Dewi Kocu: The First Indonesian Paper Cutter Artist

Story By
Sri Utami

An artisan dedicated to keeping her art alive with two simple tools, paper and cutter.

The art of paper cutting came originally from traditional Chinese culture centuries ago. It has evolved and continued, uniquely adapting with various culture styles all over the world. Yet, the tools needed to create this unique art are simply a cutter and paper.

Dewi Kocu, whose educational background is in architecture, majoring in architectural engineering at Tarumanegara University, first developed her cutting skills to make miniature building models. The results proved to be so good that she uses a cutter in many of her works that require architectural design details. She was first inspired by the simple art of paper cutting after finding an article in a fashion magazine in 2010. Initially, Dewi collected used paper from the office and tried to use scissors for her first artwork but it was difficult to reach the tiny corners. Changing from her second artwork onwards, she used a cutter instead and her brand became known as Cutteristic, drawing from “cutter” and “characteristic”. In those early days, Dewi created many paper cutting projects to use as her own personal gifts for family and friends. From these humble beginnings, she received lots of requests for gifts from customers.

Dewi continued with her architectural career, keeping Cutteristic as a hobby until early 2011 when it reached the point that she chose to resign from her job and focus more with Cutteristic. In 2014, Dewi decided to become “a full-time paper cutter artist” after receiving lots of orders for custom Cutteristic gifts varying from birthday and anniversary to corporate gifts with numbers increasing incrementally up to 200% per year. Up to 2018 Dewi has made more than 6000 pieces of art and is trusted by more than 300 well-known companies.

In her years of experiences as a paper cutter artist, the most challenging aspect has been to create art that is close to the characteristic or uniqueness required by the receiver. This means the process begins with a photo received from the customer as a reference and from there Dewi designs a sketch template, the most challenging part of the process because it needs careful and detailed touches. Finally, it goes to the cutting process. Dewi believes that if the receiver is happy with her artwork, it gives a more personalized meaning to the customer.

In 2016 Dewi was named one of the Top 10 Outstanding Young Persons awarded by JCI (Junior Chamber International). The award was given to young people who inspire others in their own countries and around the world through their talents, creativity and ideas.

Another achievement and lifetime memorable project occurred in 2018 when Dewi created the main decoration for her own wedding using A4 paper total of 3410 that measured 214.86 square meters! The most interesting and unique idea at her wedding, she even created her wedding veil and gown from elements of paper using the paper cutting concept. By August 2018, she had received a MURI Award, a World Record in the “Wedding Reception with the Most Use of Paper” category.

For this issue of InClover, Dewi has picked Batik Sidomukti, the pattern of which dates from the 17th century, as symbols of hopes and prayers. The Javanese word of “Sido” meaning wishes to come true, and “Mukti” meaning happiness, power, prosperity. She translated the pattern as a way of welcoming the new year with wishes and dreams for a better life and prosperity. Dewi chooses and focuses on Indonesian traditional patterns because the art is centuries old, hoping to bring Indonesian artists and Indonesian heritage to a greater recognition in the global market.

Dewi also has a vision to make paper cutting more recognizable in Indonesia and beyond, saying “I am an artisan and my life is dedicated to keeping my art alive”. She has taught over 700 students through various workshops, all over Indonesia and even as far as Singapore, inspiring potential artists to develop more creative art and follow her success. Dewi provides workshop participants with several kits based on levels. For instance, handmade cutting using a cutter on fancy cartons and frames that are also adorned with Swarovski crystals. “Let them explore by themselves, I have provided everything they need,” she confides.

Dewi believes in the words ‘Innovate to inspire’ because every time we see further, we can do more for others. The more creativity and innovation, the more we inspire people to go further. This art is limitless, it simply needs paper and a cutter, as simple as that.