Category Archives: how to

Ancient Japanese Secret

In the days before smart phones or even pocket cameras, Japanese fishermen used to keep paper and ink on their boats so they could document trophy catches by making rubbings of them. After washing the ink off, they could eat the fish and prove that it had existed.

Eventually the practice evolved into an art form called gyotaku (gyo “fish” + taku “rubbing”) and the fish prints were embellished with other media, or made from molds instead of the actual fish.

As soon as I learned about gyotaku I was desperate to try it. The only problem was that I couldn’t quite bring myself to look at, let alone touch, a dead fish.

But my husband is an avid fisherman and lover of Japanese printmaking. He graciously offered to bring home a fish so we could make a fish rubbing together (romantic!). And by “together,” I mean that I supplied the paper and ink and watched with one eye open as the P-Dawg did the rubbing. The process we used is very simple:

  1. Pat the fish thoroughly dry with a rag or paper towel.
  2. Rub a thin layer of ink over it (the P-Dawg used his bare hands but you could also probably use a brush).
  3. Put a piece of paper over the inked fish and press it down around the fish so that the whole surface of the fish comes into contact with the paper.

I would advise you not to rub too vigorously because when the P-Dawg was making this gyotaku, a very small amount of fish guts leaked out and got stuck to the paper. I had to Photoshop them out.

For our first gyotaku, I think it turned out pretty well. Next time, perhaps a slightly thinner layer of ink would bring out some more detail.

the fish print_edited-1

(The P-Dawg wants you to know that his fish rubbing is not yet complete, as he plans to embellish it with a golden eyeball. He also wants you to know that he doesn’t consider this fish a “trophy” catch.)

Here’s what we used:

  • One small perch from LaDue Reservoir in Geauga, Ohio
  • Sumi ink
  • Japanese kozo paper (because it’s lightweight but very durable, so it molds easily to the fish

The Fish

the ink_edited-1

The Ink

inking the fish_edited-1

The Inking

gyotaku with guts

The Print (Unedited)

I didn’t get a good photo of the rubbing process, but basically you place a piece of paper over the fish and . . . rub it.

(This post was cross-posted on my other blog, here.)

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How to Make a No-Sew Kindle Case

Disclaimer: Two books were harmed in the making of this post.

It’s probably some kind of a crime, but I made myself a Kindle case out of an old hardcover book. (Because it’s also a crime to pay forty bucks for one from a store.) Once I got over the initial guilt about destroying a book, I found the process to be quite enjoyable and now I can’t look at a hardback without wanting to hack it up and put my Kindle inside.

Isn’t that ironic, Alanis Morrisette?

Here is what you’ll need:

  • A hardcover book (I recommend War and Peace or Ulysses)
  • Mod Podge (but you could also use equal parts Elmer’s glue and water)
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • A paintbrush
  • An X-acto knife

Optional supplies: decorative paper, felt or ribbon, hot glue gun, adhesive magnets)

First, find an old hardcover book that you don’t mind destroying. Make sure the inside pages are at least an inch wider and longer than your Kindle.

Using Mod Podge or a combination of equal parts water and Elmer’s glue, paint around the outside pages of the book to seal them. You will need 2-3 coats (wait until each one dries completely before applying the next.)


Note: Don’t seal the first page because you’ll need it later. Just leave it flapping.

When the glue has dried, on the second page of the book, draw lines to mark where you will cut the pages out. Again, make sure you leave enough space for your Kindle to fit snugly inside, but not so snugly that you would have to pry it out with a crowbar.

With an X-acto knife, make an incision along the lines you drew and gently remove the first few pages. The book will not feel a thing.

The book doesn't feel a thing

Continue cutting the pages out until you’ve carved out a little Kindle cave. Unless the book you’re using is very thin, you probably don’t even need to cut through to the back cover. (You could also begin cutting towards the middle and leave a nice chunk of pages on the top so the Kindle cave is truly a secret compartment.)

The cutting process can be a bit tedious. It is normal to get a blister or develop carpal tunnel syndrome before you’re through.

When you’ve created a deep enough Kindle cave, seal the inside of it with Mod Podge or glue. Again, you may need more than one coat. Next, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge or glue on the top of the cave and press the first page (the one you didn’t cut) down upon it.  Or, you can glue a piece of decorative paper on the top of the cave, like so:

Glue a piece of decorative paper to the top of the Kindle cave.

Close the front cover, weigh it down with a few heavy books, and wait for it to dry.

Using your X-acto knife, cut out the center of the top page. If you used a piece of decorative paper for the top page, you’ll also have to trim the outside edges so they are flush with the other pages in the book.

If, like me, you are unable to leave well enough alone, hot glue some felt or ribbon to the inside of the cave to further cushion your Kindle and to mask the hack job you did of cutting the pages out.

That little hair stuck to the bottom is from my paintbrush, you guys.

While wielding the glue gun, do mind your thumb)

Very painful

You can also go nuts and add a bookplate (I got the graphic from The Background Fairy):

And decorate the cover with pieces of leftover scrapbook paper. (I used about three coats of Mod Podge to seal it and only took one or two deep sniffs.)

If you want the book to snap shut, place self adhesive magnet strips on the inside.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And pretty snazzy, if I do say so myself.

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