Tag Archives: paper

Origami for Chinese New Year

For most of my life, my origami repertoire has been quite limited. I only know the flapping bird, which my brother taught me when I was really little, and other very basic stuff from  my 5th grade art class — paper cup (very useful, I swear), crane, and a few others. But ever since a friend of mine got me a pack of beautiful origami papers for Christmas, I’ve been expanding my knowledge quite a bit.

Since Chinese New Year’s coming up on February 10th, I thought I’d learn to make some cute little things to mark the occasion. They’d make awesome decorations and if they bring good luck, well that’s a great bonus!

So I did a little research online and found some lovely prospects. I am listing them below in order of difficulty and complexity.

Gold Yuanbao

Yuanbao are what the Chinese call the boat-shaped gold ingots. Having likenesses of these precious bits are said to bring good luck, as they supposedly attract the real things. I found some instructions on how to make paper versions of these, and they are insanely easy!

Here are the products of my efforts. I used matte gold giftwrapping paper left over from the holidays, which I cut into squares.

Lotus flower

The Lian Hua, or lotus flower, represents of purity and wholesomeness, peace and harmony. Feng shui experts say that it clears away negative chi and generates positive chi and helps achieve enlightenment.

Some say it even attracts love and good marriage, which makes it a great good luck charm for Valentine’s Day. They’re pretty easy to make too, no complicated folds. The last bit is a bit tricky, but nothing that a patience and a gentle touch can’t manage. Here are the instructions.

The Omega Star


This awesome star is by John Montroll. It looks like a nightmare to make, but after bungling dismally on my first try, it got a whole lot easier. I love how sophisticated it looks, and it’s just made from a single piece of paper. Small versions of this would make great hanging ornaments and charms, and I can picture this as a lantern, when done on a large scale.

There’s a modular version of this, composed of pretty easy-to-make components, but takes some practice to put together.

Here’s a great video how-to from Origami Nut, and the page also has a link to a diagram, for those who find it easier to look at one picture rather than sit through a 10-minute video.

The Snake


This year is the Year of the Water Snake. This origami snake by Jo Nakashima is modular and is composed of several identical components that are joined together in the end, and the ends modified to make the head and tail. I thought this would be easy to make, only to discover later on that it’s not really for the faint of heart, nor for somebody who only has 2 hands with only 5 fingers each. But it felt so rewarding when I finally assembled it. And it looks adorable — probably because of the pastel blue and green paper. But still, even a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) wouldn’t find anything scary in this cutiepie.

Ready for this challenge? Here’s a video on how to make it.

All images by Nathalie Mariano.


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Fun and Funky Holiday Cards

Image from For Print Only

The holidays are in full swing, and Christmas less than a month away! Today it is fairly common to any of us have friends and family who might be spending the holidays away from us, but whom we will always think fondly of especially during this time of year.

Despite digital media being the preferred medium of communication today, there is still something nostalgic, sentimental, and most of all heartwarming about receiving a physical greeting card. A broad range are available today for purchase, but a well-chosen and thoughtfully designed card can be a thoughtful keepsake almost like a present. Here are a few holiday cards that will certainly make your recipient smile!

Seltzer Goods, Image from Paper Source

This simple yet witty card from Seltzer Goods is sure to make your designer friends smile! A hand-painted color wheel is matched to holiday motifs and goods.

Image from Oprah.com

Not to be outdone by specialty paper shops, New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art also has their own holiday card set, and they’re popups! I love the simple white cutouts against bold, festive solid backgrounds and the simple typography for the messages.

Image from Oh Beautiful Paper

Speaking of simple typography – this Hanukkah card represents the holiday and its traditions effectively with absolute minimalism – blue letterpressed type on a white card with the customary Jewish greeting.

Image from Egg Press

This shapely card from Egg Press is a creative take on the concept of the Christmas ornament – paper ornament tags for your gifts!

Image from For Print Only

Good typography, especially in printed form, can convey the simplest wishes and phrases with flair and elegance. This card just does that – with beautiful, flourished type reminiscent of old english book design.

Although it might be easier these days to simply click your mouse or trackpad to send a virtual greeting, there is something about well-crafted printed cards that gives them meaning, especially when accompanied by a handwritten note. Holiday cards are only sent once a year, so why not make them count!


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Artist Spotlight: Cybele Young

Paper art by Cybele Young

Did you Feel Something

(all images from cybeleyoung.ca except where otherwise noted)

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you know that many of us here at the Design Tree have an infatuation with paper, and especially with all the marvelous things you can make with it.  Toronto-based paper-artist, printmaker and filmmaker Cybele Young creates tiny, intricately-detailed sculptures out of Japanese papers. Here is a peek at a few of her works.

Art made from paper, by Cybele Young

I’m Still Looking

An artwork by Cybele Young

It’s Worth it This Time

Art by Cybele Young

It Should Groove There by Cybele Young at Gallery Jones

Paper sculpture by Cybele YoungDress


It’s hard to believe everything is made out of paper, isn’t it?I am in complete awe of Cybele’s Young’s work. The patience and craft of her paper sculptures is unbelievable. She has even made a couple of films that show her paper creations in motion.

Young’s etchings and printmaking work is also wonderful. All her prints are copperplate etching with chine cole or silkscreen.  Here are a couple of her etchings.  There is definitely plenty of humour in the way she gives everyday objects a life of their own.

Print by Cybele YoungEyebulbs

Etching by Cybele YoungRunaway

If you’re hungry to see more of her work you can head to her website. Young also shows work at Forum Gallery in New York and LA, Rebecca Hossack Gallery in the UK, Gallery Jones in Vancouver and Newzones gallery for contemporary art in Calgary.

And as if her artistic accomplishments aren’t enough Young is also a Governor’s General Award winning Children’s book author and illustrator. Her two books Ten Birds and A Few Blocks will delight pint-size art aficionados and adults alike. People this talented make me envious, but mostly they just make me thankful that they exist because they bring so much beauty into the world.

Happy Friday Everyone!


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Brush With Serenity

I have always been fascinated by Chinese brush calligraphy. I don’t understand anything of what the characters mean, but I find the brush strokes in ink on paper profoundly beautiful in their starkness and simplicity. And my appreciation grew when I learned how passionate and disciplined calligraphers are about their craft, practicing it incessantly so that it permeates all aspects of their life.

The clip above from the movie “Hero” — one of my favorite films ever –starring Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zang Ziyi. While it employs a whole lot of creative license, it reflects the dedication and intensity that these word artists have towards their work.

Antique calligraphy brushes from Greentea Design's showroom

I decided to dip my toes into this gorgeous world and try my hand at Chinese brush calligraphy. Since I don’t know anybody who’s into this, I looked around YouTube for some virtual teachers who can help me out with some demos. And I found this one by a young woman which taught me the very basics.

I used to have the impression that making those marks would be amazingly quick, like Bruce Lee’s moves. I have some friends who know Chinese, and they write pretty quickly — with their ball-point pens. I realize that it’s different with a brush. The girl in the video is so serene and so graceful when she does her thing — it’s so beautiful to watch! Every stroke is slow and deliberate; it’s almost like she’s meditating. She takes her time, caressing the paper with her brush as she marks it with her meaningful strokes, all the while maintaining great posture. I got so inspired!

The tools: Chinese brushes, ink stone, ink block

I took out some brushes, and the traditional ink block and ink stone that I received as a gift some 10 or so years ago, which I ironically have used for myriad purposes except Chinese brush calligraphy. But before I could begin, I had to find a character to write, one that would be meaningful to me.

When I was learning my ABC’s the first word I learned to spell and write was my name. Why not find a Chinese name for myself? I found this awesome feature in www.mandarintools.com that helped me with this. And it gave me a Chinese name that had sounds similar to those in my own name — Mai Ning Tian.

Chinese characters

Image by Arch Chinese

Chinese names usually have three words: the family name comes first, and is followed by the two words that make up the given name. In my name, Mai means force, strength, and capability; Ning stands for calm, peaceful, and serene; and Tian is for day, sky, or heaven. I love it!

There are also disciplines to be followed when writing the different strokes that make up a Chinese character. Generally it goes from top before bottom, left before right, for everything in between, there’s a certain order. It all seemed rather complicated, but I really wanted to do it right, I found a site that I could refer to that has animations that show how strokes in my name go. Here’s how to write Ning.

Holding a Chinese brush

So off I went with my ink and brush. I put a little water in the ink stone and rubbed with the ink block until the charcoal black pigments infused the water. Then I carefully loaded my brush and slid its bristles onto paper. It was indeed as relaxing as I thought it would be! It was all about being in the moment, and not sweating the flubs. How apt that I was learning to write a word that meant peace! Want to see my attempts?

Practicing writing Chinese characters

I practiced on scrap paper for some time, and after a while I decided to write on nice paper. I got one of the small sheets that resulted from my foray into papermaking, and put my brush to it. The ink bled and feathered into the fibers in my paper (a learning experience about paper types). The overall effect is light-years away from perfect, but it’s my name, and I made it, so I’m blue tacking it on my wall. Haha!

The Chinese character "Ning" -- peace

All images in this post by Nathalie Mariano, unless otherwise indicated.


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The Modern Art of Papercutting


Via famillesummerbelle, this is the artist’s paper cut creation for a recent art exhibition and fundraiser to support rescue and rebuilding efforts in Japan.

Papercutting is an art that’s got quite the history, one that’s evolved uniquely in places all over the world.  From jian zhi in China and kirigami in Japan, to papel picado in Mexico and the Jewish art form that dates back to the middle ages, the art is imbued with its geographical and cultural roots.

There’s been a renaissance of late too.  Artists and artisans are breathing new life in this tradition perhaps as a response to the increasing digitization of our world. Take a look at these creations.

Tiny But Mighty

Helen Musselwhite papercut terrariums via Oh So Beautiful Paper

I am always in awe of how paper can be transformed.  From the ideas and worlds in books to the art created through folds and cuts.  These miniature scenes are fairytale-eque for sure.  Exquisite detail and craftsmanship.

Above two pictures of work by Hina Aoyama via Design Related

Hina Aoyama, a Japanese artist living is France creates her super fine lacy artwork by hand with scissors and paper alone. Her pieces are known for their meticulous detail that resemble fine embroidery. Each piece takes about 1 month to produce. Breathtaking.  For more images, visit her photostream, it’s absolutely dazzling.

Large Scale Installations

From tiny to massive, these two art installations are cut by hand from paper. Delicate paper is transformed into something majestic and ethereal.

Papercut cloud installation by Mia Pearlman. Image via Picocool.

Installation by Chris Natrop, image via Red Bubble

Your Turn

Lego Kirigami by Zakka Life

Want to try your hand at papercutting? Gather the Lego lovers in your home and start small with this sweet take on paper dolls by Zakka Life.  Hop on over to their site for the template and full how-to!

And if you want to learn more Chronicle Books has released Paper Cutting, edited by Laura Heyenga.  This book is a gorgeous compilation of some of the most beautiful modern works.  You can oder the book through their website here.  Read their write up and preview some of the artwork on their blog.  It would make an incredible coffee table book.


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