Artist Hand-Cuts an Intricate Octopus From a Single Piece of Paper: Discover the Japanese Art of Kirie

At first glance, the octo­pus in the video above might appear to be breath­ing. A sec­ond look reveals that it isn’t actu­al­ly breath­ing, nor is it actu­al­ly an octo­pus at all, but seem­ing­ly just a high­ly detailed draw­ing of one. Only upon the third look, if even then, does it become clear that the octo­pus has been not drawn but intri­cate­ly cut, and out of a sin­gle large sheet of paper at that. The two-dimen­sion­al sea crea­ture rep­re­sents a recent high point in the work of Japan­ese artist Masayo Fuku­da, who has prac­ticed this curi­ous craft, known as kirie, for more than a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry now.

“Kirie (切り絵, lit­er­al­ly ‘cut pic­ture’) is the Japan­ese art of paper-cut­ting,” writes Spoon & Tam­ago’s John­ny Wald­man. “Vari­a­tions of kirie can be found in cul­tures around the world but the Japan­ese ver­sion is said to be derived from reli­gious cer­e­monies and can be traced back to around the AD 700s.

In its most con­ven­tion­al form, neg­a­tive space is cut from a sin­gle sheet of white paper and then con­trast­ed against a black back­ground to reveal a ren­der­ing.” Such painstak­ing work, and the aston­ish­ing­ly impres­sive artis­tic results that can come out of it, fit right in with the image of Japan­ese art and crafts­man­ship as the world now appre­ci­ates it. Bored Pan­da quotes Fuku­da as say­ing that “cut­ting pic­tures has become a way of dis­si­pat­ing all the stress of my dai­ly life.”

If you, too, would like to seek the ben­e­fits of a reg­u­lar kirie prac­tice, you don’t need much in the way of equip­ment: “All the basics you need are TANT paper” — a brand of paper made espe­cial­ly for origa­mi and oth­er paper crafts — “a cut­ter, mat­te, and a good light source.” Of course, if you look only to the work of an expe­ri­enced mas­ter like Fuku­da (which will go on dis­play, Wald­man notes, this April at Osaka’s Miraie Gallery) for exam­ples, you’re like­ly to get frus­trat­ed very quick­ly indeed.

You might con­sid­er first get­ting a broad­er overview of kirie as cur­rent­ly prac­ticed, start­ing with this five-minute doc­u­men­tary show­cas­ing the work of oth­er paper-cut­ting enthu­si­asts in Japan. Set aside enough time for it, and approach your sheet of paper with enough patience every day, and — who knows? — one day your octo­pus, too, may breathe.

via Spoon & Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

Watch a Japan­ese Crafts­man Lov­ing­ly Bring a Tat­tered Old Book Back to Near Mint Con­di­tion

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

Design­er Cre­ates Origa­mi Card­board Tents to Shel­ter the Home­less from the Win­ter Cold

MIT Cre­ates Amaz­ing Self-Fold­ing Origa­mi Robots & Leap­ing Chee­tah Robots

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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