Brain Pickings

Art of the Toilet Paper Roll


Simplicity and complexity, human emotion, and the intersection of craft and storytelling.

While Charmin gets busy staffing NYC bathrooms with bloggers this holiday season, we thought we’d focus on the less commercial, more artistic side of the backbone of this whole toilet paper thing: The toilet paper roll. Here are three artists who have turned the inglorious brown tossaway into beautiful and inspired design goodness.


French artist Junior Fritz Jacquet has been fascinated by paper since a very young age. Among various other paper and cardboard creations, he transforms plain toilet paper rolls into remarkable miniature masks. His technique is inspired by origami, in that it uses a single piece and folds it into a shape, but has a unique smoothness that deviates from the sharpness and jagged edges of origami, creating shapes that are astonishingly human.

The masks are sculpted by hand, then coated with shellac and different pigments. A testament to the power of taking something incredibly simple and transforming it into something impressively expressive, each piece exudes a complexity of human emotion conveyed in just a few brilliantly orchestrated folds.


French artist Anastassia Elias is a master of collage. But her Paper Cuts series is something else entirely. Like a pop-up book that unfolds inside a toilet paper roll, Elias’ work is a beautiful intersection of art, craft and modern storytelling.


Japanese artist Yuken Teruya, whom you may recall from our paper art omnibus feature, takes everyday objects and transforms them into works of art. His toilet paper roll mini-sculptures are created just by cutting silhouettes into the paper and folding them out, adding and subtracting nothing.

Teruya’s work is as much an innovation in artistic technique as it is a conceptual criticism of contemporary culture’s preoccupation with adding more and more to our lives while taking more and more from nature — an ode to the brilliance and charm of simplicity.

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