I have to admit that when I first learned I was going to Japan, the first thing that came to mind was not autumn foliage, Japanese culture, temples, or even sushi. I had only one thing in mind: WASHI TAPE!!!
I first came across washi tape on Etsy a couple of years ago. They’re decorative rice paper tape produced in a variety of designs and colors, used mostly for arts and crafts. Being a sucker for anything bright and colorful, I was immediately drawn to them. Unfortunately they were mostly only available in Japan where they are manufactured, and shipping cost an arm and leg. I had to content myself with just (wistfully) looking at pictures of them online.
Fast forward to November 2011, when I found myself in Shinsaibashisuji, a very long shopping street in the Osaka prefecture in Japan. Alarm bells sounded in my head and ¥ ¥ ¥ signs flashed in my eyes when I found rolls and rolls of colorful washi tape in Kawachi, a three-storey arts and crafts store just a couple of blocks away from our hotel. I (mentally) squealed! I grabbed a basket and started filling it with the tapes I liked best, although at the back of my head I knew I was probably racking up a huge bill as fast as I was filling up the basket. However, the voice of reason came through and said: HOW OFTEN ARE YOU IN JAPAN, WOMAN?! Hmm, good point.
My washi tape loot
I bought other stuff too– a water brush, stamps and ink pads, and watercolor pads (buy one take one!)
I did rack up quite a bill (I regret nothing!) but I thought it was all worth it for things I loved and can’t find in the Philippines. Or so I thought.
Back in Manila three weeks after my Japan trip, I found out that home & lifestyle store Heima was bringing MT washi tape to Philippine shores! Heima invited me (upon the suggestion of Jen Horn from Punchdrunk Panda– they licensed one of my illustrations for their footwear line back in 2009) and other illustrators/designers/crafters to demonstrate the uses of washi tape for their product launch last weekend at the LRI Design Plaza in Makati.
OMGGG look at all the tape @__@
After washi tape’s popularity surged in Japan and online, a number of washi tape manufacturers have since popped up, but the original is Kamoi, an industrial tape manufacturer that started making the MT washi tapes upon the suggestion of their customers to incorporate different colors and designs (read that charming little story here).
We were provided with rolls of MT tape and other supplies to make and decorate whatever we wanted to show how washi tape can be used.
Photo from Heima’s Facebook page.
After several hours in stationery and supplies heaven, our work was exhibited on the wall– Heima had an ongoing series of design discussions with several speakers (Kat Encanto, Dan Matutina, Fozzy Castro-Dayrit, Valerie Chua, Diego Mapa) that day and the place was packed.
by MJ and Rian from Heima. Cute!
by Reese Lansangan
by Nic Lim
And by some girl (haha. me). I decorated blank kraft notebooks and pencils with MT tape and scrapbooking paper.
I thought we had a good and varied mix of different styles– really showcased what one can do with washi tape, be it for art, embellishing found objects, collage, illustration, and just about anything you can think of.
Thank you to Bong and Rossy from Heima for having me and Jen Horn for inviting me. It was great to have met fellow designers and illustrators as well (coming from a night shift work-from-home job, my social life has been dead for the past two years). It was a good day of arts & crafts, design, and illustration.
MT washi tape is available at Heima starting at P150 (single rolls) which I think is a reasonable price. No need to spend on plane tickets to Japan just to get a roll! Prior to the MT tape launch, I was limiting my use of my personal tape stash, but knowing we readily have MT tape here, I think I’ll just go ahead and use washi tape to wrap my Christmas gifts ^___^