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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Introducing the Beautiful Japanese Tradition of Kirie

[From February Issue 2011]

Kirie Artist, TAKEOKA Kaori

“My first encounter with kirie (Japanese paper cutting) was when I tried it in art class in the fourth grade of elementary school,” says kirie artist TAKEOKA Kaori. “And since then, for the last sixteen years, I’ve been fascinated by and passionate about creating them.” Kaori quit her corporate job last fall choosing to follow the path of a kirie artist. “Kirie is the art of paper cutting, with an emphasis on how beautiful you make the cuts look by clipping designs out of the paper. Since kirie are made by hand, each one is unique so there will never be two identical pieces. I always cherish the warmth that comes from handmade work,” she admits.

As a child Kaori was absorbed in drawing pictures at home rather than playing outside, and she copied anime and manga using her computer. She taught herself both graphic design and kirie, and based her kirie on the computer-generated sketches she created. “Using a utility knife, the kirie-making tool, just came naturally to me,” she says with a smile.

A huge fan of cartoonist TEZUKA Osamu, Kaori was intrigued by the fantastic manga series “Hi no Tori” (Phoenix) and all the beautiful Phoenix drawings. She created a Phoenix kirie and gave it to her grandma as a present, hoping that it would help her live a long time. She also made kirie birthday cards for her friends. “Seeing how pleased they were to receive my kirie made me very happy,” Kaori recalls.

Then in earnest she started learning computer graphics at a vocational school. After graduating, while working for a construction-related company, she also held private kirie exhibitions in her spare time, keeping her kirie-making alive. “When there was a pause in the conversation at a company drinking party, I enlivened the mood by creating a kirie portrait of someone I was talking with. So I would always carry my kirie tools in my bag whenever I went to such parties. For me, kirie is a means of communication through which people can connect with each other,” Kaori laughs.

Recently, she won a prize at an illustration contest hosted by Kodansha Famous Schools, and also made kirie portrait gifts for the winners of the 2009 Best Father Yellow Ribbon Awards (awards given to celebrities chosen as the most fantastic fathers). She has also sent a piece entitled “Sharaku” to an exhibition in Paris. In addition to having private exhibitions at various galleries and cafes, she also holds shows in collaboration with other artists from various fields. Kaori is so skillful that she can finish a kirie portrait using a 10-centimeter-square piece of paper in 10 minutes, without first sketching it out.

Kaori liked the idea of holding live kirie shows. Once, at a jazz bar, wearing a kimono, she completed a kirie that was inspired by the tune being played by the pianist, before the music stopped. Also, at readings of literary works by EDOGAWA Ranpo and TANIZAKI Junichiro, she created kirie inspired by the novels, as they were being read.

“When I was working at a company, I was unhappy about not feeling the immediate results of my work. But with kirie, I can feel the response from the spectators on the spot. When I’m making kirie, I can be most like myself and shine with radiance,” she says, about the joy of having become a kirie artist. “My dream is to hold an exhibition in New York and introduce the beauty of Japanese tradition to the world through kirie.”

Text: HATSUDA Sachiyo


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