Inspiring Designer: Chie Hitotsuyama

November 7, 2016 by Erin Behan

Chie Hitotsuyama takes a familiar and disposable paper product, newspaper, and reimagines it into astonishingly detailed and eye-catching animals — everything from a lumbering walrus to a steely-eyed jack rabbit to a contemplative monkey.

Inspiring Designer: Chie Hitotsuyama
The 34-year-old artist from Japan, who works under the Hitotsuyama Studio moniker with creative director Tomiji Tamai, says that she sees her work as "breathing life" into the everyday material of newspaper, one that she's intimately familiar with, having spent time as a child in her grandfather's paper factory in Shizuoka.

Hitotsuyama recalls "smelling the scent of paper, hearing the machines making paper twine, and being buried under paper scraps." The factory was a place where she would play hide and seek and receive small gifts made from leftover twine from the workers.

Inspiring Designer: Chie Hitotsuyama
Although she now recognizes how "this childhood memory affects my art," she didn't jump into the medium right away.

Hitotsuyama graduated from the Department of Design at Tokyo Polytechnic University and worked for a while as an illustrator. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that "something was missing." And she often found herself making sculptures with paper strips.

Inspiring Designer: Chie Hitotsuyama
It all came together in 2007 when an illustration job with an NGO in Africa introduced her to a wild rhino that had escaped poachers. That intimate moment with an endangered species inspired her to turn to nature, and although it took her four years "to meet the material and the motif," what she came up with is an artistic ode to the natural world that is all her own.

To make her unique sculptures, she first creates a base of twisted newspapers. She then picks individual newspaper pieces based on their color, wets them, and rolls them up — one by one — into a kind of twine that's layered onto the base. She adds no coating and estimates they might last 100 or 200 years if properly preserved.

Inspiring Designer: Chie Hitotsuyama
For a large animal like a dugong or walrus, the entire process can take about three months. No detail is too small, and some pieces are so tiny that Hitotsuyama attaches them with a tweezer.

Hitotsuyama is currently an artist in residence at Museum of Art and History (MOAH) in Lancaster, Ca., where her work is on display through Jan. 7, 2017. She's on a U.S. tour, having completed shows in Los Angeles and Chicago, with an upcoming exhibition in Miami. To get a better sense of her process, check out this fascinating video of her work.

(The interview was translated from Japanese to English.)

SHOP AT Distinct Papers.

Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


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