Accordion Books · geometry and paper

Niche in the Abyss

 “…when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Postcard from the edge

I hope you are all doing ok.

I’m doing ok. Beginning to feel less disoriented during these days of pandemic social isolation. I’ve been working at feeling ok. Been following the advice in my last post.

When I can’t make art I clean. When I can’t clean, I sleep. When I can’t sleep I walk around our yard or contact people. The bad days are when I stare into the abyss. Staring into the abyss means watching too much news, making too many trips to the pantry, not getting out of my chair, scrolling endlessly.

I started out drawing and playing around with making accordion books. Most of what I tried didn’t work out.  It felt just fine when things didn’t work out. The only thing that mattered was that I was trying things out.

The little book in the video below I made a couple of months ago, but just recently realized it had some cool hidden moves.

I tried out a bunch of accordion books. Mostly they weren’t interesting or functional.  Below is the the closest I got to finding something I liked, I pretty much stopped with the accordions after this one.

Lucky for me, there are wonderful things that people are posting on-line.

Dave Richeson wrote about how to make a real projective plane (Boy’s surface) out of paper.  Even though I’m mostly clueless about what that even means I do understand the part about making something out of paper. Dave made a wonderful template. I can’t resist a wonderful template. Dave’s design is quite unusual, brilliantly conceived, and just challenging enough to capture and hold my attention.

The only change I made to Dave’s design is that I created attachments using tabs instead of tape. I was delighted that he liked the tabs enough to make one like it for himself.

What was so compelling about making this shape was that I didn’t understand it at all, and I couldn’t visualize how Dave’s template would create what he said it would create.

In fact, this structure was the first thing that really captured my attention during these past few weeks. Slowly I began to remember that what motivates me more than anything else is curiosity. How did I forget that? It really helps to remember that.

I’ve also been working on some Islamic Geometry forms. I saw this tutorial by Samira Mian that seemed so lovely that I wanted to try it out. I actually made it three times. The first one I colored in with pencil only, no color. The second one had rather muted colors.

The next one I did over Easter weekend. Was thinking of spring colors and coloring Easter eggs with my children when they were young.

Then, on Easter Day  Daniel Mentrard posted an exquisite group of amazing geometrically designed Easter eggs, I was inspired to make a few of my own in Illustrator.

I hadn’t meant to spend time at the computer doing these on Easter Day, but it turned out making me feel really happy. Reminded me of how much I like messing around in Illustrator. How did I forget this.

I even mapped my drawing on to a egg shape.

So, it’s happening..The world feels different. I’m not sure what things are going to look like going as this wildcard virus is hovering around us. Still, I’m slowly beginning to feel like I’m finding a niche in the abyss.

Wishing you the best.

Math and Book Arts

Flip Books, nearly done

Equation of the Line Flip Books
Equation of the Line Flip Books

I didn’t think these would take so long to design and create.

I thought I was starting with something easy. My endgame plan is to make flip books that show hypotrochoids, aka spirograph shapes. I thought that starting  with something as straight forward as a straight line wouldn’t take long. These books show variations of the equation of a line (y=mx+b). Four books, one to show changes in b, one to show changes in x, and two to show changes in m. This process has been anything but fast and easy.

I didn’t count on there being so many decisions to make. I didn’t count on having to make so many revisions. I had to learn a whole lot more about the graphics program that I’m using.

I am ready to finish up this project.

I have loved every second of working on these books.

This is a short post because I hope to finish up these books in two days, and to post PDF’s for Do-It-Yourself flip books, so that anyone can make them.


Book Artists

Art in the Mail

Dancer by Hedi Kyle
This is a piece of art that arrived in my mailbox a few years ago

Today I sent three packages of my of work out into the world via the United States Postal Service. There’s something I like about putting art in the mail. Fortunately, the post office works both ways. Sometimes I receive art in the mail. Thinking about this made me want to write about some of the comings and goings to and from my mailbox.

Card from Purgatory Pie Press
New Years card from Purgatory Pie Press

The most recent piece of art I received in the mail was from Esther and Dikko and Georgia and Polly at Purgatory Pie Press. This card was hand set by Dikko Faust with AlphaBlox. The card is printed on a gold paper. It shimmers and glows and catches the light in unexpected ways. I am very happy to have this building-block like number card here at my desk.

Holiday Card from Joan
Holiday Card from Joan

During the holiday season Joan, a woman I’ve known since high school sent me this handmade card. Although Joan and I had mutual friends in high school, she and I never specifically made a connection. She happened to marry someone I who I consider a dear friend, and, although he and I don’t communicate directly much anymore, Joan and I have gotten into this rhythm of sending each other a hand-made card every year. It’s a tradition that makes me very happy. Every card she sends me is more lyrical and charming than the last. It’s always a wonderous surprise to open the envelope that carries her designs to me.

Card by Ed Hutchin
Card by Ed Hutchins

Occasionally I will get knock-your-socks off card from Ed Hutchins. His envelopes are also distinctive and memorable. This was a card was one that he made for the WCC Art Club–can’t remember what that organization is, but he was telling me about it, then he sent me the card. I am grateful to have anything that Ed sends me, but this pop-up is a sight to behold. While folding and unfolding the card, the words THANK and YOU pivot in opposite directions, either fanning open, or nesting into each other as the card closes. Not counting the planes of the base of the paper, there are five popping up planes in this card.

Dancer by Hedi Kyle
by Hedi Kyle

This lovely little dancing book came to me from Hedi Kyle a few years ago. The sash extending from her waist says “spin  wheel  reel  twirl  swivel  swirl  pirouette”. I keep her hanging up high where she stays safe, but close enough that I can enjoy her presence. Sometimes she seems to glow.

Books to Fill by Paula B Krieg
Books to Fill

This set of books was sent today, from me to Tammy in Saskatoon, Sk Canada. Tammy teaches elementary school, and, from what I can gather, she runs a bookmaking club, and has been doing this for years. Her last note to me made reference to her bookmaking club that was meeting today at lunchtime. I don’t know Tammy, except through this blog, and it pleases me to be able to send her and her students these books.

sending out books
Heading out

Last picture. These two packages went out today, one to Minnesota, the other to Texas. Can flip-books be in Beta? These books are going out to teachers who have expressed a willingness to look them over and, hopefully, be able to give me some feedback on how students respond to them. This is the first time that I have asked for a collaborative interface with my books from people I don’t actually know. I’m really interested in seeing how this goes. I have a good feeling about it, and  I hope that I can find more ways to do this kind of exchange in the future.

Some of best things that come to me from afar don’t come through the postal service, nor can I even touch them. What I am thinking about now is a comment that was left here a few weeks ago. Iris wrote to me saying about my blog: ” It is sent and used recently to a refugee school in Indonesia, founded last year by friend from Afghanistan, refugees themselves. They made books with the youngest kids in an instant and are happy to be informed and taught.” What a gift it was to hear this!

Tomorrow I travel up to Bolton Landing to work on planning out projects with teachers and students, pre-k through seventh grade. These collaborations are the best.


Book Art · Book Artists

Paul Johnson’s Outlier Pop-Ups

Detail of Paul Johnson Pop-up Book
Detail of a Paul Johnson Pop-up Book. Can you see what’s going on here at the edge of the book?

“A pop-up needs a fold:” this is what I say whenever I  begin showing a class how to make a pop-up. Ha! Turns out I was wrong!  Paul Johnson’s  show at the North Main Gallery in Salem N.Y. has authoritatively proven me to be completely mistaken. Throughout this generous celebration of structurally engineered books  there is not a fold, in or out of sight.


This is not a show of books with pages that turn to reveal a sequence of cleverly folded and glued structures that seem to magically jump off the page. Instead, in many cases, the books themselves begin as appearing rather flat, then they simply explode into space. And it’s not folds or glues that are responsible for these feats. It’s …

HInged Roof, Paul Johnson
Hinged Roof, Paul Johnson

hinges. Well bust my britches, I never thought about creating non-folded hinges for pop-ups  The roof piece above is joined together by making opposing slits in two separate pieces of paper. Johnson also makes good use of piano hinges -this link is a piano-hinge-tutorial by Wendy Southin- as well as dovetail joints, which I have to say I have never seen a bookbinder use in paper engineering.

PauL Johnson book, detail of attachments
Paul Johnson book, detail of attachments

It was not just a few books here, but rather a plethora of book structures and book sculptures, each one as unusual as inventive as any I’ve seen. Now I know I haven’t stepped back here and given you much of the big picture: that’s more than I can process for one post. The overall look of the show is stunning, as is each book in the show. But those photos will have to wait for a later post. It’s the details that I am so intrigued with today.

Cinderella's-tricycle, Paul Johnson
Cinderella’s-tricycle, Paul Johnson

This show, it’s quite a ride. Up until October 4.

Books written by Pual Johnson
Books written by Paul Johnson

Oh, and if you are an educator and you are wondering if this is the same Paul Johnson who writes prolific amounts about Literacy and Book Arts, yes, this is him.