Upcycled Art: Paper Bags Return to Their (Tree) Roots

Yuken Teruya paper bag art 2

Paper bags are everywhere, and most of the time they end up either in the landfill or littering the landscape. But artist Yuken Teruya looks at a paper bag and sees potential, not waste. He takes these ordinary, often-forgotten objects and turns them into small, simple works of art. In his Notice-Forest series, the artist uses these everyday paper bags to create intricate paper sculptures.

Yuken Teruya paper bag art 1

The artist cuts one side of a paper bag and pushes the negative paper inside, making a sort of diorama in the paper bag. The tree inside casts shadows onto the walls of the bag, giving the feeling that the paper tree is surrounded by a whole forest of similar trees. The result, he says, shows the strength of a living tree.

Yuken Teruya paper bag art 3

That Teruya chose to cut trees from the bags rather than any other shape seems a poetic choice. The bags started as trees and they are ending their lives as a tiny echo of what once was. Teruya realizes that it would be very easy to make his art into a political statement, but he insists that that is not his goal. He makes lovely things for their own sake, saying that his works have a right to be beautiful without carrying the burden of conveying any particular message.

Yuken Teruya paper bag art 4

Teruya’s other media include toilet paper rolls, pizza boxes, newspapers and books. He works in everyday materials to encourage viewers to slightly shift their point of view. The discarded item that you might otherwise simply ignore can be so much more if you just apply a little creativity. This type of recycling art is both entertaining and encouraging: it goes to show that we can do much more with our garbage than simply tossing it away.