Thursday, October 30, 2008
So now, for some pics. I will post several pics over the next couple of days so that you don't get overwhelmed.
Monday, October 27, 2008
One of my favorite bloggers(Shu-Ju) asked me what I do for a living. It reminded me of a game that I used to have my students when when I teaching college courses in Sociology. Who Am I? is an exercise where the people list all of their roles in society. In so doing, you try to realize how people’s identities are shaped by and how they see themselves. So, in a moment of self-awareness (and since I will not be posting until I return to the US on Wednesday), I have decided to share my Who Am I? List:
- I am a bookkeeper (for a talent broker and agent).
- I am a college professor (Ph. D in Sociology—hence the name Dr. Russ).
- I am an actor and standup comedian.
- I am a brother (two other brothers—one older and one younger).
- I am a Virgo (and very typical of one).
- I am a book/paper artist.
- I am adopted.
- I am a singer.
- I am a tour manager for The Duke Ellington Orchestra (hence, my international travel).
- I am retail (online) store owner (hence, my interest in international craft trends).
- I am a Gocco owner.
- I am a craftsman (rather than a crafter—hence, my desire for perfect techniques).
- I am a paper whore ( I live for paper and all things paper).
- I am gay.
- I am 48 (but still a child at heart).
- I am a former enlisted Navy man.
- I am a New Yorker (by way of Tampa, teaching at USF; West Lafayette, IN—Purdue University; born in Houston).
So there you have it.
After seeing some of the sights, I decided to visit the Nagoya location of Tokyu hands. To my pleasure, it was only 5 floors of a single building. There were still quite a few items to look at but there wasn’t the overwhelming sense of alarm that accompanied the trip to the Shibuya branch in Tokyo.
I primarily decided to walk each aisle and then return to the sections that I wanted to purchase items. There were no Print Gocco items to be found. There were numerous cutting tools that I would have liked but was afraid to bring them home in checked baggage. There were several plastic handled scalpels that looked promising. There was also a pair of scissors that were levered so that a single squeeze would maneuver five separate parallel blades so you could shred paper by using scissors. If you cross cut the shreds then you would have confetti. They had them in a variety of different sized from 5 inch lengths to 18 inch lengths.
There were numerous paper products that raised my interest. There is a decorated masking tape that shows some promise. I know that there is decorated scotch tape products in the U.S. but this masking tape (i.e., paper tape) really caught my eye—especially for scrapbooks or journals. I would think that an adhesive backed paper tape would be more beneficial that an adhesive back plastic product. Another product that caught my eye was a set of adhesive tabs that were cut out in the shape of animals. These were made in Japan but I think that they would really catch on in the U.S.
Finally, I bought some more paper products for my next swap. I also decided to buy some stamps to commemorate the New Year. I believe that 2009 is the year of the Ox and I think that I will send out Happy New Year cards that are based on the Chinese New Year.
Finally, I decided to get a Hanko made while I was on this trip. A Hanko is a carved stamp that is used as a signature in Asian cultures. I had to get my name translated into Kanji characters. Once I was able to do that, I had to find someone willing to make the Hanko for me (a non-Asian). I found a very nice man who was willing to do it for me (and put a rush on the manufacturing of it). Usually, he takes two weeks to carve out the stamp. There are machines that are faster but he has been making Hanko for 52 years and he is a fifth generation Hanko maker. I will use the Hanko to sign my cards and products.
As a thank you, I decided to give him one of my journals that I had case-bound by hand. When I travel, I always carry extra product with me (e.g., extra handmade cards, journals, etc.). I had one journal left so I decided to give it to him as a thank you for rushing my order. He was so moved by my gift, he gave me my Hanko for free. I immediately stamped his journal with my Hanko and expressed that his journal would always signal my first signature. Once he realized what I planned on doing with the Hanko, he was even more grateful for my gift.
I think that I made a new lifetime friend.
The are several branches of Tokyu Hands including three in Tokyo alone. I decided to go to the biggest store available—the store at Shibuya. This was a relatively easy decision for me because Shibuya is at the end/beginning of the Ginza subway line. The only thing that I had to do was jump on the orange line (Ginza line) and be sure that I was heading in the right direction. All of the subway stations are numbered. I was already at station 7 and I needed to go to station 1. At every subway station, there are illuminated signs that show the current station and the next station. So as long as the numbers were getting smaller, I knew that I was going in the right direction.
The last time that I was in Tokyo, I went to the Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku and I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff. So, for this trip, I donned my life preserver (really my backpack), plugged into my MP3 player and convinced myself that I was ready for this adventure.
In all honesty, I was still unprepared for the enormity of the store. The store is a free standing structure which is incredible in the commercial real estate market of Tokyo. The main structure is Building A which is the center structure and is connect by a series of walkways to the other TWO structures (Buildings B and C). The biggest problem is that you can only access Buildings B and C from Building A and the walkways only connect on certain floors. In other words, you cannot access Building C from Building B. If you are on floor B6 and want to go to Building C, then you have to go to B3 to connect to Building A, and then go up to A4 to connect to Building C.
Between the three buildings, there are 25 different floors which include a restaurant on 7A. There is anything you want for a house/apartment at this store. Think of the bastard child of Home Depot and Wallmart on steroids and you get the idea.
Of all of the 25 floors, there was one quarter of a single shelf dedicated to Gocco supplies. They had 14 boxes of ink, 5 packages of small screens, and about 20 packs of 4 pack bulbs. The bulbs in Japan are averaging about $2 a piece. In other words, a four pack was running about 800 yen (about US $8). The paper selection was a disappointment in that they didn’t have a wide selection of full sheets of paper. Of the sheets that they did have, I already had the same patterns. I did buy some origami squares that I hope to incorporate in to a holiday card.
So, for the most part, Tokyu Hands was a bust.
I will spare the detailed directions (you can get them by going to here. The store is huge, clean, and accessible. The papers are all out in the open and you are allowed to touch the paper without asking for assistance. They only request is that you ask for assistance to take paper from the bolt.
In most Japanese paper stores, the paper is usually tri-folded onto itself (very much like a bolt of fabric). The paper IS NOT creased though. When you roll the paper you never really notice where the paper has been folded. When I store my paper in my flat files, I fold it in half without creasing it. Sometimes the weight of the other papers creases the paper but because Japanese papers are so fibrous and flexible, the crease is unnoticeable once paste/glue is applied to the back. If I get a crease in a sheet of Japanese paper, I will then use it to my advantage by using it as a crease in a card or on a box.
I was smart for this trip to Japan in that I took my paper swatches with me to see what colors/patterns that I already had. So for this trip, I only ended up buying 10 sheets of paper. These were patterns that were unique to this store so I was happy with a light hand.
As I was reading other blogs, I noticed that some of the sewing blogs have a fabric swatch Friday where every Friday, the show samples of their favorite fabrics. I think that I will have a similar posting series where I will highlight several examples of the papers that I have acquired from around the world.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The main store of Ito-ya has spilled to overflowing and had to open up a second and third annex. The main building has all of the regular type of materials that you would find in a first class paper goods store: a mixture of Office Depot and Crains stationery. The main store has 9 levels of stationery goods: 8th floor—Framing Service; 7th floor—Art Supplies; 6th floor—Paper shop; 5th floor—Diaries and Address Books; 4th floor—Work Style Selection; 3rd floor—Office Supplies and Files; 2nd floor—Social Stationery; Main floor—Fountain Pins and Luxury Gifts; Ground floor—Greeting Cards and the Basement—Casual Stationery and Gift Wrapping Supplies.
The Annex (Ito-ya 2) has scrapbooking supplies, art papers (Cavalli, etc.), Bookbinding Supplies and Craft Books.
Ito-ya 3 has been closed since I was here in February 2008. Its contents have been moved to the 6th floor of the main building. Located here are all of the Japanese papers (washi) that Ito-ya has historically been known (including Yuzen-shi and Chiyogami).
So this time around, I thought that I would spend my money on more Japanese style papers. Yet, that didn’t really happen. While I did buy some Yuzen-shi, most of my money was spent on non-Japanese paper that I can’t seem to find in the U.S. I have an affinity for fake hide papers that are paper backed. I am sure that you have seen the type of paper that I am talking about—fake crocodile, fake snakeskin, etc. Because of the heftiness of the paper and because it is paper-backed, I tend to use it to cover journals. I found a fake leather paper here in Japan that will fit the bill as well. I bought it in 8 different colors and two sheets of each.
Yet the biggest surprise was going to the second floor of Ito-ya 2 and finding Gocco supplies. The inks were 315 yen each (about $3.15). If you buy over 14 boxes of ink, you get them for 300 yen each. So, to say the least, I loaded up. They had boxes of bulbs but they only came in boxes of 4 bulbs. I forgot how much they were.
The funny aspect of the whole experience for me was when I went to the information booth to ask for Gocco supplies. In my very broken Japanese, I asked “Gocco ku-da-sai (Gocco please)?” and in very practiced English the young woman replied, “We have no Gocco machines.” I started to laugh as did she and asked: Furansu-go ku-da-si (French please)? At which she replied in French. Apparently, the staff has been trained in 8 different languages to say “We have no Gocco machines.”
You have to marvel at the preparedness of the Japanese. Tomorrow is a foray into the second major craft store—Tokyu Hands.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I am glad to say that I am posting from Japan. I arrived in Narita airport after 14 hours in the air and I have to say that I am happy to be out of the airplane.
The trip was uneventful once we got in the air. We had a 45 minute delay on the tarmac at JFK due to mechanical difficulties (something that you definitely don't want to hear knowing that you will be flying for 14 hours).
I filled up my first page of journal with some Travel Haiku. Examples include:
Baby walks the aisle
Daddy holds her hands up high
I want to trip them.
Up, down, all around
He has to pee once again
Give him catherer
Crossing Russia now
Will wave to Sarah Palin
Say Hello neighbor
Well folks--that is all for now. The Jet lag is starting to kick in. I might go and take a nap before the adventures begin.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I woke up six hours later, cut some paper, and spiral bound the book. I chose the cover paper because it was Japanese inspired (it actually isn’t a Japanese Yuzen) but mimics the style but it is a synthetic paper that has fiberglass fibers (ala mulberry paper) running through it. Since it is going to be handled often, I decided to use this type of paper. Since it was a last minute project, I chose not to use book cloth because the only book cloth that I had was unadorned and I didn’t have time to decorate it. In hindsight, I could have decorated the book cloth later.
The endpages are Chiyogami prints that I brought back from my last trip to Japan. I love the color combination in relationship to the cover. You open the book and there is the shock of surprise of the red print.
The title of this journal will be “10 Days in Japan.” I will share some of the pages with you when I return. I will be blogging while I am in Japan so that you can follow my adventures. I will post pictures upon my return. While I will be taking pictures while I am there, I am not taking my laptop.
Thanks for all your well wishes for my travel. After fourteen hours on a plane, I will see you from Japan.
Journal Front Cover
Friday, October 17, 2008
When I make a first batch of cards, I make extra parts of the card so I don’t have to restart every time I want that design. In this case, I printed extra “with love” cards so that I can use them in the future. This way, I only have to gocco print once.
I originally designed this card for an anniversary card. My friend is using it so send to a new bride and groom. I also plan on using this card for Valentine’s Day next year.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
As I posted earlier, on this past Sunday, I decided to relocate my craft space/studio from one room to another room in my apartment. Also competing for my time is a set of cards that I have been making for my friend who is in hospital after having brain surgery.
As I was trying to get a handle of these things, one of my clients who ordered Christmas cards suddenly wants to see the mock up of the card so she can decide how many cards to order. On top of this, I got three new orders for journals on my online store.
And on top of this, two of my friends asked me to make them a “quick card” that they need on Friday. Have you ever noticed how people want a “quick” something at the last minute? I guess the quick part is the quickness of the asking as opposed to the quickness of the manufacturing. I told them—if they wanted quick that they could go to the store. They begged and of course, I acquiesced.
Oh, did I forget to mention that I have a full time day job—the one that is sending me to Japan?
At the end of the day: I postponed the meeting with the Christmas card client by telling her that I was going away and that I would be able to accommodate any number of cards that she would order (last year she ordered 50 and this might be as many at 100); I contacted the buyers of the journals and told them that I would send out their product during the first week of November (which was fine because two gifts were for Christmas and one was for a late November birthday); I made a “Welcome Home” card for my friend in the hospital because he is going home tomorrow; Will make the quick cards tonight and force my friends to come and pick them up; and will type of the lists as soon as I finish typing this blog entry.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This past weekend, I was cataloguing more of my materials for my insurance policy when, out of the blue, I decided that I have outgrown my studio space (the bedroom of my apartment) and needed to move into the den (which I was using as my bedroom). The den is about twice the size of the studio space and I had some large items already spilling into the den anyway.
Of course, this great idea didn’t come to me until late Sunday night. So I was up late on Sunday and still had to work my day job on Monday (no such thing as Columbus Day in the Entertainment Industry). So now, I am working late at nights trying to move everything from one room into the next all at the same time I am trying to get ready to go to Japan.
So in short, I am really a lame-brained doofus. My big question is this: do I bust my bum and try to get this done before I leave (and therefore arriving in Japan already tired) OR do I try and make a dent in the moving and come home from Japan to a big mess?
The reason why I am doing this move is that I want to paint my apartment (not the old bedroom/new studio). It will be easier to paint if all of my artist’s supplies are in the one completed room that I am happy with.
What a life!
Monday, October 13, 2008
One weekend ago, I experimented with affixing the fake fur to a mock up of davey board and book cloth. Once I figured out that secret, I collected all of the materials that I would use. The box tray and lid came out perfectly. I then covered the box pieces with Sugar Plum Pink colored book cloth. It was smooth sailing—this was going to be a breeze.
I started covering the box with the fur and it all went to hell in a hand basket. I started covering the lid first. I got a great fit but somehow I sheared the fur so that there was a marked difference in the direction of the fur. I though that I would be able to fluff it up to hide the seam (like you do when sewing fur together)—no such luck. Then I had to deal with the exposed edge. I couldn’t find a way to hide the cut edge. I still had to cover the sides of the box bottom.
I thought about covering my edges with ribbon that I had bought to affix the closure. I had this great polka dot ribbon that I wanted to use. The only problem was that it wasn’t wide enough in proportion to the davey board edge. I couldn’t turn it under the lid without it looking like a mistake. Because I didn’t have any FabricTac, I got hot glue over everything.
So, I learned a lot of things but ended up with an unfinished project that I can’t really do anything with. I will send it to the Isle of Misfit Projects so that it won’t feel abandoned and lonely.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Rather than photograph the individual patterns, I decided to make a sample book for each drawer in my flat file. I was planning on doing this anyway so I can show them to my clients and they can then pick out a paper pattern before I start a project. Of course, I didn’t think to count the number of pieces per pattern as I was going the cataloguing. Now, I have to go back and count but that will be a lot easier to do than sitting/standing there and cutting out a 2” by 3” swatch for my sample book.
I am also planning on taking my sample book with me when I visit Japan in a couple of weeks. Just think—the land of paper. When I was there in February, I spent the equivalent of a month’s rent on buying Yuezen. The markup of my sources here in the US is about 100%. So, I bought and then scrimped and saved in the months following my past trip.
As I was going through my sample book, I noticed some interesting trends:
For Japanese papers: Favorite patterns included patterns with black backgrounds, followed by patterns with blue backgrounds. The least number of patterns had red backgrounds.
There isn’t an animal print that I can’t seem to pass up. The embossed paper (in every color) seem to be my favorites—snakeskin patterns followed by crocodile patterns.
For printed papers, I seem to favor the Italians—Cavalli and Bertini. For colors in these patterns, I seem to favor jewel tones.
For metallic papers, I seem to prefer golds to silvers. Bronzes to coppers.
Finally, if it is embossed, I probably have it.
Someone send help now. I think that I might be addicted to paper.
Next stop—cataloguing rubber stamps. Oi Vey.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Unfortunately, I had little time to craft or to think about crafting/creating. I have a project due by the end of the month when I go and visit friends in Indianapolis. I am making a series of boxes for the children of my friends. I am making a box that will be wrapped in pink fake shag fur. So, to work out the logistics, I tried glueing the fabric to the bookcloth that will cover the box. PVA mix didn't work. Red line tape didn't work. Finally, full strength PVA worked wonderfully which was a great find. Here are the mockups of the materials. It almost looks obscene.