Archive for Stamps

Swaps and Inspiration

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:

Stamps on Scrap Paper (by Valerie.)

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.

delight + full (by elise.blaha)

06.25 (by elise.blaha)

06.24 (by elise.blaha)

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.

dosanko_front (by redletterdayzine)

[Etegami]Spider-Lily (by yokuraki)

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…

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Pretty Things

As I wrote last time, I’ve been slowly working my way back into crafting through some simple projects, namely postcards. I’ve tried to keep some of that up as much as I’ve had time for it, and I have a few more little projects to share.

To push myself into making things, I signed up for a Paper Source class with a co-worker, at a newer location they opened up in Palo Alto, which isn’t far from here. They have these “girls night out” events, and this one was themed “Indian Summer,” to coincide with their new India collection of papers and rubber stamps.

The workshop itself was nice, though they tried to cram in quite a lot of activities, including making envelopes, heat embossing, and making lanterns. We ran out of time for some of this — though I was ok with skipping on things I already knew how to do — but I walked away with a neat lantern and a few cards, among other things.

Paper Source "Indian Summer" Night Cards (by Valerie.)

I’ve also been joining in on a few swaps on Swap-bot, including one that was color-themed. You could include a handmade item, plus store-bought items, so I made one of my standard square collage postcards. The color was orange, which is a bit outside of my usual colors, but it was fun to play with a bit.

Orange Squares Postcard

Orange for July Swap - Swap-bot - Sent (by Valerie.)

And last, but not least, I’ve been dabbling a bit with making envelopes and other things this weekend, partly to test out a new envelope template I found at a local Japanese shop. I got a little bored with the envelopes, but I finished it all off with a simple postcard, made from scrapbook paper and some stickers I had.

Pretty Things Postcard (by Valerie.)


Rubber Stamp Show in San Jose

For anyone near San Jose, the Original Rubber Stamp Convention is going on next Saturday (Feb 21st) at Napredak Hall on Montague Expressway. More info on their site.

My favorite paper store Hanko Designs will be there — as always — and there’s usually plenty to browse and shop for otherwise.

Update (02/16/2009): It looks like there was a last minute venue change. Fortunately, Rosewater Hall isn’t far from Napredak Hall.



The cross-stitch demo I gave last week at the South Bay Craft Group meeting went all right. It’s a bit hard to show something that is so small, so I used a piece of plastic canvas and some yarn to demonstrate how to do the stitches. After a bit of explanation, everyone went at it and asked me questions when they ran into trouble.

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit bored with cross-stitch that night, most likely brought on from looking through so many bland patterns in preparation for the class. We used some free starter kits that I got from DMC, all with simple, but somewhat boring flower designs to them. Their site offers a few others, but there isn’t much variety. I think if I give this demonstration again sometime, I’ll make sure to use more interesting designs, like these abstract art patterns.

I guess I’m feeling a bit stuck in the crafting area overall lately, partly due to my recently begun job search. I think it’s about time to get back into the workforce, so I’ve been busy fixing up my resume and putting together a web portfolio, as well as talking to a few headhunters and HR people. All of this takes quite a bit of energy, and I don’t feel like doing much creative afterwards. I’m sure it’ll only be more of a struggle once I’m working again, so this is quite frustrating.

I will say that I’ve still been looking for new project ideas though. Last week I was searching online for hours to find Japanese sites about carving stamps, and found so many good resources, none of which I can read. I started with some new Japanese books on the subject, and eventually figured out the phrase for carving stamps (it refers to using rubber erasers as the carving base). I ended up with lots of good bookmarks, but never carved any of my own stamps after that.

And then last night, I started browsing Etsy for things I might like to buy, but it turned into gathering ideas for my own projects. I went from wanting to learn how to make mosaics to thinking about creating my own jewelry (which I don’t really even wear), and then ended up feeling like painting. And yet I didn’t make very much when I was through, and everything I’ve tried today just didn’t seem to be quite right. Maybe I just need to do something else for a little bit, and a new project will come to me. Sometimes the things you look for the most come out of nowhere when you stop actively looking for them. ;)

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Emboss This!

Last night’s South Bay Craft Group meeting went pretty well, due to a great demo on heat embossing by Tracy, one of our members. Almost everyone tried it out for themselves and we spent the whole time embossing. I was able to ask her some questions about the issues I’d had recently, and I tried some of her suggestions out on a few pieces I’d brought with me or created there.

Pink Blossom Branch Postcard Monkey Dots Postcard Pink Sakura Embossed Bookmark

The first two are some more of the “wrapped postcards” I started making a bit ago, and I especially like how the first one turned out. The second wasn’t as great, due to the embossing powder having a lot of white in it and heating darker than expected. And the third was thicker than I thought, mainly because the powder I bought was pretty chunky.

All in all, the meeting went pretty well, though some of us seemed a bit slap-happy as the evening wore on. Side effects of the long weekend, perhaps. I think we had more people in attendance than we’ve had before, even compared to our previous meeting, when we had a lot of people making beaded bracelets. It’s interesting to see who shows up each month, because it seems like it changes every time. There are a few of us who are “core members” and show up pretty regularly, but everyone else varies. Lately, I think we’ve been shifting towards a slightly older crowd than the initial 20-something women who kicked things off. It’s ok to have the variety, though I’m curious as to whether or not it’s temporary and how it’s turned out like this. I wonder if the fact that I’ll be demo-ing cross-stitch next time will shift it even more in that direction?

Speaking of cross-stitch, I want to thank everyone who has commented on my cross-stitch piece of Ganesh, either here, on Craftster, or on Flickr. I was already overwhelmed by the reaction from my friend and her husband, so it’s great to hear additional appreciation for all the work I put into it. :)

Oh, and before I forget, I’ve created a few paper swaps over on Swap-Bot for anyone who’s interested. One is for origami paper and the other is for paper scraps, and there’s a little over a week left to sign up. I’ve actually been surprised to see how popular the paper scraps one has been; there are nearly 30 people signed up already!

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