8 Paper Cut Artists You Should Know

September 16, 2016 by Erin Behan

Paper cutting involves just a few simple tools — paper and scissors or a craft knife — but the amazing art that emerges often boggles the mind. The craft has been practiced across cultures since as far back as the 6th century in China (a country that also is credited with making the first paper), and in recent years the work of contemporary artists has been pushing paper cutting into the spotlight as not just a craft but an art.

It's hard to narrow down the field of practicing paper cutters to just a dazzling handful, but we've chosen the following 8 artists to showcase various ways paper-cut art can take shape. If we've missed your favorite, add it in the comments. And for more information about contemporary paper cutting, check out the book, Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft — its cover is by yet another amazing paper-cut artist, Elsa Mora.

Paper Cut Artist - Peter Callasan
Most paper cut work has a structural element to it, but Danish artist Peter Callasen really likes to play with the idea of 3-D forms rising from flat, everyday white paper, as illustrated above in detail of his piece, Distant Wish, 2006. In his artist statement, Callasen explains that "By taking away all the information and starting from scratch using the blank white A4 paper sheet for my creations, I feel I have found a material that we are all able to relate to …."

Paper Cut Artist - Peter Callasen
Japanese artist Nahoko Kojima has been practicing the art of Japanese paper cut, or kirie, since she was 5 years old. Her pieces are often large and feel as much like hanging sculptures as they do paper art. Even when its size overtakes the viewer, the work still feels ephemeral and delicate.

Paper Cut Artist - Bovey Lee
Born in Hong Kong and now living in Los Angeles, artist Bovey Lee creates intricate multifaceted works that contain tiny surprises. In the above Ribbon Dancer, the city scene hides details like a woman dancing and a skateboarder. She works with rice paper, a reflection of her Chinese heritage, and finds inspiration in Chinese calligraphy, which she also practices.

Paper Cut Artist - Nikki McClure
Artist Nikki McClure of Olympia, Wash., cuts her images from single sheets of black paper using a craft knife. It's hard to believe her pieces are from a single piece of paper, and her use of black paper means she's essentially working in reverse, giving her work the look of a sharp wood-block print. She's written and illustrated several children's books, including Waiting for High Tide, which follows a boy searching the beach for treasures as he waits for the tide so he can swim.

Paper Cut Artist - Jeanette Kuvin Oren
Jeanette Kuvin Oren trained to work in public health at Princeton and Yale before turning to art and graphic design. Although not all of her paper-cut pieces come out of the Jewish tradition, she often works within it, creating one-of-a-kind, personalized ketubot or marriage contracts, beautiful "paper-cut" fabric huppahs, and other paper-cut inspired art that honors Jewish tradition.

Paper Cut Artist - Rob Ryan
British artist Rob Ryan's work has a folk art feel, and he often incorporates text to his cutouts of landscapes, birds, human figures, flowers, vines and the like. Ryan is a big enough name in the business that he has an online shop filled with items featuring his designs including, shoes, calendars, mugs, tea towels and much more. His original pieces are hand-cut by him or his team, and you can pick up lasercut pieces of his designs in his shop, too.

Paper Cut Artist - Annie Vought
The California-based artist Annie Vought makes such small paper cuts that her work sometimes looks more like lace than paper. Letters and words figure prominently with some of her pieces featuring rows of tiny letters cut in tight rows resembling type, while others highlight more flowing script.

Paper Cut Artist - Kara Walker
Perhaps one of the most famous artists on our list is Kara Walker, who cuts paper into silhouettes that challenge ideas of race, sex, and gender. From a distance her dark silhouetted figures seem almost chaste and Victorian, but as the viewer closes in on the pieces, it becomes clear that Walker is shining a light on some of of humanity’s darkest moments with her delicate cut-outs. She lives and works in New York City.

For even more paper cut artists who inspire us but we didn't have space to fully explore, check out Hina Aoyama, Myriam Dion, Shanti Grumbine, Mia Perlman, Naomi Shiek of Woodland Papercuts, Lane Twitchell, and Karen Bit Vejle. There’s plenty of original paper cut art and prints for sale at Etsy, and don’t miss our previous post on paper-cut artist Diana Keeler whose inspiration comes from travel and maps.

SHOP AT Distinct Papers to buy paper for your paper cutting projects.

Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


Visit Distinct Papers to buy high-quality paper or card stock for your next project or to find the right copy paper, correspondence stationery and envelopes.


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