© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

This Kansas City paper illustrator is unfolding her intricate designs across the city

Dia de Muertos illustration by ACira Studio for Taco Naco KC.
ACira Studio
Dia de Muertos illustration by ACira Studio for Taco Naco KC.

Andrea Cira created ACira Studio after moving to the United States from Mexico, and took the leap a month ago to concentrating full-time on her paper illustrations. She sells them at a Latinx market in Independence, and is creating custom pieces for local businesses.

Andrea Cira can trace the inspiration for her hand-crafted, colorful, paper illustrations back to her upbringing in Mexico, she shared.

“You see a lot of things that are done by hand or by scratch,” she explained. “I’ve lived in different places in Mexico, so I got to see a few things from artisans. I always thought that was so cool that people could build things with their hands.”

“I think I tend to be more creative that way than if I just do like digital illustrations,” she continued. “Having this background from Mexico, I’m always bringing in colorful things and a lot of little details.”

Her direct inspiration for designs with paper — sold under the ACira Studio brand — came, however, from Cuban-American artist Elsa Mora, she noted.

“She used to do little scenes with paper and I always thought that was so beautiful,” she explained.

Cira studied industrial design before trying her hand as a maker; launching ACira Studio after moving to the United States.

“I’ve always been very interested in working with paper,” she said. “So I started doing a few things years ago, but it wasn’t until I moved here and I married my husband that I had free time to experiment with it a little bit more. I started with one thing and that thing led to another and I started gaining momentum.”

About a month ago, Cira said, she decided to take the leap and concentrate full-time on her paper illustrations, which she sells online — both originals and prints — at various popups around the city, and at paraMi, a shop in Independence with items from Latinx makers.

“It’s challenging, but it’s my passion and what I’ve always loved to do,” she added.

ACira Studio designs for sale at ParaMI.
ACira Studio designs for sale at ParaMI.

Cira — who was among the artists selected for the city-spanning Parade of Hearts in 2022 — also creates custom art pieces. Although it started with items like wedding and pet portraits, she said, her custom work has shifted to collaborating with companies on corporate illustrations.

For example, she created a Rwandan coffee farm illustration for Starbucks Mexico, Dia de Muertos illustrations for Taco Naco KC, and a charcuterie board for a friend’s business.

“I wish I could have more projects like that because that was fun,” she noted. “I’m very open to commissions right now.”

One of her latest personal creative projects — Paper Lotería — especially evokes nostalgia for her home country. The purpose of the project, according to her website, is to reimagine every card from La Lotería, one of the most popular games in Mexico and a staple of the culture. Although it just started as way for her to build up her portfolio and form a more cohesive style, she shared, the project has become so much more.

“I just thought it would be cool to make one,” she explained, “but I’ve gotten a lot of attention from the Latino community, which is great because I think there’s not enough art for us, unfortunately. In the Midwest, especially, it’s still very little.”

“It has shifted to something that I feel like helps connect me with the Latino people and so it’s been pretty cool,” she continued.

This story was originally published by Startland News, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.