March 19, 2012
I was working with first graders today when something unexpected happened.
I have visited this school for many years, helping first graders to make lovely books, which they fill with their own original poems. (I’ve written about this project in detail at
http://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/books-for-poetry-by-first-graders/), and here’s a sample of the the completed project made by first graders in 2010.
Today, when I walked into the class they were finishing up going over math problems that had been copied on to half sheets of paper. When they were done the teacher asked them to put away the papers, and we got to work.
My agenda was to guide the students through making an origami pamphlet out of a 19″ x 23″ sheet of paper, followed by making a book cover with pockets. What was unexpected is that they finished this all in 48 minutes, which left us with an extra 12 minutes. This rarely happens. I was about to hand to class back over to the regular classroom teacher when I remembered those math sheets.
We had just made the origami pamphlet out of large papers, and I had gone over the directions slowly and explicitly, so I thought that these first graders would enjoy making tiny little books using the very same methods of folding as they did in the bigger books.
They were stars. They remembered the steps and made their new little books in about a minute. Then they got to work.
Now, remember, these are first graders whose writing skills are just beginning to emerge, but, for the most part, the fact that their writing skills were limited didn’t bother them in the least.. I was lucky enough to hear an exchange of thoughts between two students: one child immediately got to work writing about rainbows and ribbons. The girl next to her bewailed that she didn’t know what to do. The prolific child told her classmate to just write words, but the girl said she didn’t know any words. Undaunted the rainbow girl advised her friend that she should just make up words. This turned out to be a satisfying suggestion, and the formerly clueless child got right to work.
It’s been my experience that if children are given little blank books they start writing.
Today I saw this happen again. As soon as the class finished constructing their books there was hardly another word spoken in the room as they all wrote, drew and imagined.
March 4, 2012
I recently had a hankering to locally source (scavenge) some materials to use to make a book.
I have a bit of a collection of materials from a couple of fine local businesses. One is Blind Buck Interiors, a drapery and upholstery business, which has provided me with a many wallpaper and fabric sample books. Another is the Battenkill Creamery, a dairy which has a dedicated herd from which they process their own milk right on the farm. The milk can be bought in returnable glass bottles topped with a substantial plastic cap, which is not returnable. I have lots of caps.
I took some milk caps and sewed them on to some upholstery samples.
I started this project mostly because I had been admiring some circles that my daughter had been coloring in. She had made a graphically lovely pages of colored in circles, and I wanted to do some colorful circles too. I had some leftover scraps of watercolor washes lying around, so I punched out some circles and glued them to the caps.
I sewed in just a few signatures, using a simple butterfly stitch that I picked up from one of Keith Smith’s books. I used round shoe laces instead of thread, as the proportions seemed right and they were handy. One thing I like about making books is being able to use anything I feel like using to assemble a book.
This little book stands alone in how it stands alone. It already has a new home, but while it was still here every time I saw it I felt happy. It just looks so silly and lovely.
February 2, 2011
Working as a visiting artist in Upstate New York requires good snow tires. Since where I live is centrally located int he middle of nowhere, I generally drive about an hour no matter where I am heading. If we’re expecting sleet and ice I stay home. With snow, I drive slowly and pray. Yesterday, the temperature was generously below freezing so I was confident that the snow would not turn to ice, and I headed out for a day in with students.
It was worth the trip. I helped about 60 fifth graders in three different classes make journals.
One of the students, James, said that this was an awesome project. He felt that the hardest part of the project was folding the papers . This didn’t surprise me. I’ve noticed that by the fifth grade most students have accepted the fact that papers don’t fold in half evenly. High on my agenda is to take the time to offer explicit instructions on how to successfully outwit the uncooperative nature of paper. To really get students on board with this I bring in bone folders for them to use. Students seem to genuinely appreciate learning how to fold paper well.
The teacher that invited me to come to these classes had this to say: “Paula’s workshops with all of the 5th grade classes were fantastic today. All of the students were very excited about the journals they created, and I’m sure it will motivate even our most reluctant writers.”
We made the covers of the books according to the directions below. The wallpaper covers were made from samples that were cut down to 17″ x 11 1/2″. I’ve also have B&W directions for the Pocketed Book Cover.
One of the students, Emily, seemed concerned that there might not be enough pages for the content. My impression is that she had big plans for this book. To accommodate the most prolific writers I left behind materials to create a few more books, as well as the suggestion to considering just attaching in a second set of folded pages into the cover, next to (not into) the original set of pages.
We attached the pages, five sheets of folded paper, with the modified pamphlet stitch (using 2mm satin rattail cord), hence the notches at the head and tail of the spine. The pages are the size of regular copy paper. The school’s (absolutely amazing and fabulous) reading specialist ran these papers through the copy machine so that lines are printed on the papers. After the pages were attached to the covers I gave students 2 sheets of cover weight paper which were cut to fit into the pockets of the book cover. The students slipped these heavy papers into the pockets then glued the upper corners to the book cover: this gives the book a bit more of a sturdy, weighty feel and keeps the wallpaper covers from looking dog-eared.
I didn’t take many photos. I wanted to leave before much more snow fell. In the picture above, the white mound on the left, that’s my car.
January 15, 2011
Pamphlet covers made from salvaged wallpaper sample books have captured my attention.
Up until recently I have not been a fan of using wallpaper sample books as part of anything that I do with bookmaking. The fact is that no matter what you do with wallpaper it still always looks like wallpaper, a quality which I found unappealing.
An elementary schoolt teacher named Kelly changed my point of view. This is an excerpt of a letter she sent, last year, to Kassandra, Kelly’s arts-in-ed liason.
“When Paula was here at our school last year, I asked her if she knew how to make books with wallpaper covers. I was interested in learning how to do this because I wanted the 5th graders to use what they learn about immigration to write a journal from the viewpoint of an immigrant coming to America in the late 1880′s – early 1990′s. I thought the wallpaper journals would be great for this project because you can make them look old-fashioned.
Paula figured out how to make them and then showed me. This year, I did this project students, and the journals came out great. The kids choose the paper they wanted for their covers from old wallpaper sample books. The kids have been very inspired by these to do some of the best writing I have ever seen from some of them.’
I was humbled by Kelly’s successful experience of making books using wallpaper samples. The students loved browsing through the samples and picking out the patterns for themselves. The books looked great, too: sturdy and varied. It seems that most wallpapers are made out of a material that does not tear easily, and is thick enough to hold its shape well.
Since using outdated wallpaper samples is form of recycyling, this is certainly a politically correct activity.
The variations are endless….
…and there always seem to be little bits of extra scraps around to place in unexpected places.
In two weeks I will get to work with several fifth grade classes, making books with wallpaper covers. Since I will be working with dozens of students in a limited time, the binding method will be different than the books pictures here (ie more friendly for elementary students). I will post pictures and directions when we’re finished.
In the meantime, if you have something against wallpaper as a book arts material, my suggestion is: get over it.
This one reminds me of the walls in my Grandmother’s bathroom.