Paper-string animal art

Symbolizing life as it really is


Three-dimensional art objects created by Chie HITOTSUYAMA are full of life. Their exuberant expressions convey the strength needed for survival in unforgiving nature.

Ms. Hitotsuyama’s works use the material of old newspapers that stopped serving their role as an information medium. She breathes artistic life and value into those newspapers and repurposes them into new shapes by applying her original sensitivity and delicate manual skills.

Life is the theme found in all of her works.

Animals of various types are living their respective lives as if they were a matter of course.

Ms. Hitotsuyama’s works express respect for such nature and its dignity. Her works are brimming with the strength and brilliance of animals that are trying to live their lives completely.


Chie Hitotsuyama



Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1982, Ms. Hitotsuyama graduated from the Department of Design at Tokyo Polytechnic University’s Faculty of Arts in 2004. She began to produce three-dimensional works while working as an illustrator after her graduation from the university, and set up the Hitotsuyama Studio upon establishing her current expression, employing twisted newspaper strings that are pasted together. She moved her operating base to Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 2011. Ms. Hitotsuyama has since exhibited her artworks in many places around Japan, including the Ginza Mitsukoshi Gallery (in 2013) and the Child  Museum at the H.C. Andersen Park in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture (in 2014). An artist in the limelight as a contemporary art trailblazer, she has been in constant demand for production and exhibition in Japan and overseas.

Hitotsuyama Studio


The Hitotsuyama Studio is a creative unit formed by artist ChieHITOTSUYAMA and creative director Tomiji TAMAI. In the unit, Ms. Hitotsuyama and Mr. Tamai take charge of creative activities, and conceptual tasks, including orientation of works, ideas for exhibitions, planning, and information dissemination, respectively. The studio for Ms. Hitotsuyama is located in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture. About 30 artworks crowd this huge space remodeled from the warehouse of a paper strip manufacturing plant once operated by Ms. Hitotsuyama family.


Elaborate and painstaking handiwork

For breathing life into old newspapers


Many of these three-dimensional works depicting wild animals, such as a walrus staring at something beyond the remote sea as if in lament, a dugong swimming in the great wide ocean in a grand manner and a gorilla holding her child in her arms fondly, are so real and graphic that their breaths seem audible at any moment. These pieces of art visualize the common daily lives of animals that live in unforgiving nature. They are brimming with not only the strength of animals continuing their rigorous daily life but also with humorous characteristics that they share with humans in some way.

 “More than anything else, I’m particular about the realistic feel of the animals,” says Chie HITOTSUYAMA, who is producing these three-dimensional works of animals using newspapers as a material. Ms. Hitotsuyama is continuing to produce powerful, life-size, three-dimensional works using an original technique in which paper strings made from newspapers are used as a material for forming shapes. 

(Top) Tears of a walrus (2014)

(Bottom) A dugong parent and child (2014)

「GORILA’S MOM」(2012)

Newspapers and the paper strips are the only materials she uses. “I may use wood for the trunk portion of the skeleton when I create a big animal that measures more than two meters,” explains Ms. Hitotsuyama. “But I create my works using only newspapers when they are small animals.” She forms an outline that corresponds to an animal skeleton by pasting twisted newspapers over and over again. Ms. Hitotsuyama says she expresses body hair and wrinkles by gluing little parts made from twisted newspapers onto the outline, as if inserting them. “I make small, twisted paper strips by moistening newspapers cut into thin rectangles and twisting them by hand,” explains Ms. Hitotsuyama. “I change the thickness of those paper strips according to the body parts. Their tone is an important factor, too. Creating a red monkey face starts with looking for paper with red print in a huge volume of newspapers. Red can be in many shades. On top of that, letters are printed in black or gray in the great majority of newspaper pages. Twisting such pages, I’m aiming to achieve expressions of color, including gradations.” A sharp, observant eye for matters down to the smallest details, including accurate shapes of each body part, coats of hair and the density of the hair, and an obsession with painstaking efforts to manufacture delicate parts finely, one by one, breathe life into old newspapers that had once been read.

Sea turtle (2014)

Her own expression

Discovered by going back to her roots

Fuji City in Shizuoka Prefecture is blessed with abundant water resources, such as the Fuji River and subsoil water attributable to Mt. Fuji, and trees used for making Japanese paper known as kozo and mitsumata. There are still many paper mills in this city that has developed as a papermaking foundation. Fuji City boasts the highest quality and the top shares in Japan in manufacturing categories, such as household paper, paperboards and specialty paper. Choosing paper as a material for artworks might have been inevitable for Ms. Hitotsuyama, who was born and raised in such a place. “I was born into a family that has operated a paper strip-making plant since my grandfather’s days,” says Ms. Hitotsuyama, looking back at her childhood. “For that reason, I’ve been surrounded by an enormous volume of paper ever since I can remember. Needless to say, paper was something for me to play with. Sitting next to older women working hard in front of big machines, I kept interfering with their work.”

I am a god! (2013)

Living on the earth (2012)

Iguana (2015)

According to Ms. Hitotsuyama, she had set her mind on becoming an artist who relies on craftsmanship since her childhood. After graduation from senior high school, Ms. Hitotsuyama entered an art college in Tokyo and studied illustration and graphic design there. However, Ms. Hitotsuyama says she always felt the dilemma of gears that did not mesh. “I had never been particularly good at paintings or drawings,” recalls Ms. Hitotsuyama. “I never received any award. What my collage teachers taught me in class never entirely convinced me. I always felt out of place in some way. I don’t think I was an excellent student.” Ms. Hitotsuyama graduated from her collage with such feelings of irritation and anxiety, and began working as an illustrator. Her field of vision expanded little by little as she performed her illustration jobs and reflected on with her encounters with many people as occasions in a search for an expression that no one else could exploit. “I worked part-time at an art gallery after my college graduation,” remembers Ms. Hitotsuyama. “I came across many artworks and artists at this gallery. That was a significant factor for me. I met Mr. (Tomiji) TAMAI, with whom I’m now working as a team at this gallery, too. I had no skill for expression. I didn’t know anything. I started from zero and found my way little by little by creating ties with the people I came to know. I truly feel that way.” Through the course of such searches, she arrived at paper strings, which had been imprinted into her memory since childhood. “Until then, I had always felt that I was imitating someone else when I produced an illustration or when I created something. I didn’t know why. At such point, I arrived at paper strings, which occupied a large part of my own background, by repeatedly asking myself what was the unique thing that only I have.” Born in a city of paper and growing up in an environment where paper had been a familiar part of everyday life, Ms. Hitotsuyama realized that paper could be the source of her identity as an artist.

Creating is the same as learning to me

All things in life connect to form shapes

①Newspapers are cut according to the sizes of parts to be produced.

②A brush is used to moisten the newspapers.

③Pieces of newspapers are rolled into strips.

④Wood glue is put on paper strips, which are inserted into the framework one by one.



Newspapers used as a material from paper recyclers. Neighbors often bring old newspapers to Ms. Hitotsuyama’s studio, too.

These untitled monkey objects are currently in production. A Buddhist temple requested their production by Ms. Hitotsuyama with a plan to install them in a private school’s space and amuse children.

Depicting the naked life of

Animals living in nature

Ms. Hitotsuyama expresses beautiful curves and deep tints in her works by twisting paper pieces into strips and placing such strips one over the other. According to Ms. Hitotsuyama, she chose animals as a motif for her works because of one striking experience that stirred her emotionally. “I came across a wild rhinoceros at a national park in Zambia, Africa, which I visited at the request of one NGO in 2007 when I was working as an illustrator,” recalls Ms. Hitotsuyama. “The rhino was injured because of human egos. I heard from the park ranger who guided me that rhinos have been killed brutally by poachers who want their horns. From my wish to share this reality with many more people, I created my first work, a rhinoceros (work title: “Cries and Songs from Your Heart Are Still Heard Today;” year of production: 2011).” She says the direct contact with Mother Nature and an unknown territory called animals inspired her a lot and made her realize her mission of sharing messages through her artworks. “After that, I became strongly aware of what life is all about, what it means to live,” explains Ms. Hitotsuyama. “Animals that live in nature are equal to us in the sense that we live together on this planet. Sometimes they sleep. Sometimes they eat. They are living ordinary everyday lives just like us. I would like keep insisting on reality and producing my life-sized work as much as possible in order to convey their lives.”

 Ms. Chie HITOTSUYAMA (left) and creative director Mr. Tomiji TAMAI (right).

Ms. Hitotsuyama’s works, which depict the strength of animals trying earnestly to live in unforgiving nature, the brilliance of their complete lives toward a natural death and their day-to-day activities, might have the power to remind us humans of something we are beginning to forget.

“I’m still in the process of trial and error,” Ms. Hitotsuyama describes where she stands. “I have the feeling that what I’ve felt up to this point has joined each other to shape my current works. Creating is the same as learning to me. I’m hoping to achieve personal growth through what I will see and hear from this point on, through my encounters with many artworks and individuals.” Ms. Hitotsuyama is continuing her move toward new challenges, taking advantage of things that have condensed inside. Her neutral and clear sensitivity is bound to become sharper and sharper.