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!

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

I live a blended life.  It’s assembled from many parts.  We have a blended family–the kids, their bonus mom, and me, plus the rabbit who thinks she’s a dog.  There’s our  bonus extended family in Oregon and then my extended family in Florida and Pittsburgh, and the kids’ family in Japan.  My kids have two homes, one in Illinois, one in Oregon, one all Japanese, one mostly American but with a big dash of Japanese thrown in.  They have an lgbt family and a straight family, go to a Japanese immersion school in Oregon, and a Japanese school in Japan over the summer.  But we love the 4th of July and go all out for parades and fireworks (realized I’m a bit of a pyro when i found myself crossing the Indiana state line to get illegal fireworks last summer)

COTTON CANDYCOUNTY FAIR IN WASHI

LGBT Love in Washi

the Oregon Coast in Washi and Wire

All of these parts come together in my jewelry—the Japan part, the American part, the lgbt part, the 4th of July fireworks, the Oregon Coast…. The rabbit will be in there one of these days; just haven’t figured out how yet.

This week I made these:  CottonCandy SpunSugar Washi and Copper Spirals.  Using fine handmade Japanese washi in honor of county fairs and the joys of an American summer.   Why not?  The beauty is in the blending!

Miyako in yukata

It’s graduation season and tomorrow my daughter Miyako graduates from 5th grade!  I’m so proud of her, but sad that she’ll be saying goodbye to her wonderful Japanese immersion elementary school 😦

The kids at the immersion school wear yukata (cotton summer kimono) for graduation!  Luckily, we have a few lovely yukata and obi (sashes) that I’ve been picking up over the years in Japan, and now Miyako is big enough to wear one.   It took three tries to get all the parts on right!  Underneath that obi are 4 (four) layers of specialized waist wraps that you have to use to get the “right” kimono sillhouette.   I can’t believe how lovely she looks.

After we got it all on, we decided it just needed something ‘extra’.  It needed that little Paper Demon touch.  So, we decided to design and create an obi ornament.  Traditionally Japanese people wore netsuke ornaments of ivory hanging from the sashes of their kimonos.  Japanese girls today wear all kinds of sweet, original little doo-dads when they go out in yukata for summer festivals.

After much discussion, and debating the merits of tiny koi fish, sakura flowers, and bunnies, we finally settled on these cube shaped acrylic beads that have yukata fabric encased inside them.   I got them last summer at a very special tiny specialty shop in the ancient city of Kamakura, courtesy of a local friend who had scouted out the store for me ahead of time (thanks Yuki!)  I like to make earrings out of these, but I have to admit, they look awfully good as what they were made for—-yukata ornaments.  Maybe I’ll try adapting the idea in a pin!   What do you think? Would you wear it?

Hello everyone.  Welcome to Paper Demon, my blog about Japan-inspired wearable art.  I am a jewelry artist who works mostly in Japanese traditional handmade mulberry paper, or “washi.”    My jewelry and art are all about  transforming the large sheets of washi that I get from papermakers in Japan,  into tiny jewels that sparkle and gleam and flutter on the body.

Origami Leaf Earrings

I’ve been collecting Japanese washi and working with washi since my first trip to Japan in 1985, when I lived in a small town that was blessed with an old and esteemed washi shop, WashiYakata Shimayu.  It was run by a man and wife who were accomplished paper artists.  They were kind and generous enough to share their love of washi and their art with the young curious foreigner who lurked endlessly at their shop.   There is nothing like a real, old-fashioned washi shop. The mind-blowing colors, the feel–smooth, rough, knobby, fibrous, silk-like, tissuey–of the different kinds of washi, and above all, the indescribable smell… these fascinated me then and fascinate me still.

Washi Pendants

I first learned to make traditional three-dimensional paper dolls, with their layers upon layers of washi kimono, their flamboyant obi, and their exotic hairstyles.

One of my earliest washi creations, from 1986

But now, I want to share the appeal of washi with a wider world. I want to make its extraordinary colors and tantalizing patterns, that somehow mysteriously combine the ancient with the ultra-modern, wearable in an easy and accessible way.

By experimenting with various weights of paper and acrylic sealer, I found a way to transform paper into lasting, durable jewelry.

I’ll soon be posting photos of my work–origami earrings in the shape of cranes, flowers, leaves, and butterflies, and glass and paper pendants.  All accented with swarovski crystal and pearls.

I also do artwork–three dimensional mounted origami masks based on traditional Japanese masks from theater and folklore–that are mounted in shadow boxes or Japanese mounting boards.

Lion Dance Mask

What I love most is bringing a modern aesthetic to this most traditional of materials.  I find the colors that work best with current trends–right now, for example, browns and aquas, purples and lime greens–and highlight the highly stylized, geometric, often assymetrical patterns of washi, to create jewelry that instantly attracts the eye.

Geometric patterns in washi jewelry

I look forward to sharing my love of washi and my different experiments in washi jewelry and art with all of you.  I also look forward to sharing about my annual trips to Japan and excursions to the temple flea markets and antique shows there.   Stay tuned! Thanks for reading.