Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stamp Artist of the Month

The long-time stamping group of which I've been a part for many years, Oriental Stamp Art, has (once again!) honored me with the "Stamp Artist of the Month" nomination. There's a little interview there, and a discussion/presentation of the project I chose to make, a chunky book for Japan. It's also for the "Four Words of Wisdom" project for my Art Journal Caravan...

Here's a "reprint" of the project part (you'll have to go to the other site for the interview ;) :

April 2011, Heather T.
"Chunky Book For Japan "


March 11, 2011, was the terrible earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan. I have been so touched by this disaster--it was in part made very real by the fact that our family had to evacuate as well. We were able to return almost immediately to our home, much to the contrary of those affected in Japan, many of whom are homeless and with no chance of rebuilding in their lifetime. This little book, and my no doubt terribly-written haiku, are just my small attempt at expressing some very large feelings.

A "chunky book" is so-called because it's made from a children's book--the kind with the thick cardboard pages--and it's got "stuff" added to it. It's kind of a long process--it's taken me a little over a week--so I won't bore you with step-by-step photos for every page! There are a few photos from the beginning stages of the book, though, just to show you kind of what the process is like.

To begin with, find a used or new children's book with thick cardboard pages. I recommend lightly sanding all the pages, as well as the font, back, and spine, so that paint will stick more easily to it.


I failed to do that, and found that I had to go over my paint more times than I'd wanted to.

The next step is to gesso all the pages. (Gesso is a white-pigmented paint that works well for base coats.)


You'll notice that text and images are still quite visible. You can add more gesso once the first coat has dried, or you can use other acrylic paints like I did (mostly Making Memories Scrapbook Colors (which are just acrylic paint) as well as Lumiere paints.


As you can see, the paint is applied very unevenly, without even knowing how the pages are going to be arranged. I chose more of a range of paints (yellow to pink) rather than specific colors in a specific place. This really adds to the handmade "charm", or art journaling feel of the piece.

The next step was to add some texture. You know all those little yuzen washi bits you have hanging around? PERFECT use for these. Just cut or tear them into pieces, and randomly glue them into the book. I used Matte Gel Medium, which I painted first on the blank page in the general place and shape of the piece of paper, then over top the piece of paper as well, so as to make sure it doesn't go anywhere. Again, this was more or less random, though I chose the washi based on the paint colors on each spread.


Here's what the book looks like at this stage (note that it's upside down):


Use your heat gun liberally, and use sheets of waxed paper between the pages while you're working on the next. I'm pretty sure this will dry in the next million years sometime, but even after a week the pages still tend to stick together. Every night I let it stand open fanned out like that to help the drying along.

After this stage, gather up some "ephemera." Buttons, charms, photos, other bits of paper (newspaper clippings, magazine photos, etc.)--just about anything will do. Start gluing these into the book in a more or less random fashion with the gel medium, paying attention to color and size as a guiding factor. (Sorry for the blurry picture!)


For this book I had an over-arching design guide, which is that I knew I wanted to write haiku, and have stamping. I wrote all the haiku, then printed them out so I would have a guide as to how big of a space I needed. The first few that I did I stamped and wrote directly on the page. This didn't always work so well--the roughness of the various paint and paper levels meant that the stamps didn't quite fill in, and the ink didn't glide very smoothly over the gel.


That yellow stamp hides a BIG chunk that failed to transfer to the paper! Note that you can use embossing powder quite easily on these pages--they're very durable and forgiving. After a couple of tries with this, I finally got smart and instead stamped and wrote on torn bits of thin decorative paper (such as mulberry), which I then glued down with the gel medium technique.

I also made a tag for the first page, since one of my ephemera was a little glassine envelope:


This is the inside cover, with the envelope. The saying, "Keizoku wa chikara nari" means something like "Perseverance is its own reward", or "Perseverance is strength." I chose this as the guiding principle of the book (as well as "This too, shall pass") because Japan has so, so, so much work and grief and despair ahead of it; but I think they will work through it and be amazing as they always have been. The mizuhiki knot was of course made for this as well--with the "tails" up, so that the good luck remains! Oh, and on the cover (the photo at the top of this page) you can see a hand-carved stamp for "luck, fortune"--also included on the little charm that's tied onto the book closure.

The tag is an apology for not being anywhere near the artistic level that I would have wished for this book.


On each page I tried to make the stamps (all from AboutArtAccent's Art Neko line, by the way, and most of my design) work with the haiku, which I wrote first. I hope that in some measure I was successful in expressing my acknowledgment of the horrors of the event, but the faith I have in the Japanese to work with what they have to rebuild the beauty that rests in their souls.

Just as a reminder, the haiku in English often contains 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables. I tried to work with the Japanese tradition of including a seasonal reference (frogs, cherry blossoms, and haze are emblematic of Spring; the pine is Winter) as well as a break in the flow of the poem to reorient the reader to a different line of thought (I don't think I was quite successful in this always, alas).

A boiling Spring sea
Ate my land. The people grieve.
Still, blossoms will come.


So much work to do
Silted with old memories
Haze in the still air


The season says Spring
But Winter lingers in me
Peace next year, perhaps.


Returning, I find
There is a boat on my house.
At least I exist.


The mud is so deep
And houses float out to sea
Laughing, a child plays.


Above the waters
In the distance, Mt. Fuji,
Spirit flying high.


Nightmares drown my sleep
With sounds of the roaring sea
Still, I have a roof.


Land of hushed stillness
Uncertain now, and fearful--
Reach into your past.


Invisible fear
Blows in the wind; waters fields.
Even Tokyo quails.


My life washed away.
In the refuge, someone coughs.
Listen! A frog sings.


And that, is that. Thank you for the honor of being OSA's SAM for this month!



  1. First congratulations for being nominated for April SAM at OrientalStampArt.

    Your book is very touching with a lot of meaning and self awareness plus love for the people of Japan.

    It is a tribute to them, a book of beauty and hope and so well presented. It really has moved me.


  2. How completely compelling -- and so beautiful. I love all the attention you've given to incorporating all those cultural details.

    bless you.

  3. heather!
    just blown away at your talent and am sitting here smiling at that fantastic chunky book...mine mocks me without a purpose, and you are inspiring me!

  4. Your Book is Amazing Heather, what a lovely thing to make.
    The poems reflect everything in Japan. its fabulous

  5. Ooh Heather! Twice! Well done :0
    Gorgeous book... glad to see you still have time for non-digital craft :)

  6. Words. I don't have enough of them. Your book is so stunningly touching and beautiful. Pathos in poetry, color, and image. It's masterful, Heather. It makes me cry. It makes me hope. Thank you.

  7. WOW!!!!! WOW!!! A true labor of love. Well done! I am visiting from the AJC 2011. xoxo

  8. Oh Heather, this is gorgeous. This absolutely needs to be on tour throughout Japan to offer hope to the people in the most damaged areas. I think they would take great heart to know that you care this much to create such a masterpiece. Your Haiku is SO touching. (She writes with tears streaming down her face.) Incredible, beautiful, touching, so perfect!

  9. Just beautiful and congratulations for being nominated for April SAM at OrientalStampArt.

  10. I keep coming back to this entry, Heather. It haunts! It calls. It inspires. . .

    I do hope you realize what a perfect piece you've created.

  11. Your words have said it all - this is simply beautiful, Heather. The images, the haiku, everything!

  12. Hi Heather! Congrats on being nominated again for Stamp Artist of the Month. Your project is totally inspiring and a beautiful tribute you contributed to Japan's tragic natural disaster.

  13. Congrats on the nomination! And WOW... that is awesome! Beyond awesome. I'm speechless.


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