Kirie (切り絵, literally cut paper) is the Japanese art of papercutting. Akira Nagaya is a self-taught artist whose creative roots are, surprisingly, in the culinary world of sushi. Roughly 30 years ago, as a young 20-something, Nagaya was working at a sushi shop. One of his first tasks was to learn sasabaran, a technique to create decorations by cutting slices into bamboo leaves. Back at home, and recalling his boss’s demonstration, Nagaya tried to practice using paper and a utility knife. He found that the technique came quite naturally, and he enjoyed doing it.
Nagaya continued to make his fine, intricate creations, which, at times, appear to be anything but paper: fine pen lines, decomposing leaves or laser-cut objects. The 47-year old artist eventually opened his own restaurant where, for fun, he decided to display his kirie. One day a local newspaper came to do a piece on his restaurant and took note of the artwork. They encouraged him to display his work in a gallery. “That was the first time I even considered what I had been doing as art,” recalls Nagaya.
You can follow Akira Nagaya on Facebook, where he posts many of his new works.