I’ve been joining one swap after the other on Swap-bot, and just started getting into some more creative ones. Store-bought postcards are nice and all, and definitely easy to send, but I wanted to go a bit further. Further than even handmade envelopes (those are too easy for me).
The first big one for me was a swap about hand-carved stamps; you make one, you get one. I’ve made my own rubber stamps before, though usually of images from Japanese rubber stamp books, but, for some reason, it was a challenge to do it this time around. It’s just been so long since I’ve made one, so I felt a bit rusty, but I was also concerned that my partner might not like what I sent.
After reading Good Mail Day and looking through the related Flickr group, I’d found some lovely postcard collages I really liked, and wanted to make some of my own. (See Postcards from December.) Well, my partner for this swap turned out to be one of those collage artists I’d admired, so I wanted to make sure I sent something nice.
I took so much time debating on what the “right” image for her stamp would be, paging through every rubber stamp book I own (trust me, that’s a lot). I knew it was all self-inflicted pressure, so at some point, I just picked one and went for it. I got it to a point I liked and sent it off, forgetting to take a picture first. Here’s a scan of my test sheet though, with the final image at the bottom right:
When I sent the stamp, I also included a postcard collage I made, as well as a little note explaining that I admire her work and such. Hopefully she won’t think I’m a stalker or anything.
After this, I’m not sure what creative swap I’ll try next. I was thinking of a handmade postcard swap, but I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked. I had a few sad swap packages, but then I came across some lovely art forms that I’d like to try my hand at.
A few days ago, I was browsing someone’s Flickr favorites, and came across elise.blaha’s paper projects set. What really stood out to me were the books made from binder rings, combining all sorts of collected papers with photos, notes, and other items, in a sort of informal but beautiful variation on scrapbooking. Most of the individual pages are pretty simple, which I like, but then the books have different themes or time periods, which is nice and also very personal.
To me, the format is really great, since it’s so simple and flexible; you only really need something you can find at an office supply store for cheap, and the rest of the materials can be pretty much anything. I’ve been wanting to reduce what I have in craft supplies (some of which may be done through a giveaway here soon), so this might be a nice way to use them up. I just need to come up with a theme and a size, and then start making things.
However, I just came across another art form that really stood out to me, though I’m not sure if I can manage it. It’s called etegami and is a Japanese art form focusing on simple drawings done in ink as postcards. The intent is to draw something simple you see, like a vegetable, flower, animal, or whatever, add a message, and then send it to a friend. The subject can be something from your day or a seasonal thing, and the message can be a poem, a quote, or just a greeting. They’re not meant to be perfect though, and the rougher they are, the more interesting they can be.
I found out about etegami from Dosanko Debbie’s etegami blog, which is dedicated to her original pieces, and which was mentioned on the Good Mail Day Flickr group (she sent the book’s authors one of her postcards). She explains a lot about the art form on her blog, with plenty of examples, and I like that it’s not about perfection or even the end result. The experience of drawing what you see, and doing it for someone else (you must send them!), are most important.
I tried searching for more information about etegami, but, so far, I’ve only found a few things. Besides Debbie’s blog, the best is Etegami 24 Seasons, which is a series of videos showing a woman painting her own etegami through the various seasons. And there are a few examples on Flickr, so that’s something as well.
I did look into the supplies for making these, and they don’t seem too complicated. It mainly involves ink, paint, brushes, and paper, though the most authentic kinds are not necessarily easy or cheap to track down. I’ve seen inexpensive sumi ink and calligraphy supplies (brushes, ink well, practice paper) at Daiso, but the paint and washi postcards are harder to find. Kinokuniya has sets of the gansai paints Debbie and others in Japan use, but they’re rather expensive. I think standard watercolor paints could be used instead, though I’m not sure if they are quite the same. And I haven’t seen washi paper postcards before, but perhaps the calligraphy paper from Daiso could be used and cut to the right size.
My main concern though is the drawings themselves. I took a few drawing classes in school, but it’s not something I feel I’m good at. I know the idea is to keep it simple and even rough, and I like that the process is sort of a meditation on the object you’re drawing. I just fear I’ll end up with a blob of black ink on paper, and then I’ll just toss it all and quit. I guess you have to start somewhere though, so maybe I can start with some cheap calligraphy supplies from Daiso, and then see if I can track down some cheap watercolor paints, since all I have on hand are acrylic and gouache paints. We’ll see though…