Zhen Xian Bao · Zoom Workshop

Why teach 12-weeks of Zhen Xian Bao?

Zhen Xian Bao by Paula Krieg
Zhen Xian Bao by me, Paula Krieg

Two hearty zoom sections of Zhen Xian Bao and Beyond classes begin in mid-February, hosted by the Center for Book Arts. The class is taught, not by one, but two instructors, Susan Joy Share and me, This is no weekend workshop. It goes on for 12 weeks. Why only twelve weeks is the question that is really the appropriate one.

A chatty, curious, fearless woman from Alaska, Sue Cole, who followed my blog set me out on the exploration of Zhen Xian Bao back in 2014, when there was nearly nothing on the internet about the form. The little bits I could discover about it were deeply captivating. It’s elegance and versatility were both compelling and mysterious.

The Zhen Xian Bao with Dan Anderson’s mathematical designs adorning my papers

As the Zhen Xian Bao, aka Chinese Thread Book ( a confusing nickname, as the structure is generally made without the use of thread) started showing up on-line as people began to teach it. I noticed that something began to get lost. The elegance of the structure continued to shine through, but the versatility of the construction seemed to be falling by the wayside.

Little boxes of the Zhen Xian Bao

Here’s what I want to spread about this structure: it’s not one thing. Ruth Smith’s book, which documents her travels through China, searching out Zhen Xian Bao, shows one variation after another of the form. Although it’s not obvious how to scale and rearrange elements of the Zhen Xian Bao, it’s been done over and over again in different Chinese provinces. This is what Susan Share and I are all about, the creativity in the form’s construction.

Three Hidden Boxes version of Zhen Xian Bao
Three Hidden Boxes version of Zhen Xian Bao, Paula Krieg

There is more than one way, more than three ways, more than a hundred ways, to make a Chinese Thread Book. What Susan and I do in this class is teach the basic elements of the the traditional form, teach the traditional methods that are suited to the handmade papers that were originally used, and teach methods that are more suited to the papers that are available to us through manufacturing. Then we teach how to generalize the measurement of the different elements of the Zhen Xian Bao, so that the maker can work out how to make their own piece in any way they want. We see the Zhen Xian Bao as an organic form, that, with thoughtfulness, and skill, becomes a reflection of the intention of the maker.

Hidden boxes for the math artist
Hidden boxes for the math artist, Paula Krieg

This is no small order, to shepherd a group through technical prowess as well as creative thinking, which is why co-instructing this class makes so much sense. I’m not going to try to explain this exactly, hoping that expressing that two priorities happen at once is explanation enough.

Now here’s a lovely nugget: My dear friend and co-instructor, Susan Share, and I have a long history together, starting when be both lived in New York City. Susan has lived in Alaska for many years now, and I am in rural Upstate NY, worlds away. The fact that we can now teach together via zoom is extraordinary enough, but it gets better. Turns out that people who made books with Sue Cole, the woman who started me on this journey, have come to know Susan Share, and some of these people will be in our class. I imagine Sue Cole will be with us in spirit. What a strange wonderful world.

Small Hands at Work
This is my daughter many years ago. Seems to fit tone of this post, of working both intentionally and creatively, even though the workshop I’m currently teaching is for adults.

If you feel inclined to join Susan and I on this adventure, there are still a few spots left in the 1pm EST Zhen Xian Bao and Beyond class. Am particularly hoping that this time might be good for some more European admirers of this form.

8 1/2" x 11" Book Making · Accordion Books · How-to

What we did last Saturday

Last Saturday a nice crowd joined me for a short accordion workshop, the first of what I hope will be a few months of these free, mini workshops to give us all some more practice with accordion folds.

The time was so short and it went so fast that it almost seemed like it didn’t happen at all. But I know it happened, mostly because I received some sweet notes, and even some photos afterwards.

Next session will be building upon this past one, so if you plan to come, and you missed out, take a look at the handout above.

This Saturday will be the same time -4 pm EST-, same zoom link as last week. I will show up about 10 minutes early if anyone want to chat, then by 2 minutes after the hour, demonstration starts, then zoom kicks us out at 30 minutes after the hour.

Paula Krieg is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 732 8168 5909
Passcode: XBFUX2

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. 🙂


Accordion Books

Referencing Recent History: A Folded Record Medium

Folded Record Medium and a Blank for a Record Medium, Inventors: Horst Rabenecker and Jurgen Kruger US Patent # 4,856,818

Anne in Australia left me a comment that she and her group we able to construct the Envelope Number Line that I described in my two previous posts, but, in her words, ” our group of 4 found it difficult to fold it into a book which was predominantly our aim.” I responded to her comment by emphasizing that if they were careful about making sure that the title page stayed visible during the back and forth folding process, that things should go well.

But that’s not the whole story.  A tricky part of this structure is how it opens back up after having been folded into a square.

I first came across the bones of this structure decades ago in the NYC Patent Library. The drawings here come from this patent, # 4,856,818, It’s title is Folded Record Medium and a Blank for a Record Medium, Inventors: Horst Rabenecker and Jurgen Kruger. While my variation of this form deviates from the original in both intent and construction, one of the most interesting characteristics of this book remain, which is that it opens from the left, from the right, from the top and from the bottom, each time revealing a different sequence of pages. Using my directions for a Number Line book doesn’t rely on this novel way of manipulating the pages, so I didn’t pause to emphasize this atypical page turning: I’m thinking  that this is what may have stymied Anne’s group.

Folded Record Medium and a Blank for a Record Medium, Inventors: Horst Rabenecker and Jurgen Kruger US Patent # 4,856,818 A perspective view of the record medium in the folded state.

Once this structure is folded up into a square it can easily be unfolded into its completely long, wavy state, but unfolding it page by page can seem like a challenge. Think about the simple accordion fold: although we generally open an accordion from one side, like a typical book, an accordion book can be opened with equal ease from both sides. Content can exist on the front and the back of the accordion and be equally accessed from a left side opening or a right side opening. The image below, a book by Lilli Carre, is a good example of an accordion that opens uses both sides of the accordion.

Hoo Dunnit by Lilli Carre
An accordion book that makes use of both sides of the paper; Hoo Dunnit by Lilli Carre

By the way, I found this image of Lilli Carre’s during a search for 2-sided accordion books. I was surprised by how few examples I could find of  a book that showed images on both sides of the paper.  Thank you, Lilli, for such a great example of an accordion that uses both the front and back.

The Folded Envelope Book that I describe in my two previous posts goes a whole step further than the accordion that opens from both the left and right, In addition opening form the left and right sides,  it also opens from the top and bottom.  The rub is that  we’re just not used to a book that opens in  four directions.

US4856818  patent-figure-3
A US4856818 patent-figure-3


The way this structure opens is difficult to show in picture, and it’s not so easy to describe either. The Abstract of Rubenecker and Kruger’s patent begins like this: ” A folded record medium for two to four different, segmentally arranged information portions is configured so that the interrelated segments of the information portions are easily accessible in a meaningful arrangement.”

So there you have it. If you attempt this structure, which Anne noted was easy to make, be prepared for some conceptual challenges.


Anne sent me photos of her group working on this envelope-pockets structure!

Workshop Table
Workshop Table

What I noticed about this right off was that they utilized used/recycled envelopes as well as blank ones. I loved the character that this gave to their books: really personalized.

Envelope Number LIne Book used for Pictures
Envelope Number Line Book used for Pictures

It looks like they discovered various ways of setting this book up to display content.   I like how the pictures are at different heights here. It seems to invite me to pluck one picture to take home.

Pictures in a Line
Pictures in a Line

Fun and lovely! Thank you to Anne and her friends for sending these photos to me, half-way around the world.