Friday, June 20, 2014

sniffing dog and cloud-gazing cat

These images will be going into my new Etegami Cats and Etegami Doggies desk calendars for 2015.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Inspired by the Showa era goldfish vending stalls. These were most often set up along the approaches to local shrines and temples with dozens of other specialty stalls that enlivened summer festivals in Japan (and still do). Back then, the glass globes (miniature goldfish bowls) hung from bamboo slats under the eaves of the stall-- a prop to make customers feel cooler in the sultry evenings of high summer, I think.

Other goldfish are sold from tanks set on the ground, and children pay for a chance to scoop them up with plastic-framed paper scoops that usually get soggy and tear before they can catch any fish. So they pay for another scoop. And another. As long as the coins that are clutched in their sweaty little palms last.

more etegami uchiwa (handheld flat fans)

Friday, June 13, 2014

the bird, the bell, and me (misuzu kaneko series #5)

The Bird, The Bell, And Me
by Misuzu Kaneko
translated and illustrated by dosankodebbie

Though I hold out my arms as wide as I can,
I can never soar the skies;
A little bird can do just that,
yet not run as fast as I can.

Though I jiggle my body from head to toe,
I can't make pretty sounds;
A tinkling bell can do just that,
yet not know as many songs as I do.

The bell, the bird, and then there's me;
each of us different, and each of us good.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

more etegami uchiwa (bamboo flat fans)

I'm almost ready for summer! (ps: I fixed the misspelling on the clover fan after I took this photo. embarrassed.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

like playing with paper dolls

I've blogged many times about recycling etegami, but my motivation for doing so is not necessarily the same each time. Sometimes I like the image, but am disappointed with the writing, so I cut out the image, glue it to a new card, and redo the words. Sometimes I use faded or damaged etegami in making a paper pulp to produce new washi for new cards.

And sometimes, like today, after scanning the original etegami for my records, I cut out the image, glue it to a fresh background, and put the same, or similar, words in another language to reach a wider audience. Only the final version actually gets sent in the mail. The earlier versions only remain in digital form.

The words on each of these cards have the same meaning. It's the old Japanese saying: After a victory, tighten the cord of your helmet. In other words, don't let the euphoria of victory make you careless. I drew this bike helmet long ago to illustrate a short story a friend wrote about a motorcycle accident, and decided to turn the illustration into an etegami. Then I took it apart and made a new version of it in English. And then I did it again with a different background.

It kind of reminds me of the paper dolls I played with as a child. I remembered this morning that I used to draw and cut out my own paper dolls and design the clothes I would make them wear. Probably lots of children did the same. Maybe my etegami play a similar role for me in my old(er) age. Today I'll put you against a blue background with German words, I say to my image, How would you like that? Am I weird?

Monday, June 9, 2014

collaborative etegami

I have an elderly friend (mid- to late- 80s) who had hoped to finally have time for a hobby after she retired from the workforce. But as soon as she retired, a situation arose in which she had to start keeping house for her daughter and grandson. And I mean she does everything. She says she never has time for herself, except when she is sick or too exhausted to do anything fun. I send her etegami regularly, and each time she sighs with both the pleasure of receiving them, and frustration that she can't pursue a hobby of her own.

I asked her one day what she would choose to do with her free time if she had any. She said she'd always liked to write. I asked, poetry? prose? calligraphy? She wasn't clear on that, but maybe she wants to do all three. So I suggested we work on some collaborative etegami. I would send her some cards on which I'd painted images, and she could add whatever words she wanted. It would take only a few minutes of her time and very little in the way of tools or space. Neither of us are certain this will work, but I said what do we have to lose by giving it a try?

I told her that if she liked the results, she could use use them for her own purposes, like sending notes to old friends with whom she has long been out of touch. Even if she only has time to do one card a month, it will be something she can be thinking about and looking forward to as she does the housework or when she's lying in bed at night. That's my hope, anyway. She had suggested it would work best for her if I painted seasonal images, so today I painted some baby birds in a nest and a bunch of loquats. These go into the mailbox tomorrow (in an envelope to keep them from getting marked).

Update: Ten days after the original post, my friend sent back three of the first four image-only etegami I had asked her to complete with the addition of words. She thanked me over and over for "moisturizing" her life-- an expression that describes a parched plant soaking up the rain. I really meant for her to keep them all, or to send them to someone else, but I remembered that several of my readers had expressed interest in seeing how our collaboration turned out. So here there are. The writing with the loquat says "Bursting with grace and fruit." The other two quote poetry--her own I think-- with references to the specific flowers in each image (Gymnaster savatieri and Digitalis). Notice that she signs her part of the etegami with her own hanko.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

barnyard series (chickens, pigs)

I've enjoyed the feedback many of you have given me on my barnyard series. I'm sorry I haven't been able to respond to them all.  So far I've got goats, lambs, ducklings, barn owls, chickens, donkeys, cows and cow pats!, cats, pigs, and others I can't remember right now. Oh yeah, I'm working on honey bees too! My barnyard calendar is almost complete. (happy dance)

Friday, June 6, 2014

etegami biography

6:00 AM. June 6, 2014

Husband: I'll be hiking the Tengu-dake and Anadaki Falls area today. That's where I ran into the bear last year. (excited, hopeful) Of course, that was in May.... (wistful, doubtful).

Me: Well, if you get eaten by a bear it would make an interesting ending to your biography.

Husband: You planning to write my biography?

Me: Well, an etegami biography. Maybe.

Husband: If my life inspires you to make etegami, then it will all have been worth it. (there's a gleam in his eye. humor? sarcasm?)

As soon as he walked out the door, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and some watercolor pencils, and drew an etegami. I just can't resist a challenge....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


The haiku poet Taneda Santoka inspires many of my etegami, but in this case my main inspiration came from a photo taken by my middle sister, whom I haven't seen in more than thirteen years. (sigh)