Keisuke Saka

Warmed-up penguins, moving monkeys and entire cities in traditional Japanese paper models

by Lauren Kilberg


When art grabs the interest of children and adults alike then mixes in a little physics, the outcome is both fun and captivating. The Japanese have a more eloquent word for it—”Karakuri”, which translates literally to “mechanism”, refers to the art of creating paper automata. Japanese-designer Keisuke Saka is arguably the maestro of this art form.


The Japan-based artist engineers paper model kits that require minimal assembly and often move in interesting ways. Some of his pieces hold little purpose beyond entertainment, like his beloved Swan Leg Ballet, which shows just what a swan does below the waterline. On the other hand, the Climate Change kit, featuring a penguin attempting to fly from a melting iceberg, attempts to convey a bigger message.


Most practical and popular, perhaps, are his Make City postcard kits. Each kit comes with five postcards that can be cut and assembled into a different famous icon from the city from which it’s being sent, from Amsterdam’s windmill and bicycle to a bagel and yellow cab for NYC. From Paris, you can send the Eiffel Tower or a baguette and London, some fish and chips and a pub ale. With Saka’s Make City kits you can, in a sense, bring back the art of travel and forego flimsy, 2D stock photos.


Aside from his paper creations, Saka is a how-to author and graphic designer. To learn more about the artist and his work, visit his official website.

Images courtesy of A+R Store, Brooklyn5and10 and Optical Toys.