Friday, December 26, 2014

short-cuts, but only when desperate

I can still remember the year I had to admit that my winter holiday mailing list had grown too long to send original hand-made cards to each person on it. I was swallowed by guilt at the time, but the list grows longer every year.

Getting my favorite seasonal etegami made into glossy postcards by a professional printer is one solution that I've tried, but many of my friends and family have expressed a strong preference for the tactile qualities of original washi etegami. And hating to disappoint, I've cast about for a better solution to the problem. For a while I printed my chosen image on the thick washi cards that I generally use when I hand-paint the originals. This produced printed cards that were hard to tell apart from the original etegami, but I gave it up after it wrecked my printer head twice in two years.

Recently I tried printing my holiday etegami image on iron-on washi sheets. I sell pads of these on my Etsy shop and I always keep a stock for my personal use. They are intended for converting ordinary blank postcards into washi cards for etegami, but I never meant for them to be used with a printer. Still, the results were pretty good. They were thin enough to go through the printer without excessively burdening the printer head, and after I ironed them onto ordinary blank postcards they retained the soft, slightly fuzzy feel of washi. The self-adhesive washi sheets work well for this too, but they're a bit more expensive. I pass the sheets through my printer one sheet at a time to prevent their getting stuck inside.

Friday, December 19, 2014

digital downloads for great last-minute gifts

A great last-minute gift for yourself or someone else is the instantly downloadable ebook version of A Beginner's Guide to Etegami.

My collection of illustrated Scripture verses, An Etegami Sampler 2, is also available as a digital download. And if you prefer the print versions, these two books are available from my Etsy shop. Check out sample pages by clicking the links above.

And don't forget the high-resolution images of selected etegami that can be downloaded directly from my Etsy shop. You can use these images to make your own gift tags, book markers, place mats, greeting cards, and a huge variety of other items, as long as they are for non-commerical use. 

The greatest things about these digital gift options is that they cost nothing to ship and involve practically no waiting time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the sheep keep coming

I'm still working on year-of-the-sheep New Year cards for 2015. Even if I hadn't been born in the year of the sheep, I would still love to draw them. They come in such variety!

Friday, December 12, 2014

illustration friday (sea)

The shoe is soaked with sea water. It was the only thing the tsunami left behind when it took the child. The words translate roughly to: What the tsunami left behind.

This is an etegami from my earthquake/tsunami series, re-posted from May 23, 2011.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

etegami stones

I'm distracting myself by making little etegami stones. Except this one is so small, I couldn't get words onto it. I cut the images out of earlier etegami and glue them onto the stones. Bigger stones make nice paperweights, but they're harder to send through the mail system.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

illustration friday (light)

This is a Washi Collage depicting an oil lamp. The design incorporates a quote from the Bible (John 1: 1~5). Perfect for a Christmas card.  Prints can be ordered from Redbubble.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

bridging 12 years with a stamp

As you know, according to the Chinese/Japanese zodiac, 2015 is the year of the sheep. There are 12 animals in the zodiac cycle. The Japan Postal Service sells postcards printed specifically for New Years with stamps depicting the zodiac animal. The cards also come with a lottery number at the bottom so you can win prizes from the cards you receive (winners are announced in February), but that's beside the point. Notice the stamp they designed 12 years ago. A sheep knitting --and notice that the pre-printed cancellation mark is a skein of yarn! It appears that the sheep for 2015 has finally finished its knitting project. In the 12 intervening years, postage has risen by 2-yen because of the increase in consumer tax.

This photo was borrowed from an entertaining and informative website called Spoon & Tamago, Japanese Art, Design and Culture, which is well worth checking out.

NOTE: a friend pointed out something I had missed: "the current cancellation mark is circular knitting needles--two metal or wood needles connected by flex plastic! There is more--- the cancellation stripes have TWO knitting needles and one Crochet Hook!! What a great and secret design!

Friday, December 5, 2014

creative inspiration

I dearly love my art magazines. But great quality does not come cheap, and when you add overseas postage, the cost of a year's subscription to a good publication can shoot it far out of my price range. So my rules are (1) no more than one subscription per year, and (2) never subscribe to the same magazine two years in a row.

Over the years, I've subscribed to magazines about Nature, magazines about world literature, and magazines about creative cookery. But my long-term favorites are Gekkan Etegami (Etegami Monthly), published by the Japan Etegami Society, and UPPERCASE: "a magazine for the creative and curious," published four times a year from Canada.

For the past few years, I've been going back and forth between the last two. I've posted quite a bit about Gekkan Etegami on this blog, so my regular readers should be familiar with it by now. I don't think I've mentioned UPPERCASE before, but take my word for it, it is jam-jam-jam-packed with fascinating articles and great photos by and about successful artists and crafters from all over the world. I don't think there's an inch of wasted space in the whole magazine. Plus it's made with really thick paper and rich inks, and has the most wonderful inky smell when you open it up.

Now then, this is the time of year when I start wondering what I will subscribe to next. Should I go back to the magazine I subscribed to the year before last? (good choice) Or should I take the opportunity to discover something completely new? (great choice!) So I thought: why don't I ask my readers if they have a favorite magazine? Maybe it will be just the discovery that I am looking for. If you have a recommendation, please comment below, preferably with a link to a website that will give me detailed information. Thanks bunches!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

postage stamps for the holidays

I have a friend who loves etegami, but never paints them herself. She absolutely cannot resist buying cute postage stamps in the latest design whenever she comes near a post office. I benefit from this addiction because, each time she succumbs to it, she sends me a couple sheets of her latest purchase. I always reply to her with a thank-you etegami using one of her stamps. Win-win.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

etegami throw pillows

Yaaay! See what arrived in the post today: Three throw pillows I ordered from RedBubble, printed with etegami from my sheep series. I'm so very pleased with them.

Monday, December 1, 2014

christmas-y drink coasters

 I hosted an Etegami workshop for expat women at my house three days ago where we used corrugated cardboard to make Christmas cards and New Year cards. Our time was limited, and I wanted to focus on technique and tools for this non-traditional form of etegami, so we skipped a step or two by using images I had prepared in advance and photos that I had cut out from old interior decorating magazines.

Later, when I was sorting the leftover cardboard and images, I saw that none of the nutcracker doll photos had been used. So, while listening to the evening news, I began making holiday drink coasters from the leftover cardboard and images.

I did this the same way I'd taught my students to make cards, except that instead of cutting the cardboard into 4" x 6" postcards, I cut them into squares. I glued the images to the squares, then used a craft cutter to mark out the sections of paper that I wanted to peel off the top layer of the corrugated cardboard.

The point of doing this is to expose the "ribs" of the corrugated cardboard for a 3D effect. This also meant cutting along the edge of the image where it bordered the sections I wanted to peel away, so that the image didn't get peeled off by mistake. I wet the unwanted sections of paper by painting them with a paintbrush soaked in water. When the paper was wet enough, I took tweezers and carefully peeled it off the ribs. If any paper fuzz from the top layer stuck to the rib layer, I used the tweezers to remove it so that it didn't look sloppy.

I left enough of the top layer intact on each coaster to keep it from getting weak and floppy. I thought about adding words and putting my name stamp to each piece like I would do with my original etegami. But the images weren't my handiwork and I was too tired to choose words, so I finished up the project by pressing squares of clear self-adhesive vinyl film onto the surface of each coaster, making the tops, at least, water resistant.

It took only an hour to make 7 coasters. Now I'll have to find 7 people willing to come to our house at the same time so that we can use them. Let me know when you can come over. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

more box-card etegami-collages

etegami sheep leaping on a card cut from a cookie box

etegami sea turtle swimming on a card cut from a rice cracker box

The Box-Card Etegami-Collage Challenge closed at the end of October, but it was such a fun project, and I still have plenty of product boxes that can be made into cards, so I keep making more. You can see some of my etegami-collages along the right sidebar of the challenge blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

tim'rous beastie

This is supposed to depict a field mouse looking out of its nest. It's a corrugated-cardboard etegami-collage for my father-in-law, in honor of his Scottish roots and because he is a great fan of Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. The verse comes from Burns' oft-quoted poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough. I've posted the first stanza below, in Burns' original Scots, and the same stanza rewritten in standard English. You can find the complete version of both by clicking this link to Simple English Wikipedia.

(original Scots) 

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle. 

(standard English) 

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

art in the margins

The Art in the Margin of Sheet Stamps

Better than a Hot Water Bottle in the Winter
Playing the Biwa (lute) with a Zucchini
Do other countries have sheet stamps, like we do in Japan, that have gorgeous art in the margins? I've saved stamp sheet margins for years, long after the stamps were used up. The margins have the same coating on the back as the stamps do, and it gets sticky if you lick it. Sometimes I cut out the margin art and use it to decorate the outside of my mailing envelopes.

Though I've often used cancelled postage stamps to make etegami-collages, the corrugated-cardboard-etegami-collages shown here (yes, my experiments do get complicated) are the first etegami I've ever made with stamp sheet margin art. In the first one, I used a margin-art panda and combined it with my painting of a tangerine. In the second, I used a margin-art lute and combined it with my painting of a zucchini with a stem that looked a bit like a finger. The second one is missing words, so technically it doesn't qualify as an etegami....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

christmas sheep

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night... (Luke 2:8)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

the life purpose of a postage stamp

Some  years ago, I received a gift of a sheet of postage stamps inserted into a folder with a slender magazine. The artwork depicted on the stamps had been created by artist Taiji Harada for a series on the theme of "furusato" (故郷, translated variously as native town, home town, ancestral village, the country towns of Japan). The magazine showed each work of art side by side with Harada's own photograph of the same location and some descriptive comments. I dearly treasured this stamp-and-magazine set, and every time I came across it while searching though my files for something else, I'd completely forget whatever task I'd been pursuing, and lose myself in the beauty of the art and in the memories of the country towns I have known and loved.

Recently, however, I've been working hard to sort and reduce my piles and piles and piles of squirreled away treasures, and it came time to bid farewell to all my stamp books (I began collecting stamps when I was ten), including the aforementioned "furusato" stamp-and-magazine set. The cancelled stamps in my dusty collection were used for various craftsy projects, and the uncancelled stamps finally fulfilled their life's purpose on the packages I sent to my Etsy customers. I do sometimes wonder how many of my customers noticed the vintage postage stamps, or realized how rare many of them were... but that isn't so important. Not to the stamps themselves anyway. (I asked.)

I turned the colorful pages of the Furusato stamp magazine into envelopes. Today I finished making the last of them, and over the next few days I will be sending etegami from my collages and corrugated cardboard series (the ones that are too delicate to send as postcards) to the lovely people with whom I exchange mailart. And I wanted to share the story of the envelopes with all my readers, whether you receive one of them or not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

etegami gifts

If you're looking for unique holiday gifts for the important people in your life, don't forget to take a peek at the collection of etegami housewares in my Zazzle shop. I remove items and add new items regularly, so if you don't find what you have in mind, ask me to make a new listing for you. Zazzle regularly offers limited-time discount codes on various groups of products, so keep an eagle eye on their site to catch yourself a good deal.

Monday, October 27, 2014

preparing for the year of the sheep

The November issue of Gekkan Etegami (etegami magazine; published by the Japan Etegami Society) is arguably the best issue of the year. It has thirty to forty pages more than the ordinary issues, and it is always features the Oriental zodiac animal of the coming new year. This month, they have some 50 (50!!) pages like this one, jam-packed with etegami that readers have created to celebrate New Year 2015, the Year of the Sheep/Goat.

This year I will be using the sheep motif for both my 2014 Christmas cards and my 2015 New Year cards. I'm so excited I'm like a small child that can't stop wiggling in his seat during church or at a concert. One reason I'm excited is that the year of the sheep is MY year. I was born in the year of the sheep xx years ago, and that is one of the many reasons why I'm rather fond of the animals. Plus, sheep are a lot easier to draw than horses or dragons, don't you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

digital downloads

I've decided to add high-resolution digital downloads to my Etsy shop. This means customers can download selected etegami directly from my shop and print the image on their own printers multiple times for a variety of artsy-craftsy uses that do NOT include resale. Shown here is the first image I've listed for digital downloading. I will be adding more images soon. They are available at a nearly-give-away price (and, of course, no shipping charges or waiting!) to the first five customers, on condition that those customers send me feedback on the experience to help me improve the product and service.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

sleeping cats

The October issue of the Japan Etegami Society monthly magazine Etegami arrived a few days ago, and I was delighted by the special section on cat etegami. These "sleeping cats" brim with personality, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

experimenting with black

The standard (4" x 6 ") dimensions of etegami aren't really suited to square throw pillows and tote bags, so I always worry about how to fill in the extra space at the top and bottom when I get my etegami printed on these products. Since most of my etegami are painted on white cards, it had never occurred to me to get them printed on anything but a white background. But lately I've been experimenting with black backgrounds for products printed with my bolder-colored etegami-collages. I've been receiving some enthusiastic feedback on these experiments, so I guess it works. 

These products can be ordered from my RedBubble gallery, but I wish customers could choose the background color of pillows and totes like they often can with T-shirts. I could try to set up a listing for an etegami tote or throw pillow with the background color of your choice if you let me know before you order. Have any of you had to deal with the issue of background color when getting your art printed onto a product?

Friday, September 19, 2014

bursting hearts

My father-in-law is ailing and may not have much longer to live. I stopped traveling overseas long ago, so I haven't seen him in twenty years-- but I try to communicate regularly by email and etegami. When I asked him if there was anything I could draw for him, he told me about the "bursting-heart" plant that ornamented the fall of the eastern United States. "It's an unbelievable sight this time of year," he told me, "Let me assure you it is impossible to exaggerate the purple of the seed pod or the orange of the attached seeds." So I searched the internet for photos and made an attempt to express this plant-- with its flaming color and lovely nickname-- in the context of etegami. I know it falls way short of the picture he has in his mind, but I was glad to have this chance to share something with him.

Euonymus americanus is a species of flowering plant in the family Celastraceae. Common names include strawberry bush, American strawberry bush, bursting-heart, and hearts-bustin’-with-love. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

forgetful lucky cat

I've decided that humor is the best way to deal with encroaching memory failure. But I think I'd better send this etegami to myself so I don't forget my own advice. 

This is another etegami-collage in which I recycled a previous etegami by cutting the image out and gluing it to a different background. The lucky cats on this card were originally painted for a save-the-date card that didn't work out, but they will probably appear again on a future etegami.

Monday, September 15, 2014

respect-for-the-aged day

September 15 is a national holiday in Japan called Keirou-no-hi (respect for the aged day), although now-a-days the day is always celebrated on the second Monday of the month, to turn it into a long weekend.  People often take their grandparents out-- maybe for dinner, maybe for an overnight stay at a hot springs inn. I  was once a part of a women's group that would serve up an elaborate luncheon on this day with various entertainments for the elderly ladies at our church.  

As a joke, I gave my husband a respect-for-the-aged card (the one posted above) this year because he's 61 and we don't have any grandchildren yet to celebrate it for him. But really, I think you have to be over 65 to qualify as "early elderly," and most people who were interviewed on the street in Japan thought that you don't qualify even for that until age 70. If I remember correctly, anyone past age 80 is called "late elderly." But the Japanese are, overall, a long-lived people. The turtle, as you probably know, symbolizes longevity.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

save the date

I was recently commissioned to design an etegami-style save-the-date card, which was a totally new experience for me, because I'd never heard of such cards, nor of the custom of sending such cards. So I did a search on Etsy, and was astounded by the number of shops that offer card designs for this very purpose.

I floundered a bit, and finally came up with the design in the photo above. Then I floundered a bit more, until I came to a better understanding of the concept of save-the-date cards, and a better grasp of what my clients were looking for.  I can't show you the design that won their hearts just yet. That one will remain a secret until their special event is over.

My world got just a little bit bigger and I'm wondering how many other greeting card customs there are in the world that I have never known-- customs that could bring Etegami further purpose.

Monday, September 8, 2014

the harvest moon

Fox and the Harvest Moon. Hand-painted Etegami fox glued to a card cut from the cover of a gift box of Japanese sweets.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

the sandstorm

This is a fennec-- a desert fox. I painted the fennec on a washi card, then cut it out and glued it to a card cut from a food product box with a pattern that made me think of sand blowing in the desert.

When I was little, my mother used to sing a song about the Sandman to help me fall asleep at night. I have several friends who are struggling with insomnia right now, and I dedicate this etegami-collage to them.