Archive for Swaps

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…

Comments (2)

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.

Comments (1)


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.


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.)


Summer Postcards

I’ve been trying to ease back into crafting, so I thought I’d start with something simple, like making postcards. A friend showed me some collages she’d done on cardboard and other sturdy materials, so I thought it might be easy enough to cut up a few images and paste things together.

I’ve been sending store-bought postcards through Postcrossing, but it’s really up to you what you send. I thought having some pressure, like in a swap, would help, so I signed up for a handmade postcard swap on Swap-Bot. The theme was open, so that made it easier.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling very well this week and got so little sleep last night. So maybe it wasn’t the best idea to start crafting in the midst of this. I slapped together two postcards, using clipped magazine images, summer-themed stickers, and a bit of glitter and glue, but I really don’t like them. I’m going to chalk it up to feeling so awful, but so it goes.

Fireworks Summer Postcard (by Valerie.)   Watermelon Summer Postcard (by Valerie.)

What do you think? They’re pretty simple, so it’s hard to say much about them, I suppose.

I think for now I’m going to go back to the store-bought postcards, but maybe I’ll try again on some handmade ones soon.