Utsukushii Kiri-e


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Utsukushii Kiri-e (Beautiful Kiri-e, 1600 yen, Aug. 2015), by Shinobu Ohbashi
I was looking for a specific kind of kiri-e (paper cutting artwork) pattern recently, so I went to the Junkudo bookstore in Maruya Gardens, and checked out their kiri-e section. I spent over an hour paging through close to 60 books without seeing anything that came close to what I wanted. Most of the patterns were either too simple – flowers and stars – aimed at beginners and younger children, or too elaborate – goth lace designs. I finally settled on Utsukushii Kiri-e, which was just published this August. Utsukushii means “beautiful” or “pretty”, and that pretty much sums up the artwork here.


(Example cutting instructions.)

The book starts out describing Ohbashi’s approach to kiri-e, which is slightly different to mine. He prints the patterns in blue, and then glues the corners of the pattern sheet to the piece of black construction paper underneath. I can see the benefit to this in that staples can catch on the cutting board as you’re rotating the sheet around, and it’s easier to differentiate the pattern from the edge of the base paper if they’re not the same color. (The advantage of staples, though, is that you can always add more staples in places where the paper starts to buckle after you do a lot of cutting.) Also, the author uses a longer cutting blade, more like an x-acto knife. I tried that before, but I find that using a much shorter blade makes it easier to cut along curves, because the blade won’t flex as much that way. He also violates the rule of “cut away from the corners”, by cutting his lines going down into the corner at the end of the cut. I guess that works for him. I follow the “cut starting from the corner” rule, because you’re less likely to get fuzzy pieces of paper sticking out of the corners that way, especially if you overlap your cuts, and the paper is less likely to tear when you pull on it when working on other parts of the design. (It does cause different problems for me, doing that, though.) Finally, he uses a spray adhesive, and I use a simple roll-on glue tube (the same glue as used for sealing envelopes). I really like the idea of using a spray, especially when preparing the finished artwork to be mounted on the backing board.


(Some example patterns. None of these are all that simple.)

The book primarily acts as a showcase for Ohbashi’s finished works, which have been turned into glass display pieces, metal sheet cut-outs, etc. This is fine if you want ideas for presentation, but it makes it harder to use the pictures as patterns yourself. To overcome this drawback to the book, the publishers have put the plain black and white (not blue and white) patterns in Word files on their website for download as password-protected zip files. You need to buy the book in order to get the passwords. I think this approach is pretty good because you don’t have to destroy the book to make the pictures, and the Word files are already formatted to A4 paper size. Just print out the page you want to work on.

The pictures are all fairly elaborate, and feature lots of flower and gem embellishments. Most of the pictures include animals, as shown on the cover. There are also patterns for the Japanese hiragana character set, and the counting numbers 0-9. Unfortunately, the bubbles and petals surrounding the numbers interfere with each other, so they’re not practical for building up entire number strings, like “7” + “1” + “3” (same holds true for the hiragana characters, for that matter). But, if you want to illustrate a page of a book, with one big letter at the top left of the page, then these kiri-e alphanumeric patterns are pretty good.

As I mentioned above, I was looking for a specific pattern and I didn’t really find what I wanted. I settled for a different pattern, and it took me close to 3 full days, working non-stop, to finish it, which came to about 24 hours. I’m not sure if I want to spend that much time on another kiri-e anytime in the near future. But, I do recommend this book if you want ideas for yourself.

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  1. Two Birds kiri-e | threestepsoverjapan

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