A specialty bookstore in Seattle changed my life


Joan Mead-Matsui Chigirie Artist
A bookstore in Seattle changed my life.

Sometime around the mid-1990s, I was weary of the politics of public relations and marketing and gradually discovered art was much more relaxing and the freedom of self-employment was too good to ignore. That’s when I decided I needed a break and scaled down to a part-time temporary position as a secretary at a Scranton, Pennsylvania law firm. While working part-time, I formally launched “Mrs. Matsui’s Origami, (handmade paper creations),” a craft business dedicated to creating and teaching Japanese paper craft.

Our travels almost always inevitably lead us to a bookstore, but one particular shop in the heart of downtown Seattle proved to be pivotal.  I wish I could remember the name of the store but I’ll never forget the outcome of that brief stop.

The owner catered to customers in search of rare and used books and while looking through the art section, I came across a book with an enchanting collage on the cover. The book was written in Japanese and I was at a disadvantage because I can’t read Japanese characters.

I asked Kunihiko Matsui (my husband), “What is this? Is this Japanese art?” He explained the art form is Chigirie, a form of paper collage that’s also known as painting with paper. I purchased the book and came home eager to add this new art to my existing business, Mrs. Matsui’s Origami (handmade paper creations).

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding.

That was the beginning of my vast collection of Chigirie books and more than 1o years of art shows. So much for weekends off…I averaged one to two finished pieces per week and on Friday we set up our displays. Sure, we had some exhausting weekends, but each experience gave way to a new opportunity.

The print, “Beloved Trout,” evolved from a trail art project for Hillside Park, South Abington Twp and there was always an exciting project in the works. An exhibit and artist’s lecture at the Wenham Museum, Wenham, MA was an extraordinary occasion.

Message me if you have any questions about transforming your art into a business, or you’d like to try your hand at a Chigirie class.

“Thisbe’s Pansies,” Chigirie by Joan Mead-Matsui





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