Tim Saguinsin can cut his way through the competition when it comes to both his American Ninja Warrior skills and his paper craftsmanship! He’s a jack of all trades working as a graphic designer and a paper artist, and he’s the owner of an American Ninja Warrior gym and a previous American Ninja Warrior contestant.

We love seeing his art and his portraits in our Instagram feed, so we had to share his incredible story.

Q: How did you get started designing and making paper sculptures?

I’ve been a creative person my whole life. I’ve been drawing since 2nd grade. I went to the Maryland Institution of Art. After graduating from art school, I had to find a way to pay my bills. If I could draw, I could find a way to use it to animate. 

Q: Where do you find inspiration for what you make?

A lot of the work I do right now comes from within. I like to touch on my Filipino-American background. It might be an icon or a pronunciation of a word. It gives me that opportunity to share more.

I feel underrepresented in traditional media, but with social media, I can represent myself.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic?

The portraits I make are so cartoon-y. A lot of the work I do is graphic. I use bold colors. I’m only using really bold lines and patterns. It goes back to the graphic design feel. I’m bringing sculpture and painting together using the Cameo to create the style I have right now. 

Even the bigger pieces are cartoon-y, and that adds to the animation of the painting and line work. I’m using sculptural techniques, and I’m using all the experience that I’ve learned from art school.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to make?

I love the making the paper ninja portraits for the other American Ninja Warriors because it’s cool to see the ninjas coming together.

I also like doing the bigger pieces because it takes so much thought and effort. It starts with getting the ideas down and putting it together and creating something new and different that you’ve never seen before.

Q: What’s your favorite material?

As of right now, paper is my favorite. Paper being so fragile is part of the symbolism. If you stack it up, it can be really sturdy.

I was a painter and a sculptor before. I did bronze sculpture. It was really hands-on and you get really dirty doing it. The process is all the same of putting it together with the sense of craftsmanship I need now.

After being a graphic designer for years, I got really excited about making with paper because it’s everything coming together from years and years of college and years of being behind a computer.

I’m really finding a way to merge it all together into something that is really me. That’s what is exciting about art is finding a style and a voice and I feel like I’m getting there.

Q: What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?

A lot of the stuff I’m doing now has to do with American Ninja Warrior. I’m sending the other ninjas from the portraits of themselves in paper, and they get to see the work up close. It’s fun for me to do that. I’m enjoying the time I’m taking to do that now.

I also like my large sculptural pieces. I like doing that I’m still able to do it years after art school. A lot of it is piecing things together. The big pieces take a lot of time to put together. Because it’s made of paper, it seems digestible and quick. When you make something, it takes so much work but it’s amazing to see the results.

Q: Can you walk us through your creative process?

After I sketch out what I want to make, I figure out the layers of what I want to pop out and how to put it together. I start cutting with paper and using my templates to create more if I need to add to it. After that, there’s a little bit of play, but once I’ve decided on the imagery it stays pretty close to the designed version as the 3 dimensional version. 

I try to make the work something that’s accessible to anybody. I’ll buy Michael’s paper, glue, and foam tape to create layers. A lot of what I want to do is show that it’s easily accessible and can be bought anywhere.

I want to create works of art from ordinary materials—making ordinary into extraordinary. I like cutting from a piece of paper and making something really, really extraordinary. You have to unlock the extraordinary from that piece of paper.

Q: How were you introduced to Silhouette?

We were at a friend’s house, and my friend had her own business where she was making vinyl to put on water bottles. I asked her how she could format things and cut them out of her Silhouette Cameo.

When I realized you could use Adobe Illustrator and the Adobe Creative Suite, that was really exciting to me. I had already started playing with paper on my own. I previously had hand-cut everything, which was really time consuming.

Q: How do you use your Silhouette machine?

I use my Silhouette machine to cut everything. It allows me to get the same exact cut every time, and that’s really helpful when I’m creating layers. I can control the line widths I create. I can make a black line thicker to make one red pop out and then make perfect layers to get the look I want.

Q: How does your Silhouette machine make a difference in your art?

The Silhouette machine allowed me to experiment more. I could cut out something five times in 15 minutes and experiment a lot quicker. I seriously cut down the process of cutting. It’s difficult to hand-cut all the small details and pieces.

Q: What is your go-to Silhouette tool or product?

The Silhouette Cameo for sure.

Q: What’s your advice to other artists/makers?

I always say love what you do. If you love it, you can keep doing it. If you want to make money out of it quickly, it loses its luster very quickly. With the people I find who are more successful, they love what they do.

Q: What’s the best way for people to find you?

Instagram: @paperchopshop or @thepapercutninja

Websites: Papercutninja.com or Paperchopshop.com