what can you do with used coffee filters
The Waka Life Blog

How Artist Takashi Murakami is Making Art with Coffee Filters

One man’s coffee filter is another man’s work of art. Find out how artist Takashi Murakami is making art out of his coffee filters. 

Takashi Murakami is a world famous contemporary artist from Japan. His artwork has been displayed in The Los Angeles Broad Museum, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. His art style challenges and centers around Japanese pop culture, modern culture, and fine art.

His art can be described as vibrant, bold, and eye catching. Murakami combines and contrasts art styles, subjects, and topics from different time periods all over the world. His work is recognizable anywhere. He’s collaborated with famous brands such as Uniqlo, Louis Vutton, and Supreme. His most iconic piece is his brand logo which features a smiling sunflower: 

Apart from his artwork, Takashi Murakami currently runs the Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo, which is an art production and art management company. They invite artists from all over the world to share their work in the Kaikai Kiki gallery for exhibitions. 

what can you make from coffee filters

A screenshot from @takashipom's Instagram post

Using coffee filters to make art

In early May 2020, Takashi Murakami posted photos on his Instagram of various coffee filters that he used to practice his calligraphy. Like most of us, Takashi drank coffee every day. He realized how many coffee filters he kept using for his Chemex, but rather than throw them away, he collected them in hopes to find use for them in the future.

He’s been collecting them since 2014! Eventually, Murakami found use in his filters and began using them to practice his calligraphy, which he explains in his caption, his mother was fond of. His Instagram post show the piles of used coffee filters he’s kept as well as his calligraphy. 

A few weeks ago, I started doing calligraphy on used Chemex coffee filters. I make coffee every morning in the glass coffeemaker so I have been drying the filters afterwards, treating them to stop ink-bleeding, and writing on them. I have many kinds of developmental disabilities, one of which manifests in my inability to throw things away. This can get really challenging. The used coffee filter was one such thing I kept accumulating and I had always hoped to somehow reuse them, so I am very much relieved to have found an occasion to do so with my calligraphy.” (Quote from Takashi Murakami’s Instagram @takashipom). 

A few days later, Takashi Murakami announced on his Instagram that he was going to begin a new series, which involves recycling his coffee filters and making them into art. He has been venturing outside of just calligraphy and using screen printing for more precise designs.

In a video and article made by HypeBeast, Takashi Murakami goes more in depth on his process of using these coffee filters.

make are from coffee

A screenshot from @takashipom's Instagram post

How can you do it 

  1. Dry the coffee filters. There’s no special method to do the, but we can see from the video that Takashi kept his used coffee filters in a box to air dry. 
  2. Once they’re completely dry, Takashi takes a handful of coffee filters and manually discards any remaining coffee grounds. 
  3. Some coffee filters will have accumulated mold. Takashi lays all the coffee filters flat on the ground and sprays them with alcohol for disinfection. 
  4. Takashi will create his own coating for the coffee filters by combining glue and alum. He’ll manually paint on a thin layer of the glue onto each of the filters with a wide brush. The coating prevents any ink from bleeding during the screen printing. 
  5. After the coating has completely dried (which can take around 3 hours), it’s time for screen printing. Screen printing is when you create a design on a mesh material which can be transferred onto paper or fabric with paint. You can think of it as a stencil where you manually “swipe” on paint with a tool onto the material. It’s used to make art prints and various apparel such as shirts and tote bags. 
  6. If he’s not screenprinting, he’ll paint and write directly on the coated coffee filters. 

It’s quite the tedious process, but Takashi Murakami has found a unique use for such an everyday item. He took an accumulated waste problem and gave it new meaning and purpose! When it comes to making coffee, we can often overlook how much waste we use. Not only the filter, but we also discard the coffee grounds when we finish brewing. 

are from used coffee filters

A screenshot from @takashipom's Instagram post

Of course, not everyone can make their filters into a canvas, but Takashi’s innovation has certainly inspired others to consider how much waste we consume, how we can reduce our waste, and how we can recycle them for a new purpose. 

You can check out Takashi Murakami’s work on his instagram accounts: