Rendered by hand and as delicate as fine lace, this Japanese artist’s paper-cut art is winning people over with its impressive and incredible details.
Born in 1973, Masayo Fukuda—known as “Kiriken Masayo”—has mastered the art of kirigami, or paper cutting, with about 30 years spent studying the intricate practice.
The talented artist who hails from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, has enjoyed working with her hands ever since she was a child. Being a huge fan of cartoons, she would draw made-up characters inspired by her favorite manga characters and loves the work of Katsuhiro Otomo to this day.
An art graduate who also works repairing watches by trade, Masayo first discovered her passion for paper cutouts when she was in high school.
“I wanted to send a birthday card to a friend, and I thought that a simple square card would not be enough, so I cut out a heart-shaped piece of paper,” she told The Epoch Times. “I didn’t really feel that this was ‘paper cutting,’ but as I made message cards, I gradually became fascinated with paper cutting.”
A life-sized octopus, rendered on a single sheet of white A2 paper using an artist’s scalpel, is widely considered one of her best works. Thanks to Masayo’s dexterity, each bulging eye and every undulating tentacle appears to lift straight off the page.
“The point I was particular about was the depth and three-dimensionality of the overlapping legs,” Masayo said, referring to the paper-cut octopus she made in 2018. “I drew it over and over, looked at it from a distance, drew it, and redrew it again. It took about two months from the rough sketch to completion.
Explaining more on the process of crafting this incredible piece of art, Masayo added: “I express depth and a sense of three-dimensionality through the thickness and strength of the lines, for example, by leaving a lot of paper on the front part of the overlapping legs and making the lines on the back part of the legs extremely thin.”
The 3-D magic of Masayo’s octopus is best evoked against a black background, or by lifting the delicate artwork so that the limbs move as though they were swimming in the ocean.
Masayo’s endeavor, in all her works, is to create “beautiful and delicate art, like a pencil drawing in a monochromatic world, drawn by cutting out a sheet of paper.”
She has long been fascinated by marine life and its evolution and thus has been keen on sharing its beauty with others through her work.
“Many of my works are of marine life, birds, and other creatures,” she explained. While creating these realistic pieces of art, she said, she tends to be very particular about their eyes, as she is focused on making the viewer “feel the beauty and power of animals that do not have words.”
However, whenever Masayo is unsure of what to draw, she defaults to a variety of creatures—gazelles, sea turtles, whales, giraffes—testing out rough sketches to see what arouses her creativity.
The most important element of any new work, she insists, is the draft; the better the draft, the better the finished piece.
“I draw the drafts on the back of the paper, so the finished product is reversed left to right. It is a very important process to create a rough draft while considering the reversal of the left and right sides and calculating the overall balance,” she explained.
A small piece can take the artist just 30 minutes to complete whilst an A3-sized piece can take up to three months.
One of the many challenges that she encounters while working with the paper is that it’s so fine, it can break during the process.
“In that case, I use liquid glue to hold it together,” she explained. “One of the most important techniques in paper cutting is to connect the pieces in such a way that you cannot tell the paper has been cut.”
Today, Masayo claims that her work is considered a “national treasure” by fans for her impressive technical skill. She reflected, “I feel that people overseas appreciate the fact that ‘Made in Japan’ equals high quality. For me, art is ‘fun time,’ which includes both the time spent making art and the time spent looking at it.”
Masayo—who aims at creating works that are realistic and have a sense of presence and three-dimensionality—shares her art with the world on Instagram, Twitter, and her website. She hopes to host a solo exhibition overseas one day, to bring the three-dimensional joy of kirigami to an international audience.
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