‘Paper sculptor' J. Ramesh on his passion-turned-livelihood

The mention of paper craft almost invariably brings to mind, the Japanese art, Origami. Not many know of Kirigami, a variation of this popular craft. Neither did J. Ramesh, until recently, though he has been practising the craft for over two decades. Kirigami is an art, where paper is folded and cut to make intricate designs.

The 38-year-old resident of Sithalapakkam started making paper flowers when he was in class VIII. He stopped working as a mason five years ago, to pursue his passion for paper art. Give him a small piece of paper and he transforms it into complex designs in less than a minute. He deftly folds thin fluorescent-coloured paper and makes small cuts. While this looks like child's play when folded, it is revealed to be an intricate symmetrical pattern when spread out. “I started folding and cutting papers to try new designs other than flowers. I did not know this was Kirigami until a Netherland tourist told me when he saw my work at an exhibition last year,” said Ramesh, who is proud to be referred to as ‘Kagithasirpi' (paper sculptor) and also has a webpage — www.kagithasirpiramesh.blogspot.in — created with the support of well-wishers.

“I never draw outlines for designs. I have tried creating 43 designs with as many folds in a single sheet,” said Ramesh, who always travels with a pair of scissors and a bundle of brightly-coloured paper.

His penchant for designing paper buildings started when he tried replicating Chennai central station a few years ago. “I sat on the platform outside the station and made the pattern in half an hour. Since then, I have designed many landmark structures of the city, including Annai Velankanni church,” said Ramesh who spends over eight hours daily, giving shape to his creativity.

Every design speaks volumes of the meticulous labour that goes into its creation. From complex patterns of slices of life, to those centred on concepts of harmony, Ramesh has a collection of over 3,000 paper designs. He recently created a record by making flowers out of 223 sheets of paper. “I have nine sacks of paper designs and I don't have the space or the resources to store them. I now teach this craft in schools and colleges,” he said.

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