Katanuki art opens creative door for all

Th Yomiuri Shimbun
Framed katanuki artwok and a box with a katanuki lid

Prepare a colorful mat, and on top place a work of paper cutting, or paper from which interesting shapes — flowers, animals and whatnot — have been cut out. This is katanuki art, which is increasingly popular these days among the young and old in Japan. It can be enjoyed in many ways, for example, by being framed for display or used in greeting cards.

More and more products are also appearing with which to make katanuki.

Mitsuko Shirai, 63, is a katanuki instructor for the Sakura Shukogei Bunka Kyokai handcraft culture association in Tokyo, and she teaches simple katanuki art at events and other venues. She was attracted to katanuki because she thought it was easier than drawing and could be created without great effort. Her work features such images as flowers and birds.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mitsuko Shirai: Born in 1959 in Saitama, Shirai is a fan of katanuki art and teaches for the Sakura Shukogei Bunka Kyokai association.

“It’s fun cutting out the shapes we like freely and designing pictures, and pairing each shape with patterns we choose,” she said.

Katanuki is translated as die cutting, but practitioners don’t necessarily use a die cutting machine. Shapes are often cut out by hand.

One of Shirai’s works depicts sunflowers in full bloom against a blue sky. She drew sunflower petals on blue washi paper and then cut out the shapes with a box cutter. She then glued stickers in yellow and other colors on another sheet of paper, on top of which she placed the blue washi.

Another katanuki work has a parakeet, a wind chime and a fan cut out of a black sheet. The parakeet was placed on top of a base sheet with blue gradations, to create a cool atmosphere.

“It creates an air of stylish modern art,” Shirai said.

Even set works can be personalized, such as by adding stickers shaped like stars or other things within set areas on a base sheet. Change the top sheet to fabric or some other material, and the feel of the work changes, too.

Products for making katanuki art have emerged in recent years, including ones with shapes already cut out and with patterns printed on a top sheet. The shapes include motifs from seasonal events and landscapes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Using fabric in katanuki art creates a warm atmosphere.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Flowers, mountains and tigers are among the images created with various colors of adhesive paper.

Finished works can be used to brighten up the interior of one’s home. Put katanuki art in a small frame and display it in your living room or entrance hall, or hang it on a wall.

Add a ribbon to the top of a strip of paper with katanuki art on it, and you have a pretty bookmark. Katanuki can also be used as greeting cards for friends and family members.

Sakurahorikiri Co., a handicraft manufacturer and retailer in Tokyo, has developed a series of katanuki art products. To complete some of the products, users cut out patterns from chirimen silk fabric or attach manually torn stickers within set areas on base sheets.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shirai tears a piece of yellow paper to stick it to a base sheet.

“You can make it with a seasonal subject, such as koinobori carp streamers for spring, moon viewing for autumn and Christmas for winter. Halloween would be a nice motif right now,” Shirai said.

For brain training

According to the company, katanuki art is popular among residents of welfare facilities, such as nursing homes for the elderly and cafes for people with dementia. Even people who struggle to draw pictures or who can’t work on detailed tasks find it easy to do.

“It’s something of a brain trainer,” Shirai said.

Some welfare facilities have introduced it for recreational activities to promote communication between users.