Paper Jewellery

Jewellery is the scale and discipline I am most accustomed to in my own making (even though I am very keen to get further into creating bigger objects) so naturally jewellery made out of paper has especially caught my attention. Here follows a section with paper jewellery I have found especially interesting. Some are found in the book Paper Jewellery/ Gioielli di Carta which is the
result of an exhibition with the same name held at the La Triennale Design Museum in Milan, Italy in 2009. One of the main themes for the exhibition and evident in many of the introductory essays is the artistic power that come with working with a non-precious material such as paper in a discipline so dictated by preciousness. It is something that I find with many of the artists work I have chosen for this section; they really have the freedom to play with the material and their artistic ideas without being too tied to tradition. Another advantage with paper is also its’ lightness allowing for quite large wearable works, but even the simple and understated can be really effective.

Inni Pärnänen’s work with parchment was one of the reasons that I started researching this topic in the first place. She has a wonderful sensitivity to materials and has done some beautiful work with paper as well.

“It is the possibilities of a material or technique that appeal to me and often start the process. The nature of the material and
the structure of the resulting piece define how my jewellery is worn.” –Inni Pärnänen[1]

Inni Pärnänen, Ring, c2008. Burnt paper, candle wax, iron, cotton thread. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Inni Pärnänen, Ordinary Beauty, c 2008. Burnt and dyed paper, candle wax iron and cotton thread. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Inni Pärnänen, Body piece, c2008. Burnt and dyed paper, candle wax, iron, cotton thread. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Starting out making jewellery from recycled phone directories while a student at the University of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, Finland, to bring in a bit of extra money, Janna Syvänoja is now a well recognised paper jewellery artist[2]. She curves each piece of paper onto the steel wire at the time in a process she associates to the slow growth in nature. She is also interested in the power of jewellery serving as a form of communication between people just like the printed paper once did that is now abstracted in her jewellery.[3]

Janna Syvänoja, Necklace, 2010. Recycled paper, steel wire, 5 x 11 x 17cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Janna Syvänoja, Brooch, 2010. Recycled paper, steel wire 12 x 6 x 6 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Janna Syvänoja, Necklace, 1994. Book paper, metal, cloth board, fibre cord, 3/16 x 15 inches. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Janna Syvänoja, Pendant, 2005.Recycled paper, steel wire, 14 x 10 x 6 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Janna Syvänoja, Brooch, 2004. Recycled paper, steel wire, 9 x 9 x 3 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Janna Syvänoja, Necklace, 2005. Recycled paper, steel wire, 20 x 4,5 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Simryn Gill is a Malaysian/Australian artist who has an ongoing project of turning the pages of books into beads by shredding and rolling, these are then strung into necklaces. Also her pieces hold a mystical power of the written word that has been abstracted. Her project with the book-pearls has been documented in a beautiful book; Pearls/ Simryn Gill, edited by Sharmini Pereira (2008).

Simryn Gill, Pearls, 2005. Paper, glue, hemp fiber. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Simryn Gill, Pearls, 2005. Paper, glue, hemp fiber. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Another jewellery artist that uses the technique of coiling or rolling paper into beads is German Claudia Diehl.

Claudia Diehl, Faz, 2008. Newspaper, 60 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Claudia Diehl, Dornenkrone. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Claudia Diehl, Red. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Claudia Diehl, Necklace. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Japanese artist Kaoru Nakano and Korean born and US trained and based jeweller Kiwon Wang both work with similar techniques of layering pieces of paper to create growing organic forms. Kiwon Wang got her MA at Rhode Island School of Design and has since then taught both there and in Korea. She speaks of her work as “’East meets West’, which is the meeting and the interplay between materials and forms, methods, techniques and literature.”[4]

Kiwon Wang, Brooch from Paper, paper series. Sterling silver, rice paper, ink, lacquer. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Kiwon Wang, Neckpiece from Paper, paper series. Sterling silver, pearls, newspaper, steel cable. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Kiwon Wang Neckpiece from Paper, paper series. Sterling silver, newspaper. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Kiwon Wang, Neckpiece from Paper, paper series. Sterling silver, newspaper. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

While Wang uses different types of paper and often recycled newspapers in her work, incorporating the literature, Nakano’s pieces are predominantly made from Japanese washi paper made from mulberry fibre.

Kaoru Nakano, Untitled brooch. Japanese paper (washi), silver. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Kaoru Nakano, Untitled Brooch. Japanese paper (washi), silver, urushi laquer. Reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011).

Kaoru Nakano, Loop & Twist brooch, 2008. Washi paper, silver, 11 x 9 x 4 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 14, 2011).

Kaoru Nakano, Washi brooch. Metal, paper, 14 x 6 x 4 cm. Reproduced from (accessed November 14, 2011).

Kaoru Nakano, Intertwined (Red) brooch, 2009. Washi paper, silver. Reproduced from (accessed November 14, 2011).

Linking her use of paper as a material to the traditions of arte povera, Barcelona based contemporary jeweller Ana Hagopian says it allows for the value of the idea rather than the material and to work intuitively. It is a provocative yet humble material.[5] She employs various techniques, such as twisting, moulding, layering and folding, in creating her often colourful pieced clearly inspired by nature.

All images from (accessed October 21, 2011).

I think what all these artists have in common and what attracts me to them is an aesthetical or even outspoken reference to nature which is my greatest inspiration in my own work. But I also believe that the material lends itself quite naturally to these forms, being of nature and so closely connected with many cultures where nature has traditionally had an important influence on everyday life.

This research has made me more curious about two new materials and I feel like they could both find a way into my own studio work sometime in the near future. Keeping an open mind about different materials is very enriching in studio practice, whether you are an independent artist or a product designer for a large brand, and each material poses its own challenges and stories. I have enjoyed researching a wide range of artists working with paper and it is nice to see how it is a material than can be worked both very intuitively and conceptually. Organising the works into groups of techniques has shown that a similar technique can be used within many different disciplines of areas in art, craft and design and that the gap between art craft and design is not very big, which is encouraging as it is a gap I wish to bridge in my own practice. At the start of the project I wished to find more artists/designers/makers working with parchment and I was a little surprised at the difficulty of doing so, but as opposed to paper it is not a readily available material and only a few people still make it.


(accessed October 20, 2011)

[3]  (accessed November 14, 2011)

[4] (accessed November 15, 2011)

[5] (accessed November 14, 2011)


New paper materials

Paper as we all know come in many different types and qualities and almost any fibrous material can be made into paper.  But through this project I have come across a couple of materials that are more like a merge; paper pottery and paper wood.

NewspaperWood is a bit ironic in the way it is trying to make the very thing that is broken down to produce paper in the first place. But it is a clever idea about recycling or up-cycling and making something useful and innovative out of our waste. NewspaperWood is a recently (2008) developed material by Mieke Meijer in collaboration with Dutch design company Vij5. It consists of old or left over newspapers that have been rolled into logs and glued together with glue free of solvents and plasticisers so the waste and the product can go back into the already existent cycle of paper recycling. The logs can then be milled, sanded, and treated pretty much just like normal lumber, and the final planks even show a grain similar to real wood.


After further developing the initial idea of NewspaperWood Meijer and Vij5 decided to give the material to a group of young talented designers to try it out and help them develop their first product collection.[1] Here are some examples.


Breg Hanssen, Framed, 2011. NewspaperWood planks, steel, 84 x 104 x 42 cm.

Tessa Kyvenhoven, NewspaperWood Stool, 2011. NewspaperWood massive roll, pine wood core, 34 x 44 cm.

All images from (accessed November 14, 2011).


Paper pottery

Ceylon Paper Pottery have developed a product where they mix sea sand, recycled paper and natural rubber to form a clay like material which is both flexible, waterproof and biodegradable. Their products are handmade by Sri Lankan women supporting the local community by allowing these women to work from home and still earn an income.[2] It sound like quite an exciting product that would be nice to touch and have a play with, the designs are also organic and have a soft almost felted look.

Images from (accessed November 15, 2011).

[1] (accessed November 14, 2011)

[2] (accessed November 15, 2011)


Intricate cutting in paper can make the most stunning artworks such as in Tomoko Shioyasu’s beautiful tapestries. In an interview online Shioyasu says that her main inspirations and themes are natural patterns which I can strongly relate to in my own work. Also the connection to the craft and the satisfaction of what you can create with your own hands. [1] Not only are these works incredible with their fine detail and large scale all hand cut by Shioyasu but also the works’ presence in the space and the shadows
cast, add up to what I would imagine to be quite an experience; an experience inaccordance with the more spiritual theme Shioyasu mentions in the same interview.

Tomoko Shioyasu, Vortex, 2011. Paper.

Tomoko Shioyasu, Vortex (detail), 2011. Paper.

Tomoko Shioyasu, Breathing wall, 2006. Paper, 240 × 750 cm.

Tomoko Shioyasu, Breathing wall (detail), 2006. Paper, 240 × 750 cm.

Images from
(accessed November 16, 2011).

[1] (accessed November 14, 2011)


Rolling paper is a technique quite commonly used to make paper beads and I will show a few examples by jewellery artists later. Nava Lubelski however uses rolling to make larger sculptural works and at the same time reusing paper from her life such as tax papers and old drawings and love letters.

Nava Lubelski, Portfolio, 2011. Cut and shredded portfolio of drawings, glue, 5 x 25 x 16 inches.


Nava Lubelski, Portfolio (detail), 2011. Cut and shredded portfolio of drawings, glue, 5 x 25 x 16 inches.


Nava Lubelski, Rejection Letters, 2008. Cut and shredded rejection letters, glue, 1 x 20 x 20 inches.


Nava Lubelski, 1997 Tax File, 2007. Shredded paper and glue, 1/4 x 20 x 19 inches.


Nava Lubelski, Crush, 2008. Cut and shredded love letters, glue, 1 x 38 x 38 inches

All images from (accessed October 21, 2011)


Lubelski’s work is interesting in the way it is quietly rebellious, shredding up personal papers that we either do not like or are “supposed” to save and then making them into beautiful intricately crafted sculptures and only with the title revealing the true origin of her material. Lubelski writes in her artists statement about her paper sculptures; “The re-use of paper, as well as the attempted “repair” of the long-lost original tree, is an examination of feelings of despair about waste and unsustainability while simultaneously responding to the shadow impulse to hoard and keep what is no longer needed.”[1] It is an interesting and conscious response to the material she uses and its particular material language showing a wonderfully conceptual way of working with paper.



Folding is mostly associated with the traditional Japanese paper folding technique origami (ori; folding, kami; paper) and the most elaborate forms can be created with folds made by your hands as the only tools. Paper artist Richard Sweeney uses various techniques to create his sculptures and objects and creates wonderful pleated flowing forms by wet folding in his motion forms series.

Richard Sweeney, 03M (Partial Shell), 2010. Watercolour paper, 30x24x20cm.

Richard Sweeney, Black Hole, 2010. Watercolour paper.

While studying Three Dimensional Design at the Manchester Metropolitan University, Sweeney concentrated on a hands-on experimentation with paper to create models but soon realised them being sculptures in their own right. Paper seems to be a predominant material in Sweeney’s body of work and he aims to keep an experimental approach to discover the sculptural properties of often mundane materials. [1]

Richard Sweeney, Studies in paper, 2006.

All images from (accessed November 14, 2011).

Taking a traditional origami shape and multiplying it makes an impressive lamp shade in Filipino designer Luisa de los Santos-Robinson’s Dragon Tail lamps for Design by Hive. The lamp shades are folded from chromed origami paper.

Image from (accessed November 16, 2011)

Image from
(accessed October 21, 2011)

[1] (accessed November 14, 2011)

Layering and carving

An interesting way of creating three dimensional objects with paper is layering lots of flat sheets and then cutting or carving it into shape. The sheets of paper can be laminated together with a glue or resin and then carved like in Danish designer Mathias Bengtsson’s new design Paper Chair. It is made from thousands of layers of paper glued together to form an intricate, yet functional piece of furniture. Bengtsson uses both hand making techniques as well as CAD drawing and high precision laser cutting to create his designs. [1] “Like so many other materials, paper is a material with a wide range of possibilities, and through this process it becomes a new and interesting object, which I hope will surprise and challenge”, says Mathias Bengtsson.[2]

Mathias Bengtsson, Paper Chair, 2010. Laser cut recycled paper, 80 x 90 x 80 cm.

Reproduced from
(accessed November 16, 2011)

Image from (accessed November 16, 2011)

Image from (accessed November 13, 2011)

Another artist using layering and cutting to realise his designs is American Scott Campbell. Laser etching intricate designs into US currency creates a sunken relief with much detail. Campbell is also a tattoo artists and the typical iconography of tattoo art is
apparent in his layered paper art works.

Scott Campbell, Skull Cube, 2010. Cut US currency, 9 x 6 x 4 inches.

Reproduced from (accessed November 14, 2011)


We come across paper all the time in our day to day life. Even in an increasingly digitalised world is it still a material for toilet paper, pages of the book and magazines, our bus tickets, egg cartons, bills, the notepads we write on; the list is long. And of course in a visual arts context it is probably still the most common material for any two-dimensional discipline such as painting and drawing, photography and printmaking. In a primarily three-dimensional field such as jewellery and object it is what we draw our plans and sketches on, for us it is traditionally a tool. But what has become clear to me while doing this project is the potential of paper being not just a tool but an even more exciting material to create three-dimensional objects from. What we today call paper is commonly thought to have been invented in China by craftsman Cai Lun in the beginning of the 2nd century AD, however recent archaeological finds suggest even earlier records of Chinese paper making and perhaps Cai Lun refined this technique.[1] Paper is traditionally vegetable pulp and fibres pressed together and dried to form flexible sheets. But the techniques of pulping and drying can also be used to make three dimensional shapes which I will talk about next.


From all the amazing paper art I have looked at I have tried to group a few common techniques that can be used with paper. First out is pulping and moulding.

Pulping and Moulding

This is the basic technique of paper making in which plant fibres and cellulose are made into pulp that can then be moulded and dried into a shape. The wonderful thing about paper is that it is naturally a biodegradable material, as long as no chemicals have been added in the process, but it is also highly recyclable by repulping already existent post consumer paper. Someone who has made interesting use of this fact is Spanish designer Enrique Romero de la Llana’s pulp lamps.

PulpLamps by Enrique Romero de la Llana

Images reproduced from  (accessed November 14, 2010)

These lampshades are made entirely out of recycled newspapers moulded on inflatable moulds. It gives a second life to the newspaper that would otherwise be thrown away and at the same time creates beautiful objects.

Japanese company Wasara makes disposable paper table ware with a strong sense of design building upon the tradition of Japanese aesthetic and value sense. The table ware is made of pulp from reeds and bamboo, both fast growing plants, and bagasse; a waste product from sugar production.[2] The conscious material choice in combination of being completely biodegradable minimise the ecological impact and make for a better choice in disposable table ware.

Image reproduced from (accessed October 7, 2011)

Images reproduced from (accessed October 7, 2011)

Image reproduced from (accessed November 16, 2011)

The combination of an eco-consciousness and innovative and different design make Wasara’s products interesting to me. It proves that disposables that might sometimes be necessary need to be neither ugly nor extremely bad for the environment.

Also from Japan, a country with a strong paper making tradition, is lighting design company DCS Corporation who created Cloud lamp where the shade is moulded from beautiful traditional Japanese washi paper.

Cloud lamp by DCS Corp.

Image reproduced from (accessed October 21, 2011).


Most people will probably associate parchment with dusty old books and precious documents from an ancient time, or perhaps in the word parchment craft, which is in fact a paper craft. But traditional parchment is made from animal skins and differs from leather in the way the skins are prepared, parchment skins do not go through a tanning process. A skin made into parchment is limed, scraped and washed repeatedly to get rid of hair and flesh. It is then stretched when wet on a wooden frame where it dries to become a thin, even, creamy white, translucent material optimal for writing on. It is uncertain where and when exactly parchment originates but it seems to have been the preferred writing material in Europe between the 3rd century AD and 16th century AD, some of its popularity even after the introduction of paper made from vegetable pulp would be due to its excellent durability[1]. After the introduction of the printing press and the widespread use of literature the use of parchment, due to cost and time in production, was reduced to covers for books. Today there are still a few people who prepare parchment in the traditional way and although it is mostly seen in traditional bookbinding craft, and copies of significant historical documents, it has further potential as an interesting material in the field of craft, art and design.

These images show parts of the parchment making process at Pergamena where they still make parchment in a traditional way. Images and information obtained from Pergamena’s website,

The skins get washed  in a lime (calcium hydroxide) bath, a natural solvent which helps removing the hair from the outside of the skins. The rotating drums distribute the solution evenly.

After the skins have been washed they have to be fleshed to remove all excess fat and flesh. In medieval times this process was done my hand using a special fleshing blade, at Pergamena they use a machine to help complete this task faster and easier. After the fleshing the skins are limed again. And before they can be stretched the final lime bath is washed out and the skins are neutralised.

Once the skins are washed and neutralised, but still wet they are stretched on wooden frames and this is what makes them thin. On the frame the skins then get scraped again with a crescent shaped knife called a lunarium to remove any remaining flesh. The skins are then left to dry and can be further sanded and buffed to get the desired thickness and finish.

Goldbeater’s skin

During my research I have found parchment to be linked to the traditions of my own discipline through so-called goldbeater’s skin. This is a type of parchment made from cattle caecum, a part of the intestine, which was used to beat gold between into thin sheets, hence the name. Because the parchment is so elastic and durable it can withstand even the repetitive heavy beating required to make gold leafs as thin as 0.001mm.[2]

Thin gold sheet after beating between the pages of a book made from goldbeater's skin.

Image reproduced from Robert Fuchs’ paper “The history and Biology of Parchment”  (accessed online November 13, 2011).


The words vellum and parchment are often used interchangeably to the point that it is difficult to distinguish a difference; the word vellum derives from the Old French word velín meaning calf skin and hence some sources state that vellum is only parchment made from calf skin.  In other sources vellum is referred to as only the finest quality parchment and others again say vellum is parchment made from still born animals, also known as slunk.[3] Pergamena sums it up on their website in saying “all vellum is parchment, but not all parchment is vellum.”[4]

Parchment Jewellery

The two artists I have found using parchment in their work is as previously mentioned Finnish jewellery designer Inni Pärnänen and Australian Danyka van Buuren.

Inni Pärnänen, Brooches, c2000. Parchment, silver. Reproduced from (accessed October 20, 2011).

Inni Pärnänen, Extra Organs neckpieces, 2003. Parchment, silk thread, mother of
pearl. Reproduced from
(accessed October 20, 2011).

Danyka van Buuren, Precious Things Neckpiece, 2009. Goatskin parchment, 24k gold, brass, cotton. Reproduced from (accessed November 15, 2011).

[1] Accessed November 13, 2011

[2] Accessed November 14, 2011

[3] Accessed November 13, 2011

[4] Accessed November 15, 2011

Mutant Materials: Parchment and all things paper

When the research topic mutant materials came up I instantly thought of a material I have only come across in books and online but been wanting to get my hands on for a while; parchment. After seeing the parchment pieces by one of my favourite jewellers Inni Pärnänen I was intrigued by this leather-paper and wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it really is, as I only had a vague idea, where I could get a hold of some to play with and what it could do. I also wanted to find out if other contemporary artists had used it and if so what they had done with it. Even though some of these things proved to be a bit difficult and resulting in having to extend my research topic to include all things paper, I am glad it brought me here as it has only furthered my desire to eventually get some parchment to play with. It has also further opened up an interest in the amazing things that can be done in paper and hopefully in the future it will be a material I turn to with greater confidence and enthusiasm.

I will in this blog share some of my research which includes the basics of these materials; where they come from what they are and how they are made. It will also include a look at other artists’ work with a focus on the different techniques that can be used to transform paper.