Wednesday, September 30, 2009

etegami coasters

I found some packets of plain washi coasters at the art supply store and it gave me an idea. The coasters didn't respond to my ink brush and gansai paint the same way my preferred card stock does, so I had to make adjustments. The surface area of each coaster was much smaller than a postcard, of course, so adjustments had to be made for that too. Limited by space, I decided to accompany each drawing with an alphabet version of the Japanese name for each subject. In other words, the letters were simply a design element and had no independent meaning as Etegami words usually do. Before they can be put into use as coasters, they need to be sprayed with water-repellent or covered in plastic. I haven't decided yet which to do, or what product to use. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

etegami chopstick wrappers

A couple months ago, one of my online foodie friends mentioned hand-decorated chopstick wrappers-- the paper ones that encase disposable chopsticks at Japanese restaurants. Whether sealed bag-style wrappers, or open-topped folded wrappers, they are often printed with the restaurant logo and address. I told my friend it was fun to decorate the folded ones with etegami-style drawings. This works especially well when the wrapper is made of washi, as they often are at the higher-end restaurants. In Japan, you can also buy plain washi chopstick wrappers at the supermarket. I have a collection of plain wrappers that I decorate myself for parties or for gift-giving. If you don't have access to ready-made wrappers, they are easy to make from washi or plain printer paper. It isn't easy to draw on that small a scale, and words don't usually fit, so it has to be a drawing of a single, simple object. Or you can cheat, like I did this time, and print a reduced-sized scanned image of one of your drawings on a sheet of paper. Cut and fold the paper into a chopstick wrapper after the drawing is printed. I unfolded a washi chopstick wrapper and used it as my model. (The sealed bag-shaped ones won't work, sorry)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

partridges on a pear (tree)

I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately, giving etegami a bit of chigiri-e accent, or combining traditional etegami with the collage-style mail art that seems to be so popular in the West. Today I was looking at some pear drawings that were left over from one year I'd used pears for my Christmas card design. Although I'd been somewhat disappointed in the drawings, I received a lot of positive feedback when I posted them online. So I ended up keeping the leftover drawings I would otherwise have thrown away. Today I decided to use them as a base for a hybrid mailart greeting card, by gluing some cutouts of partridges onto the drawings of the pears. I still have a strong resistance to messing with traditional etegami method. I'm not sure what to think of these hybrids. Shall I put them in the post? The jury is still out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

persimmons advise patience

How I love Autumn in Hokkaido! I love the sharpness in the air, the smells on the breeze, the colors on the trees, and the sardine-shaped clouds in a deep blue sky. I find myself looking upwards a lot. My joy is tinged with the bittersweet awareness of Winter lurking around the next corner, but that makes it all the more precious to me.

I draw persimmons every fall. I used to wait till they were ripe, and paint them in all their persimmon-orange glory. Later, I became intrigued by the green and yellow stages leading up to their fully-mature state. Then, last year, I became fascinated with dried persimmons, and I struggled to express the many sugar-dusted wrinkles on shrunken fruit that had faded to a salmon-pink. Maybe this year I'll focus on sliced fresh persimmons, with their flat black seeds and sticky juices. Ahh, persimmons!

The etegami I've posted here is of unripe persimmons on the branch. The greenish fruit is tinged with yellow, which I emphasized by gluing lacy yellow tissue paper (see earlier post on chigiri-e) over the green orbs. The accompanying words are an old Japanese proverb: Momo Kuri San-nen, Kaki Hachi-nen (Three years for Peach or Chestnut- Eight years for Persimmon) It is a reference to how long it takes for these trees to produce fruit. In other words: don't get upset if your efforts don't bear fruit right away. These things take time. The proverb advises patience.

Monday, September 7, 2009

engaging both the heart and the mind

Etegami is a combination of drawing and words. I know I say this a lot, but I'm beginning to think I can't say it often enough. Words are an element of Etegami that frequently sets it apart from other kinds of art-- even other MailArt. I don't just mean words as part of the design. Rather, words that complement the artwork (may even be visually stunning) but are also meaningful on their own, apart from the artwork.

If it weren't for the words aspect of Etegami, I probably wouldn't have defected from Chigiri-e or Woodblock printing or Pottery or any of the other arts and crafts I've dabbled in over the years. Etegami engages both the heart (emotions) and the mind (reason). I'm not saying other forms of art can't do the same thing. But no other art did this to me until I discovered Etegami. And yet, as meaningful to me as my choice of words are, they may signify nothing to you. Hopefully, though, I choose words that speak to the people for whom the cards are intended.

Today I combined a drawing of a lotus tuber with an old Japanese saying: renkon no ana ni unagi (literally: "an eel in the hole of a lotus root"). It's an expression that refers to things that don't suit each other. Maybe you can think of an equivalent expression in your mother tongue. Is there anything from your own experience that can be expressed by these words?