Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a Kirigami Turkey—one you won’t find elsewhere. If you enjoy making this turkey, please explore Hiroshi Hayakawa’s Kirigami Menagerie where you will find many other delightful creatures (and limericks). While working on the photography for this book I was able to get to know Mr. Hayakawa. He is a talented artist whose work goes far beyond his kirigami creatures. I wanted to share with you what an interesting and creative artist he is.
KP: Would you explain the difference between kirigami and origami?
HH: Kirigami literally means “cutting paper,” and origami means “folding paper.”
Traditionally kirigami is a two-dimensional project: You cut a shape out of a piece of paper with scissors.
Origami is a three-dimensional project made out of a piece of paper. Cutting is not a major component for origami.
In fact, some origami practitioners strive for producing intricate details without using any cutting at all. That’s the area where the ingenuity of the design and the skills of the artist are oftentimes appreciated.
KP: How did you become interested in kirigami? When did you start creating your own designs?
HH: I was always interested in paper craft, and especially in origami, ever since when I was young. My parents bought me a number of origami how-to books. I would make various animals and insects out of paper and displayed them in my room.
I came to the United States to study art at a college. The school’s head librarian, who was originally from China, asked me to make a small paper animal from the Chinese zodiac each year to decorate the dinner tables at her New Year’s party.
I designed animals—tigers, sheep, snakes, etc.—and made their templates so she could make multiple copies. I could have done these in origami, but that would have been more time-consuming. Instead, I decided to combine both techniques.
People at her dinner parties liked them, so I kept making more animals. Eventually they expanded into a larger project including other animals not found in the zodiac.
KP: For your book, Kirigami Menagerie, all the projects are animals. Are there also geometric forms of kirigami? And what is it you find so appealing in animal forms?
HH: I know there are some geometric kirigami forms. You can create snowflake patterns by folding a piece of paper, cutting it, and unfolding it. That’s a typical geometric form in traditional kirigami.
Three-dimensional geometric kirigami works also. For example, we see beautiful lamp shades made out of a flat sheet of paper.
The appeal of animal forms to me is that they are universally recognizable forms and can be enjoyed by anybody. They allow endless possibilities of design variations. No matter how simple or abstract your design of an animal may be, as long as it retains the most essential features of the animal, anyone can recognize it without mistake.
KP: Are there contemporary and traditional styles of kirigami? What do you consider yours to be?
HH: I am not really an expert on this subject, but my impression is the majority of traditional kirigami is two-dimensional, and three-dimensional kirigami like mine seems to be one of the variations.
But I am not sure if three-dimensional kirigami is considered more contemporary.
KP: When you make your own kirigami pieces, do you keep them or give them away? When you keep a piece, how do you display it? How does it feel to give a work away that is a labor of love?
HH: I keep some pieces for myself, but I usually give them away when someone asks me if they can have them. It is true they are a labor of love, but I also hope they are appreciated by other people besides me.
I really don’t have any strong emotional attachment to the end products, and I don’t have any special display of them in my house for that reason. I basically consider them reproducible art like photographic prints.
To me the most exciting part of the whole process is the designing stage. I would be happy to know that people take my kirigami animals home to their children or display them in their living rooms.
KP: Hiroshi, I’m familiar with your photographic work, and I’d like to introduce people to it. You are known for your figurative photography on metal. Can you describe the process and how you developed it?
HH: I use liquid photo emulsion to sensitize the surface of oxidized sheet metal. The development of my images is a traditional darkroom process with film negatives, enlargers, and photochemistry.
When my images are printed on sheet metal, the color and texture of rusted metal come up to the surface and become fused with the printed images. Because of this process, all my prints are one-of-a-kind—it is impossible to replicate the exact results.
I use female figures as my photographic subjects. They seem to maximize the emotional impact on the audience when combined with rust marks, because of the way we view female forms traditionally.
I think my photographic work expresses the appreciation of the beauty enhanced by the transient nature of the subject matters.
KP: What other kinds of photography have you explored?
HH: I love the hands-on aspect of traditional darkroom work. Sometimes I extend this out of the darkroom and turn my photographic work into sculptures. You could call it photographic mixed media.
Besides photographic pieces, I make kinetic sculptures. They are still in the development stage, and I am hoping to show them in a commercial gallery in the near future.
You can see my art at http://hiroshihykw.blogspot.com.
KP: What got you interested in photography?
HH: I majored in photography in both my undergraduate and graduate studies. What I love about this medium is not just its ability to capture a slice of reality in a way that is very different from any other artistic medium, but also its paradoxical inability to communicate the truth. The majority of my photographic work comes from this awareness.
I couldn’t see myself working in commercial photography, simply because that was not really my interest. The transition from my graduate study to teaching at the college was a natural one.
KP: What do you find artistically satisfying about your photographic process and kirigami work?
HH: What is most satisfying about my photographic work is when I see my pieces affect people intellectually and emotionally.
For my kirigami pieces, I find it rewarding to see children’s faces light up when they see my animals and hear them say they want to make their own. I know how important it is for young children to be exposed to something that will inspire them and encourage them to use their imagination.