Notebook Revamp

A few months ago, I found this gorgeous paper at Paper Source (this image from the manufacturer doesn’t do it justice), and didn’t want to pass it up. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d do with it, but I bought 2 sheets, with the intention of covering a notebook or something.

Finally, this week, I got around to using this lovely paper, and I did in fact cover a notebook with it. Just a cheap notebook from Daiso, with smooth, white pages, so it was a sort of upgrade. I added a label from Paper Source and some white vinyl tape over the binding, and it was done!

Aqua Damask Notebook (by Valerie.)

It was super easy, especially with a Xyron machine to put the adhesive on the paper, so I went ahead and did another one for the notebook swap I organized on

Map Notebook - Front Cover (by Valerie.)    Map Notebook - Back Cover (by Valerie.)

My partner likes maps, and I found this one in an old atlas that I bought from a used book sale (intending to make envelopes or collages from it). I chose the eastern part of the US for the cover, to include where she lives, and the rest went on the back cover. The notebook itself is also from Daiso, and I picked out a few others from there that I thought she’d like.

Crazy for Notebooks Swap - Swap-bot (Sent) (by Valerie.)

Now I only wish the rest of my swaps would get going soon, so I can have something else to work on. In the meantime, I might poke around Send Something to find someone to send exchange mail with.

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More Postcards

Here are 4 more nengajo, and what may be the final ones in the batch. I’m losing a bit of momentum and kind of want to move onto something else. We’ll see if I have any left in me though.

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #9 (by Valerie.)    2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #10 (by Valerie.)

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #11 (by Valerie.)    2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #12 (by Valerie.)


Postcards, Continued

I’ve been working along on my “nengajo,” or New Year’s Day postcards, and have scanned them in batches. I would have made more, but I haven’t been feeling entirely well over the last few days, so I had to take it easy.

Here’s the first batch, finished on Friday:

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #2 (by Valerie.)    2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #3 (by Valerie.)

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #4 (by Valerie.)

And the second batch, finished last night:

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #5 (by Valerie.)    2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #6 (by Valerie.)

I want to mix up the colors more, but this is how they’ve worked out so far. I really like the textured cardstock I have, especially the Japanese “tsumugi” style (I think I got these from Hanko Designs or a local shop carrying their stock), I don’t really want to use the smooth variety. I might need to get some more after these postcards are done!

I’m not sure how many more I want to make, partly because I’m not sure how many I want to send out beyond the ones for swaps. I started a list the other day, so I should finish that and make sure I have the addresses I need, and then keep going.

Beyond that, I came across some simple projects on the Martha Stewart site, listed among ideas for easy handmade gifts.

I have plenty of maps saved in my clipping boxes, but I’d have to buy the coasters and sealant first. The matchbox one, though it’s not the primary part of the project, would be easy, and I have some blank matchboxes. We’ll see though… :)

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My dining room table is covered in all sorts of paper and crafting supplies, and I’ve been trying my hand at making postcards again. I saw some lovely ones done by Dumpsterdiversanonymous and wanted to play around, but I’m not entirely happy with the results so far.

Here’s the first one, a combination of an old Family Circle magazine from the 60s, as well as a bit of an ad from a Japanese booklet of local businesses. I wish I’d done the circle stickers vertically instead, but so it goes.

Pizza Hash Postcard (by Valerie.)

I let that sit for a bit, and then came up with an idea to make postcards for New Year’s, as a little project to keep me busy. I don’t celebrate any holidays during December, but I’m all for ringing in the New Year when it comes. And I know that in Japan, it’s common to send a postcard to friends and family so it arrives on New Year’s Day, so I thought I would do something similar. (The postcards are called nengajo, and you can read more about them and other holiday traditions on Wikipedia’s Japanese New Year page.)

I’d like to make a batch of these postcards, to send to friends, so I thought it would help to have a template or pattern of some sort. I had a rough idea in my head of what I wanted, and put together a mockup in Illustrator, just to see if it would make sense. I found some Japanese-style patterns to use, and here’s what I came up with:

New Year's Postcard Concept

This is just a sample, but my intent is to use different colors, patterns, and images but stick with the same overall design. I have plenty of papers, clippings, and whatever else to work with, so this way I can focus on the selection and combination of those materials. I can even customize them for particular people if I want.

I put together my first card tonight, to make sure it worked all right in paper form, and here’s what I came up with:

2010 Postcard (Nengajo) #1 (by Valerie.)

I’m not feeling entirely enamored with it at the moment, but I think it’s actually ok and will work with other combinations as well. What do you think?

Meanwhile, I’ve also been looking for new swaps on Swap-bot, and tonight I happened across one that sounds perfect for me: 2010 Nengajo (Japanese New Year Postcards). I think I can manage to make 3 cards by the deadline, but we’ll see how the ones for friends go first.

Separately, I’m also running a notebook swap, inspired by one that was already running for European swappers only. This one’s for the US only, but you just send $8 of notebooks and get the same in return.


Good Mail Day

I have a bit more time on my hands lately, and I want to spend some of that time on more creative ventures. So far, I’ve been cooking a bit more, but I want to do more crafty things, like making papery things. I’ve started playing around with a bit of paper, making a few envelopes and trying to make a postcard or two, and I even dug out the cross-stitch project I set aside in July of last year (was it really that long ago?).

Unfortunately, I am not entirely happy with the results so far, and I think I need something to really jumpstart things a bit. A class or a new craft group perhaps, though it’s hard to find such things around this time of the year, what with the holidays coming up. In the meantime, I decided to finally pick up a copy of Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hindcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler, the women behind Pod Post. Here’s a (ahem) “little” review:

Good Mail Day Good Mail Day presents the world of mail art, including the history of this art form as well as how to create your own, including some interesting ideas to get you started. It covers some of the basic tools you’ll need, suggestions on how to get started, and some of the history of this art form.

Most of the book covers the creation of mail art, and the overall message is to just make some already! The authors encourage their readers to just get going, assuring you that there’s not necessarily a right and wrong way to make things (aside from postal guidelines, of course). However, this message did get a bit repetitive when mentioned in one chapter after the next.

Another important point the book makes is that you don’t really need anything fancy to make mail art. Sure, shopping for craft supplies can be fun, but you only need some basic tools (scissors, adhesive, a writing utensil) and some sort of material (paper) to make mail art. You don’t have to invest a great deal though, so there aren’t really any barriers when it comes to getting started.

There also seems to be a general appreciation for simple elements in designs, and for examining everything around you as possible material for your art. The book doesn’t really offer much in the way of specific projects, which offers a nice break from other craft books that only show you how to make an exact project or design. The few step-by-step guides included in this book were pretty open-ended, though a bit cumbersome since a bunch of steps were repeated in each project.

A small portion of the book is dedicated to the history of mail art and various people in the community, which was interesting to me since I wasn’t really aware of most of it. The authors include quotes from and interviews with a number of established mail artists to provide further background.

One of the most important parts of mail art is to have someone to send your work to, and this is one area I felt was lacking in the book. The authors did discuss the idea of a network and how it’s important to built up your address book with correspondents, but they glossed over how to do that. Personally, I know that there are a good number of mail art and swap web sites out there to help with this (Swap-Bot, Send Something, various Yahoo! groups, etc.), but to someone new to mail art, you’d be mostly on your own with the book alone.

My only other complaint — and I’ll admit, a minor one — was that it felt like the book was speaking to an urban audience. It was in little things like suggesting that the reader look for parking stubs and bits of paper while on a walk, or to make mail art while riding a bus around the city, but it was something I definitely noticed. These sort of suggestions don’t necessarily work for people living in more suburban or rural areas, so those readers (myself included) will need to be more creative. Not an impossible task, but it would have been nice for the book to include more variety in the examples and ideas provided.

That said, I really enjoyed reading through Good Mail Day, and it had a really nice, postal feel throughout. It’s not just for us postal nerds who like to be crafty though; I think anyone itching to create and share things with others will enjoy it and find inspiration in the mail art and ideas for experimenting on your own.

Perhaps this wasn’t the shortest of reviews, but I wanted to give my full thoughts on the book. It did inspire me to pull out my paper crafting supplies, though I’m not entirely pleased with my first attempts. After making one postcard I didn’t like, I resorted to making envelopes, my old stand-by. I’ll give it another try though, or try a different approach.