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Erica Ward Illustration X My Bungu Box

Metro by Erica Ward Illustration
Illustration ©

California-born Tokyo-based artist and illustrator, Erica Ward has been living in Japan for almost 10 years. I met Erica through mutual friends in early 2017. Such is Tokyo life that even in this enormous city you are bound to be connected by two degrees of separation within the non-Japanese community.

Over the following few months we met at various events and eventually I asked if she would like to collaborate on a box. I was delighted with Erica’s response and her kind words of enthusiasm.

I’m fascinated by Erica’s surrealist line drawings and watercolours. The hand-drawn detail is so intricate, with a mesmerising contrast between beautiful soft sakura and mundane concrete buildings in watercolours. I was, and continue to be, in awe of Erica’s talent.

Japan seen from the inside through outsider’s eyes. — Erica Ward

We finally met up at a retro kissaten to chat about how to feature some of Erica’s artwork in a stationery box. It turned out that she already had some wonderful pieces made, including a Christmas greeting card, colouring postcards, and colouring books.

Erica Ward Illustration customised My Bungu Box logo
Erica’s customised version of the My Bungu Box logo. I love the detail that has gone into this, featuring elements of everyday life in Japan.

This collaboration box included —

  • Christmas maiko greeting card by Erica Ward Illustration — for sending your holiday greetings with a “Kyoto touch”.

  • A set of 4 colouring-in postcards, also by Erica — for colouring in Erica’s gorgeous artwork in your own style.

  • Christmas chiyogami — a good ol’ in-your-face Christmas pattern on an unusual product. Chiyogami is a type of handmade Japanese paper often used for origami (the art of paper folding). Although I often use it to wrap smaller presents.

  • Gold leaf washi tape — the ultimate and most luxurious washi tape out there. A must for masking tape collectors.

  • Miniature envelope gift tags — cute little tags that fold up into a teeny-tiny envelope. Perfect for sticking on to any gift.

  • Gold and silver metallic pens by SARASA — Japan’s number one selling gel pen. I’ve posted about this brand a lot on Instagram. The ink is smooth and rich, and these colours are perfect for using on the miniature envelopes.

gold leaf washi tape and mini envelopesgold leaf washi tape mini envelopes Erica Ward Art colouring postcards and 'maiko' Christmas card

Lessons learned

I really got the logistics and theme wrong for this one. I was so focused on a Christmas wrapping themed box which was a mistake. I didn’t have any numbers to work off except for my current subscribers, so I just did a finger-in-the-air estimate.

I received more orders than usual, but most people ordered it as a one-off gift for someone else. This meant that people were opening up boxes on Christmas day that had items in it for wrapping Christmas presents.

Post-festive season I ended up with too many Christmas themed items and I just didn’t have the resource to successfully sell this now dated stock. Although my local kids' school did end up with a bunch of Christmas-themed chiyogami to use for crafts so it worked out well in the end.

I also realise now that I didn’t have much consideration for those that don’t celebrate Christmas and who might not want good ol’ in-your-face Christmas patterns on their stationery products. So now I know to be extra careful with seasonal stock and to think more about seasonality and timing!

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