I've always had a fascination for intricate and detailed things ever since I was a child, whether it was the delicate inner whorls of a shell or an awe-inspiring piece of filigree jewelry or an incredible miniature piece of art.
So it was no surprise that when I stumbled upon Wai’s work, it took my breath away. We met by happy accident on a crowded Sydney train (train delays as usual, and packed like a tin of unhappy sardines wallowing in the misery of a long day of mind-numbing work only to be followed by an uncomfortable commute squeezed up against strangers with questionable BO. Can you tell I’m bitter about the train network?). Trying to place my eyes somewhere in the crowded train without accidentally making awkward eye contact, I fixated on the pole in front of me and the hands that were grasping it for balance when I noticed one with a leather watch.
Leather watches are commonplace, but the thing that grabbed my attention was: 1) Studio Ghibli (I admit I am a huge fan, having had the blessing to be brought upon it by parents who adored old-school Japanese films and animations) 2) that it had intricate details in what appeared to be paper.
Not one to lose an opportunity (and being the social elephant stampeding into people’s comfort zones that I was), I followed the hand to the girl attached to it and immediately commented on how uniquely beautiful it was before asking where she had bought it from.
Obviously startled by this strange 30 (actually older, but what you don’t know won’t hurt you) year-old businesswoman firing questions at her out of nowhere but obviously too polite to tell me to sod off, she smiled shyly before giving me an answer that completely threw me for a loop and eventually led to me following (stalking, cough) her on social media from then on.
‘Thank you so much, you’re too kind! I made it.’
Wait, what? I’d seen papercutting before; intricate, breath-taking pieces from the likes of incredible paper artists like Akita Nagoya, Hina Aoyama, Bovey Lee, Elsa Mora, Karen Bit Vejle, and Rob Ryan. Papercutting artworks that were divinely elegant and mind-boggling detailed, which never failed to draw a gasp of amazement from me when I saw them.
I have, however, never seen anything quite like Wai’s pieces. They aren’t traditionally clean and elegant in the way of well-known paper cutters, but instead exquisitely tiny and adorable whilst fun and vibrant.
Not only that, but they aren’t just pieces of art to be framed on walls and merely admired. Looking through Wai’s gallery for the first time especially was a real treat as it challenged my preconceptions of papercutting as being too ‘delicate and fragile to touch and show off.’ I love showing off art or prints that I buy from artists just as much as anybody else, but it’s tough to show off a 32x20 inch artwork to your colleagues when you can’t bring the entire frame in and photos don’t do justice most of the time.
Wai’s work instead changes this perception by turning her papercut art into beautifully small pieces of jewelry and accessories such as bags, purses, keychains, pendants, and more recently watches. She’s even made an adorable ‘Meet the Artist’ piece making use of an old DS case!
(Wai is currently participating in Cutober, a version of Inktober that she has been doing for the past five years with a different theme each year. This year her theme is 'Watches', so take a look as it won’t disappoint!)
Her inspiration comes from pop culture, anime, and games, as well as from (her favorite and incidentally one of mine too) Studio Ghibli. However, she also has her own beloved characters such as Astrocat or Cerberuscorgi, both of which are stinking adorable.
In her own words, Wai’s goal is for ‘people to be able to smile and feel happier when seeing [her] art.’ She hopes that by making her art portable, it can accompany people on their journeys throughout the day and help make things less stressful just like how papercutting calms her own anxieties.
Here are my favorite pieces of Wai’s
More info: Instagram