Tokyo-based DIY blogger Ebony Bizys.
Tokyo-based, Australian-born designer and graphic artist, Ebony Bizys is the woman behind the brain-machine Hello Sandwich. Getting her start at VOGUE Living, recently completing her MFA, and being prolific in every sense of the word (from zines to workshops to collaborations and a beautiful high-profile blog), Ebony’s work under Hello Sandwich is a beacon of light in an over-saturated blog world. From the tours of Tokyo neighbourhoods that seem like a secret find (and remind me so much of the backstreets I miss!), super cute craft tutorial videos (!!), and extensive photo documentation of crafts and events, the Hello Sandwich blog is my favourite place to go for inspiration and a reminder to always stay crafty, Nihon style!
What took you to Tokyo and why did you choose Tokyo over an other city or region?
I moved to Tokyo in June 2010. Leaving VOGUE Living was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make as working there was such an important part of my life and so nourishing. But I had a deep desire for many years to spend more time in this incredible city – and as the cut off age for the working holiday visa was fast approaching, it was a case or now or never. Before moving to Tokyo, I had holidayed here 9 times, so it was a city I had always been fascinated with. Everyday I discover something new about this incredible city. I’m so thrilled to be able to call Tokyo my new hometown.
How do you find your work has changed or stayed the same since you’ve relocated to Japan?
Since living in Japan, and working freelance rather than full time, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to my own projects such as producing the Hello Sandwich Gift Wrapping Zine.
I first came to your blog through your Tokyo Guide and your blog posts about the little nooks and crannies you found in and about Tokyo’s suburbs. What inspired you to take on the Guide as a project and what were your challenges and successes in putting such a monumental zine together?
I made my first zine ‘Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide’ in June 2010 and launched it at Sydney’s MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) zine fair. This zine was born as a result of friends and family asking me for a list of things to do and see in Tokyo. Initially I collated this information in the form of an email list, which turned into a PDF, which turned into a zine. The zine’s popularity took my by surprise. I’ve sold over 1000 hard copies and 2000 PDF copies and I’m planning a re-print.
The difficult part of making the zine was mapping some of the locations on the Japanese maps. Luckily I was able to enlist the help of a Japanese person.
Out of all of the cute little places you shot for your Guide, which is your favourite? Or, have you found a new favourite since?
It’s difficult as I love each and every place for different reasons, but I would have to say that Hattifnatt café is one of my favourites. It’s cosy, cute and close to my apartment. I’ve found lots of new favourites since living in Tokyo too. Stay tuned for where this might be heading (>_
One of the things I really love about your blog and work in Japan is that I feel like you’re being a true visitor and anthropologist by reporting on what you see and how you see it, rather than commodifying something we’ve seen so many times (like a lot of foreigners do when they’re in a “different” place). It’s a fresh way to highlight Japanese culture without recreating the same stereotypes about Japanese life. How have Japanese people responded to your guide and do you think your work sets you apart from others, and how?
I’ve been surprised about the positive reception to my Tokyo Guide by Japanese people. Since living in Tokyo, I’ve been interviewed about the Tokyo Guide on Japanese radio J-wave and published in Japan’s first ‘zine’ book. Not so much from the zine, but from my blog, I’ve had a lot of reactions from Japanese people that they love the perspective and fresh point of view in my photographs. For instance, they are intrigued by photographs of rubbish, patterns, street life that are appealing to foreigners but become ordinary when you are born with these surroundings. I just try to create guides, reviews, and photographs that are true to myself and what interests me. Sometimes it’s the smallest things like rubbish bags and margarine packaging that I document and I’m often surprised when people leave comments suggesting they could enjoy it too.
How is the Tokyo craft scene different from what you expected? What are you learning from it, and what do you hope to give back?
I didn’t expect that I would be able to have involvement in Craft events such as D+Y and the Tokyo Art Book Fair. It’s wonderful to get right in the middle of the event and participate. I recently hosted a workshop at the D+Y event and was blown away by the creative skills of the Japanese participants. It’s as though Japanese people are born with a beautiful design sensibility. After all everything you see in this country has an amazing attention to detail and strong design sense.
One thing I would like to get happening is a regular craft night. Something similar to ‘stitch and bitch’ which we have in Australia.
Who in the Tokyo craft scene is really inspiring you right now?
- I am loving ceramic artists Satoko Sai and Tomoko Kurahara.
- Chinatsu Higashi.
- Shojo no Tomo.
- Sunshine to You.
What is your favourite Japanese craft either learned or not yet? If you’ve learned it recently, what was the learning curve like and how did you learn it/who taught you?
I desperately want to learn Japanese book binding. My dear friend Yumi Takahashi hand bound her zines using traditional Japanese techniques and I am secretly hoping she will teach me.
There is a gigantic craft supplies shop in Shinjuku called Odakaya. Everytime I visit this shop I come out with a new craft kit such as a pom pom making kit, a traditional Japanese embroidery kit, crocheting materials…and so on. The amount and range of craft supplies available in this country is incredible! I recently bought a sewing machine too, and hope to put some of the monthy Japanese pattern magazines to use.
What/where is your favourite craft shop in Tokyo?
Sekaido for stationery and Odakaya for Craft / Knitting and Sewing. Tokyu Hands is another favourite for all purpose creative making.
What 5 items would you buy at a 100yen shop to make into a Birthday present? How would this be different from 5 items you'd grab at a Dollar Store back home?
I’ve been known to create a paper food artwork using Daiso (100yen shop) materials.
- Coloured paper
- Wrapping paper
The 100yen shops also have a great range of sewing materials. I made some Christmas stockings for friends at Christmas time. They have a huge box of multicoloured pom poms for 100yen! It’s crazy no? Think of the endless possibilities with a giant box of pom poms!
Keep up with Ebony and see more of her projects at Hello Sandwich.