Hiyoko Imai: a princess of adorable paper-cut illustrations

Amongst a flood of vector and geometrical visuals dominating the contemporary illustration scene, Hiyoko Imai‘s paper cut artwork stands out mesmerizingly.

Using the traditional Japanese washi papers, Hiyoko is able to create an overwhelming sense of warmth and tactility, minimalism and delicacy, perfectionism within the imperfections, preciousness and beloved. Most of the artwork is quite small, yet it evokes such strong feelings of intimacy and pure magic.

Hi Hiyoko, please tell us about yourself and what you do.

Hello kuvva! My name is Hiyoko Imai. I am a Tokyo-born illustrator & paper composer living and working in Amsterdam. I love minimalism, craftsmanship, nature and food culture. My paper illustrations are made with traditional Japanese papers. Every single piece has been cut & pasted by hand. The Dutch would call it ‘monnikenwerk’ (monk work) as it requires a lot of focus, patience & time.

How did you get into the illustration industry?

My career took off after I knocked on the door of Good Inc. / Luis Mendo. Together with Luis, I was fortunate to share a studio for a few years with Laszlito Kovacs & Javier Arce. These 3 designers really helped me to understand the industry. Also the fact that they are all great illustrators made it an ideal working environment for a start-up illustrator.

Could you describe your creative process?

About few years ago, I finally learned that my creative process worked the best when I had my mind set for cooking mode. I work almost the same way as I prepare a meal: gathering ideas & ingredients > mise en place > execution > presentation. The visual organisation is key for me to work at ease. Especially when I start cutting papers and making a mess with tiny pieces of papers all over the desk. So l always start with a proper mise en place, minimize the amount of papers & tools, and get the colour palettes ready. Then to the execution phase where I try to think less and let my hands work organically. This way I can create a much better result than the image I originally have in my head. And it also allows happy accidents to happen : ) I do not believe in fast production, but if I spend too much time, it never brings a good result; so I try not to overcook my work.

How did you find this paper cut style? Could you share some tips with our readers about finding and developing one’s style?

No idea actually how I found my style.. I’ve always been drawing since I was very little, so I guess I found it along the way just by drawing and making stuffs.

I think it’s crucial to understand what you love. That makes it easier to find your own originality. It’s kind of the same process of making the egg just the way you like.

Do you have any future project in mind?

Currently I’m working on my first children’s book as a first of my loooong list of what I like to make for my junior. Having a child is like finding countless inspirations every day. Coming years I would like to spend time working on projects for kids & family.

Thanks Hiyoko!

Scroll down to see some of the finest work by Hiyoko Imai : )



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