Chigiri-e: An Ancient Japanese Paper Art, Made New Again

Isn’t it wonderful when things come full circle? Several months ago, artist Barbara Harmer sent me an email about a Japanese form of paper art called Chigiri-e. Her artwork was astonishing, as was the process, which Barbara calls “painting with paper.” I shared her work here at, and our readers responded with a resounding, “We want more!”

And more you shall have. Barbara’s stunning paper art is featured in the March/April issue Cloth Paper Scissors, and includes a step-by-step demonstration of how to create Chigiri-e art.


Japanese paper art Chigiri-e
Purple Mountains Majesty by Barbara Harmer
Japanese paper art Chigiri-e
Geisha in Ceremonial Kimono by Barbara Harmer

“For years, I had a nagging feeling that I was in some way connected to the Far East, so I applied for a position teaching English in Japan,” Barbara writes in the article. “A one-year contract turned into seven glorious, memorable years that changed my life–and my art. Living in a foreign country opened up new adventures, and an admiration of a culture steeped in gorgeous art of all kinds.

“Chinese Buddhist monks brought the art of paper making to Japan in 610AD, and the Japanese people took the beauty and possibilities of paper in a new direction called Chigiri-e (Chee-gee-ree-ay). Chigiri-e is an art form that involves using torn papers, preferably washi papers, to create images. From a distance these pieces look like paintings, but they are actually a form of collage. No paint is used in Chigiri-e, only fibrous papers and glue. The color comes from the dyed papers. Sustainable plants such as mulberry, hemp, gampi, and kozo are used to make washi paper, and the various weights of the papers allow them to be layered, creating artistic possibilities. While in Japan I enrolled in aChigiri-e class, and I fell in love.”

I can see how! Barbara’s use of color, texture, and design is mesmerizing. How wonderful that she found her calling through Chigiri-e and can share it with the world. It fits that “Tell Your Story” is the theme of this issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. In the magazine, you’ll discover personal reflections (and the techniques used to express them) in articles such as “A Mixed-Media Self-Portrait” by my friend Melissa Averinos, “My Story to Tell: A Mixed-Media Book” by Kristen Robinson, and more. View the table of contents here to see everything that’s waiting for you.

Yours in art,


Blog, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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