Wednesday, May 4, 2016

children's day once again


Kodomo no hi (Children's Day festival) is celebrated in Japan each year on May 5. There are many, many traditions associated with this holiday, the most popular probably being the colorful and picturesque koinobori (carp-shaped windsocks). These magnificent windsocks are flown from flag poles in backyards and fields, or ropes stretched across rivers, to symbolize the strength and bravery of carps swimming against the current.  I can't count how many versions of koinobori I have painted over the decades, and they continue to fascinate me as a subject for etegami.

This year, however, I recycled an old etegami I had painted of kashiwa mochi, a confection traditionally associated with this holiday. Kashiwa mochi are dumplings made of pounded rice, stuffed with sweet bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf.  In Japan, oak trees are seen as a symbol of the prosperity of one’s descendants. The leaves are not edible, but they transfer a nice earthy fragrance to the mochi.

When I say I recycled one of my old etegami, I mean that I cut up this old, slightly faded etegami, then glued a part of it to a card I had cut out of a shopping bag from a famous traditional Japanese sweets shop. I had been saving the bag for just such a purpose.

The words, which I added with a white gel pen, translate roughly to "While my children go forth into the world and battle dragons, I will stay at home and eat kashiwa mochi." I tried, at one level, to express my pride in my children, and on another level, my relief in knowing that my part in preparing them for the world was mostly successful. I can relax now and enjoy my tea and dumplings.

Monday, April 25, 2016

fun with frames



Usually I approve of the simplest of frames for displaying etegami. Paper board covered in washi, with elastic stretched across the four corners to hold the etegami in place. Or maybe a very simple woven bamboo frame (flattish bamboo baskets make great etegami frames).

But sometimes I decorate store-bought wood frames, like the one in the photo at the top, especially when I have a specific etegami in mind. All I did was draw cat paws on the white frame with a permanent black marker. Then I recycled an old-ish but well-loved cat etegami to fit the frame's small-ish 9cm x 9cm dimensions.

Other times, I decorate with a season or mood in mind, trusting that the resulting frames will work with etegami that I have yet to create. I decorated the two box frames in the second photo by affixing shapes cut from hand-dyed washi using store-bought hole punchers.

Do you make original frames to go with your original art? If so, maybe you wouldn't mind sharing some of your favorite techniques and materials with me.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

flower salad


I try to get the Etegami Fun Club involved in the Flower City Fukushima Etegami Contest every year. We've produced at least two award-winners so far, although I do recognize that the Japanese judges probably give our entries special consideration because of the novelty of submissions from "foreign lands."

But the Etegami Fun Club is much larger now than it was a few years ago, and this year, members from Italy, France, Canada, the US, Poland, Belarus, (and more) came up with an unprecedented number of submissions. So many, in fact, that submissions from foreigners may soon become so blasé that it will be much more difficult to impress the judges. That, of course, is a good thing. It's further proof that years of effort to spread interest in and passion about the art of etegami has produced results.

The two etegami shown here are from my on-going Flower Salad series. The one at the top is my submission to this year's Flower City Fukushima call. It says "Let's eat flower salad and become beautiful." In Japanese, the word for "beautiful" (kirei) can also mean "clean, pure, pristine" much like the English word when used in a sentence like "What a beautiful day it is!" It is more than physical beauty; it can refer to the spirit or character and, most definitely, the heart. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

#efcmailboxchallenge


One of our Etegami Fun Club members, Kasia from Poland, suggested mailboxes (for sending letters) and letter boxes (for receiving letters) as our group theme for April. What immediately came to my mind was a collage series I did years years and years ago when I was still active in the international mailart community. I had combined vintage Japanese stamps with photos of the kind of mailbox that was common in Japan when I was a child. 

I thought of submitting one of the original series, but when I looked through my digital records, they felt much too cluttered for my current tastes. So I did a similar one using fewer postage stamps, hand-written words, and a properly "wiggly" hand-painted mailbox. I couldn't motivate myself to paint the postage stamps, as I have plenty of real used stamps that I'm always looking for a way to use in my art. 

Speaking of postage stamp art, I am a big fan of Jackie Long's "Stamp People" series and hope to do something like that with Japanese stamps one of these days.  I am the lucky recipient of several of Jacki's collage cards.

By the way, I did today's etegami collage in my "Life Between Cultures" etegami journal so that I could also post it on the Artist's Journal Workshop group page on Facebook.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

time, time, time, see what's become of me


This etegami is from my "Life Between Cultures" art journal. As usual, I've tried to incorporate a kind of wordplay that gives the combination of words and image more than one level of meaning.

The image was inspired by the Japanese legend of Urashima Taro, a young fisherman who rescues a turtle and accepts an invitation to visit the palace under the sea where the dragon god lives. There he is lavishly entertained for three days, until he asks to be allowed to return to his village to check on his aged mother. They regretfully let him go, and the dragon god's daughter gives him a mysterious box called a tamatebako to protect him from harm, but which must never, ever be opened.

Taro takes the box and is escorted back to the shore of his village. But he finds that everything has changed. His home, his mother, and everyone he used to know are gone. It appears that 300 years have passed on land while he was at the palace under the sea. Bewildered and grieving, he absent-mindedly opens the tamatebako. A cloud of white smoke bursts out of it, and suddenly Taro is turned into an old, old man with a long white beard and bent back. I find it a sad and puzzling story.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

the museum walls are waiting



This invitation to submit mailart arrived in today's mail. I receive a lot of unsolicited invitations, and I don't often post them if they are from people I don't know-- like this one. But the words "museum walls are waiting..." caught my fancy, and it is a Japan-based mailart call, so I am sharing it with my readers. As you can see, this is not a call for etegami, but for mailart of any format, size, material, or theme. And entries will be displayed in a museum. Grab the ball and run with it-- if you are so inclined. It could be fun.

Friday, March 4, 2016

japanese white-eye


Yes, here in Sapporo we are still buried in snow. But temperatures are rising, and the towering, dingy-white piles are expected to start shrinking fast. Time to paint the Japanese White-eye.  This was custom-designed for a women's group that is holding their annual retreat this weekend.