summer art/math

Cards, Compasses and Lights with Teenagers, Summer 2019

Yesterday was my first of six weekly meetings with rising eighth graders and their two college-sophomore camp counselors. This is not an age group that I’ve worked with extensively, so I’m challenged to try to come up with projects that I hope they find compelling. These teenagers are doing art projects with dynamic teaching artists arts on other days of the week, as well as doing nature activities. This program here in Salem NY is invested in giving these young people a great summer experience.

Turns out that nearly all these kids like math. I wasn’t expecting this! But maybe it explains how quickly they took to this week’s project.

Practicing with making circles
Practicing with using a compass to make circles

We started out by making a number of patterns in different ways, Then I broke out the compasses. It didn’t surprise me that they didn’t have experience with them, and that they were awkward with the tool at first, but what did surprise me was how quickly they picked up the skill of making circles with the compasses. I definitely didn’t rush through the process of letting them find their own rhythm with the compass, but, still, it was impressive how they worked through the unfamiliarity.

They lost no time creating patterns.

There was a hush over the room as they worked on responding to their designs with color.

When they were finished with the coloring, many immediately started creating a second piece.

They knew, though, that I’d be asking them to punch a hole in the center of their design to wire their art for light!

I’ve been wanting to do a lighting project for a long time! This was such the perfect group to do it with.

Here’s a video explaining the process, of wiring a card for light, which I got from Julia Ross, a former co-worker of mine at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. (Thanks Julia!)

I wondered if anyone would object to punching a hole through the center of their art work. Yeah, a couple of them didn’t want to do this, I encouraged that they make a separate card, doing some simple rotations, then add a light to that, just to have the experience of it.

Press down the corner and the light comes on.
Press down the corner and the light comes on.

Only one person chose to spend the whole time working on the design, and not do any lighting. The fact that he created this unusual, thoughtful and stunning piece made it unthinkable for me to challenge his decision.

So now I have a sense of these young people. I’ll be trying to design projects that are for kids who are open, competent, artistic and mathematical.

This should be interesting!!!

Math with Art Supplies · Uncategorized

Summer 2019 Projects with Kids Begins!

House with awesome roof and a patio
House with awesome roof and a patio

I’ll be working with kids twice a week for six weeks this summer. Today’s group was five year olds. I came totally prepared to do numerous projects. I’ve made a list of my priorities. We’re going to do paper folding with a focus on squares, explore symmetry, play games, make patterns, look at books and think about numbers.

My suitcase of supplies was totally full. And mostly went untouched. But what we did get to today felt fun and worthwhile. Actually I know if was worthwhile because I heard one of the 5 years-olds explain to an adult that we made a house out of a square! Was so happy to hear that remark, as what I’m emphasising with the paperfolding that we are doing is that we are transforming shapes. I get to use the names of shapes, as well as words like rotate, middle, bottom, and I get to teach folding skills.

The back of the house, showing the pocket to store pictures of yourself and friends
The back of the house, showing the pocket to store pictures of yourself and friends

This house project is adorable. House on the front, pocket on the back, and only a few folds. Start with a square, make a triangle, then create a couple more triangles (see photo above) and you’ve got a house. The pocket in the back is to hold pictures of yourself and your friends. which, of course, you draw.

Drawing the house
Drawing the house

This was a great project for me to start with. Touches so many of the ideas I want to talk about.

The time flew by. I worked with two groups of great kids.

Then my time was up. Time to pack up.

I packed up, but was a bit disappointed.

I had wanted to do something with numbers. But it was time for the kids to have time to free play.

So I did what something I sometimes do when I want to do a bit more with kids.

I sat by myself and started working all by myself, in this case I was coloring in numbers for a project that I will write about next week.

I really  wanted the kids to help color in 40 different numbers. That’s a lot. But I just started all by myself.

Then someone came along who wanted to color in numbers too. Then someone else. Then someone else. You get the idea.

Got nearly all the numbers colored in. We’re going to make a special deck of cards to play a game that Kent Haines wrote about. 

Which will be a story for next week. 🙂


Book Art

Teaching Weekend

It was great to be back teaching at The Center For Book Arts this weekend. As far as I can recall, the last time I taught there was nine years ago. Things have changed at CBA, in such good ways. It’s wonderful to see this evolution.

The class, making Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Books. enrolled just three people, which was such a pleasure.  Even though the group was small I still was mostly on the move, either teaching to the group or helping people individually, so I, sadly, didn’t think to take more than just a few photos.

tutorial video for flower top box:

Since we were such a small group I decided to show them all how to make the flower-top origami box. In the last workshop I taught, I made this optional, and only two of the eight people in that workshop opted in. There is so much to learn on the whole, that showing this particular variation of the top level of these layered boxes, which requires takes lots of time and focus, seems to be more like bonus material rather than basic knowledge. Also, since it takes a whole hour to teach the flower top box, and is impossible to remember after seeing it just once,I was worried that the class participants might feel overwhelmed. Instead, it seemed the class was delighted with these folds. I’m glad there’s a video they can watch to remind them of what we did.

An extra treat, for me, was that I was able to show my models of the Zhen Xian Baos to other artists who were milling around The Center for Book Arts. No one that I showed it to was at all familiar with this book form. I have been so totally focused on it for so long that I forget that it’s still not a well know form.

Looks like teaching the Zhen Xian Bao will be on CBA’s course schedule for the fall. Already looking forward to teaching this again.

Book Art · Zhen Xian Bao

Covering the Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Book

Zhen Xian Bao, derivative
Zhen Xian Bao, derivative

A few days ago I saw a message asking me about putting covers on Chinese Thread Books.  I’ve written lots about assembling this structure, but haven’t much mentioned its covering.  I’m scheduled to teach a 2-day class in the Zhen Xian Bao at The Center for Book Arts in NYC in about 10 days. so this was a good time to get a question about the covers.

There’s many ways of treating the outer layer of Chinese Thread Book, as many ways as you can think of. That’s what I love about this structure: there are no set rules, just variation after variation. Here are some of the ways I have dealt with covers.

In the photo above I’ve used Asahi bookcloth, which I purchased at  I’ve glued two wrong sides together with straight PVA (white glue), and glue the boxes on to the cloth with straight PVA. If I had a bit of wheatpaste made I might of added small bit it to the PVA just to the adhesive easier to work with, but that didn’t happen this time.

Upcycled Leather Cover

An easy cover material to use to leather. Occasionally I will come across some leather scraps which I just cut to size and glue to the bottom layer of the Zhen Xian Bao. I nearly always use either double sided tape or PVA, or combination of the two.

Handmade Paper Cover
Handmade Paper Cover

Here’s one that, technically, can be said to have no cover. What’s going on here is that I made the bottom big box layer out of a really sturdy handmade paper, then called it a day. No extra piece needed.

More Handmade Paper Covers
More Handmade Paper Covers

Here are some decorative handmade papers that I’ve had around for years, I wish I could tell you something more about them. They made great boxes, and they are beautiful enough to double as covers tood, like with the former photo.

Bookcloth and Endsheet covers
Bookcloth and Endsheet covers

The covers of these two thread books are made from bookcloth, but, I’ve lined the inside of the cover with decorative paper, sort of like a case binding with endpapers. It’s great having some bookbinding skills as it lets me think about all sorts of possibilities.

Old Levi's upcycled
Old Levi’s upcycled

One of my favorite materials to use for covering thread books is my husband’s old dungarees. I can generally find a decent enough piece to use. Looks like I re enforced the edges of this one with a running stitch, and used the seam of the pants to use as a tie around the book.

Wallpaper Cover
Wallpaper Cover

I have many wallpaper sample books around here. When I want to make a thread book to carry around to  use as a workhorse for storing supplies while I am travelling, I will use paper from my wallpaper sample books for both the inside and outside of the zhen xian bao.  The samples that I have have a vinyl-like feel to them, which make them really sturdy.

Wallpaper inside
Wallpaper inside

Here’s the inside of that book above. What I love about the wallpaper books is that there are so many wild designs to play around with. I probably used white glue to keep this all together. Maybe some double-sided tape too.

Paper and Wallpaper
Paper and Wallpaper

Sometimes I want a really simple cover. The one one the left is a prototype for short class in which I will be taking every possible short cut. The insides are made with paper, and I will likely use glue sticks to hold things together. The thread book that is laying down is another wallpaper book.

Here’s a video, shows a few more books, and the inside of most.