Decoration · design

Beautiful Papers

I’ve had my head into making beautiful papers for different projects I’ve been working on. Thought it would be nice to give a peek at the different ways I go about making these papers. This, sadly, is not a “how-to” post, as each technique has so many steps.

The one thing that these all have in common is that I create them using the computer.. While I have great affection for making decorative papers by hand, it’s been my experience that if I want to use the computer to print papers that it’s best to create them on the comupter.

The paper at the top of the post is created in Adobe Illustrator, using patterning I’ve learned from Islamic Geometry tutorials. These patterns are great to when I am teaching folding methods, as I can size the designs so that the designs line up nicely when the paper is folded precisely. This has made teaching certain things so much easier.

Here’s an origami box, folded with my papers. More boxes below. Same pattern, different colors.

I use Islamic Geometry a great deal on my papers, but not always.

Sometimes I just create from the tools that are unique to the programs I am using. Illustrator’s flare tool is very fun to use.

This one is made by overlaying, resizing and recoloring a rarely used tool in Adobe Illustrator, called the flare tool. It’s hidden at the bottom of the menu that contains the rectangle and circles tools. I love having an excuse to play around with flares. This one I used to build a shape in which I placed the design inside the shape so it only showed when the light inside of it was activated.

Another way a create designs is by starting with graphs of equations. Even if I don’t understand the graphs that I’m working with, I have figured out how to play around with equations then work with the resulting graph.

Playing around with graphs isn’t hard once you get the hang of it. You can do it right now. Click this link and then click the little arrows to start and stop the animation. See what happens. When I get something I like, I copy get the lines in Illustrator, create tessellations, and add color.

The pattern with the orange in it comes from the desmos graph. The blue pattern uses another set of equations. I like that the colored and uncolored versions are showing here.

This flower-like image is made from trig functions. Gold and silver embellishments were added by hand. This one ended up being a thank you card.

Now might be a good moment to mention that I just put a set of beautiful notecards up for sale in my etsy shop.

While Illustrator is my program of choice, I do dip my toes into photoshop once in awhile.

I’m pretty much a novice with Photoshop. Maybe that works to my advantage? (Wishful thinking.)

I’ve discovered I can lay down a gradient, use some filters and the gradient tool and sometimes make some really gorgeous papers. It’s quite a random activity. Soon as a design shows up I save it. There is no recreating these.

These Photoshop generated papers have become all sorts of shapes.

With the holiday season coming, I’ve been using my Photoshop papers to make these paper ornaments.

I could go on and on with the different ways I put designs on paper. Here’s just one more.

The design above started as black and white lines on Dave Richeson’s computer, which then made its way to twitter then made its way to my computer. I did the coloring with Sharpies, colored pencils, and other markers. I did try scanning this, but I knew, from past experience, I wouldn’t like the scan. Here’s what I do when I want to make copies of hand drawn designs: instead of scanning the images I simply lay them on the glass of my copy machine and make copies.


Using the copy machine retains the feel of the hand drawing, which can be really nice, as long as no one looks too close.

There, so I’ve shown you the Islamic Geometry designs, the design made from graphs, flare overlays, random Photoshop gradient washes, and using my copy machine.

Now I need to figure out how to package up some of these items that I’m making so I can justify all this ink that I’ve been using! So easy to just have fun, the business part is still in process.

Art and Math

Color My Math

Here’s a true story. I was attracted to patterns of curved lines. Then I started to learned how to make them, using math.

That story took about sixty years to be true, from beginning to end.

The woman who lived next door had a spirograph. I would go knock on her back door. She would set up the spirograph for me. I would sit and make curves while she ironed clothes.

My mother bought wrought iron headboards for the twin beds in my room. I would sit and stare at the spirals, run my fingers around the curves.

It wasn’t until my own children were in high school that I learned that spirograph curves could be described by mathematical equations. I wanted to know how to do this. I mean, I really wanted to know how to make curves using math. I learned how. I’m still learning.

Every piece of jewelry a person wears has a story attached to it. I enjoy asking about these items. In the same way, the curves I make have stories. I’ve written some of these down.

A number of years ago an extraordinary woman from down the road started a free summer program for the children in this area. Kids were served lunch, they played, and listened to stories. When it was clear that more and more children needed a place to eat, learn, and play, current and retired educators stepped up to create an exceptional program. Parents drop off their children, the children are fed, offered swimming lessons at a nearby lake, and have engaging educational experiences at the community center. Local teenagers are hired as counselors. Local teachers and artists are engaged to design and teach compelling learning blocks. Kids are treated to visits from people in the community who come by and share their own interests and skills with groups. With help from many sources, this generous program, which charges exactly nothing, is continually growing.

This year I’ve decided to sell something to support our Lunch, Learn & Play program.

I’ve made cards of curves to color. On the back of the folded card is my story of each curve. I’m also including a web link to a graph to so the curious mind can see how math makes these curves.

Are you curious? Hop over to the link below. There is a blue dot on the bottom row left. Move that dot an see what happens to the picture. You will be dazzled.

There are eight different black & white cards to color, and eight envelopes too.

The paper that these cards are printed on Springhill Digital Vellum Bristol White Cover, 67 lb, the perfect paper for crayons and Crayola colored pencils since these marking items work the best on paper that has a bit of roughness to it. Markers work really well on this paper, too, which is thick enough that there is very little soak-through.

These cards for coloring are going on my Etsy site, where, through the month of June, all proceeds from these cards will be donated to the local children’s program.

If you know a someone who would appreciate finding out something about the beautiful curves of math, and you would like to support a truly wonderful children’s program, follow this link:

Art and Math · design · Drawings

Lines and Circles Workshop

Linear Mod Design by Carly
Linear Mod Design by Carly, tenth grade student

Last night 15 people showed up at the library for a couple of hours to make patterns based on lines and circles. I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect but that didn’t keep them from showing up. A brave bunch. The participants were tweens, teens, and adults. There was at least a 50 year gap between the youngest and oldest: it was quite wonderful to have this group all in one room, as each generation brings their own aesthetic, energy, and reflective questions with them.

by Cordelll,  a ninth grade student
by Cordelll, a ninth grade student

I demonstrated two ways of making designs: using lines (which I wrote about in my previous post) and intersecting circles, which people have been exploring for many centuries. I had originally thought I would show just the circles geometry, but then considered that some people might be really uncomfortable using a compass.  A few people just worked with just the lines, a few people worked with just with circles, and the rest did both.


Some people were curious about the math that went into the number patterns that I gave them, and I explained it to those who asked.


At the next workshop I will bring in my laptop and show Dan Anderson’s linear mod open processing page, as well as the tables in to people who want to know more.

Siri's, in progress
Siri’s, in progress

There was a great mix of approaches to this way of working.


I embarrassed myself by not having reviewed the process for making the circle patterns right before the class. I had made many samples of the “seed of life” circles patterns, but then I had done other designs, and when I started demonstrating I got quite confused. I had to go sequester myself for a bit to reconstruct the pattern.

Quinn's designs
Quinn’s designs

One young man didn’t have any interest in coloring anything in. Not only that, but he decided to try out his own pattern of lines. Actually, he tried out everything he could think of, with both the circles and the lines, and ended up with a pile of papers filled with all sorts of designs. It was delightful to see him working out his own templates and number sequences.

Quinn's Crane and Siri's Drawing
Quinn’s Crane and Siri’s Drawing

By the end of the workshop this young man had started doing some origami, which he graciously gifted to me. I photographed (above) his crane with the work of an adult, because I so enjoyed seeing having all these young people and adults in one room, all together making art.

Here are some links for anyone who is interested:

The PDF to use with the line designs

Dan Anderson’s Open Processing Linear Mod page to see what’s going on with the line designs

Dearing Wang’s Circle Drawings

Circle Geometry by Paula Beardell Krieg

Next Tuesday I will do doing another one of these workshops! I’m looking forward to it.


Line Designs

6x + 5

It’s handy to have a few methods for creating designs at one’s fingertips. Three Tuesday evenings during the month of July at my local library I’ll have a chance to work with people on producing images that are part recipe, part personal. I’m describing the workshops as being focused on making patterned images based on curves and lines. Go ahead and click on the link in the first sentence here if you want too see some of the curves that we’ll be looking at. This post is about the lines

Starting with w parallel # lines
Starting with w parallel # lines Click HERE for PDF of this page

I’ve been working on this system of connecting dots. People will get this nearly blank paper and will choose a pattern of numbers to write across the top. In the image below the pattern 5,3,1,9,7 repeats 4 times along the top, then the numbers are connected with a straight edge to the corresponding numbers on the bottom. What results is a pattern of intersecting lines that can be colored in an infinite number of ways. Here’s just one of those ways (oops, note that the paper, and thus the numbers, has been turned upside down as I like the image better this way):


The drawing above shows all the criss-crossing lines, but if I zoom in on just one area the resulting image has a different sort of look.  In other words, something that looks like this (whose repeat pattern was  5,7,9,1,3) :

linear mod 6

….can be cropped to something like this:

Starting with two parallel line
Starting with two parallel line

My thought is that it’s possible to make many cropped images from the same “master” image, and thus end up with numerous designs that can stand alone, but that still go together.

I’ve been trying out different mediums to color these in with. Pencil, colored pencil, and markers all seem fine. I’m not having much luck with crayons or watercolors, but that may just be me. Here’s one that’s all pencil (the repeat pattern here is 5,3,1,9,7 : these numbers are visible at the bottom of the drawing, which I’ve turned upside down)

Pencil drawing
Pencil drawing

The image below is done entirely with markers. It differs from the others in that the spacing of the lines is twice as wide all the others here, and the pattern of numbers written across the top only repeats twice (3,1,5,1,7)


I’ve made so many of these, but they are all so different that I don’t feel like I’ve made enough. I’m interested to see what the participants in these upcoming classes do with this way of working.

number pattern 3,6,9,2,5,8,1,4,7,0
number pattern 3,6,9,2,5,8,1,4,7,0 turned upside down. To me. this image looks like two butterflies or hummingbirds on opposite sides of a flower.

I hope to be posting photos of images made by workshop participants during the course of July.

My plan, by the way, is to basically hand out the number patterns that I’ve come up with, so it really will be a connect the dots kind of activity, at least until the coloring begins. If anyone is interested in where these numbers come from and likes reading about linear equations, I put a post up on Google Plus to explain all.

Wish me luck in running a fun workshop!