Monday, August 22, 2016

late summer etegami


I missed my chance to send out the traditional mid-summer greeting cards (shochuu mimai) this year, but when I finally pulled myself out of the hot weather doldrums, I found I still had time to send out late-summer greeting cards (zansho mimai). These two types of summer greetings are explained in this post from three years ago. You still have time to send out your own!


The dragonfly etegami is from early July, when the dragonflies started swarming in Atsuta on the Japan Sea coast where I often go to paint. I was puzzled because it seemed far too early in the year to see dragonflies in such numbers, and I still don't have an explanation for it. The accompanying words say "It's far too early for dragonflies, isn't it?" The background colors represent the sunset because dragonflies are often associated with sunsets in Japanese children's songs, and Atsuta is particularly famous for its sunsets.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

keep those teabags



I love browsing the tea bag art I find on Pinterest, and have long fantasized about repurposing used teabags for etegami use. We etegami artists often play around with whatever paper product is at hand when inspiration strikes --- coffee filters, paper dinner napkins, paper cups, etc (as long as it's mailable)--- so why not used teabags?

But what I really like about used teabags is the tea stains on the paper. I haven't gotten as far as actually painting on teabags, but for some time now, I have been emptying out the used leaves, then drying, cutting, and flattening the bags for future use. My first experiment has been to recycle old etegami by pasting them over with these small sheets of tea-stained teabags . It gives them a vintage-style look, don't you think? Well, maybe not, but this is just the beginning, so bear with me. If you are already into teabag art, I'd love to know what you are creating.

The stained fold-lines of the teabags makes this look like a window frame.


The hawk is my husband's first attempt at etegami! I added the words and the teabags. 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

the misanthropic fox

















As soon as the Etegami workshop was over for the day, and I was the only one left in the house, a fox strolled along the top of the fence just outside my studio window. #Atsuta series. 

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


Monday, June 13, 2016

busy on the inside


I remember a little boy who lay on his bed staring at the ceiling for hours and hours of each day, cheerfully deaf to threats and pleas from his frustrated mother who felt he should be doing his chores, his homework, or getting exercise outside. Fortunately, he had a wise older sister who assured their mother that staring at the ceiling was important for developing a creative mind. So the mother gave up her threats (for the most part).

The boy eventually grew up and left home. Facing numerous crises, both physical and mental, he showed remarkable resilience, and finally one day he received that piece of paper that opened the door to the next stage of his dream to be what he had wanted to be ever since he was three years old: A scientist. Actually, he grew up to be a physicist who loves to make art. His mother has a great respect for ceiling-gazing now, and looks forward to teaching that skill to her grandchildren... if she ever has any. 

I  made this etegami to celebrate the boy's doctoral hooding ceremony. Except that his version has a diploma in it. (name hidden for his privacy). Prints of the non-diploma version can be ordered from my RedBubble shop.

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.