Saturday, February 21, 2015

etegami from paper balloons

Kami-fuusen (paper balloons) were one of my favorite toys as a child. You could find them in the traditional pattern (see small photo below right) at the small, dusty, mom & pop shops where children bought pencils and notebooks and other school supplies on the way home from school.
traditional kami fuusen

Paper balloons are harder to find these days, but when you do find them, they come in a most remarkable variety of images and patterns, sometimes with extensions like wings and fins and much more astonishing features. But I was most thrilled to discover one shop from which I could order PLAIN WHITE paper balloons! They are perfect as a canvas for a spherical form of etegami.

The balloons are made of waxy paper which repels any traditional etegami paints, so I decorate them with bits of chiyogami (patterned washi paper), and I use a black permanent marker to write the message. The kami fuusen are folded up in the package when I buy them, so I open them up partway to create flat surfaces to decorate. The balloons have a blowhole at one end, so you can either press your lips to it or stick a drinking straw through it, then blow it up into a ball.

Originally designed as paper balls to pat back and forth between playmates, they are also fun to use in decorating the house. But I will fold these back up and put them in envelopes to send to mailart friends across the sea. Someone more clever than I am could probably make these from scratch, with paper better suited to being painted on.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

round washi cards

There's a kind of high-end, hand produced washi paper that I really like called Chikuma-sen, which I used for hand painting all my business cards a long time ago. It has less bleed than the Hakuryuu cards I prefer for etegami these days-- thus better suited for detailed work. Yet the paper is soft to the touch, and the colors blend together almost as well as on a card with higher bleed. My supplier started offering round Chikuma-sen cards in sets of five, so I ordered some this week.

Each card is 18.7 cm in diameter (a little less than 7 1/2 inches), and can be sent "naked" through the mail (without an envelope) if stamped with a little more postage than for ordinary postcards. But I've decided to use them to paint ornamental etegami to display in my own home during the upcoming Hinamatsuri (Doll's Day, often called Girl's Day, on March 3) and Kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day, often called Boy's Day, on May 5) festivals.

There's something very forgiving about the round Chikuma-sen; the gansai paints are easy to apply, and when my will isn't enough to make up for my lack of skill, it makes the work appear tidy and balanced anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

etegami sachets

Japan has many ways to enjoy incense, but I've always been particularly intrigued with fumikou, the fragrant folded-paper sachets that are slipped into envelopes along with letters, and which release their soothing scents when the recipients open the envelopes. These paper sachets can be purchased at incense shops or you can make them yourself, but I had been wondering how to apply the aesthetic of fumikou to etegami, which, as you know, are traditionally sent as postcards without envelopes.

I have quite a stockpile of incense in stick or cone form. I keep them in a drawer with my tablecloths, cloth napkins, and place mats to which they add a dreamy old-Japan aroma, but I seldom burn them because the smoke aggravates my husband's asthma.

So I ground up some rather old incense cones, placed a tiny pile of the powder on one of my etegami cards, and glued a hand-torn washi heart over the top of the powder. The result was okay, but the powder was not as tightly sealed under the heart as I would have liked, probably because of the bumpy, fibrous quality of the hand-made card I used.

In my next attempt, I tore out two hearts of roughly the same size and sealed the powdered incense between them before gluing the heart "sandwich" onto one of my usual even-surfaced cards. I liked the results better this time, and did it again with a third etegami sachet depicting a tree spirit, which was inspired by the foresty-scent of the incense.

In spite of my original intentions, I don't think these will survive the postal service unless they are sent in envelopes. I will have to experiment a lot more before I can produce an etegami sachet that can be sent "naked" in the mail.

my first attempt

my second and third attempts

Thursday, February 12, 2015

add-and-return etegami

Last December, shortly before Christmas, I received this 8 cm square handmade accordion book from Emanuela in Italy. The cover was made from sturdy textured paper with notches to stabilize the pretty silver bell and red ribbon that held the booklet closed. On the first page Emanuela had glued a square of coarse, hand-torn washi painted with the character for Happiness, but all the rest of the pages were blank. I treasured it and admired it for three months until the day it suddenly occurred to me that she probably meant it to be used, not just admired.

So, seeing as it was the week of Valentine's Day,  I filled it with images and words having to do with love. The images were mostly small prints of my own etegami from recent years. And the words were mostly quotes from classic poems about love and friendship and comfort for a downcast heart. There were ten pages, and since two spaces were unavailable because one was pasted to the cover and another had been used by Emanuela, that gave me 18 spaces (counting both sides of each page) to fill up. I also put an illustration on the front cover.

I will be sending the booklet back to Emanuela. That way she can see how much pleasure her little booklet gave me, and maybe seeing our work combined this way will give her pleasure too.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

more scrappy valentine cards

I thought I was finished with Valentine cards for this year, but I learned a lovely new poem about the heart and decided I couldn't go on to any new projects until I had expressed this short poem in etegami form. The poem is by Juukichi Yagi (1898 -1927), and it basically repeats two lines that translate roughly to: "Dear heart, go out into the world. But come back someday because this is the best place to be."

I chose the image of a heart traveling on a cloud (the Japanese version of a flying carpet), and followed the same steps described in my previous post: Scrappy Valentine Cards.  But while I was doing this, I started thinking about clouds in general, and how they are used in English expressions. And I started wondering: What does the expression "cloud nine" mean? And where did it come from? (google it yourself) This led to the English version of the scrappy etegami in the photo above.

glued scrap fabric onto one side of a card

painted clouds on washi cards with sumi ink, cut hearts from chiyogami

added words and name seal

glued scrap sheet magnets to back of each card

the result: refrigerator magnets!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

scrappy valentine cards

I made these valentine cards from scraps that were destined for the trash: (1)  stiff paper board from a pack of printer paper, (2) an old blouse, (3) chiyogami (brightly patterned washi paper) left over from another project,  and (4) printed flexible magnets advertising a plumbing company.

I cut the stiff paper board into  2" x 3" cards, glued the fabric onto one side of each card,  cut hearts out of the chiyogami and glued them onto the fabric, then trimmed any cloth or chiyogami that extended beyond the edges of each card. I wrote the words directly on the fabric with a white gel pen.

Finally, I cut up the flexible magnets and glued them onto the back of each card so that the printed side was hidden and the black, magnetic side faced outwards. Hopefully the glue will be strong enough to keep the materials together even after lots of handling. I tested the strength of the completed magnet cards on my refrigerator and they didn't disappoint me. Magnetic Valentine cards made from recycled scraps!