Wednesday, June 15, 2016

sand dollar etegami

the big sand dollars are as big as my hand with my fingers spread out
I found these sand dollars at a souvenir shop on an island off America's east coast more than twenty-five years ago. That was before I became bitten by the etegami bug, and at the time, I didn't really know what I wanted them for. But when they reappeared during a recent decluttering frenzy, it was as plain as plain can be that they (especially the huge ones) were canvases begging to be painted on. Part of me resisted adding something to an already exquisite product of nature, but I hoped that etegami-style embellishment would suit this particular canvas-- if applied with a light hand.

The porosity of the shell made it a challenging surface for my etegami paints, but the results did not disappoint me. 

the results did not disappoint me
I made the interesting discovery that none of my Hokkaido-based etegami colleagues had ever seen or heard of a sand dollar before. They are related to the spherical sea urchins, a lip-smacking delicacy that Hokkaido has in abundance, but these flat relatives are apparently unknown in northern Japan. 

So, we searched our nearest seashore for other shells that might work as etegami canvases, and ended up collecting armloads of all kinds of sea shells (mostly chipped or broken), smooth and not-so-smooth stones, and some interesting driftwood. Scallop shells look the most promising, to tell the truth-- big enough to paint on, and flat enough to slip into an envelope. Scallops also happen to be one of the most popular and plentiful products of Hokkaido's sea-farming industry, so there is no shortage of scallop shells. I think I'll ask my local fish market to save me some, and see where that leads. Stay tuned!

at my studio in Atsuta on the Japan Sea coast


  1. The sand dollar etegami is beautiful!

  2. Amazingly lovely!! The etegami suits it perfectly!

  3. Very pretty! I've painted on shells too, though if you don't have sand dollars, I'm sure you don't have my fresh water clams. Congrats to the turtle graduate. I perfectly understand the ceiling staring :)

  4. Your sand dollar is quite nice. I never imagined painting shells before. Was bleeding an issue? How long did it take to dry?

    1. The porosity of the shell tended to make the watercolor "gansai" paint drain straight into the shell (vertically), but there was also some delayed horizontal bleeding too, so it was tricky. The porosity doesn't seem to have the same consistency all over; the paint left darker spots in some places than others. I learned a lot and will probably manage better the next time.