Monday, December 30, 2013

dear mr. postman

Every year I try to paint a New Year etegami for my local post office to thank them for their fantastic service on which I so depend. The thing that looks like a T with a bar above it is the symbol for the Japan Postal Service.

The Japanese writing on this one basically means I will count on you this year as always, but the word for "count on/depend on" has the same sound as the word for "letter/correspondence," so I playfully used the latter character for the former meaning to make a pun. The horse, of course, represents 2014, the year of the horse. The various bags are mail delivery bags, and I pressed my Japanese name stamp on the bag at the top of the pile.

Monday, December 23, 2013

the music box

Due to medical conditions that make it difficult for me to leave the house for the 5~6 months of our long winters, I generally announce the start of my annual hibernation in November, and do not come out of my cave until early April. So I was surprised and delighted when the three other ladies that make up my etegami group drove through the ice and snow to visit me last week.

They came bearing gifts.  Small things, because the giving and receiving of gifts in Japan is serious business, and you don't want to inadvertently put a burden of obligation on a friend. The most memorable of these gifts was a CD recording of classical music performed by music boxes. My friend, the giver, is a sales rep for a company that produces high-end music boxes of awesome craftsmanship and jaw-dropping price tags. The ignoble thought flashed through my mind that the CD might be a sales gimmick, and I felt briefly uncomfortable accepting it.

But after my friends left, I read the pamphlet that came with the CD. It claimed all kinds of health benefits, both physical and emotional, from listening to the music box recordings. Then I understood that, whether or not the company's claims are true, the gift showed my friend's honest desire to provide comfort for the hardest months of winter that still loom ahead.

The words on the card are from the prophesy in Isaiah 40:1, 2 which is surely familiar to anyone who has listened to Handel's Messiah or sung the Christmas carol by that title.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

bertie plays the blues

The characters in the books of Alexander McCall Smith often inspire my etegami, and one of my eternal favorites is little Bertie. He is such a treasure!!

Here are more AMS-inspired etegami. It seems that the oldest goes back to 2009.  How time flies!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

fridays in kamakura

Today I finished reading Fridays in Kamakura: The Case of Zen and Zucchini and Other Stories.  It is the sequel to Thursdays in Yokohama: The Casebook of Irving and Innocence by Wm (Wilhelmina) Penn, which I wrote about in this March post.

Like the earlier collection of stories featuring Innocence (a relative newcomer to Japan) and Irving (an "old Japan hand"), Fridays in Kamakura offers humorous insights into Japanese culture. In this sequel, however, the recurring theme is "second year syndrome," a very real and tough stage of many an expat's Japan experience, and not exactly a laughing matter. But Irving reminds Innocence (and us) to approach all such trials with a sense of humor and lots and lots of alliteration. :p

Sunday, December 15, 2013

sumi chat

Etegami using only sumi, without gansai colors
Let me tell you what little I know about sumi, the black ink we use for making the outlines and words in Etegami. In English, we call a pressed-and-dried cake of sumi an inkstick. To make ink from the inkstick, it has to be continuously ground against an inkstone with a small quantity of water to produce a dark liquid which is then applied to paper with an ink brush. Sumi is made primarily from soot and animal glue, which doesn't sound at all attractive, but the finished product is sublime in color, fragrance, and writing texture. Read more detail about the sumi-producing process on the Boku-undo website.

liquified sumi for Etegami use

In Etegami, it is common to use a pre-liquified form of sumi that comes in plastic bottles. The price varies widely with the quality of the product. The product I normally use is a concentrated liquid of very high quality (and cost) that comes in the gray bottle and light blue box in the photograph above. A bit of this ink should be poured into a separate bottle with a tight-fitting cap, and diluted with more than ten times as much water before using. Never pour leftover ink back into the original bottle with the unused ink. The other bottle, the black one with the white cap and spout, I purchased from a 100-yen shop. It is used without dilution, and is good enough for young school children doing calligraphy practice. I learned to my dismay, that this cheaper ink smears when it comes into contact with gansai paints, so it really doesn't suit etegami. All sumi stains and is difficult, or even impossible, to remove from clothing.

cheap sumi smears when gansai paint is added to the image

Friday, December 13, 2013

ka ki ku ke ko

You may have noticed that I've been wandering off the path of orthodox etegami a lot recently. And as fun as it has been, I like-- and need-- to return to the basics at regular intervals and wiggle my bare toes in the fertile soil of true etegami.

Here I dangle the writing brush from the tips of my fingers, perpendicular to the writing surface, with my elbow lifted to shoulder level. I move the brush slowly, ever so slowly, so that the line wavers from the strain of keeping my elbow raised and from the friction of the brush against the washi card, while the sumi ink blotches with each beat of my heart. This is called a "living line" and it is at the soul of etegami.

Today's etegami is a simple persimmon accompanied by writing that says "ka ki ku ke konnichi wa." I played with the k syllables in the Japanese syllabary. "kaki" means persimmon. And "konnichi wa" means hello. No deep meaning. Just a cheerful greeting for any day of the year, but especially late fall and winter.

Monday, December 9, 2013

galaxy cheesecake

It's been a long long time since I added to my illustrated recipe series, but my love of cheesecake and my fascination with the "galaxy" pattern revealed in a cross-section of kiwi fruit inspired me. This is already posted on They Draw and Cook so you can see an enlarged version by clicking the link.

I'm still struggling with the gray-ish cast of my scans. I hope you can enjoy the image anyway.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

dancing among the clover

Some time ago, I was asked to design a cover for the Japanese translation of a best-selling book that a friend had written on the subject of marriage. After reading the original English version, the image that came to my mind was a clover chain. The three clover blossoms (God, husband, wife), the heart-shaped leaves (love), the braided stems (strength, stability), and even the fragrance of the blossoms (offering, sacrifice) are all part of the symbolism that ties the image to the theme of the book, and was inspired by a verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. See also Ephesians 5:2

I received a pdf of the final version of the cover from the publisher today!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

animal groups

You've probably figured out by now how much I like word play and just about anything to do with language. I've been learning the less commonly known words that refer to groups of various animals. I know the common ones, like "flock of sheep" and "herd of cattle." But now I'm learning expressions like "dazzle of zebras" and "crash of rhinoceros" (did you know there are three correct plural forms for rhinoceros? rhi·noc·er·os·es also rhi·noc·er·os or -noc·eri)

Anyway, here are the first two in the new series based on those words. I suppose I'll keep adding more until I burn out. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

feast of friendship

horn with musical notes of salmon caviar

There are two gift-giving seasons in Japan. One is in the summer and one is in the winter. Winter gifts often involve agricultural produce for which the sender's home prefecture is known. Each winter for almost twenty years, I have received potatoes from an old friend in south-western Hokkaido, tangerines from an even older friend in Nagoya, and persimmons from the oldest friend of all in Shikoku. Last week I received a box of frozen Hokkaido ikura (salmon caviar or red caviar) from a relatively new friend who actually lives near me in Hokkaido. Besides reciprocating with gifts of my own, I try to send each of these friends an Etegami thank-you card with a painted image of the gift I received from them.

After twenty years, though, it's hard to think of new ways to depict the same fruits and vegetables. I feel like I've painted them from every possible angle, as well as shown them sliced, peeled, or cooked in every possible way. So this year, I've decided to try whimsy. The writing on this card says "The feast known as friendship."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

mixed up

One of several versions on the theme of being raised a third culture kid (tck). I just love Sandburg's poem! It speaks to my experience so well. The original is for sale in my Etsy shop, prints can be ordered from RedBubble.

And I still don't understand why my white cards look gray when I post them here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

conch shell

If you're looking for Christmas cards, please check out my collection of holiday cards on RedBubble  where you can order printed cards of my etegami.

Monday, November 18, 2013

more word play

Couldn't help myself. Don't get me wrong; I really appreciate social networking and its many advantages. But sometimes....

The original is for sale on my Etsy shop, and prints can be ordered from my RedBubble gallery.

my wings

There are wings for even a mobility-challenged person like myself. My wings are postage stamps, and they can fly me to just about every corner of the earth.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

etegami newsletter- december 2013

The December 2013 issue of the Etegami Fun Club Newsletter has been sent off to all who have signed up to receive it. If you can't find it in your Inbox, check your Spam folder. This is the final issue of the series. You don't want to miss it. (So sorry I missed some typos in the newsletter...)

same dog, different tools

Sunday, November 10, 2013

more word play

Click here to find out who won the drawing for the Goldfish Words greeting card ("everyone has something to say"). 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

inspiration for new years cards

Here's a cool link to some samples pages of the November issue of the Japan Etegami Society monthly magazine. It features ideas for New Years Etegami with horse-dolls and images sent to the magazine by readers. 2014 is the Year of the Horse. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

everyone has something to say (give-away)

Ooooookay, it's high time for another give-away. This time it's a fine quality printed greeting card (blank inside), made from an original I painted for a communications museum mailart exhibit several years ago. It's the same size as the original: 100 x 150mm ( 4” x 6” ), and comes with a blank white mailing envelope. If you want to participate in the drawing, comment below and make sure I have a way to contact you. There is only one, and I will announce the winner on November 10, 2013.

Update: Congratulations to Dana on winning the drawing for this card. Please contact me with your postal address. Thank you all for your comments and enthusiasm. There will be more give-aways in the future.

Monday, October 28, 2013

japanese confections

About a month ago, I was asked to do some translating for the Toraya Confectionery company, a famous maker of wagashi (traditional Japanese confections). Toraya was established in Kyoto five centuries ago and served the imperial court as an official supplier of sweets from 1586 through 1611. At present, they have about 80 shops throughout Japan and are now opening shops overseas. Anyway, everyone in Japan knows and respects the name. 

I had made a decision long ago not to accept any new clients, but I jumped at the chance to translate for Toraya. I am utterly passionate about wagashi, and even have a wagashi recipe blog for sharing my attempts at reproducing these delicious confections in my own kitchen. 

The first task I was given, was to write up an introduction to Toraya's illustrated calendar, a much-coveted item among wagashi fans. The illustrations used in Toraya's 2014 calendar were selected from their 1824 design book, an index of what were then newly-conceived wagashi designs. The artwork reminded me a lot of etegami, so I thought you might enjoy seeing them. 

One of the perks of the job was getting a sample calendar. It's the cutest thing you can imagine. Now I'm working on updating the English version of their website. My deadline is looming, so bye for now.

Friday, October 25, 2013

holiday sweet & holiday savory

They Draw and Cook has published two delightful new collections of illustrated recipes just in time for the holidays. The first is Holiday Sweet: 40 Illustrated Holiday Recipes by Artists from Around the World. (click title to see sample pages).  It includes 40 deliciously illustrated recipes for holiday cookies, cakes, beverages and candies!  My etegami recipe for Matcha Cheesecake is included in this book! Yaaay!

The second of the two collections is Holiday Savory: 30 Illustrated Holiday Recipes by Artists from Around the World. (click title to see see sample pages.) Even if cooking isn't one of your passions, either collection makes a great coffee table book, conversation starter, or gift! Double those benefits by getting both. : )

Friday, October 18, 2013

hug relay

Joy and humble gratitude. Yesterday I had ANOTHER visitor, the second this week, and the third in the last ten days! This is a record breaker for me. The best thing was she brought me three hugs. Count them: THREE. One was from her, and the other two hugs were relayed through her to me from two dear friends who live far away. Plus she brought me some fragrant and perfectly ripe bartlett pears... So, of course, I painted them.

I think something must be wrong with my scanner. Lately, my white cards look gray or brownish when I scan them. Is there a simple solution to this? Or do I need a new scanner?

Monday, October 14, 2013

etegami newsletter- nov 2013 issue

If you are signed up to receive the Etegami Fun Club Newsletter, the November 2013 issue should already be in your email box. 

In this issue, you will find ideas for etegami moving announcements, an intro to an artist who inspires, a new Koike quote, and a new Etegami Call. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your feedback.

If you haven't signed up for this free monthly newsletter and would like to do so, please send a request to dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp

P.S. if you are subscribed, but didn't see the October issue, please check your spam folder. If you still can't find it, ask me to send it again. Your account may have rejected it the first time, or your  address may have changed. Reminder: Subscribing to the blog and getting my posts in your mailbox is not the same as signing up for the newsletter, which is not automatic. Sorry for the confusion!

Monday, September 16, 2013

etegami newsletter- oct 2013

If you are signed up to receive the Etegami Fun Club Newsletter, the October 2013 issue should already be in your email box.

In this issue, you will find ideas for etegami stocking stuffers and hostess gifts, advice on how to decide where to place your name stamp on the card, and a new Koike quote. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your feedback.

If you haven't signed up for this free monthly newsletter and would like to do so, please send a request to dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp

P.S. if your email address has changed, and you want to keep getting the newsletter, you'll have to sign up again with your new address. Reminder: Subscribing to the blog and getting my posts in your mailbox is not the same as signing up for the newsletter, which is not automatic. Sorry for the confusion!