today’s elijah :: school play at japanese school

elijah started to go to the japanese school here in saskatoon since september last year.  the class takes place every sunday morning for two hours.  elijah is in the preschool class and i help out as a teacher’s aide.  i make materials and do some drawings for them.

we had a school play day at the end of march.  elijah’s class did a traditional russian story called “the great big turnip“.  for this play, i painted the background image.

there are six characters in this story — grandpa, grandma, grandchild, dog, cat, and mouse.  we have 8 kids in our class, so we told them to pick the role they like and we could have two of the same character.

everyone picked a character except elijah.  at that point, all the roles were taken.  so we told him that he can be any character he wants.  so he picked…

an elephant.

「ぞうさんに、な、り、た〜い!(i want to be an elephant!!)」

he said that out loud standing on his chair.

then, he told me the day before the play that there is no elephant in the story…

too late, elijah!!

petit book :: spencer, the ennui dog

i’ve made a pocket version of my amigurumi storybook, ‘the boring life of spencer, the ennui dog’.  it’s a children’s story for adults, with love, adventure, a 3-headed duck and a little backstabbing.  it’s available now in my online shop.  and i’ll be showing it at the fringe festival here in saskatoon, starting tonight.

back in 2006 i was invited to take part in an art book fair at aka gallery in saskatoon.  i’d just started this blog.  my first solo show of drawings was opening soon and i was still drawing for that show.  the art book fair was scheduled just a week after my show opening.  i didn’t have a book of drawings, or any other book to show.  but i wanted to take part, so of course i said ‘yes’.

i’d already been making a few amigurumi animals, but i didn’t have a story.  so i sat down a couple of nights after my show opening and wrote a story.  i spent a couple of days going around town taking photos with my amigurumi (it was super-cold, some of the “special effects” were hard to get right, i had to go to value village to find a pink jeep for the big ending).  paul and i stayed up late one night to do the layout and i got it printed the next day, at an office printing shop.  i bolted the pages together and took it right to the art book fair.

everyone seemed to really enjoy the spencer book.  that summer i brought it to the fringe festival and people were lining up in front of my table to read it, bringing their friends over.  i thought about getting it printed professionally but it seemed like too much trouble.  i always meant to make a smaller, affordable version of the book, but life kept getting busier and that never happened.  i did design a set of ‘spencer’ postcards that i’ve been showing at the fringe festival and selling in my online shop.  and the 3-headed maximum team power duck doll who played the bad guy in the book, made an appearance as part of a show i did at the mendel art gallery.

well, now i’ve finally made a mini-version of the spencer book that you can buy and take home with you.  it’s roughly 4 x 6 inches in size, so you can carry it in your pocket.  just take it out and read it when you need a little laugh. or you can come to my blog and read the whole story here. click the thumbnails to view the pages at full size or click the link below to launch a slideshow.

[nggallery id=spencerbook]

i’m taking part in the saskatoon fringe festival again this year, starting tonight until august 8th.  it’ll be the 4th time i’ve showed there in 5 years.  i’ll be selling this petit spencer book as well as my prints and postcards.  come on down to broadway avenue to meet me.  i’m planning to attend as many days as i can.  i’ll probably have elijah with me for some of the time, since he’s having a very emotional separation anxiety these days.

hope to see you there!

back on the street at the fringe festival

ah~, it’s so nice to be on the street with my drawings.  i started busking at the fringe festival here in saskatoon last night.  this is my first fringe since elijah came along.  and this is my first time ever being away from elijah for more than an hour.

i’ve been showing my drawings at galleries nowadays, which is very nice.  but i really like being on the street, where most of the people who come by are there just to look around, not because they’re particularly interested in art or in my drawings.  i like the randomness of having people stumble upon my work and seeing their reactions, good and bad.

the busking areas at the fringe have been very busy already this year.  i’ve been setting up on broadway, near 10th.  i have a little table with books of prints and postcards that people can browse through at their own speed.  there are a couple little stands that i put single prints in, so people can see them from a distance walking by.

some of the prints and postcards are of my newer drawings that i’ve never made into prints before.  the only one of the newer drawings that i’ve shown in saskatoon before is ‘new wings’.  the other new drawings are on first view, but i’ve already put the images up on my blog.

for the fringe festival i do a different printing technique than the archival prints i sell in my online shop.  they’re not as expensive to make, so i can sell the 8.5 x 11 prints for $10.  postcards are sold for $2 each, or 6 for $10 (i’m from kansai, i have to offer a good deal).  people keep telling me the prices are way too cheap.  i want them to be cheap enough that even little kids don’t have to worry about the cost if they find an image of mine they want to take home.

this year i’ve already had a lot of people coming up to me who know me from somewhere — my blog readers, people who remember me from previous shows in saskatoon, and even some asian girls who saw my drawings in the hong kong fashion magazine, milk.

a couple people asked for my autograph.  i double-checked to make sure they weren’t out of their minds.

i got a few negative reactions — people saying ‘urrghh’, or ‘creepy’ — but not as many as i was expecting.  one older woman did sniff at me with a disapproving face, which i was glad to see.  i don’t know why, but those negative comments don’t hurt me anymore.  i kind of enjoy them.  a couple of harsh comments go a long way to motivate me to draw more.

i ran into some of the local artists as well — artist kris moffatt, poet taylor leedahl who is representing local book company jackpine press, artist carole epp, and young artist michael.  i’m hoping to meet the artist kristin bjornerud who will be back in saskatoon for the summer from hamilton.

if you’re in saskatoon, come and see me on the street at the fringe festival!  you can say whatever you want, and you don’t have to pretend to be nice.  i’ll be happy to see you anyway.

today’s elijah :: children’s day!

the fifth of may is a japanese holiday called ‘kodomo no hi‘ (children’s day). the holiday used to be called ‘boy’s day’, but the government decided to rename it children’s day to celebrate the happiness of all children. we still celebrate boys on this day since there is a girl’s day on the third of march.

for boy’s day, we raise a carp flag (koi nobori) and display dolls in samurai armor. one of the dolls represent ‘kintaro‘. kintaro was raised in the mountains by his mother. kintaro rides a bear instead of a horse. the animals of the forest became his friends due to his gentle nature. eventually kintaro joins up with a Samurai clan and helps to defeat a gang of demons. kintaro is a symbol of a healthy and strong boy.

i don’t have carp flags or the dolls yet, so i made an origami kabuto and jinbei kimono for elijah. i happened to have a kintaro bib. i tried to put a paper origami kabuto on his head, but he ate it. here he is on his rocking moose.

i hope he had fun on his first boy’s day. or maybe he’s sick of being a model…

my drawings at cracow screen festival

i’ve been invited to show my drawings at the cracow screen festival in poland. the festival is taking place in the centre of cracow. there will be 2 music stages and video and art slideshows on a large screen and on 12 projections on the sides of buildings. it’s a 3 day music festival, may 2-4 2008.

the festival website is here.

16 performers, 3 days, 2 stages, visual art screened on buildings, houses and screens – all this can be expected during first cracow screen festival which will be held in cracow from 2nd to 4th of may, 2008. the event will start the festival season in poland, as well as the tourist season in cracow. in the long run the csf is designed to become one of the largest live music events in the country and the biggest annual video art presentation in poland.

over the three may days (the traditional polish ‘long weekend’) the historic cracow squares (jan nowak-jezioranski square and szezepaniski square) will witness live performances of well established bands and shows of visual art, created by artists specializing in video art and artistic film.

visual art will be ubiquitous: films will be shown in most public spaces, esp. on ATM screens, video screens, tv sets in shopping malls, etc.

the festival will host two distinctive visual artists: floria sigismondi – italian born photographer and director, known for working with bjork, white stripes, marlyn manson, david bowie, the cure, muse, interpol. and maria mochnacz, known for her unique portraits and videoclips of pj harvey.

the three days will turn cracow into one gigantic music screen.

two main stages will host seven bands daily. the audience can move about freely from one square to another, thus creating a festival programme of their own.

the first cracow screen festival will host many international artists, who haven’t made it to poland before, such as cirKus feat. neneh cherry (sweden), slut (germany), the raveonettes (denmark), bryan ferry (uk) and some, like mattafix (uk), who turn each visit to poland into immediate success.

some, like underworld, with their amazing light show, will satisfy both visual art and music fans. the festival auduence will have a chance to confront thir shows with concerts of the most interesting polish acts, such as wilki, smolik, cool kids of death, pustki and others!

i wish i could be there in person. i’m a big fan of underworld, especially. maybe i can see photos from the festival and some video clips on youtube.

here is my favorite youtube video using underworld’s music and film from koyaanisqatsi:

today’s elijah :: happy holidays with mtp duck headgear

dear elijah,

your mama is still horrified by the idea of putting her hand into a beheaded and skinned dead bird. so there will be no turkey dinner for you this year.

as a compromise, your mama asked santa to give her a super power to make ‘maximum team power duck headgear’ free hand. she had been thinking about how to make this headgear since you were still in her body. in her mind, ‘beheaded’ and ‘bird’ parts are all covered. so it’s basically the same thing.

i hope this headgear will keep your head warm all winter and you find it somewhat festive. it’s a festivus for the rest of us.

best wishes,

yuka-mama

asobi seksu:: thursday

their name means “sex for fun”. the song is from the album citrus (2006).

hazy & gorgeous…

it was cold yesterday for the first day of spring. it looks like it’s going to get warmer today (high of plus 4). so let’s start all over again, shall we?

i hope you all have a happy second day of spring!

asobi seksu

happy white day! (mille-feuille)

millefeuille440.jpg

in japan, women give chocolate to men on valentine’s day. and men return gifts a month later on white day (march 14th). on white day, men can give anything in white: underwear, handkerchiefs, jewelry, etc.

in canada, men give roses to women on valentine’s day. i have the luxury of receiving a gift, but there is no official day to return the favor. so i decided to return the tradition and give something white on white day. last year, i made white mochi filled with raspberries and white chocolate. this year, i made mille-feuille.

for valentine’s, paul and i went to moose jaw, about two hours drive south from saskatoon. moose jaw has a spa with a natural hot spring outdoor bath. i didn’t realize there was a hot spring in saskatchewan — i thought they were only in british columbia and alberta. so it was a nice surprise when paul found out about the spa in moose jaw.

the room we stayed in had a jet bath right next to the bed — no door involved. it reminded me of love hotels in japan, but it was surprisingly less tacky. maybe because there was no neon, or mirrors over the bed.

there’s an indoor pool on the top floor of the hotel that extends outside, where there’s a balcony surrounding the hot pool with the open sky above. in japan, this kind of thing is called “rotenburo” (literally, “bath under the skies”). people like to go to rotenburo especially in winter, when you can take a bath surrounded by snow.

this is canada, so the “rotenburo” was a pool, not a bath. everyone wears swimsuits, unlike in japan.

after dinner, we went to the outdoor pool. it was nearly midnight – around closing time, so there was only one other couple there. they were making out in the middle of the indoor pool, so we headed outside. the bath was surrounded by thousands of tiny christmas lights wrapped around the winter trees and we could see stars overhead. clouds of steam softened the effect. it was very beautiful. when the steam wrapped around the bare trees and fell down to us, it was as if we had thousands of leaves wrapped around us.

here’s the recipe i used for mille-feuille, from the joy of cooking. i cheated and bought frozen puff pastry, instead of making my own.

recipe

you need puff pastry. i bought it, cut it with a cookie cutter, and baked it according to the instructions. you can make your original pastry, if you know how. good luck…

the trick with the pastry is to press it down while baking so it doesn’t rise too much. i didn’t have anything to press it down with, so my mille-feuille is way too puffy.

pastry cream

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 4 large egg yolk

beat in a medium bowl on high speed until thick and pale yellow (about two minutes).

meanwhile, in a medium saucepan:

  • 1 1/3 cups milk

bring to a simmer.

gradually pour about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking to combine. scrape the egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low to medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and corners of the pan to prevent scorching, until the custard is thickened and beginning to bubble. then continue to cook, whisking, for 45 to 60 seconds. using a clean spatula, scrape the custard into a clean bowl.

stir in:

  • 3/4 tsp vanilla

cover the surface of the custard with a piece of wax or parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. let cool, then refrigerate before using. this keeps, refrigerated, for up to two days.

raspberry sauce

combine and bring to a boil over low heat:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

add:

  • 1 cup fresh or unthawed frozen raspberries

stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

add:

  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest, vanilla

blend it with a hand blender and strain and discard seeds and pulp. pour the sauce back into a saucepan and reduce sauce by half.

layer the puff pastry circles with custard and raspberry sauce. serve with a glass of milk and a kiss.

all-japan fireworks competition (for summer)

i might be wrong, but i heard it’s going to be PLUS 3 again this afternoon in saskatoon. “PLUS 3”, everyone. i don’t remember the last time i saw a plus sign for saskatoon weather…

clearly, summer is here.

a couple days ago, it was -13 degrees. that’s a jump of 16 degrees. now i’m too hot.

to celebrate the beginning of summer in canada, there’s nothing better than fireworks. this video is from the omagari all-japan fireworks competition, held every year on the last saturday in august in omagari, akita prefecture. the fireworks are synchronized with music, and the timing is amazing. in one part, i can see swans appearing under the dim light of oboro-zuki (hazy moon). it’s just gorgeous, and the ending is spectacular!

also posted to videosift.