Paper Art: Too Cool for School

Gone are the days of simply folding small paper cranes on old school desks. Designers and artists are re-engineering the Japanese art of origami and bringing paper to life with urban graphics, 3D shapes and street designs.

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The art of origami (from oru meaning “folding”, and gami meaning “paper”) has gone urban. Now the cool kids and designers have taken to engineering folding designs, what is unfolding is a genre of art that is rivaling the vinyl toy revolution and producing some phenomenal folding fun.

Urban Paper Tokyo Art Show
Paper Toy Exhibitions – folded fun on display in Tokyo.

Recent exhibitions in Tokyo, such as the Urban Paper display being held at Pause Talk in Ikebukuro, show off the growing popularity of the contemporary paper arts.

Tanaka Paper Toys
Shin Tanaka’s Art – bringing paper to life.

Shin Tanaka, often referred to as the Paper Maestro or Godfather of Paper Toys, began designing and making paper art as a college student in Japan. Now an international success known for his paper toys, urban art and sneaker designs, Tanaka’s paper creations take on a very urban vibe, inspired by street fashion. Tanaka has only recently began turning his ever popular paper art into vinyl toys.

Nani Bird Paper Toys
Nani Dad and his 3 Nani Peeps – fold, construct and play with at home.

The Nani Birds have been flying around the globe. Japan-based illustrator and creator, MCKIBILLO, designs the Nani Birds as a hands on DIY project for fanatical folders to create and enjoy at home.

These little birdies have become so popular world wide that artists and designers from around the globe are collaborating to add their own style to the Nani Bird paper base.

Paper Art
Personality Filled Paper Figures hand crafted by Yasutaka Matsumoto

Paper art is busting out in Tokyo in diverse and contemporary ways. It is not all just about folding paper into 3D form. Japanese paper artist, Yasutaka Matsumoto constructs 3D figures and characters using board, bond, clue and various craft papers. Each piece is lovingly hand crafted. Precise connection of the colors, papers and shapes creates the playful forms and personality filled figures.

While traditional paper arts still exist, the modern day designers are pioneering new forms and folds, bringing new life to a long appreciated art.

Deanne Tonking & Masao Tamaoki About the Author

Deanne Tonking and Masao Tamaoki connect with independent designers all over Japan to find unique art, handmade treasures and innovative design. They share their stylish discoveries on TokyoMade, offering style conscious shoppers rarely attainable creations.

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Comment (日本語もOK)

Wow, they’re all so cool. I really like Shin Tanaka’s Art, the little boy is too cute.

Sep 2, 2009 (4641 days ago)

wah amazing!! i really like Shin Tanaka’s art too!!

woah, i didn’t know you could do that with paper folding!! xD nice!
i only made a domo-kun with paper once… i was so proud… i feel my proud flying away now xD

Sep 2, 2009 (4640 days ago)

Amazing isn’t it? Super talents!

Deanne Tonking (author)
Sep 2, 2009 (4640 days ago)

These are so good! I especially love those paper birds with the kawaii text bubbles :)

Sep 3, 2009 (4639 days ago)

Whoa!! I really like Personality Filled Paper Figures xD It’s so crazy looking~ The eye looks awesome!

Sep 4, 2009 (4639 days ago)

I love it! Another fun one is Blackpio, which often offers paper crafts to download and make. I am becoming a paper folding nut!

Sep 4, 2009 (4638 days ago)

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