Katagami or Ise-katagam is the Japanese craft of making paper stencils for dyeing textiles. It is designated one of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan. The art is traditionally centered on the city of Suzuka in Mie Prefecture. This is good for making a certain shape or picture within your project.
San Francisco-based artist Kanako Abe (kanakoa.be) creates hand-cut, intricate paper art, that at first glance look like pen drawings. She started working with paper in 2012 when learning the Japanese art of Ise-katagami—a traditional stencil technique used for complex designs on Kimono fabric. Abe uses the same Japanese Ise-katagami cutting tools but on black paper, in addition to an X-Acto knife, a cutting mat, and—most importantly—incredible patience. The resulting hand-cut creations depict woodland spirit animals and mystical forests that explore “everyday moments and thoughts.”
Abe’s growing portfolio of animal cut-outs includes a reassuring moth that reminds you to “have faith in yourself, and you will see the light,” and a supernatural fox with “a connection to a magical realm.” Abe documents each piece on Instagram, sometimes showing how her artwork casts a beautiful shadow when held against a light surface. Depending on the design’s intricacy, Abe’s smaller pieces can take up to 15 hours to complete. “I find curvy lines take more time than geometric patterns with straight lines,” she explains.