Sunday, October 4, 2009

beyond washi

The first time it hit me that etegami (at least a non-traditional version of it) could be done on material other than washi, was when one of my etegami colleagues showed me a card cut out of corrugated cardboard. The card had been cut out so that the logo of a cantaloupe was on one side, leaving the rest of the card free for a thank-you note. Other clever cut-outs and drawings decorated the blank spaces on both sides of the card. It turned out that my colleague sends a case of fruit to this woman every year, and every year, she returns a thank-you card crafted from the cardboard carton that contained the fruit.

Once or twice, I have run out of washi postcards and had to make do with cutting cards from old file folders. I blogged about it here. But it's been my recent exposure to international mail artists who cut their cards from old cereal and cookie boxes that really got me thinking about the possibilities. As appealing as the idea of recycling old cookie boxes is, it simply isn't possible to reproduce on such material the lines an ink brush makes on washi.

That's where this nifty product comes in useful: iron-on washi. These thin sheets of washi-like paper come 50 to a pack. They respond to sumi ink and gansai paints very much like ordinary washi postcards do. And they're much cheaper, so it doesn't hurt so much throw a sheet away if you mess it up. They're perfect for making etegami out of otherwise unsuitable card material. I dug out some great oriental-patterned boxes that had once contained traditional Japanese confections, thinking the postcards I could make from them would be sure to please someone with an eye for beautiful patterns. I painted my pictures on the iron-on washi sheets and ironed the drawings onto the un-patterned sides of my make-shift cards, leaving the patterned sides for address labels and postage stamps. They turned out great. So great, I almost don't want to send them....

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