The art of Chigiri-e, tearing or cutting handmade paper to make art, is beautifully illustrated by the works of Barbara Harmer. Visit her website to see more of her gorgeous art.
I studied “Chigiri-e,” (Chee-gee-ree-ay, which means “to tear art”) in an unusual way while living and working in Japan. My teacher didnʼt speak English and I didnʼt speak Japanese, so I could only observe, unable to ask questions. I changed the style to reflect my own American taste, and thus deviated from the traditional Japanese style.
Chigiri-e originated in Japan after Chinese Buddhist monks brought the art of papermaking to Japan in 610 AD. It involves using handmade Japanese paper, and tearing and cutting it to create art without paint.
I often have to convince people that my art doesnʼt contain paint, as all the color comes from the hand-dyed, handmade Japanese paper called Washi. When dry, I seal the piece with a clear non-yellowing varnish or epoxy resin.
Inspiration comes from nature, photos, my imagination, dreams and themed art shows. Sometimes the paper takes on a life of itʼs own and dictates how the finished piece turns out. I donʼt fight it and it usually works itself out.
I begin either with a design in mind, or by looking at my fifty-plus baskets of paper arranged by color in my studio. If a particular color or pattern jumps out at me, then I pull it out of the basket and work from there.
There are so many colors, weights, fibers and textures of paper, that there seems to be a paper for whatever look Iʼm trying to achieve. The paper that I use for shading is so thin, it is ten times lighter than the weight of our American tissue paper, and can only be purchased from Japan.
Other papers include many fibers that look like straw. It is extremely important to choose the right paper for the effect Iʼm trying to achieve.
Painting with paper is eco-friendly and green. The fibers come from various bushes and plants called Kozo (Mulberry), Mitsumata, Gampi, and Hemp. These plants are easily regenerated, so no trees are destroyed in the production of Washi.
I am truly “addicted” to beautiful handmade paper, and my studio reflects that with baskets filled with gorgeous colors, fibers, textures, and different weights of handmade papers. I eagerly go into my studio everyday with my artist’s palette arranged in baskets before me, and get lost in the rainbow of colors, ready to fantasize my next creation.
Barbara Harmer invites you to follow her on Facebook.