“A Day in the Life” with Vancouver illustrator Saya Oiwa

A delicate mushroom covered in lights, an elf-like creature growing inside a cherry, a tortoise with the universe on its back – these are the characters that belong to the world of foonie of Saya Oiwa.

‘Foonie’ is a word that Japanese-Canadian artist Saya Oiwa coined as a child. It describes a place of whimsical aliveness, deep feeling, and tiny magical spirits that are easily overlooked but always present. It is now the name of her Vancouver-based design business selling cards, tote bags and other delights.

After working as an actress in Japan, Saya moved to Canada in 2015. Inspired by BC nature, local communities, and everyday beauty, she studied Visual Arts at UBC and sought to depict the feelings of connection, longing, and people that motivate her creative passion.

When I first crossed paths with Saya I was drawn to the perspective of wonder and playfulness with which she sees the world. I look forward to seeing her worldview continue to manifest through her art because I believe that we could all use a little more foonie magic in our lives.

-Written by Maya Graves, Saya’s friend

Saya Oiwa
Saya at her studio.
Saya Oiwa
foonie shop at a holiday market in West Van. Saya loves seeing people reacting to her work and telling her who they are going to give each card to.
The most popular foonie card. People LOVE classic camper vans.
Saya always makes art thinking dearly of her family in Japan. Standing in between different cultures can sometimes be confusing and exhausting, but it also provides reflective opportunities and inspiration.
Saya picking tomatoes for lunch. She loves eating them but she doesn’t get along with the slugs.
Maya with a foonie tote bag in front of her vegetable garden.
Saya Oiwa
foonie cards on display at a popular coffee shop in Kitsilano.
Saya Oiwa
Sketching and writing under the sun is the best.


Which ‘hood are you in?

I currently live in Kitsilano but I’m most active in East Van.

What do you do?

My biggest passion right now is producing seasonal greeting cards, the designs are inspired by daily life in Vancouver, local nature, people and my community. Even in the digital age, I believe that my greeting cards will help connect families and friends through easily relatable emotions and the warm messages expressed in each card.

Outside of card making, I design tote bags and t-shirts, as well as offer illustrations for others’ projects. Whatever the medium is, my art is all about relatability and connections explored through themes such as vulnerability, nostalgia, and a sense of belonging. I want the viewers of my art to feel that their feelings are universal, and when they enjoy my work, I also feel connected and encouraged.

What are you currently working on?

I am working with an NGO based in Japan on their Valentine’s day project. I am also collaborating with an art collective in the UK. Both of these organizations share their passion to make a change in the world by their ethical and environmental practices in their fields, which inspires me to reflect on my own practice. I hope to collaborate more with other organizations to learn more about the world and what art could do.

Where can we find your work?

You can find my cards in various local stores in Vancouver, but they are most concentrated in the East Van area. You can visit my website or Foonie’s Instagram, where I show up often.



About Demian Vernieri 531 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.