the real deal.”
“I love metric now,” she confides. “Fractions are no good.”
With the paper taped and the templates ready, snipping out the flake is in some respects the easiest part, says Christa. After practicing earlier in the week, she needed only about half an hour to complete her official 14.5 footer for a crowd of 50 during Kanawha’s Labor Day festivities.
Not to be outdone that day, Mark topped his speed-juggling record by 100 throws and set another in a new category by completing 114 juggling head rolls.
The family gauntlet thrown, Christa will search for her next Guiness endeavor, one likely to involve cutting paper. “I’m not any good at juggling.”
Photo by Tim Ackarman.