All Week, designing papers for a project, not done

I would prefer to spend my time finishing a project than writing about how I can’t seem to finish it up. I’m giving up for the night. Tomorrow it will get done (“really,” I say to myself) but I just don’t have it in me to finish tonight.

I’ve been wanting to do a Spring design for the Hidden Boxes (based on Zhen Xian Bao) kits that I sell on Etsy. Wouldn’t it be nice to get this into the world in time for Mother’s Day, I tell myself.  (Seems like I’ve been talking to myself lately. #isolation) I actually started thinking about this design in mid-March. Found a geometry that I loved. Started with pencil drawings.

Worked with it by hand, drew three versions of it so to get a good feel for it. Didn’t feel ready to start in earnest to do the digital designing until about a week ago. Thought it would take 1 to 3 days. That was 5 or six days ago.

Absolutely love this project. Frustrated that I still have some little details to work out, so that I can’t yet put it in my shop.

Venting my frustration by putting up these photos here. They aren’t the kind I’d post with the kit, but this is my blog, where I can post what’s behind the curtain.

Here’s a beautiful photo that I can’t use because it’s not a square.  But, thank you, I can show it off here.

Here’s a screenshot of my digital workspace. I know it’s not just luck, but I feel so lucky that I can make these designs.

Part of my good luck is that Daria Wilbur wrote about this particular variation of the Zhen Xian Bao, which was such good luck for me, as it’s so much more doable for a kit than the full Zhen Xian Bao that I’ve written about. Another piece of good luck is that Samira Mian keeps publishing videos on how to create these geometries that I like so much.

Here’s a peek at the hidden boxes inside. Just took this photo. The photo is okay, but would be better in natural daylight, which is one reason why I will not finish up tonight.

Here it is wide out.  I need one more photo, one that’s in between this one and the one above. That’s on the docket for tomorrow, too.

That’s it. I’ve got this out of my system for tonight. Thank you

Addendum May 2

This kit is up and listed!


simple book binding

Last Minute Gift Tags, and maybe some really tiny books

Here’s a PDF of the image above. Each tile is a little less than a 2 inch square. I designed a few of these for some projects, then kept making them just because I like them so much. They are my gift to you. I recommend printing them on cover weight paper if you have some.

Please don’t be disappointed if the colors your printer gives you aren’t as luminous as what’s on the screen. That’s just a fact of life. Once you get away from comparing to the screen, these look lovely.

Here’s how I am thinking you might use them.

Gift tags

Cut out two together. Fold in half. Use as a gift tag.


…cut out singly, Use as a gift tag.

Then there’s the option of making a little library of little books.

This is easier if you know even the smallest amount about making books, but, even if you don’t, it’s absolutely possible to figure this out.

All the steps laid out to see at once

Cut a strip of four of squares. Cut off half of the first and half of the last square. Fold the strip in half. Fold in the half parts towards the center. Sew in a few pages. You can use the snipped off parts as bookmarks.

Finished little book with inside flap lightly glue to first page of book block

The folded-in parts are the inside flaps, which can hold the first page down, I generally use five folded pieces of paper in these books. That gives me enough to tuck one page under the folded in book flaps (I glue the flaps on to the first and last pages) and there’s still 16 pages to write in big thoughts.

The final suggestion I have for these is to write a little note on the back of a single one then….

…secretly hang it somewhere for someone to find.

If you absolutely positively must have many more of these, I understand completely. There’s a whole other page of designs over in my Etsy shop.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season.

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!!!

folding · Paper Toy

Six-fold, flat-fold, Paper-fold

Paper Folding the Ferozkah Jaali
Paper Folding the Ferozkah Jaali

I found a fold.

If paperfolding graps your attention, prepare to be overwhelmed.  There’s three things to unpack here: the fold, the pattern on the fold, and how they interact.

I had been wondering if I could fold a tetrahedron out of a rectangle.

Tetrahedrons and other shapes
tetrahedrons and other shapes

Turns out, yes. I can make a tetrahedron with a square base or a triangular base out of the same piece of paper using the same folds in different ways.

Looks like a fish
Looks like a fish

Then I started seeing that I could make other shapes out of the same pieces of paper using the same folds differently.

Some shapes are flat, others are dimensional.

I’ve been playing with these all week, and I am still finding different shapes that these folds create.


I’ve also been drawing this six-fold pattern from Islamic Geometry called the Ferozkoh Jaali. It occurred to me that it would go perfectly with the folds I was making.

detail of Ferozkah Jaali
detail of Ferozkah Jaali


This is just a small portion of the pattern. I’ve been coloring copies of these in all week, trying to get to know the shapes.

Here’s the fold that I’m using:


Mountain and Valley folds
Mountain and Valley folds

It’s four mountain folds (diagonals) and two valley folds (horizontal and vertical) that are created around equilateral triangles. Oh, and there’s a slice in the middle. One horizontal slice.

Now here’s the first wonderful thing about using this image with my folds:

No matter how you use the creases (which are around the equilateral triangles) , the pattern lines up. In the photo above, a corner is peeking through that slice in the paper, and, look, the pattern lines up.

Equilateral triangle(s)
Equilateral triangle(s)

I printed the design on the fronts and backs of my papers, and look, when the paper wraps around itself, the pattern lines up.

Now there is one more thing to mention. Hold on to your seats. This is wonderful. But, first, here’s the foundation of the image I created, first by hand, then on the computer, because I needed the precision of the computer image.


Okay, so as I’ve been folding and refolding and refolding again, and finding different shapes all the time, the last final amazing thing that I noticed (and this makes so much sense) ….

Some heart shapes?
Some heart shapes?

…is that every shape I make with these folds is echoed somewhere in the lines of the  geometric drawing that is printed on the paper.

This makes me so happy, well, I can’t even describe it.

Another heart shape
Another heart shape

Well, there you have it. Hope you love it as much as I do.

covered with NOT geometry
covered with NOT geometry

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I think this fold looks good with just about anything on it.