Postcards for Japan–Add Yours, Too

My parents were refugees when they arrived here. Four wooden crates, combined to a size of a medium refrigerator and a small top-loading washer,  spoke for the first four decades of the lives of my parents and my two brothers. Those boxes contained everything–bedding, towels, clothing, shoes, books, kitchenware, toys (I remember only one), and what was left of their life. No furniture, no appliances, and certainly no TV, car, lawnmower, ladder, buckets or all the other items a family of four would accumulate to make up a life.

Tonia from Phoenix made these bright watercolor cards with rounded corners.

I was born the next year, so I don’t remember the first desperate weeks. What I do remember is that I never knew we were poor. We played tag and ball outside, climbed trees, and used our imaginations. At night, we would lie outside and my Father would tell us about the stars or tell stories. My oldest brother would read stories and poems he was learning in school. We didn’t have a TV till I was 16 years old. One of my most precious possessions from that time, so important that I have it still, was a postcard sent by a family friend. On one side was an image of an exotic place, on the other side was. . .a message just for me. “Wish you were here.” I has been in every room, apartment, condo, and house I’ve owned. It was in the studio when the house burned in 2003, and I have what is left of it still.

Anne from Australia made these mixed media postcards. Some have Japanese handwriting on the back!

Postcards are small art works, sent from the heart. They confirm affection, being missed, being included, being thought of. How could they not be wonderful?

When the earthquake collapsed Fukushima, Japan, and washed away homes, towns, cars, boats, and thousands of lives, my heart clenched. I saw children homeless, having lost everything, standing in refugee centers. I sent money, but I wanted to

Bo from Wisconsin sent in these bright one-stroke watercolor postcards.

do more. I remembered that precious postcard and decided that  a small piece of handmade art could still be precious. Could let a child know they were remembered, thought of, prayed for, cherished, even in such bleak circumstances. I cannot send enough money, I can’t go there and work or comfort people, but I can send a piece of handmade art, because art speaks directly to the heart, no translators needed.

Bea from Redondo Beach, CA sent in these mixed media postcards. The backs all have stories about Abraham Lincoln, and the front have colorful images.

When I asked people to send postcards to me so I could forward them to the children, I had no idea how many would come. I thought people might send me a postcard or two. But the postcards have started to come in. In envelopes. In bunches. I smiled with the first ones, and cried when I pulled more envelopes out of the post office box. I thought I’d share the first ones with you here, and encourage you to make yours, too, and send them in. They don’t have to be perfect, or wonderful. Just made with love.

Thank you so much Tonia in Phoenix, Bo in Tucson (on her way back to Madison!), Anne in Australia and Bea in Redondo Beach, California. Thanks for taking the time and spending money on postage.  You remind me of the truth of what Mother Theresa said:  “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

If you haven’t made a postcard yet, I am happy to get more.  Send them to: Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183

You can see larger versions of the postcards on my Flickr site.
-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who is thrilled to know that friends and strangers alike care for others.

10 thoughts on “Postcards for Japan–Add Yours, Too

  1. Quinn what a fabulous idea!!! I have one fabric postcard and will try to make more. Getting ready to move in a week but what an awesome idea! The people of Japan have been on my mind a lot, would love to help however I can.

  2. Quinn this post is so beautiful it made me cry! What lovely words to read over my morning coffee. I will put a link to this on my Facebook page, let’s see if you get more postcards…!
    Best wishes from germany, tj

  3. Dear Quinn,

    I am a fledgling collage artist and was, just this morning, in need of some inspiration. I believe in the intrinsic and inexorable value of art, as process in and of itself. However, to come across such a truly beautiful and inspired idea of how art can be used, viewed and shared is a new revelation.

    Postcards have always held a sort of romantic quality for me, particularly vintage images from old travel advertisements – back when the world seemed bigger and foreign lands more mysterious. A postcard provides a singular mode of communication, which although brief has the potential to be profound. Your idea of having artists create handmade postcards to be sent to Japanese children and their families, in this heart-wrenching and frightening time, is truly a way in which art becomes a gift, and a way to reach out to others.

    I imagine that many beginner artists struggle at times to establish meaning and significance to what their heart seems to compel them to do: be creative and show it. That is why this idea, so beautiful in its simplicity and powerful in its meaning, I think encapsulates how the world is changing – and can be changed – through communications and exchange; indeed, via art. The Internet is such a platform, and blog posts can be seen as a form of postcard. And yet, to create a tangible and utterly unique card, by hand, reminds us of what is ‘behind’ the impetus to remember and share with others.

    Finding your blog has been a great gift to me and I look forward to exploring it more. Meanwhile – as a beginner in every sense – on a practical note: can you recommend where I can buy blank post cards to work with?

    Finally – my mind is buzzing with ideas of how postcards can be used as expressions of caring and best wishes – cards that can travel across the globe!

    With thanks and kindest regards,

    • Juliette, I can’t wait to see your cards! Yes, there is an intrinsic value in art–it not only serves as a marker for our culture, it heals and inspires as well. I like that you said postcards had the potential to be both brief and profound. Indeed, that is how I feel as well. Blank postcards can be as simple as 4 x 6 index cards. You can also buy blanks at the post office, pre-stamped. You can buy a pack of postcards at some Michaels, Hobby Lobby or Jo-Anne’s Fabric. Canson and Strathmore make packs of inexpensive watercolor postcards that can take a lot of work without curling. You can also cut watercolor paper to size–the common postcard 4 x 6 will do, although you can also make them by cutting a piece of watercolor paper 10 x 12) in half and again for a 10 x 6 or a 5 x 6 card.

  4. I’m so excited to see how many cards you received already! I’ve been spreading the word and will be working on my stack of cards this week. You will get them as soon as I can get them done! Thanks so much for sharing pics of the beautiful cards that have already been sent in!

  5. Dear Quinn
    I am a “newbie” artist and cannot thank you enough for inspiring me to try! At school I was told I would never be an artist and I have carried this around with me to this day….thank you for all your brilliant tuts and inspiration!
    Louise in South Africa

    • It’s amazing what we remember from school experiences that last so much longer than the book learning. I’m glad you found your way to miniatures and have created big love for small art!

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