Kirigami: The Ancient Art of Paper Cutting Subjects

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Kirigami: The Ancient Art of Paper Cutting

  • Arts& Humanities: Art History

  • Arts & Humanities: Visual Arts

  • Science: Life Science: Botany

  • Science: Physical Science: Environmental

  • Regions/Cultures


  • 9-12

Brief Description
Practice the ancient art of kirigami to create a stylized tree silhouette.
Students will

  • learn about an ancient art

  • practice some basic paper folding and cutting techniques to create a stylized illustration of a tree.

Materials Needed

Lesson Plan

You have undoubtedly heard of origami, the art of folding paper. But have you heard of kirigami? Kirigami, like origami, is an ancient Japanese art. The Japanese word kirigami, translates to “cutting paper”. Kirigami, therefore is the art of folding and cutting paper.

In this lesson, you will complete a paper cutting activity.

  • Start with an 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of black construction paper.

  • Fold the paper in half – the long way.

  • Cut the folded paper (see illustration 1) so they have a basic tree shape when the paper is open.

  • Cut roots from the tree trunk area. ( Note: you might want to use a pencil to sketch branches and roots on one side of the unfolded tree outline/silhouette. If you are feeling daring, you might try simply cutting swipes of “negative” image area out of the tree silhouette.)

  • Cut swipes of branches out of the treetop and arrange them to create a unique tree silhouette. (see completed sample)

  • Mount the silhouette on a contrasting background color.

Extension Activity
Follow the Kirigami folding instructions to fold and cut a flower.
Students display their completed works pf art on a bulletin board.

Kirigami folding instructions

  • To create flower shapes, begin by folding a square of paper diagonally to create a triangle. (Paper can be folded accordion-style into a long strip to create a background design.)

  • Fold the right corner of the long edge of the triangle to the top of the triangle. Repeat on the other side to create a diamond shape. ( figure A)

  • Fold diamond shape in half along the center fold. Make cuts at various positions on either side, (figure B) taking care not to cut through to the other side. Tip: The more cuts you make the more delicate and intricate the design will appear. Alternately, punches can be used to create the design, instead of cutting.

  • Once you have finished cutting, carefully unfold the design (figure C). Flatten between books for future use or adhere to page.

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