Hello. My name is Victoria and I'm a stationery addict. Honestly, I love nothing more than walking around Tokyo stationery stores on my solo 'Artist Dates' days, with a special love for the retro-classic mom and pop stationery stores you find in local areas. Japan has some amazing products available that I haven't seen anywhere else that I use on a daily basis in the studio as well as in life. Ideas of where to shop for these lovely items is coming up soon. But first, here are a few of my faves...
1. MT Tape
Any masking tape fans here? I'm really fussy about my masking tape selection, not just for the designs and colours but the quality of the tape itself. MT is my go-to tape due to the durability and stickability, and I don't even mind the extra spend if it stays where it is and looks gorgeous. If there's such a thing as a 'masking tape snob', I'm it.
2. Masking Tape Cutter
This Kokuyo cutter was a revolution to how I cut my masking tape. It cuts in a perfectly straight line, is super ergonomic to use with minimal effort and looks beautiful on my packaging. As the blade is so good, it also means that I use/ waste much less tape.
3. BuJo (Bullet Journal) Body Scanner/ Outfit Stamp
I try to do a bullet journal every day before I start work. Although I don't really use the official BuJo method, I do use an actual journal designed for bullet journalling to plan my days (mine is from Leuchtturm) . I love to think about how I feel at the start of each day and this stamp helps to pin point any pains and issues that I have physically. I also try to plan the feeling that I want at the end of each day which this body shape helps me focus on.
4. Staple-less staple
This cool Harinacs device punches a hole in pieces of paper and somehow folds the bits together to attach them without staples. I have no idea how it works, other than it works and I don't need to buy staples anymore. What's not to love?!
5. Slim Scissors
These slim scissors, about the size of a pen only a bit flatter, are also from Kokuyo. These are the perfect addition to my on-the-go sketchbook kit for those weekends away (remember those?!) or for a grab-and-go day working at a coffee shop or co-working space (pre-Covid). I've always loved to make collages with bits and pieces of tickets and leaflets while I'm on the go, so these are the perfect light-weight, non-bulky pair.
6. Yamato Starch Paste
I love, love, love this glue, used by schools up and down Japan. You can use your fingers to spread it and clean up is fast and easy. Although the plastic packaging is a bit of a turn-off, Yamato have worked hard to make their refills out of paper containers. You can read more about that here.
7. Zebra Mildliners
Perhaps it's because it's Spring that I'm loving all the pastels, or perhaps it's the annoying bleed through the paper of regular highlighters that led me to these Zebra Mildliners. Much more subtle in their colours compared to the 80s/90s versions, these ones show you the important stuff without it being visible from space. The image on the right shows the difference between the Zebra colours and a regular highlighter.
8. Zebra Sarasa Pens
I I ever leave Japan, I am stocking up on YEARS worth of these pens. I'm a pretty heavy-handed writer so I need a sturdy pen to stand up to the pressure (hello sillicone grip?) and they make my handwriting look all grown-up and pretty. And Zebra is always coming up with new and fantastic colours which I just can't resist. And they do refills too.
BONUS INFO: Sarasa means calico or printed cotton chintz in Japanese and was a fabric favoured by the Samurai.
The big question is 'where do I get my hands on all this goodness?' That, my friends, is coming up soon where I'll take you to some stationery stores, stores that carry stationery, some local places and some amazing temples of stationery. Are you in?
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What is a FUKUBUKURO?
Traditionally in Japan at New Year businesses bundle up their products and sell them in a 'lucky bag' (the kanji 福袋 (fukubukuro) literally means lucky bag). The 'lucky' part comes in as you can't actually see what's in the bag before you buy. Fun right? Oh, and there are bargains to be had too, as long as you are buying from places you love.
Is the Biku Fukubukuro like a traditional lucky bag?
Yes...and also no.
YES: There are a number of items at a discount bundle price presented in an actual bag!
NO: Before you buy you know what products are included in the bag and the savings you'll make. There are no end-of-line, random items in the bags. Everything is from current stock or made especially for the bags. This year you can even request certain colours to be included in the bag.
So, how do I grab one?
Click the link here and you can see what's available. Make sure to request your colours before you buy though, otherwise you'll receive a random selection.
Important info for UK customers.
Biku will cease shipping to the UK in 2021 due to changes in VAT after Brexit. The final day for UK purchases is Monday December 28th 2020. I hope to find a work around in the future, but for the time being it will be closed at the end of 2020.
When does the offer close?
Monday 4th January 2021 at midnight.
UK Fukubukuro will be shipped by 30th December, rest of the world and Japan shipping is on Tuesday 5th January 2021.
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Tell us about your work.
I create Japan-inspired artworks of pen and watercolor. I sell original artworks at gallery exhibitions and also offer my designs as prints, postcards, illustration books, and more.
Does your artwork have a story?
My illustrations express intersections.
Intersections of reality and fantasy, of familiar and unfamiliar, and intersections of identity.
As a foreigner living in Japan there can be a lot of focus placed on cultural identity, and the concept of “insider” versus “outsider.” Art is one place where there are no limits and we don’t have to be one thing or another. By creating a space between reality and imagination, between “inside” and “outside,” I feel I’ve found a space where I don’t have to define who I am. It is a place where viewers can find their own world as well and where everyone is welcome.
Do you have a business philosophy?
I believe that it is important to create from the heart. Both the artist and the viewer can feel a good vibe from artwork that is genuine. I will only put out a design that I’ve really put my love into and I have grown to trust that that energy will be conveyed naturally to my patrons as well.
As an individual creating art and running a business I also value keeping a personal touch with customers. I always add a handwritten note to my webstore orders, to let my customers know it really is me every time at the other end of their order and that I am filled with personal gratitude for their support.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Art has always been something I’ve loved to do, so creating artwork has never been a question. Since moving to Tokyo I became aware of a wide variety of amazing opportunities and venues to connect with other artists, showcase art, and find new fans. As I had the chance to connect with more people I was motivated and encouraged to widen the variety of offerings using my designs, such as making smaller printed merchandise that was more accessible, especially for younger patrons. Now I have a range of merchandise for tabling events and webstore sales, and also continue to offer original artworks at galleries.
What sets your artwork apart from others?
My subject matter and art style fit into that “in between” space. My experience living in Japan has evolved both my identity and my art style and viewers seem to pick up on that. Both Japanese and non-Japanese patrons find my designs unique, yet oddly relatable. I love thinking that how I express my imagination and experience through artwork might help open up more flexibility for everyone who feels like they are in an “in between” space living in Tokyo.
I think original art is often forgotten as an option for gifts or personal memories. I hope that I can remind people of the option and help them find something special and unique.
Find out more about Erica Ward Illustration
Click the “Shop” link from the menu on my website to see my available products. For inquiries about illustration or commission artworks, feel free to drop me a message in the “Contact” section or on social media.
To hear about upcoming exhibitions, events, and to peruse my artwork, feel free to follow me on Instagram and Facebook.
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Just before the triple disaster on March 11th 2011 I made an ikebana arrangement featuring early flowering sakura (cherry blossom) branches.
The devastating earthquake at 14:46 on that day triggered a deadly tsunami taking more than 20,000 lives in one wave and the following explosion at the nuclear plant in Fukushima left Japan reeling. We were terrified by endless aftershocks and distracted by where to buy uncontaminated water and (of course) toilet paper.
Those little sakura branches lay forgotten in a bucket of water on our terrace for months. And when the earth had settled enough for us to finally get life in order, I realized that the branches were still sitting there. The blossoms had long since disappeared and in their place, bright green waxy leaves had sprouted. Underneath the water, the branch had grown thick white roots.
Fast forward nine years and one of those little branches is now a tree that blossoms every year. It sprouts the same waxy leaves in the summer and turns golden in the Autumn. After dropping its crisp leaves in the winter, within a matter of days tiny pink buds appear. The cycle is seamlessly endless.
It feels like the world is in a similar place again. This time, a slowly unfurling disaster of epic proportions. But I know we can endure if we all work together. How can I be so sure? The sakura told me so.
EDIT: It's now 2021 and the world is still in flux. Yet, the cherry blossom is back in full bloom, and doing even better than last year.
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.