Sendai, Japan-born and now Seattle-based paper artist Kanako Abe is a Kiri-e artist (Kiri-e means the art of paper-cutting in Japanese) who’s known for her delicate and elaborate paper works. As a Theatre Arts graduate of San Francisco State University Abe originally worked as a costume and prop designer in the San Francisco Bay Area, before deciding to pursue a different path as an artist and tell stories through paper-cut visual poetry. Working on both commissions and personal projects, Abe has a dedicated following on Instagram among paper art lovers.
Paper cutting for Kanako Abe is a way of observing and meditating on everyday thoughts, emotions, nature, and the interconnectivity of the universe
Abe’s paper-cut art is always entirely hand cut from a single sheet of paper with a precision knife, and it requires a lot of concentration and many hours to create. With some taking up to 60 hours to finish. The technique the artist uses withholds paper at a much greater value than simply the source material, as her creative interpretation treats paper as the finished product – not just as a means to an end. For Abe, creating Kiri-e art is a way of observing and meditating on everyday thoughts, emotions, nature, and the interconnectivity of the universe.
Often working on a rather small scale, the artist moves between various themes. But despite the source of inspiration or context, Abe’s work reads as a personal diary or her take on the world. But instead of saying or writing her emotions, feelings, thoughts, and experiences – she expresses them in visual form.
The artist’s creative process follows a rigid template, as each step from planning to execution must be well thought out. First deciding on a design and then creating a sketch, Abe needs to have trust and vision before putting the knife on the paper and beginning to carve and cut, revealing the final work piece by piece. Playing with patterns and negative space, knowing exactly where to cut to create an image that knows only feels right and actually stays intact, is a skill that we admire.