Storytelling with disposed materials

Paper sculpture by Michiko Iwata






“The materials I use all look like something that people have disposed of. If we’re only looking at the materials, they can be easily taken as garbage. However, I would be very pleased to know if the artwork that I made using these materials can inspire people of stories,” this is how Michiko Iwata interprets her paper artworks.

The first time I saw Iwata’s work was at a friend’s place. I was utterly confused by this transparent plastic thing that looked like a toilet paper roll with crumpled paper stuck inside. I had no idea whether someone had made it deliberately, or is it just another random piece of trash. Although no one would probably question if this ended up in the bin, my friend hung it in the living room with such care that I could actually see some intriguing charm in it.

Michiko Iwata is now at the age of 63. Majored in Industrial Sociology in university, Iwata took an unexpected turn to travel to Europe to learn about design and copper plate etching. Upon returning to Japan, she spent years focussing on her career in graphic design. It was only until when she reached her 40s did she begin to use paper and wood as the primary media of art.

Iwata’s most known work is her Box series, where she glued layers and layers of used paper on wooden boxes. It reminds one of the colorful paper collage glued on the facade of a building that survived wind and rain, slowly having the vivid colors fading away. In recent years, she began another series with a similar design. She first applied paper to cones and other three-dimensional geometric shapes, afterward, she put them together as a set of sculpture. Iwata’s central concern for this series is how to create different moods by adjusting the distance between the three-dimensional shapes. Since each item of the series can all stand alone and be movable, the owners of the sculpture have the freedom to move them around to adjust their position. “The owners can rearrange them according to their current mood. I hope they can see this as an artistic puzzle and feel the joy the sculpture can bring to their everyday life.” Michiko Iwata, the storyteller, has decided to let her audience edit the story for her most recent series.