One of the things Japanese artists and crafters do best is take the beauty of traditional Japanese arts and modernize them.

This is made easier by the fact that so many traditional Japanese arts already had an ultra-modern geometric style to begin with.

For example, the ancient Seikaiha pattern, used in kimono dying for nearly a thousand years.   The pattern was originally used on ancient Chinese maps to signify the ocean, and turned up as a Japanese textile pattern on a Haniwa figure from the 4th century!  Yet, what could be more modern?

I take inspiration from this old-new blend in my Paper Demon jewelry.

But sometimes I like to feature the work of Japanese crafters in my jewelry.  A few years ago, on a supply buying visit to Japan, I discovered the jewelry supply boutique Beads Shop J4.  The artists behind this shop are dedicated to bringing traditional Japanese beauty into modern accessory supplies.  I love them!  They don’t sell online (that is to say, they do sell online but they don’t ship overseas!), so I visit their shop in the Aasakusabashi Beads District of Tokyo as often as I can.

The technique that these artists developed is to encase vintage kimono and yukata fabric in acrylic and cut and seal the acrylic in interestingly shaped beads.  I find these completely entrancing.

There are endless possibilities for how to use these beads.  So far, I’ve only used them in some really awesome earrings!

Find them all at Paper Demon Jewelry!

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My challenge as a jewelry maker is remembering that sometimes my materials can speak for themselves.  I can get so caught up in the challenge of folding something fabulous or winding wire into interesting shapes that sometimes I forget that just showing the paper is all that’s really necessary.

I finally remembered that this week, and decided to try a few simple styles with my most beautiful chiyogami in simple basic frames.

The frames came from Fusion Beads, my favorite source for collage and resin blanks.  I tried antiqued silver and brass for this project, because I think the aged look sets off the organic, exotic feel of the Japanese paper beautifully.

The paper is my best and favorite–in glorious shades of teal and turquoise, orange and yellow, and iridescent silver and gold (a one of a kind paper that i’ve never seen outside the shop in Asakusabashi where i found it last summer).

The biggest challenge is, for me, always the resin.  I know there are loads of crafters out there making all kinds of gorgeous things with resin, but for me, it’s torture.  I make 4 things before 1 works.  It’s a nightmare.  But then, when it works, it’s gorgeous!  What to do?  it’s a conundrum.

Well, at least til I found Magic Glos, a UV-curing resin.  One part, so no mixing, and a 30 minute cure under a UV light (or sunlight) instead of 3 miserable days with resin.  For ADHD jewelry makers like me, this is a godsend.  Here it is on brass.  What do you think?

It’s been crazy at Paper Demon Jewelry this past month!   Gift bags, giveaways, promotions, 4 local markets, teaching my first series of Japanese Papercrafting classes at the splendid EMU  Craft Center, and a steady stream of orders on Etsy.  Amidst all that, trying to find time to create and perfect new jewelry designs, and switch our entire operations over to all-green mediums, sealers and finishes.  (I’m excited to post on this cool all-natural specialty fiber hardening product I’ve discovered–Paverpol–that comes from the Netherlands!)

But for tonight, let’s keep it short.  I want to introduce my latest items on Etsy.  I’ve been doing a lot with chiyogami/yuzen paper lately.  Actually, ever since my post on the Japanese Paper Place.  For awhile there I was completely entranced with my stained glass, sculptural, and shoji jewelry, all of which played on the color, translucence, and fiber texture of pure plain washi.

But as I explored the hundreds and hundreds of brilliantly colored patterns of chiyogami/yuzen washi at the Japanese Paper Place, I started to feel that maybe I’d abandoned it prematurely!

Chiyogami/yuzen, by the way, is the colorful patterned Japanese paper that so many Japanese crafts are made from.  Here’s how The Japanese Paper Place defines the term:

These wonderfully decorative patterns on paper, known as Chiyogami, are silkscreened onto machine made sheets of mixed kozo and sulphite.  They are more popularly known as Yuzen in the United States.

Originally, Chiyogami designs were developed in the Edo period as woodblock prints by papermakers during the farming season for use as accessories in the house to enliven the interiors. They were based on the bright kimono textiles which the papermakers from the countryside saw on the fashionable wealthier ladies in the larger cities, especially in Kyoto, where the area known as Yuzen had become famous for its sophisticated techniques for dyeing cloth.

Chiyogami was meant to be cut into pieces and made into paper dolls or pasted on tea tins or small paper boxes; still today the scale of the patterns is reminiscent of these early uses.  And still many of the symbols depicted hearken back to auspicious occasions when fancy kimonos would be worn: cranes for long life; bamboo for flexibility; plum blossoms and pine boughs for beauty and longevity.

The striking pigment colours, careful registration of screens and wide range of designs make these papers ideal for picture mats, books and box making.

The range of Chiyogami patterns is endless, and Japanese designers today are tireless in their development of new fascinating patterns.  These patterns are constantly stocked at The Japanese Paper Place.”

Yuzen patterns are the ones that look most like kimono fabric patterns and contain a lot of gold.  Chiyogami are traditionally more repetitive, with smaller scale repeating patterns that are excellent for utilitarian crafts (ie, wrapping tea canisters).

Here are some chiyogami images, taken from The Japanese Paper Place’s website.  The first block are quite modern patterns; the second block are more traditional (don’t stress about the ‘discontinued’ note–the JPP stocks over 1000 patterns and is constantly cycling in new ones and phasing out old ones, and can order anything a person needs, as I found out this past week!  Thanks Nancy!)

Some modern chiyogami

Some more-traditional chiyogami patterns

How can you not yearn to create with these papers?

I mean, the austere simplicity of kozo washi is a fine thing….  But look at these colors! 

So, to make a very long story (with nice pictures) short….  I am working on chiyogami jewelry this past couple of weeks.  And here it is.  Even Chiyogami Gem Pencils for Back to School!  They’re selling like hotcakes–especially the Chiyogami Gem Bracelet.

The Geometric Possibilities of Chiyogami

"All Our Efforts Must Tend Toward Light" inscribed on back

Chiyogami Gem Pencils

Sleek Modern Sterling silver dangle earrings

On a chunky Susan Kazmer Bezel

Chiyogami Gem Bracelet