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On Inspirations

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Ever since I have started designing my own stamps, my brain has never been busier.

That day I walked by a market and saw stacks of wood bases for parcels, I have decided to make some stamps about them.

Round the corner I saw two bamboo baskets with onions.

Why not? Sure I’ll make another stamp of it.

Saw an old lady holding hands with her grandkid crossing the street.

Great another stamp here.

And wait! What about this black cat sleeping inside this Chinese medicine shop?

Ah too many ideas here and which one should I write down first?

Finally I found my iPhone, created a note called “To Carve List.”

Wait a minute…… What was the thing I want to carve again?

Just like many thing else in life, inspiration is something you can never catch fully. Inspirations come and go, just like shooting stars. Many times they are gone without your noticing. And all you can do is to catch them as much as you can.

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Stone Stamps

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Long before rubber was invented to make stamps, in the ancient times, Chinese people mainly used stone to create their stamps. In the beginning, stone stamps were functional—–they were created to represent their signature, to stamp on something that they own, or on some kind of written agreement which they had approved. These signature stamps were theoritically unique with authority.

I love the texture of stone stamps. Something rubber/eraser stamps cannot replace. The more I learn about stone stamps, the more I like them. First of all, you have to learn to choose a good stone. That’s already a course itself, I would say. My first stone stamp teacher was a retired Japanese gentleman. We had a chance to visit one of the most popular stationery shops in Tokyo for stone stamps, and my first mission was to choose several good stones out of a box of hundreds of them. That’s something I would not do when choosing eraser boards, as the boards itself are all standard under each brand. Skillful stone stamp carvers always pick the best stones at first sight. The more experienced you are, the better you could pick good stones.

Today I went to China to pick some stones for stamps. What my teacher told me was true: stone, just like other natural resources, are running out quickly. Good stones are scarce and are not easy to be found. And yes, once again, there are things money cannot buy. There are expensive stamps in many shops, but you can still find cracks here and there, and the shop assistant would not admit till you show them. It’s very much up to you to find your good stamps, and it’s more like a treasure hunt.

Perhaps that’s the fun part in stone stamps.

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Before It Is Gone

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One of the ways to appreciate your hometown, I think, is to leave the place for a long while and back later. You will discover there are at least some little changes, very tiny perhaps, but worthwhile to be noticed. At the same time you realise life goes on, with or without you actually, and these changes may eventually become dots of a line, lines of a sketch that one day the whole picture has been changed. Little by little, second after second.

I have been having this concept in mind ever since I have stepped foot on my hometown, Hong Kong. I haven’t been living in this fascinating island for over 3 years, and therefore I won’t blame myself for being curious (overly in many ways) at the faces of people, the smell of the streets, the ever-rotating shops and the growing population of my city. I try not to add any seasoning of judgement to it. Just open my mind and feel the moment. (but still careful enough not to inhale the combustion on the road too much…)

I live in an aged town where the old airport is located. Before 1998, I used to see airplanes flew above my head just like gigantic black birds. I was used to those inevitable roaming sounds, and since small we learned not to speak whenever they flew by, as we wouldn’t be able to hear anything anyway. It was a unbelievably dangerous scene to the eyes of many tourists, but Hong Kong people didn’t feel a thing. It was once a part of our lives.

And we did not notice by then.

Till years after the noise has gone, and became a corner of our memories. I have been collecting bits of memories, here and there, and those fragments are so full sometimes that I believe they can become a picture or two.

This big eraser stamp design was a result of my observation to an old residential building covered with scaffold. I never saw scaffolding project in Japan or the States, but there are plenty in Hong Kong. So much skill involved, yet so unnoticed. Before this scene is gone, I want to keep it in my stamp design.

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Stamping on Cotton Cloth

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Was watching TV today and learned about a funny Japanese song called “いい湯だな”, meaning “What a great hotspring” in English. I have been very lucky to have experienced soaking in hotspring in various places in Japan including Hakone in Kanagawa, Zao and Naruko-onsen in Miyagi, and of course, Niseko in Hokkaido. Hotspring, or onsen in Japanese, is a very unique Japanese experience. Since there won’t be any onsen in my hometown, Hong Kong, I am sure I will miss it in future.

I bought this white cotton cloth last month in Tokyu Hands but didn’t have time to try stamping on it till today. These kind of thin multi-purpose cotton handkerchiefs are very commonly found in Japan and I always like their lightness. They are very handy for lots of things including heading to an onsen of course. I added some colour bubbles here to resemble the soap or water bubbles.

Life is good when there is onsen.

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From Now On

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As I wrote in the beginning of this blog, I started to carve stamp due to stress.

I never thought this little act will then became a hobby, a daily exercise later, a passion afterwards, and now a qualification. (!)

This certificate was issued by JESCA, Japan Eraser Stamp Creators Association, that I am one of their approved stamp creators and instructors.

I feel like I have graduated (again) from the School of Stress in Tokyo.

From now on, the sky is the limit! (So it wrote on my graduation pen long time ago) ^^

先週、JESCA日本イレイサースタンプ振興会から消しゴムはんこ技能認定証を頂きました。
まだまだ、信じられない。
最初に仕事のストレスから彫って見て、段々夢中になって、今の認定まで、
人生の可能性が多いね!
今後、ストレスを頼むの代わりに、自分と他人が喜ぶのために、消しゴムはんこを作る目指します。
皆さん、宜しくお願いします!

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Stamp Trading – August 2013

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IMG_4374Received so much lovely stamps again this month! Here are the pictures! Amazed not only by the carvers’ skills on carving, but also by their package designs. Every time I learn something from them.