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Blog > Debbie's Etegami cards

I discovered the Japanese folk art of etegami through Debbie’s (aka dosankodebbie) lovely postcards. Debbie is a professional translator who lives in Hokkaido, Japan. She began making etegami cards over 10 years ago, and joined Postcrossing to share them with people all over the world, as well as to receive art cards from other creative postcrossers!

As Debbie explains on her blog, “Etegami (e= ”picture"; tegami= “letter/message”) are simple drawings accompanied by a few apt words". They are made to be mailed to one’s friends or family, and usually show an object from our everyday lives.

The illustrations appealed to me for their beauty and simplicity… but when researching the art and the philosophy behind it, I discovered there’s a lot of meaning and intention in every card. So I decided to ask Debbie a few questions about her art, and she kindly agreed to a mini-interview.

For dessert, let's gaze at the magnolia blossoms
When did you start making etegami? What drew you to this form of art?

I first began making etegami in the year 2000. I had been making my own Christmas and New Year cards since childhood, using methods such as woodblock printing and the Japanese torn-paper collage art called chigiri-e. But these methods were too labor-intensive to do every day.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away

I grew up in an art-loving family, but my first love has always been words. Etegami suits me perfectly because it combines images and words. The tools for etegami are relatively few and simple, and you don’t need a lot of space to set them up. I have my tools in a small box, so I can spread them out on the kitchen table or on a corner of my work desk and paint whenever I have fifteen minutes of free time in my work day. Fifteen minutes, on average, is how much time I need to make one etegami.

Be careful of the words you say...
Where do you find inspiration for your cards?

I can always find something seasonal to paint if I look in my refrigerator or in my garden. It can be an apple, an eggplant, a dandelion, a leaf on a tree, a sparrow, a coffee mug, or the slightly rusted kerosene tank that supplies our heating fuel. Etegami is at its best when it depicts a single object that represents the season with a few unfussy strokes and a minimum of color. Compared to most traditional Japanese art forms, it has very few rules, and the slightly awkward paintings of beginners and children are valued more than refined paintings.

Let's sit and talk a while
Do you have any idea how many etegami cards you’ve made so far?

Ideally every etegami that I send should be a hand-painted original, but these days my mailing list is so long that when I can’t paint enough originals, I sometimes resort to prints of my images. I go through at least 800 washi cards in one year. If you include prints, I mail about 1,000 etegami postcards every year.

Curiosity cannot be idle
Besides postcrossers, who else do you mail your etegami cards to?

Although one of the pleasures of etegami is in the exchange, it’s even better to send etegami to people who can’t send anything back. I set aside every Monday to make etegami for people who are sick at home or in the hospital, and people who are depressed or disabled in a way that makes it difficult for them to send mail to anyone. This is especially meaningful to me because I have bad legs that keep me house-bound, and I’m so thankful that I can socialize with people through etegami.

Empty nest

I don’t know about you, but I can’t to gather my brushes and give it a go! :)

Thank you so much for sharing your hobby with us, Debbie! For more etegami inspiration, don’t forget to check out Debbie’s blog.

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67 comments so far

carolreader, United States of America
These are wonderful! Thanks for featuring them!
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Alex071, Netherlands
Absolutely great! Wonderful cards :)
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marupiter, United States of America
How amazing! I love her cards.
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Sprinkledonut, Canada
Debbie! Your cards are so magical. I love your beautiful combinations of words and images. Thank you for your art and passion.
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Purple-bear, Japan
Sooo wonderful!:)
I've often read her blog;) I love her lovely etegami cards:)))

Debbieさんの素晴らしい絵手紙、大好きです。あなたの隠れファンです♡
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rosenbusch, Germany
Wonderful postcards!!!
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ned44440, Ireland
Wonderful work and great interview. Thank you for sharing.
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Axolotl_, Germany
Wow, these little paintings are gorgeous! The simplicity makes them truly elegant in some special way.
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gabrieltozarin, Portugal
I loved it, thank you for sharing it with us!!!
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emotis, United States of America
Beautiful!!!
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SuzyDoozy, New Zealand
Oh I have one of Debbie's cards. I love it!
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littleadventures, United States of America
These are beautiful! Great work Debbie!
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D1ana, United States of America
Thank you so much for featuring Debbie. I am grateful to know more about this inspiring woman.

I have mailed her postcards on this site for several years now. One of her cat postcards is a favorite with many postcrossers.

You can purchase Debbie's cards at redbubble.com.
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AliKira, Canada
I absolutely loved reading this! It seems like a wonderful hobby to have and a tempting one to take up.
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aberline, Australia
she has such an amazing gift! i admire her art and her heart behind it! without postcrossing we would never hear of such beautiful people/stories/art/cards....
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aberline, Australia
oh and what do the red stamps signify?
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aberline, Australia
...and excuse me while i go and favourite all her cards!!!!
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msgforjohn, United States of America
Beautiful!
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YiliLoh, Malaysia
Wow! What an amazing & beautiful artwork! Thanks for the sharing and wish tomhave a swap card with Debbie. Have a nice day! :)
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radiofan, Austria
Simply great! I love your art, Debbie!
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dosankodebbie, Japan
Your comments have brought me so much joy this day. Thank you all. If you want to learn more about etegami, please visit my blog. I update it about twice a week. I look forward to more of your feedback, and maybe you can send me your own version of etegami. :)
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misoklau, Germany
@ aberline: red stamps are the artist's signature, they read "do sa n ko de bi" and "de ba ra" written in hiragana.
@ debbie: just one more humble admirer of your work: me :-)
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dosankodebbie, Japan
Oh, thank you @misoklau! I meant to answer @aberline's question about the signature stamps and forgot. I carve my own name stamps from rubber erasers (like most etegami artists do) and I have about a dozen different versions of my name: debi, debora, de, dosankodebbie, in hiragana script, katakana script, and the roman alphabet.
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geminiscp, Portugal
BEAUTIFUL, it's all I have to say!!!! :) :) :)
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Ejderha, Netherlands
Wow, another wonderful interview with an amazing artist!
Thank you, Debbie, for sharing this with us and making me feel inspired.
Sometimes I love to draw my cards for Postcrossing but it always takes me a long time to do it. I probably overthink it too much so maybe I should try to approach my drawings more like etegami. (^-^)
I love the simplicity, the meaning and the creativeness.
Beautiful!!!
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mapa, Belgium
Beautiful cards and beautiful woman. What a nice thought to send those cards to people who are depressed and ill! Love the words too. The empty nest is so pretty and well found!
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tulipan7, Croatia
beautiful... would love to receive one of debbie's cards one day...
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Prima_Murasakibara, Germany
They're so wonderful I simply love it!
It looks cute and simple at the beginning,but once you have read the text next to it, it gives you a "new dimension" of the view you had before when you saw it.
Wonderful hobby*-*
Hope to see many more of those!

After seeing this i really would love to try too..
but i probably dont have the talent for it ^^'
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ZenCat, United States of America
Wow! What beautiful artwork!
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jjkeim, United States of America
Debbie, thank you for such a delightful, informative, and inspiring interview. I will most certainly keep an eye on your blog from now on. Postcrossing is making such an impact on all of our lives beyond just sending and receiving cards. It is a special world-wide community with such wonderful people to get to share a moment, kind word, or just good thoughts.
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pucky, Netherlands
Such marvellous cards! How wise and beautiful, and sometimes funny, and how I'd wish to get one from you one day!!What a gift you make/are for the people! So glad to get to know about you!
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Nordbaer, Germany
oh sh... :o
this kind of wonderful art again...
now I'm addicted...
:o
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iphoto, Australia
Thanks for sharing your amazing art Debbie (aka dosankodebbie)I had not seen this before and now will be eagerly waiting to view your next send :D

My fingers are XX that one of creations will make its way "Down Under" ... Sm:)es all around the day of arrival!

AVAGOODONE:)!
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Kat_44, United States of America
My, there are so many talented Postcrossers out there! Thank you for another great story. And Debbie, you are so wonderful to share your gift!
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bigspends, United States of America
So wonderful! Thanks for sharing -- my head is now swimming with ideas for future cards. That's the power of art (& sharing).
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dosankodebbie, Japan
lol. I'm glad if my work gives others fun ideas to pursue, but I have to laugh when people say "thanks for sharing your gift," because I just do what makes me happy and then sometimes I force it on others. I try to send the kind of postcards that other Postcrossers specifically ask for in their profiles, but so many people say that they don't want "handmade cards." In many cases I send my etegami anyway, pretending ignorance of their clearly-stated dislike of art cards or handmade cards. Please forgive me if I've done this to you. So you see, it isn't "sharing my gift" at all, is it? It's much more selfish than that.
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marivan, Belgium
Inspiring!!
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Angeladonna, Canada
Wow! They are absolutly beautiful,
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Trenker, Germany
Awesome :)
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diomaxwelle, United States of America
I favorited her shop not long ago! Etegami is such a wonderful art; I want to try doing it sometime!
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diomaxwelle, United States of America
Sorry for the second post but I would LOVE an etegami, Debbie!! Don't hesitate!
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LieveS, Belgium
Debbie's etegami (check her website as well !) are great ! If you want to try it yourself, check her "A beginner's guide to etegami" - it's the perfect guide to start making etegami yourself !
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graugans, Germany
This interview is so inspiring, thank you! I have been doing art on index cards for a while but have not yet sent out any of these as postcards. The combination of drawing/painting and text is absolutely my cup of tea. I love your art, Debbie!
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zomertje, Netherlands
Beautiful>>> would love to try this too. Hope to get a card from her. Lovely story...many thanks
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Robert-in-Australia, Australia
Wonderful - I love art and often share my art with other postcrossers, but this is a wonderful art style.
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keownlady, United States of America
Your cards are beautiful Debbie. A person would be foolish to not want one.
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kamikm, United States of America
What beautiful cards!! I can only hope I get one!! :-D
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ritagoh, Singapore
The drawing and words on the card were beautiful and meaningful. It can be so encouraging when you received them, wish I can get this card one day. Thanks for the interview for us to know about this wonderful art.
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ConstantGardener, United States of America
OH!!! LOVE the CREATIVITY!!!!!!!!!!!
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luvwhidbeyisland, United States of America
Wow! So simple but totally graceful & lovely! What a talented lady.
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dosankodebbie, Japan
Thank you all for the wonderfully encouraging feedback and the questions about swapping cards. I just want you to know that my address is in the banner of my received mailart blog at http://mailartgallery.blogspot.jp/ I'm only interested in swapping handmade mailart. If you send me a handmade card please make sure you write your address clearly so that I can send something back to you.
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cspt, United States of America
I have admired Debbie for a long time, and am the lucky recipient of her books as a gift from my dear hubby. I highly recommend them. Thanks for providing so much inspiration, Debbie!
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michsen, Canada
Wow. I saw your work in Redbubble and i want buy some. But the Redbubble site give a hard time to my computer!
One day i will buy some of yours cards.
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MainStation, Germany
I love the one with the melon.
But of course all others are very nice too. :-)
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beesknees, United States of America
I went to the Japanese festival in Houston last weekend- I made one of these cards there- its very relaxing and enjoyable.
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knetty, Germany
... simply wonderful & wonderfully simple ... love it. thank you for sharing.
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JinnBug, United States of America
Beautiful and inspirational! Thank you!!!
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Amatsubame, Netherlands
Reading about you and your etegami was the highlight of my day. Your cards are very beautiful, and truly convey the magic of life and of a captured moment. Please continue to share your art with us - I know there are a lot of people that would be glad and honoured to receive your etegami.
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merryrose22, Canada
What beautiful artwork. :)
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Luziaceleste, Brazil
Beautiful person, this Debbie! ;)
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fisherman, Ireland
Thank you for opening up your wonderful new artistic world to all of us :-)
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dosankodebbie, Japan
I can't say enough how your comments encourage me. Thank you, Postcrossers, you are kind and wonderful.
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Robin67, Austria
I am not the world's biggest fan of art cards, but your paintings are beautiful! :-)
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Robisa, Italy
Very nice article. I am the organizer of a mail art call from Italy.. anyone interested in taking part in the project? Etegami are very welcome too! :)
This is the event.

https://www.facebook.com/events/473537806157148/

International Mail Art Project

Artists from all over the world are invited to participate in this International Mail Art Project organised by the Faenza’s Watercolourists Association. Everyone is welcome to participate, all ages and skill levels. An exhibition of the received works will have place in Faenza, Italy, during the first days of November 2015 for the yearly St. Rocco fair of the city . All the works will be exhibited online in a special album posted in the event too and later there will be also pictures taken at the exhibition.
Theme: “Life in the XIX century” (years 1800/1899)
Size: Postcard (10 x 15 cm)
Technique: Free (watercolour, painting, drawing, collage and so on)
Rules: No jury, no fees, no return of the works, only original works, no copies. It is up to the artist to send in envelope or not, only 1 piece for each artist.
Deadline: Works must arrive by the 1st of October 2015.
Please clearly indicate name, address and email address on the back of the card.
Send your card to:

Associazione Acquerellisti Faentini
c/o Silvano Drei
Via Portisano 46
48018 Faenza (RA)
Italy

Thank you!
Album with the received works:
https://www.facebook.com/roberta.savolini/media_set?set=a.10153250359764359.1073741941.542694358&type=3
POST
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hpknits, United States of America
Beautiful little gems. Fingers crossed that you get my name sometime!
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werewegian, United Kingdom
Received one randomly today. Love it. Thanks dosankodebbie!
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nugget, United States of America
Lovely! Thanks for sharing.
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