When you hightail it to New York City from your hometown, starry-eyed but also broke and secretly unsure of exactly what you'll make of the other side, very few possessions make it into that original duffel bag. Pants, toothpaste, dog-eared Salinger novel, dreams—but probably not artwork.
After a period of couch-surfing, you obtain half of a hallway in a stranger's apartment to call your own at least until the end of the month, and it. is. everything. But the walls are a very pale yellow and entirely barren, and you are still picking used books out of the $1 bin. How does one decorate?
Paper art + washi tape.
The image above is from a few years ago—and as you can see, the majority of what's on my wall is drawings by children who are dear to me, held up by way of washi tape (the same 4 rolls of washi tape I'm working with today). Washi is a Japanese paper style made from bamboo fibers, which rose to popularity in its tape form a number of years ago. It's often decorative, not too sticky, and thanks to a free market and the concept of trend, now available most everywhere.
But first things first. Finding paper that could serve as art is up to you, but here are some ideas to start with:
- Pages from old books, botanical or literary
- Magazine tears (as in torn out pages, not weeping 'zines)
- Drawings from children who you know
- Drawings from your journal/sketchbook or your roommate's
- Pictures of your friends and family that you print out on the office printer after everyone else leaves
- Found paper objects that you derive profound meaning from
- Postcards, art event cards, envelopes with pretty stamps
But then how to frame it all? Invest in a few rolls of washi tape.
Rolls of washi tape are not free, but a standard $5 pack includes 2 rolls each 10 yards long. There are so many patterns out there; here are 3 examples you can find at Michael's (though Etsy has a great selection, too).
To hang and frame any piece of paper on the wall, simply tear off lengths of washi tape and apply it around the edges of the piece to secure it. Suddenly, you not only have art, but framed art! (In my experience, the washi tape won't ever stick too much to tear the paper, but even so, I wouldn't use it on truly fancy things. Washi tape frames are rigs to get some stuff on the wall—ASAP.)
Eventually, penny by penny, you might acquire something that you'd really like to frame; some prints are too precious to put on the wall with tape! Here, washi tape can come to the rescue again. Opt for the least expensive, plainest frame you can find at a generic art supply store, then cover it in washi tape for a little more color and character.
Not only is this something you can do in 5 minutes, it's also 100% impermanent. The below pre-framed print of a Christian Chaize photograph was sent to one of my first bosses in N.Y.C.; he didn't have a need for it, so it came home with me, and I covered the plain frame in red washi tape. That was in 2011.
This morning, for the sake of proving the aforementioned to myself, I peeled off the red tape and applied a layer in chartreuse.
If you have things you'd like to frame but aren't quite ready to fork over a few hundos to have that done, consider washi tape. And if you really would rather use real frames, consider collecting a few vintage ones and matting the art yourself.
Beyond framing pictures, here are a few of my favorite ways that highly creative people have used washi tape to save their walls.