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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
67 comments so far
I've often read her blog;) I love her lovely etegami cards:)))
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.
@ debbie: just one more humble admirer of your work: me :-)
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.
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.
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 ^^'
this kind of wonderful art again...
now I'm addicted...
My fingers are XX that one of creations will make its way "Down Under" ... Sm:)es all around the day of arrival!
One day i will buy some of yours cards.
But of course all others are very nice too. :-)
This is the event.
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)
Album with the received works:
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