Sunday, February 1, 2015

scrappy valentine cards



I made these valentine cards from scraps that were destined for the trash: (1)  stiff paper board from a pack of printer paper, (2) an old blouse, (3) chiyogami (brightly patterned washi paper) left over from another project,  and (4) printed flexible magnets advertising a plumbing company.

I cut the stiff paper board into  2" x 3" cards, glued the fabric onto one side of each card,  cut hearts out of the chiyogami and glued them onto the fabric, then trimmed any cloth or chiyogami that extended beyond the edges of each card. I wrote the words directly on the fabric with a white gel pen.


Finally, I cut up the flexible magnets and glued them onto the back of each card so that the printed side was hidden and the black, magnetic side faced outwards. Hopefully the glue will be strong enough to keep the materials together even after lots of handling. I tested the strength of the completed magnet cards on my refrigerator and they didn't disappoint me. Magnetic Valentine cards made from recycled scraps!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

lily bulb recipes published



The first set of the illustrated recipes I was asked to create for the Japan Times ST was published as a center spread this week. The theme of this set is  yuri-ne (lily bulb, also called lily root), which I used as the main ingredient for a soup, an appetizer, a main dish, and even a dessert!

Hokkaido produces over 95% of Japan's lily bulbs, most of which get sent south to Kyoto where they are used in classical Japanese cuisine.

Fresh lily bulbs are creamy white, and look like slightly-flattened heads of garlic. They have a delicate, mildly sweet flavor, and are crunchy when raw and silky-creamy when cooked. In classical Japanese cooking, the segments are separated, then steamed or boiled. I recently tried the very non-traditional method of roasting them whole in the oven, which intensified their flavor and texture, and was practically swept off my feet by their yumminess. Check out this link to read more about yuri-ne.

My next set of illustrated recipes will be published in April. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

free etegami notecards with etsy order




One printed card comes free with any purchase (except digital downloads) from my Etsy shop-- and two cards if the purchase is an original etegami, including custom etegami. These are folded notecards that are already listed on my shop in sets of five, with envelopes. These freebie single cards don't come with envelopes. The offer is valid as long as the cards last, but I don't plan to mention it again on this blog. When you make your purchase on Etsy, tell me in the customer comment box which card you want. And just in case I've run out of the one you specified, give me your second and third choices too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

sword that gives life

Yesterday I was watching part 3 of the live action film series based on a manga called Rurouni Kenshin. Neither the manga (print) version, nor the TV (anime) version, had grabbed me when it first came out in the 90s. But the camera work/choreography of the live action film version is beautifully done, and oodles of my favorite actors feature in it.

If I had to explain the story in one sentence, it would be this: A brilliant swordsman and former assassin named Himura Kenshin vows never to take another life after the blood bath that ushers in the dawn of Japan's Meiji era, a vow that is tested over and over as he seeks atonement for his past.

So, anyway, I was watching the DVD by myself at home, and the expression "hito o ikasu ken" (sword that gives life) bounced against my ear drum. It crops up many times and in various forms in the story of Ruruouni Kenshin, but this particular time, the expression made me sit up and ponder.

I am usually very willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story. But did that expression even make sense? It could refer to the fact that Kenshin carries around a custom-made sword in which the blade is inverted so that the sharp edge and dull edge are switched. The idea is that Kenshin can knock bad guys out with his sword, but he can't use it to kill. But is not killing someone the same thing as giving someone life?

Actually, it now occurs to me that the expression can also be translated as "sword that spares life," which makes more sense in the context, so maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill. In any case, it brought to my mind a certain passage in the Bible, and it also gave me an idea for an etegami. The accompanying words are the Japanese version of the following quote:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

candy box mailart



What would you do if your sweet or savory snacks came in small, colorful, artsy paper boxes like these? Would you eat the treats inside and throw out the box? Of course not!

You could display them on your bookshelf, or make practical use of them for collecting loose buttons and paper clips. But I like to turn them into mail art.

Notice the little purple box (6.5 cm x 4.5 cm; 1 3/4" x 2 1/2 "). It once contained a soft chewy sweet made from purple yams, and it has an etegami-style illustration of purple yams on the cover.

I converted it into a pop-up Valentine box card by recycling old Christmas cards to decorate the inside. I used a snowflake hole puncher to make holes in the black backside of one Christmas card, and cut the pink hearts out by hand from the colorful front side of another. It still needs words, which I'll add before I send it.



You've probably done something like this before. Maybe you'd like to do an exchange?




Monday, January 19, 2015

take a tabi with me



Years ago, I purchased a pair of tabi socks, which, if you've never heard of them before, are ankle-high, with a separation between the big toe and other toes. They are worn in Japan by both men and women, with traditional thonged Japanese footwear like zori and geta. Tabi are usually very white, suitable for formal situations like tea ceremony. The ones I bought had a traditional-but-flashy design, and I meant to (but never did) send them to a young niece of mine in the US where they wouldn't shock anyone.

I came across these tabi the other day while sorting the storage room, and decided to take them out of their packaging for a closer look. There was a foot-shaped stiff board inside each sock, and when I pulled them out, I could feel them begging to be made into etegami-collages. So that's what I did.

For the left foot, I played with the Japanese proverb "tabi wa michizure, Yo wa nasake" (Just as a journey is improved by traveling companions, life is improved by compassion/ tender human feelings.) The word tabi (journey) has the same sound as the word for the aforementioned two-toed traditional socks. So I switched the original character for journey with the two characters that mean tabi socks. (I'm so clever. ha ha)

For the right foot, I quoted the last stanza of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem Winter-Time, and decorated it with snow-flakes.

Black are my steps on silver sod; 
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad; 
And tree and house, and hill and lake, 
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

the only easy day was yesterday






A corrugated cardboard spin-off resulting from a recent custom order for an etegami version of the US Navy SEALs insignia. One of the cool things about taking custom orders is that it often introduces me to worlds I would never have explored on my own initiative. Does that happen to you?