…and why am I doing this?

shapes on a mirror
Space filling shapes: the Weaire-Phelan structure 

I avoid the question “why am I doing this?” The question never serves me well. Seems like the reason I am doing it will reveal itself when it’s good and ready.

My current favorite example of this is about a little black book . It started out because I have so many pieces of this gorgeous black paper that I wanted to do something with.

This little book has three signature, with three flaps, sewn with continuous thread, using a single piece of paper for the cover. This is not typical. Sewing two signatures on to a flap is something more common. It was something that I wanted to work out. It took many days of tying this and that, until I was satisfied. I eventually gifted one copy away, used one for notes, and the others sit on my shelf along with so many other little books. As I was laboring over this little gem, it did cross my mind that I was spending a huge amount of time on something that I couldn’t justify as worthwhile, but I banished that thought as quickly as I could.


This past summer I grabbed one of these little black books and tossed it in with the very small number of items I brought with me to Penland School of Crafts (where I would be assisting Susan Joy Share in teaching a book and box making class). In a conversation with Henrik Drescher, who was teaching in the drawing studio, he said he had been trying to work out a simple sewing for a 3 signature book sewn on three flaps with a continuous piece of thread, but hadn’t come up with anything that he liked, and wondered if I had any ideas about it.

It took me about a half-hour to realize that what he was asking for described, exactly, the only sewn book I had brought with me from home.

I taught Henrik and another bookbinder how to go about doing this sewing, which turned out to be such fun time that I’m laughing as I think about it. Certainly, this reinforced my belief to just following my curiosity and instincts.

Which brings to me how I spent my weekend with shapes.

Irregular dodecahedron
Irregular dodecahedron

Vincent Pantaloni tagged me on a thread about space-tiling that referenced the Wearie-Phelan structure, along with a link to a page which offered a download of the templates (aka the nets ) for the units that make up the structure http://www.cutoutfoldup.com/214-weaire-phelan-structure.php


I had been feeling like I wanted more practice making solids of out paper. After reading the awesome Books, Boxes and Portfolios by Franz Zeier where he, in meticulous detail, writes about creating solids from nets, I’ve begun to appreciate how practicing this could be helpful to me in a global way, in the way that practicing scales helps with piano playing. For more about this book, take a look at Cathryn Miller’s post https://byopiapress.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/books-boxes-and-portfolios/

gluing down only 1/8 inch of a tab
Worth Reading, Books, Boxes and Portfolios by Franz Zeier


Each of the Wearie-Phelan units took at least 25 minutes to make. I made eleven of them. After the first three, I decided they should be made out our bubble paper, so I decorated papers with bubble.


Bubble papers
Bubble paper

It’s generally a good sign if the process pleases me as much as the result.

tetrakaidecahedron (truncated hexagonal trapezohedron)
almost closed

I really liked the funny shape of the box before I glued down the final flap. (Note my GREAT needle point glue injector? My current favorite tool.)


So I got to practice making shapes, I got be involved in a day of play with my on-line community (above is Mike Lawler’s preview of these shapes he is creating with his 3D printer) and I got to be part of a lively conversation that Jen Silverman somehow elevated to the level of hot dog packing…


…and today, quite unexpectedly, I am thinking of some wonderful ways to continue doing some cool things with this shape.

The point of this post to keep reminding myself not to listen to those voices that would have me justify my explorations.


7 thoughts on “…and why am I doing this?

  1. Some scientists do what is referred to as ‘pure research’, that is, research without an intended out come. One never knows where this kind of exploration may lead. Just because a journey has no set destination does not make it unimportant or not worth making.
    Love the bubble paper and the fabulous glue injector. I’ve heard you are not a big fan of gluing things together, so congratulations on working on a project that involves so much gluing. If nothing else comes of making 3-D shapes (and I doubt that), you will have acquired a new skill. ; ]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really have you to thank, Cathryn, for my renewed relationship with gluing. AFter reading your review of the Zeier book, I pulled it off my shelf, dusted it off, and started reading. It explains much of what I missed along the way about gluing.

      Liked by 1 person

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