Monday, March 18, 2013

Where There's Smoke

With the rise of cigarette smoking in the early half of the 20th century, and the appearance of increasingly nice cigarette packaging design such as the Player's box above, a new folk art craft quickly evolved. The practice of folding paper objects and artworks from tobacco packaging became a favorite pastime as smoking products were more widely distributedOver time the paper artworks became more complex, and the increase of functional objects, such as purses, toys, vases and frames began to appear. With exception to some of the great early packaging design, I suspect this folk art tradition was possibly the only positive consequence that developed from tobacco use. 

Here is a fine example of a decorative wall piece made from at least 25 Player's cigarette boxes. It's estimated to be mid-20th century, and measures about 6.5 inches in diameter. For a view of similar examples of these elaborate decorative works made from cigarette boxes, visit The Puzzle Museum's Hordern-Dalgety Collection.
     One of the
most beautiful and paradoxical influences of this paper-folding practice evolved in the Japanese internment camps
 during WWII. Origami was a favored pastime for many of the internment camp detainees who relied on their paper-folding skills to create innovative structures from cigarette wrappers such as the small umbrellas. With the addition of toothpicks, string, chopsticks, and a great deal of time, they could fashion a small umbrella to be used as a gift or a toy for a child. The miniature umbrella below was made by a Japanese internee living in the Tule Lake internment camp in California. It is remarkable not only for the craftsmanship and the condition, but also for the beautiful spiral pattern created by the letters on the wrappers. You can read more about the history of this particular origami work of art at Mingei Arts.
::The Player's cigarette package above is from Cigcard's Flickrstream.


  1. Such beauty and creativity to come out of an internment camp!

  2. I lived in Japan and was given several of the umbrellas. I could never figure out how they were made but they turned mundane wrappers in a work of art.

  3. I need the pattern to make this! Please?

    1. Are you speaking of the umbrella? Sorry, but it is an old Japanese folk art and you would be best to research it in Japan.


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