Tuesday, December 25, 2012

our daily rice

There is a simple hymn I learned in Sunday School, which we always sang before meals. It is generally known as the Hibi-no-kate song, and it serves as the equivalent of what, in English, is known as "saying grace." Roughly translated, the words mean: Praise to the God of Grace who provides our daily food.

I was recently asked by a childhood friend to illustrate this song in etegami style, so that it could be printed on dishes and place mats to be given as Christmas presents this year for her friends and family. These are the two designs I came up with. They depict the simplest of Japanese meals--the rice ball.

In Japanese tradition and folklore, the rice ball represents some very basic and precious things. Sometimes it represents a mother's love, other times it represents the difference between starving to death and life sustained for another day. It is the food that we carry with us when we travel.  It provides not only for our own need, but can, and often will, be shared with a hungry stranger. To me, it represents God's day-by-day, unfailing provision of what sustains my life. A sandwich wouldn't convey quite the same significance to me, but maybe it would to you. Or, perhaps there is another food that has the same meaning for you?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

illustration friday (glow)

How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn't care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.

by Emily Dickinson

merry christmas

From my heart to yours.

Monday, December 17, 2012

a little birdie told me

If you enjoy the etegami images on my blog, you may be interested in purchasing an original work. The originals are hand-painted on thick, fuzzy, washi cards 10 cm x 15 cm (4 " x 6 ") in size, and the colors often have a shimmer that doesn’t show up well in the scanned images. They can be bought at already low prices from my Etsy shop, and until December 31 you can get them even more cheaply by typing in the code YAYYAYYAY15OFF at checkout for a 15% discount. Whether you are interested in a purchase or not, go ahead and take a look. They ship directly from my workshop in Japan.

Friday, December 14, 2012

illustration friday (snow)

It was almost exactly a year ago that I was commissioned to make an etegami to illustrate the name of a newborn child whose parents had named her "Fuuka." This is an alternate reading for the Japanese characters which are usually read kaza-hana or kaza-bana (literally: "wind flowers"), and are a poetic reference to snowflakes that dance in the wind on a sunny day. What a lovely name for a little girl.

Here is another favorite snow-themed etegami of mine. This one is an etegami-collage illustrating a poem by Misuzu Kaneko (1903 – 1930), the author of many delightful poems and songs for children.

And finally, an etegami painted years ago-- my very first attempt to illustrate snow. The scanned image isn't able to catch the very pale blue of snow perched on top of some Mountain Ash berries. Snow has become a frequent model for my etegami since those early days. After all, I live in what is officially rated the snowiest major city on earth, and we are surrounded by the stuff in its many forms for 6 months of every year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

etegami newsletter- january issue

The January 2013 issue of the Etegami Fun Club newsletter will be going out to subscribers in just a few more days. Keep your eyes peeled for it in your e-mailbox and let me know if it doesn't show up. If you haven't yet signed up for it but would like to, it's free and easy-as-pie to do so. Just send your name and email address to dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp The newsletter is a pdf file, usually only two pages long, but jam-packed with news and creative ideas of interest to etegami fans. The up-coming issue has an extra page to better display the many delightful submissions to the snake-themed etegami call.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

illustration friday (explore)

I cut a head of cabbage right through the center one day and became fascinated by the maze-like interior. I imagined myself as a worm trying to find my way through the maze (never mind that a real worm would just chew a path wherever it wanted to go).  It's an old etegami, and nothing more than a careless scribble, but it's one of those pieces that I will probably always remember, because it holds several layers of meaning for me (no pun intended).

Monday, December 3, 2012


I am constantly burning my mouth and getting mouth blisters from hot food. Don't tell me it's a matter of training my mouth, because I won't believe you. And if you tell me it's an issue of improving my character (i.e. that I need to think before I bite), I will believe you, but it won't make any difference, because I've tried to change, and I know by now that I never will.  The writing on this etegami says "Neko-jita" (cat's tongue). It's a phrase used when describing a person who is extremely sensitive to hot liquids or foods. I guess I'm just a cat person.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

illustration friday (stretch)

Sometimes just one paragraph, or even one line, from a book or poem will inspire an etegami. This etegami collage was inspired by the following lines from the poem In the Home Stretch by Robert Frost. The rest of the poem hasn't grabbed me yet, but maybe it will someday:

When there was no more lantern in the kitchen,
The fire got out through crannies in the stove
And danced in yellow wrigglers on the ceiling,
As much at home as if they’d always danced there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

more snakes (and a reminder)

A reminder to those who wanted to get involved in the snake etegami call. The deadline is coming up quickly. Some great snakes have been arriving by post, and I'm hoping even more will arrive in time to be displayed in the next Etegami newsletter. In the meantime, I've been posting them on my mailart gallery blog for you to enjoy. I'm able to extend the deadline for submissions by about a week. That gives you just enough time to mail your etegami to me!

illustration friday (whiskers)

I tried to think of a more cheerful, or at least a more seasonal, visual interpretation of this week's IF prompt "whiskers." But I am still haunted by the whiskered catfish I painted to mourn the great Great Northeast Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.  The triple disaster of the earthquake/ tsunami/and Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis took more than 20,000 lives, mostly from drowning. More than a year and a half later, there are still about 2,800 people missing, and 34,000 refugees displaced from their homes and their vocations, unable for various reasons to get back on their feet and find a new life elsewhere. 

In Japanese mythology, a giant namazu (catfish) causes earthquakes when he stirs in the mud beneath the foundations of the earth. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Discount Coupon Give-Away! & Outcome

I have three 20% discount codes to give away. They can be used for any etegami-inspired product(s) from my Zazzle shop. They are single-use codes, and are valid till January 31, 2013. If you'd like to put your name in the drawing, leave a comment below. I will chose three winners on Tuesday, November 27. That's in just a few days. Winners will be sent the discount code by email, so please make sure that I have a way to contact you. Scroll down the right-hand sidebar to my Zazzle link, to see if there are any products that interest you.

Nov. 27 postscript. Results of the drawing. Thanks to all who submitted their names to the drawing. Winners of the discount codes are: Lisa S; Christi B; and Laura B. If you can't find the codes in your mailbox, let me know.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

illustration friday (zoom)

In ancient days before email (B.E.), my siblings and I exchanged frequent paper-and-postage-stamp letters back and forth across the sea. These days we fondly call mail of this sort "snail mail," but the letters actually traveled by jet plane. It was the custom to mark our envelopes in red ink with the words Air Mail or Par Avion to make sure they didn't get tossed onto a "slow boat to China,"  perhaps never to be seen again. But one of my sisters chose to write ZOOM in bold capital letters on her envelopes, and this always made me smile.

Speaking of jet planes, if you've ever flown into either of Tokyo's airports from the US, you'll know that the pilot customarily draws the passengers' attention to Mount Fuji as it looms into view below. Mount Fuji represents Japan in so many ways. Its attractive form and spiritual associations make it a popular image on Japanese New Year cards.  Today I painted a Mount Fuji etegami to add to my 2013 Year of the Snake series. (Were you able to follow my train of thought to understand why this has anything to do with this week's IF topic "zoom"?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

december etegami newsletter

The December 2012 issue of the Etegami Fun Club Newsletter is OUT. If you have signed up for it, it should be in your mail box. Let me know if you can't find it, or if you can't open the file. Readers who would like to sign up (it's free) should send their email address to dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp 

Friday, November 9, 2012

illustration friday (tree)

This huge 700 year-old Katsura tree stands like a guardian over the Kogane-Yu hot springs hotel, about an hour's drive from my house. I painted this in late fall, when almost all of the yellowed leaves had fallen from the branches. The shimenawa rope around the tree marks it as a venerable object of spiritual significance. The little stone statues at the foot of the tree represent Jizo, Buddhist protector of travelers and children, especially miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants. The words I added are a quote from the poem Envoi by Kathleen Raine.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

corrugated cardboard 2

I think I'm starting to get the hang of using corrugated cardboard for etegami. The areas where the "ribs" show are where I cut and peeled away the top layer of paper. These are not collages. It's really fun. : )

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

corrugated cardboard

Lately, I've been making etegami that makes me feel like I'm back in kindergarten. That's a good thing, because too often I find myself trying to make "refined" etegami, forgetting that the infamous etegami motto is "clumsy is good." Making etegami from corrugated cardboard has wonderfully clumsy results. I will be sharing more details in the December issue of the Etegami Newsletter, which is scheduled to come out next week. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

the mole and the earthworm

A Handy Mole 
Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)

A handy Mole who plied no shovel
To excavate his vaulted hovel,
While hard at work met in mid-furrow
An Earthworm boring out his burrow.
Our Mole had dined and must grow thinner
Before he gulped a second dinner,
And on no other terms cared he
To meet a worm of low degree.
The Mole turned on his blindest eye
Passing that base mechanic by;
The Worm entrenched in actual blindness
Ignored or kindness or unkindness;
Each wrought his own exclusive tunnel
To reach his own exclusive funnel.

A plough its flawless track pursuing
Involved them in one common ruin.
Where now the mine and countermine,
The dined-on and the one to dine?
The impartial ploughshare of extinction
Annulled them all without distinction.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

chateau de davidson

This is the birthday etegami I made for my daughter who has a birthday this week. She was born in 1978, and her name means "princess."

Thursday, October 25, 2012


This one is for my son. He is currently absorbed in reading Moby-Dick, the "Great American Novel" by Herman Melville. It's heavy stuff, but has plenty of material to inspire etegami.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

illustration friday (sky)

the words are from the poem of the same title by Emily Dickinson, which starts out:

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

illustration friday (water)

Mizuko (literally: water child) are unborn babies that have died as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. Mizuko kuyō is a Japanese Buddhistic* memorial rite practiced for the peace of the souls of these babies. The reasons many people in Japan request this rite may include parental grief, desire to comfort the baby's soul, or fear of retribution from the baby's spirit.

The mizuko are often represented by small stone statues of Jizo (the guardian of children and travelers), accessorized with various bits of clothing and toys. These commonly include bibs, caps, and pinwheels to keep the souls warm and entertained. Bibs and caps will often be red, perhaps because red looks warm, or perhaps because the Japanese word for red (aka) is part of the common Japanese word for baby (akachan).

If you live or travel in Japan, you are sure to have come across these stone statues along the roadside, in both urban and rural areas. They often sit alone under a small roofed shelter at a crossroad, but they can also be in groups of hundreds or thousands, especially in the courtyards of temples that specialize in Mizuko kuyō rites.

*the reason I call the rite "Buddhistic" rather than "Buddhist," is because there is some question as to its place in historical Buddhism.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

snake-themed etegami call

The November issue of the Etegami Fun Club newsletter has gone out to all who have signed up for it so far. If you signed up and can't find it in your mailbox, let me know. Readers who have not yet signed up, and want to know how to do so, should check out the original post.

Everyone, whether you're getting the newsletter or not, is welcome to submit to a Snake-themed etegami call in celebration of  2013, the Year of the Snake (Oriental zodiac). Submissions will be posted in the January newsletter, which is scheduled to come out in mid-December. Here are the details of the call:

Etegami Call:
Rules: Your submission must be hand- drawn on a 10 cm x 15 cm (4”x 6”) postcard. The subject should be one or more snakes on a plain, unpainted background. No digital art or photographs this time around, but other than that, use whatever technique you choose. The image on the card must be accompanied by a few words to qualify as etegami. Avoid the stereotypical New Years greeting if you can, but if you can't, that is all right too.

Send it in an envelope to: Dosankodebbie, Hiragishi 2-11-1-22, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-0932 JAPAN. Submissions much reach me by December 1 if you want to be sure they'll get into the January newsletter. Images and words must be G-rated. Submissions can not be returned. I REALLY look forward to seeing what you come up with. :D

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

departures (2)

 The cattail (bulrush) begins its journey
 The susuki (Miscanthus sinensis) begins its journey

Friday, September 28, 2012

departures (1)

Each year comes with more and more goodbyes. Autumn, a natural season for departures, makes such losses even more poignant than they already are. I try to remember that departure from here connects to arrival somewhere else, and new life.

The card at the top is for a dear friend who has decided to leave Japan after more than 40 years. The intended recipients of the other two must remain a mystery.

Friday, September 14, 2012

illustration friday (burst)

This "bursting chestnut" etegami quotes from Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground, a poem by Pablo Neruda.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

etegami fun club newsletter

This weekend I will be sending out the first issue of a monthly newsletter about anything related to etegami. If you are interested in signing up for it (it's free), and want to know how, go to the original post here.  The newsletter will arrive in your email box as an attached PDF file. The first issue is only two pages long and feedback is very welcome.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

illustration friday (imagination)

The word "imagination" immediately calls to mind Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930), the beloved Japanese writer of poems and songs for children. This is the fifth poem I've translated for my on-going series of etegami illustrating Kaneko's poems. It seems especially appropriate for this week's topic.

The Stars and the Dandelion

In the deepest part of the blue sky,
like small stones that sink to the bottom of the sea,
the stars wait until nightfall
the eye cannot see them by daylight

though you cannot see them, they are there
things you can't see are still there

The wilted dandelion, bare of fluff
in a crack of the riverbank, silent
concealed, waits for spring
its powerful root hidden from the eye

though you cannot see it, it is there
things you can't see are still there

by Misuzu Kaneko

Friday, September 7, 2012

winners of the september give-away

Thanks to all the WONderful readers who asked to be included in the drawing for the etegami-collage give-away! I wanted to send something to each of you, but, alas, I had to draw four names from a brown paper bag, and these are the results! Congratulations to:

Aurora gets the snail.
Laura B gets the well.
Perogyo gets the cap.
Christine gets the cow-- Christine, please email me your full name and postal address so I can send the card to its new home. dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp

Thursday, September 6, 2012

etegami calendars

"A Year of Etegami Flowers"

"All Creatures Great and Small"

"Illustrated Recipes"

"Words to Light the Way"
I've added new design choices to the Etegami Calendars I offer on my RedBubble gallery, so you can get an early start on a holiday gift for yourself or someone else. Another good reason to get an early start is that all four designs are being offered at 0% mark-up until September 15, which means you get them for the price of printing and not a cent more (apart from shipping charges). Think about it. Click here to see close-ups of each page.  

P.S. These photos show the back cover of each calendar. Three out of the four have an entirely different etegami featured on the front cover, so that gives you a total of 13 etegami in each calendar. The recipe calendar is the exception. It has only 12 different photos.