Analogue Crafts 5/6: James Han’s Paper-Cutting Art
Han makes his art in a cosy studio unit, which he’s filled with books, trinkets and a coffee table. His desk is stationed in front of a window and is decorated with succulents as well as pieces of his art. The walls are lined with drawings and posters too.
But besides the decor, one thing becomes quite obvious as the interview session goes on, and that’s the lack of air-conditioning. The entire space is ventilated by fans alone.
This is because Han has a certain ritual to his creative process. This paper-cutting artist and glass painter must shower before starting on a project, no matter the time of day. And when he works, he prefers room temperature as he’s not fond of the cold. Another practice James has is dusting the room to ensure that his works are not marred by specks of debris. These little protocols showcase Han’s attention to detail, which is pretty much a pre-requisite, considering his craft.
Paper cutting started as a hobby for Han, and it’s been close to a decade since he’d marketed himself as Han The Craftsman. As a graduate of illustration arts, James fosters a certain liking towards tangible mediums, as well as the play between light and shadow. He loves the intricate details and stencils of local arts including wayang kulit and the Kelantanese wau.
“A lot of people in Malaysia view paper cutting as a very Chinese uncle practice,” Han says. “Like it’s something that only the elders enjoy doing. But if you were to look into the history of paper cutting, it’s actually an ancient art that’s practised globally. The Kelantanese wau is a great example of the usage of papers to create something so artistic and beautiful to symbolise Malaysia’s unique culture.”
As much as Han enjoys the process of his art, he’s never given much thought to how meaningful his work is to others. That was until the public began requesting for his work. He was commissioned to create art for Starbucks in Johor Bahru – his biggest commission to date – where he crafted his work on metal instead of paper.
When asked which creations he’s proudest of, Han mentions his stencil lamps which, according to him, help light up his customers’ days.
“It brings me satisfaction and joy knowing that my craft gives people motivation to keep on going with their hectic lives piled with work and other stresses. I want to continue on this passion of mine and bring more colours and joy into people’s lives with my work.”
With his upbeat outlook, Han looks forward to expanding his work in paper cutting with upcoming collaborations and to be a cut above the rest.