Tuesday, September 20, 2016

the little grape's big dream

The poetry of Naoko Kudo (mentioned briefly in my last post) has inspired a lot of my etegami recently, both directly and indirectly. This etegami is of the indirect variety, and though I hate long blog posts, it needs a bit of explanation.

It was inspired by the poem titled Yama-budou no yume (literally: "dreams of the mountain-grapes," except that yama-budou aren't really grapes at all. You can learn more about this plant at this link: Vitis coignetiae).

The poem describes the young berries as they discuss what they want to be when they grow up. One says "a muscat grape" and another "a concord grape," but then the dreams start getting weird. One says he wants to grow up to be a marble, and another excitedly says "When I grow up, I'm going to be the full moon!!"

I was thinking about this poem the other day as I was watching an odd-looking ship approach Ishikari port in the far distance from the wood deck of my studio in Atsuta. I had never actually seen a ship of this type before, but I recognized it at once from a very peculiar conversation I'd had with a gnomish electrician from Atsuta village just a few days earlier. I plan to use that electrician in an etegami some day, but that's another story.

Anyway, I recognized the ship as a liquefied natural gas carrier. And my next thought was that the tanks looked like huge grapes. From there, my thoughts went to the poem, and I began to imagine a tiny mountain-grape with the huge and totally irrational dream of growing up to become an LNG tank. Thus the etegami was born.

I tore the etegami image of the LNG carrier out of the washi card I had painted it on, and glued it onto a patch of dark blue paper cut out of an old paper bag, to give it the look of the sea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

towel brush etegami

The town of Senshuu (known for being the origin of towel production in Japan) is calling for etegami painted by "towel brush," so I thought I would give it a try. A towel brush is basically a chopstick or other stick that has a small piece of terry cloth towel wrapped around one end, fastened tightly with rubber bands.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to make a towel brush, but I basically followed the directions in the image posted below. The merit --or charm-- of using a towel brush instead of a regular ink brush is supposed to be the coarseness and sloppiness of the lines. I certainly had difficulty affixing the towel tightly enough to the stick to use it with any control at all. And I quickly learned that, when dipped into my sumi ink bottle, the towel brush soaks up the ink so fast I have trouble keeping the bottle filled. It feels kind of wasteful, to tell the truth...

The dragonfly (top photo) was my first attempt. I hated it. But later it started to grow on me. The words are from a children's song about dragonflies and sunsets.

The next three attempts. I hated these too. The cucumber says "(Summer is over but) I still have a role to play." The open jar says "I let the fireflies go."

I was pretty disappointed with my towel brush etegami attempts up to this point, so for the next three I made even simpler images. I also used a gel pen to write the words, because I had to fit too many words on each card to attempt it with the thick towel brush. Each quotes a line from a different poem by Japanese poet Kudo Naoko. Top left is a yawning cloud. Top right is a grape dreaming of becoming the moon. Bottom middle shows scattered pieces of a broken heart waiting to be picked up. I hate these too, but I'll look at them again next week and maybe I will feel differently.

Obviously I need lots more practice. Especially practice making towel brushes. The sample art on the poster (top photo) is quite charming though. I wish I could produce something like that. We'll see.

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.