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Kirigami – the Japanese art of paper cutting

Simplicity, focus and creativity come together when bringing paper to life.

Kirigami, a traditional Japanese paper cutting craft, is as wonderfully varied and multidimensional as the artist’s imagination. Melbourne-based paper craft powerhouse, Paperlab, held a kirigami workshop to coincide with a visit from Japanese kirigami artist Kanako Yaguchi. Invited by the Japan Foundation to exhibit her work in Sydney, Paperlab teamed up with the Consulate-General of Japan, Melbourne to offer the free workshop to fellow paper art fans to explore the traditional origins and modern day application of kirigami.

In this issue of be. magazine we’ve examined the benefits of mindfulness and the merit of focusing wholly on one task at a time. When it comes to kirigami, focus, concentration and absolute immersion are required and workshop participants learnt first hand the beautiful, creative and intricate pieces that can emerge from dedicating time and energy to one activity.

The workshop began by looking back on the origins of kirigami, traditionally used to decorate Shinto shrines and create paper festival ornaments. Today, kirigami-inspired designs adorn handbags, menus, letter sets and cushion covers and, as Kanako-san explained, can be taken from a traditional two-dimensional form and developed into structural three-dimensional pieces for exhibitions.

Kanako-san took participants on a visual journey through her career that has spanned over 15 years, all the while snipping away to create delicate, beautiful paper designs. Moving into a classroom where we could practice our own kirigami skills, Kanako-san showed us a range of cutting techniques, how to fold our paper and how to layer different designs. Everyone then made a box, glued together with coloured paper and decorated with our layered kirigami designs.

Speaking after the workshop, Kanako-san explained through a translator the high level of concentration and focus required when creating her artwork. “When I work I am totally absorbed and immersed in what I am doing.” Asked whether she finds Australia an inspiring place to visit, the Tokyo-based artist said that while she has only been here for a short visit, she has found that the clean, healthy air is uplifting and fosters creativity.

Paperlab hosts regular paper craft workshops and its founders started out fuelled by a love of paper and wanting to share its possibilities with people in a fun, easy going environment. Dubbing their philosophy a ‘Paper Revolution’, Paperlab’s Louise Seymour believes that paper is such an overlooked medium and is such an accessible material we take for granted every day.

Continuing with the Japanese-inspired theme, Paperlab recently held a craft party where 100 people helped bring to life 1000 origami paper cranes, a childhood dream of Louise’s after reading ‘Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes.’ People of all ages folded for hours to create a paper installation to hang at the Boyd Building in Melbourne.

“Creativity is so important as it gives us an outlet for expression and for exploring so many ideas and concepts through making something by hand,” explains Louise.

Upcoming Paperlab workshops include 3D paper art and sculpture along with modular origami, run as part of Craft Cubed 2013.

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