February 15, 2011
Making Books with First Graders
This past week I worked with three classes of first graders. My goal was to help the students create books which honor their writing. I want the books to be good-looking, dynamic and individualized. I have three 75 minute sessions to accomplish this.
All students begin by making an Origami Pamphlet using the same color paper. No choice there. But I am able to give them choice in the decorative details.
One of my favorite decorative techniques is to ask the students to create designs with geometric shapes. Just the mention of color rivets students’ attention. I try to find a place to lay out their color choices attractively. I’ve figured out that making colors available to students in a carte blanche kind of way results in designs that descend into chaos. Now I am more orderly in the distribution of color. Perhaps I am delusional, but I try to convey the concept that there are advantages in practicing restraint.
For decorative accents, students choose four colors from my palette of Brite cover weight papers . These strips of paper are 5 inches x 1.25 inches (if I were in metric-land I would cut these stips to be 3cm x 12cm). Then everyone cuts SQUARES ONLY. They do this by creating an “L” with the strips, then cutting on the line that defines where the strips overlap.
Students can use their squares as squares, turn them to become diamonds, cut them in half to create triangles, or cut them into lines. I do not allow them to explore any other options. This makes me feel mean, but I explain to these budding artists they can try out all sorts of decorative options on all their works for the rest of their lives, but, for right now I want them to do it my way so that they will learn a new technique. I promise them that although they are all getting the same instructions, that their books will each have their own look.
They work a bit on each page, then go back and add more after each page has been treated.
We use glue sticks to adhere the shapes to the paper. I bring in the 1.41oz (40g) size of UHU Glue sticks. Then I threaten students that the shapes will fall off the page unless they apply enough glue and pressure to the papers.
The result: Same But Different.
There are other decorative technques that the students use. But that’s another post.
To be continued.
December 14, 2010
This evening I tried, through two thousand miles of phone wire, to explain to my friend Cynthia how to make a six-sided (six-pointed?) snowflake using dinner napkins. I failed. So here are the directions, with visual aids.
Begin wiith regular dinner napkins. These are just about always square, folded into fourths. Perfect. Also, get a pair of scissors, and have at the ready a triangle that has at least one 60 degree angle on it. An equilateral triangle has three angles that measure 60 degrees, so this is the best one to use. And where can you get this triangle? Well, right here.
Print this out then cut it out.
Next, open up a napkin so that it is folded in half instead of fourths, From the middle of the folded edge, fold the bottom up 60 degrees. To get just the right angle, use the 60 degree triangle, placing the point of the triangle on the bottom of the middle fold on the napkin. See the picture below.
I drew out the rest of these directions. Here they are. These directions start from the beginning. .
Now here’s how my snowflakes looked after I made cuts.
And here they are hanging on my front door.
If you want to attach snowflakes to a window in such a way that the tape doesn’t have to be scraped off, use Scotch Magic Tape. This is the only tape that I have found that comes off of glass when you want it to come off.
December 9, 2010
Paste Papers are papers which have been painted with a cooked and colored flour and water mixture. There are many ways to use these papers, but I most often use them as decorative covers for books. This week I had the pleasure of incorporating paste papers into projects with students at Long Trail School in Vermont. I supplied papers that I decorated to some of the classes while students in other classes made their own paste papers.
There are many recipes for making paste. It’s all about preference. My preference is to use Gold Medal Flour for making paste. I mix the flour with cold water, with a whisk, using 4 cups of water to each cup of flour. It starts out looking like milk.
The flour-water mixture needs to be cooked over a medium heat, whisking often. If the stove top temperature is too high the paste will form lumps (bad). It will take about 8 minutes for the paste to begin to thicken. After about 12 minutes it will thicken considerably. Lower the heat then continue to cook for another 4 to 8 minutes. I generally figure on spending 20 minutes making paste. It’s important to stand by and whisk the mixture quite regularly. No going to the computer to check emails,,,,
After the paste cools down, put about a cup of paste in each of several bowls, then mix a big dollop of acrylic paint into each bowl. A big dollop might be a tablespoons or two?
The brushes pictured here are inexpensive utility brushes from Home Depot. I protect my work area with a big sheet of plexiglass that my friend Julie gave to me. I like the plexiglass because it easily wipes clean. In schools I cover tables with multiple layers of newspaper.
Lightly coat of piece of paper with water, then smear on the paste. Most decent quality papers (ie NOT newsprint) work out fine. Use what is available, and if that doesn’t work, find something else, Papers that people like include Mohawk Super Fine, Aches Text Laid, and Canson Ingres. Different papers accept the colors differently. Lately I have been happily using Crane’s Distaff Linen paper.
Continue slopping on paste. Be careful not to heavily coat the paper as thick, dry paste will crack when you fold it. Add interesting textures on the surface of the paper by using a Q-tip as a drawing tool, lightly dragging combs through the paint, dabbing the paint with a sponge, pressing in foam stamps, or using anything at all that can create a texture. This part is all about discovering what kind of tools feel good to you. When the design is finished transfer the paper to a non-stick surface to dry. At the school, students placed their paper in a drying rack. At home I spread out a big plastic drop cloth for laying out the paper to dry. It takes a few hours to a full day for the paper to dry, depending on the humidity in the air and the thickness of the paste.
Here’s the finished piece of paper which was started in the photos above. The paper looks best when it becomes part of a book.
So here it is, the next day, on the cover of a book.
Here are a few more small books using a selection of paste papers for the covers.
The paste paper making classes at the school were 42 minutes long. That gave me about 5 minutes to demonstrate at the beginning of class, 5 minutes for everyone to clean up at the end of class, and about 30 minutes to work.
Students seemed to average making about 3 papers apiece during class.
November 14, 2010
I recently found directions, MY directions, for these books on-line (more about that later), so I felt inspired to do on post of them. From the perspective of instructing, these miniature books are a big crowd pleaser. They are created out of small strips of paper, folded, then bound together with a double loop of a thin rubber band, size #16 or #19. I originally designed this project for a Girl Scout Jamboree. They wanted me to make books with 750 girl scouts in one day, in groups of 125. Because of the big numbers, I felt that it was impractical to use scissors or glue sticks. I packaged up strips of colored papers with rubber bands, stickers, yarns and beads. The girls loved making and having these little books. They wore them around their necks and used them to exchange phone numbers with the new friends they had made that day.
Why I call these “Necklace Books” or Beltloop Books”
I nearly always ask students to tie a piece of yarn, about 36″ long, around the rubber band that binds the pages together. Six wooden or plastic beads are then strung on to the yarn. Students then wear the books as necklaces or loop the yarn through their beltloops.
Students seem to delight in the novelty of using different colored and different size papers for the books. Even if all their pages start out as the same size, I encourage students to cut into the pages to create decorative effects. Students love cutting into the pages of their books. Sometimes they overdo it and their books fall apart. Since these books are made up of such small papers, I have no problem pointing out the results that come from too much cutting, then I hand them some more paper.
A number of years ago I wrote up directions for how to make necklace books and beltloop books. I submitted the directions as part of a contract for a book to be published by Scholastic. I didn’t hear anything about this book for years. I thought they had forgotten about it. Somewhat recentlyI happened upon it! If you want to look at the directions, follow this link: http://teacherexpress.scholastic.com/belt-loop-logbook-social-studies-bookmaking-project Scholastic has put these, and other, directions on-line in a window. There is even an option to purchase pages of directions in PDF for $1.50. What a cool idea. BTW, I am quite sure that I won’t see any of that money, but if enough people show interest in the book maybe I will get an opportunity to work on another one…..
Yes, this is playful book arts….