Geometric Drawings · origami · Zhen Xian Bao

Late for Black Friday: A New Kit

Over the summer I made a 3-hidden boxes packet of these folded paper Zhen Xian Bao with an oceany paper for a workshop in NYC. I put up for sale, then sold out of, the packets that I didn’t use.

In the fall I made more papers for another workshop, but used autumn colors with a design that reminded me of falling leaves. Those are all gone.

Now, here we are, barrelling into winter, so I designed papers that remind me of snowflakes. Just put kits up for these on sale at Etsy, at

I must be delusional. It thought that it would take me only a couple of days to put this project together, thinking they’d be ready for Black Friday. I should know better by now. It has never taken me less than three intense days to design a new paper. Why did I think this would be any faster this time? In fact, it took longer. I couldn’t get the colors to work right, and I struggled with lots about the design.

But I stayed with it, and in the end, FINALLY, today, not two days ago, it finished coming together.

There’s so much about these papers with this structure that I love. It’s full of shapes and colors and patterning that work together in unusual and surprising ways. Really had to work at letting the patterning reveal itself while still keeping it within the boundaries of my own vision.

There’s a bit of a story here.

I had been looking through Clarissa Grande’s twitter post, searching for inspiration. It was the second design in this thread, the one in that is green and gold, that caught my eye.


I didn’t realize it at the time, but it is a design I had studied and created quite some time ago while learning from Samira Mian. Samira pointed out that this was one that she had taught as the Chinese Qur’anic Manuscript Arcing Motif.

Now this shows what I like the most about these geometric constructions: the same underlying structure can create such wildly different results. Going more in the direction of Clarissa’s work, I came up with this pattern:

This led me to the final patterns in the top of the post.

What a journey!

I will have these papers in a kit for sale for just a couple of weeks at




Book Art · geometry and paperfolding · origami · Zhen Xian Bao


Threads, a Zhen Xian Bao, Paula B Krieg
Threads, a Zhen Xian Bao, Paula B Krieg

I just sent this piece out to be in a show in Massachusetts. Included with the piece is an invitation for the book to be handled and for the viewers to take a piece of it with them.  As you might suspect, there’s a bit of a condition.

I’ve been making models of this folder of expandable boxes, known as Zhen Xian Bao, for quite some time. I’ve been so busy deciphering the structure and creating designs for the papers that I make them out of that I haven’t thought too much about what to put into these boxes, which. traditionally, were used to store thread.

Here’s the chronology of thought then. First structure, then embellishment, now content. Finally I’m ready to think about content, now that I am satisfied with some of the solutions to my first and second considerations.

Here’s what I’ve put in the boxes:

There’s about 64 paper tiles stored in the various boxes of this structure. Each tile is threaded with a loop. The back of each tile has words or phrases that I repeat to myself, the threads of thought that help me get through my days.

I had wondered if I would be able to come up with 64 things that I tell myself, so I asked my a couple of friends for some of their thought threads. I included some from Jocelyn, especially liked “Bring a book,” and Susan’s “Mend a thing.”

Funny thing, though, after I got started, it was easy to come up with scores of things I tell myself.  So many thoughts woven into a day.

Now, here’s a box of blank tiles that I’ve sent along with my work. There’s three of these boxes. They are meant to sit alongside my Zhen Xian Bao. There is also a pencil in each box. I’ve sent word that I am inviting viewers to add one of their thoughts to one of my boxes. Then, after they’ve made their contribution, they are invited to take one of my thoughts with them.


I don’t know how this will work out. As there are tiles in each one of these 13 expandable boxes, I am hoping/anticipating that my Threads book will return with wear and tear showing. I will consider evidence of handling as the finishing touches.


Now it’s out of in the world, out of my hands!

Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao Gone Wild

In the book arts studio at The Center for Book Arts
In the book arts studio at The Center for Book Arts

Just came back from teaching a two-day workshop at The Center for Book Arts in NYC. One of the many reasons why it’s such a great place to teach is that there are enough materials around for classes to scavenge from (drawers of well labeled colorful and printed paper scraps, rolls of book cloth, shelves of random, unusual papers) that when I get to the point in our project where people can make their own choices of how to proceed I get to be surprised.

Barbara's Zhen Xian Bao
Barbara’s Zhen Xian Bao

After Barbara put on a bright orange cover, she was considering how the leaf paper would work with on the thread book. My thought is that these books are a celebration of personal choices so I was happy to see her bold preferences all combined altogether.

Karen's Book
Karen’s Book

Although my classes starts out with people using my papers (which is the executive decision that I impose because the patterns on the paper help in guiding accurate folding) it’s always fun to see what choices people make when they take charge. Look how border around the edges of the collapsed boxes brighten the whole interior.

Karen's Thread Book, closed
Karen’s Thread Book, closed

Love this choice of chartreuse book cloth cover with bright yellow ribbon.

Rita's Twist boxes
Rita’s Twist boxes

Here, Rita used her scraps to decorate the twist boxes in a way that made the box feel like flower petals unfolding as the twist box opens. I’ve only thought of using these scraps at the top edge, but this other choice now makes more sense to me.

Vince's Big Box in Purple
Vince’s Big Box in Purple

Vince came to the class already having high comfort level with box folding. He made this incredibly dramatice big box layer out of some very cool looking purple/brown paper, not at all following my suggestions on how to construct this layer. Instead, he built on something else I showed him, just in passing, to create a veritable cavern in his book’s interior.

Nancy's Choices
Nancy’s Choices

I had a couple of people in the class who played in the rabbit hole of choices for so long that I didn’t get to see the final product put together. Nancy found all sorts of great scraps, then worked on all sorts of inspiring and unusual pairing and arrangements, both graphically and structurally. I hope I get to see how this one as it comes together.

Side View of Dana's Book
Side View of Dana’s Book

The surprises kept coming. Dana’s book, when closed looked like a yummy sandwich. The interior, well, I would need a dozen photos of this one to really show it off. Here’s a couple:

Dana's Chinese Thread Book/Zhen Xian Bao
Dana’s Chinese Thread Book/Zhen Xian Bao

Dana’s has a great eye for combinations. While the rest of us were carefully considering our decisions Dana was cutting and glueing up a storm. So much fun to see.

Dana's Zhen Xian Bao/ Chinese Thread book, open center
Dana’s Zhen Xian Bao/ Chinese Thread book, open center

Notice the pink cover. This was from a stack on from CBA’s shelf. Worked perfectly with the book.

Flower Top Box
Flower Top Box

There is so much to go over in these classes that I make it optional to learnthe flower-top box. Still, everyone in this group made one.

While I was teaching this class I noticed a woman who was in the bindery, looking at the show in the gallery and watching our work in the class. When we broke for lunch she and I spoke for a few minutes. Turns out she had recently moved from Switzerland to Canada, and had taken a class in Canada on how to make these Zhen Xian Bao structures. She expressed a frustration about the fact that the class had been taught using inches as the unit of measurement, which was not used to having been raised using the metric system. I wanted to give her the measurements that we used in class, which doesn’t rely on inches or units, but, instead, on parts of a square, but she already knew what I was talking about, explaining she understands the way that “Paula does it. ” Evidently she’s watched my tutorials, knows “Paula” but didn’t realize, until I said it, that I was the Paula that she was referring to. This made us both very happy. A wonderful moment. I found a nice note from her today in my inbox.

What a great couple of days!


Workshop Prep · Zhen Xian Bao

Workshop Prep for 100+

Thirteen tips for a successful, humongous workshop.

Image of workshop project at MoMath
This was a free workshop that happened this past weekend. We had a full house and then some.

Last week, as I was prepping for a workshop at the Museum of Mathematics I began writing this post because I feel like I have some useful things to say about getting ready for a large workshop. But, until right now, post-workshop, I didn’t get any further on this post than its title. Therefore, helpful tip #1 should probably be, don’t think that you will have what it takes to write a blog post while getting ready for a large workshop.


Preparing the covers for the project, which included scoring the fold lines, making a slit for the ribbon closure, and adhering double sided tape

Tip #2

To avoid stress, start prep at least a couple of weeks in advance. Everything takes time to research and order. You just can’t procrastinate about getting ready. I designed the paper I printed for the project months in advance. That allowed me to figure out the right paper for the boxes and the covers weeks in advance. Deciding on the cover came before deciding on the ribbon we’d use.

Tip #3

Don’t over-prepare. There’s a not-so-fine line between over-preparing and under preparing. I try to do only what I think is essential. If I do to much prep, people have less of a connection to the materials and they will also finish too quickly. I had to prep the covers quite extensively because they required a slit to be precut on the folds.  I did not cut out the papers because I knew people could do that themselves. I worried that people would have a hard time sliding the ribbon through the slits in the covers, then I just decided that it would be fine. And it was.

Printing paper
Making Copies. I check every copy, so I print over a course of a few days as I’m doing other things.

#4 : Get a close estimate of how many people will attend then bring more than is required. I was told I should have enough materials for 120 people, but, to be safe, bring enough for 140 people. I brought even more than that. I quoted a price per person for materials so that there won’t be any surprises with receipts.

#5 : Figure out what technology will be available. This includes scissors, glue sticks, and pencils.  I asked to do a presentation on a big screen, and I asked for a document camera. I sent the presentation slides to MoMath a few days in advance, and, before I arrived,  confirmed my files would work with their technology.

I want to mention that the document camera set-up at Momath was brilliant. Usually with these things the presenter has to have their backs to the audience so that they can see what the big screen is showing. Not here! The document camera was hooked up to large screens in the front AND backs of the room. Not only were the people way in the back better served by not having to see all the way to the front of the room, but I could face the people in the room and see what was showing on the screen in the back. What a great system. I think there were a total of 4 screens so people even in the far back corner had a good view.

#6 Of course have a good sound system set-up and a great tech person to provide instruction about what clickers do what, and how to wear and turn on the mic. I was fortunate to have a kind, responsive and awesome tech person showing me how to work the big screens and the little clickers. It was hard for me to focus on what button to press for this screen or that as people were beginning to filter in, but he got through to me and I lost the clicker only once.

Setting the tables
Setting the table

#7 Leave plenty of time to set out the materials before the workshop begins. It took a number of people working a full hour to get everything on the tables. If possible, find out in advance how many people will be at each table. Since I knew there would be six people to a table I packed some of my papers into packets of six so that they would be easier to distribute.

#8 If at all possible, have written directions available. Fortunately I’ve been working on my written tutorials for awhile. If you have more than one page of hand-outs, print them on different colors. This will help everyone stay organized.

#9 Start out with the easiest part of the project first. If people get frustrated early on you won’t get them back. If they have success early on you probably won’t lose them.


#10 Talk to people individually when it’s possible. I tried to greet every table before we started, to get a feel for the room, and I looked at people’s work at the end. My sense of the room at the end of this workshop was that people were happy.

#11  Ask for helpers and ask them to help.  There were young volunteers to administrators working this room, helping people out. There was one person from Momath who took on the responsibility of attending to the people who came in late. Also, my friend Susan Joy Share came with me to assist.  After the event was over there was scrap paper everywhere. I have never seen such a messy room get cleaned up so quickly. It was wonderful.

#12 Try to design an activity that uses minimal glue. There are so many reasons for this. I will let you figure out my reasoning on your own. But trust me on this.

#13 Try to get someone to take pictures. My friend Susan Share took most of the pictures in this post, and I took the rest. It’s hard to remember to get photos, but so worth it.


I learned something new this weekend. Evidently it’s widely known that if people are asked to register for an event that is free, a significant proportion will not show up, so organizations will book accordingly.  If the weather is good, the subways are running, and the World Series is not on, it may be that the house will be very full, so, as a participant, show up early to get the best seats, and if you are late, know that you might not sit with the one you came with unless you are willing to sit on the floor.

I was also want to comment on how much work went into this 90 minute event for weeks before the event happened. Cindy Lawrence and her team were in touch with me on regular basis for many weeks so that everything would run smoothly.

149 people
A room with 149 people in it

One-hundred and forty-nine people showed up to the event this past Friday. We were ready.

It appears that a good time was had by all.