The art of a paper making in Japan is an ancient tradition dating back to the sixth century when Buddhist monks first introduced paper to the island.  The first paper makers were inspired by the beautiful and ornate patterns that adorned women’s kimonos during the Edo period.  These colors and intricate designs were applied to the first decorative prints known as chiyogami.  “Chiyo” means “thousand generation” and “gami” means “paper” in Japanese.  Traditionally, chiyogami prints were mostly used for making paper dolls and other such decorative items.  Today, the decorative paper is most commonly seen in the production of origami figures.

It is in this spirit of rich history that I have chosen to use chiyogami paper as the centerpiece for every craft I produce. Each pattern is hand selected for color and form to capture the exquisiteness of this timeless tradition and still continues to highlight the beauty of the individual wearing it.

I was first introduced to the art of paper making while growing up in Torrance, California. The daughter of a Chilean immigrant father and a second generation (Nisei) Japanese American mother, my world has always been constantly surrounded by a rich blend of cultures and art. I continued my study of chiyogami while living and teaching English in Japan.

 During my time in Japan I visited Hiroshima and was struck by the story of the little girl named Sadako Sasaki and the 1000 cranes. Her wish was to fold 1000 cranes so she would be able to live on after the effects of the atomic bomb left her body with cancer. The elegant crane has long represented longevity and good luck. For little Sadako it represented life, peace, and hope. I think of her often when I fold cranes that I use in many of my pieces.

Julie Kimiko Santos