kirigami, paper, Uncategorized

Japanese Paper Arts Explained – Part Two – Kirigami

If you have taken to origami you may be interested in learning about kirigami. Kirigami is a word that is accredited to Florence Temko in her 1962 book Kirigami, The Creative Art of Papercutting.           

Kirigami 切り紙 is a mixture of Kiri + Gami. Kiri is a form of the verb Kiru 切る= to cut. If you remember from last post, Gami is a form of the word Kami 紙= paper. So kirigami is paper cutting. It’s not just cutting paper, however. Paper is folded and then cut. The result is symmetrical. Japan isn’t the only country that has a tradition of folding paper and then cutting to reveal beautiful symmetrical patterns. Mexico has Papel Picado which uses many of the same principles. Many countries have paper cutting traditions, but not all of them focus on symmetrical pieces.

Nevertheless, Kirigami is an established art form in Japan. Kirigami papers can be used in collage, as ornamentation, as doilies, framed, in gift wrapping and more.

You have probably made a kirigami form at some point if you live somewhere there is snow. The act of folding paper into 6ths and making paper snowflakes can be considered kirigami. The art does not restrict itself to snow themed works, nor does it require one to always divide into 6 sections. Kirigami books sometimes separate out the patterns introduced by how many folds must be made.


The folding patterns for kirigami can revolve around a center point and spiral from there, can be either left/right or up/down, and even fan folded.

Want to try kirigami that goes beyond snowflakes? Snowflakes require a paper folded into 6 parts. Try four parts or eight. Try cutting out different shapes and seeing how they unfold. Make adjustments. Or get a kirigami book which has templates and copy them. Once you have the basic concept of how the shapes are fun you can have endless fun trying new shapes.

For the papermaker:

Kirigami, like origami, requires a paper that is quite thin. Not only are you going to fold the paper (likely multiple times), but also you are going to cut it. Papers that have thin areas or even holes are great for using as long as the cutting can be done around these areas.

For more information see my post on the Arnold Grummer Papermaking Design Team blog where I give some tips for embedding kirigami into handmade paper.


You may also like...


  1. Sort of like snowflakes? thanks agian for sharing your knowledge of papers Lynda! So fun to learn!

    1. lshoup says:

      Glad you like these articles. They are fun to write and remember to use some of these beloved techniques.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.