Here’s something that can only be described as playful.


It’s four squares, which have been folded into eights, like an 8-cut pizza. I made this as a sample book when I was teaching the Book Arts at Bancroft series of classes at the Bancroft Library here in Salem.  I would teach eight classes in the fall and eight more classes in the spring, to groups of 3rd and 4th graders. I did this for ten years. It was a really great program, funded by New York State Council on the Art Decentralization Program.  No one was in charge of me so I did whatever projects I felt like doing with these kids. This was when my own children were as young as they come, so this book arts program kept me thinking about the arts at time when I would have otherwise been thinking only about laundry, meals and bedtime.
img_20161205_161718.jpgThis way of folding squares and then just connecting them together is an idea I came across during a day that I passed at the Patents Office in NYC long ago, before the internet. I’d go up there now and then,  into this great cavernous room on the west side of Manhattan and just looked through cool stuff. I’m pretty sure that this way of folding was in a folding toy section, patented by a woman from Israel. There were some great drawings with the patent (which I copied and probably still have).


When I did this with kids during my book arts workshop I was aware of one big obstacle: There are 64 distinct areas to decorate. Since the charm of this structure is finding all sorts of different configurations to display it in, it seemed to me that the patterns should be varied on each facet. But, 64? That’s a lot of designs. I had the kids for 90 minutes. Could they fill the papers? How could I facilitate this?


We spent the first 25 minutes making the structure. 65 minutes left. 64 areas to fill.

img_20161205_161655.jpgWhat I did was prepare 64 notecoards, each with a different design. The children sat in a big circle, each with a  marking tool. Each note card had a different design suggestion on it. Kids were not bound by my suggestions, but they would have only about a minute to decorate one of the triangular areas, then they would pass their marker and note card to the person to their left and receive a new suggestion and marker.img_20161205_161641.jpg

I’m usually not so regimented with my classes, timing things in short intervals and making commands, but this time it was great fun.


So, got that? Four squares folded pizza-style and linked together and decorated. Then filled with designs.


Jumping Jumping Jack

Jumping Jack assembled out of Small Cut Shapes, glued together

Welkom!  A few week ago I noticed I was getting some verkeer vanuit Nederland – traffic from the Netherlands. While it’s not unusual for a far off web site to link to my blog, what has caught my attention, and what has prompted this post, is that, day after day, for several weeks now, I continue to get visitors coming to my site through a post by . Elenea wrote what looks to be the most comprehensive post on the web about Antique Jumping Jacks, trekpoppen or, in the singular, trekpop. ( What a great word!)

Jumping Jack, Trekpop, "built" from shapes of paper

Elenea’s post has it all: there’s a short video showing the dynamic qualities of the structure, and there’s an impressively researched and nicely diverse list of links to sites that include patterns for making Jumping Jacks and coloring pages for this structure. Although Elenea’s post is written in Dutch (I think….hmmm..) the links that she posts are mostly written in a language that I understand.

Cut out shapes to use to make the Jumping Jack

If you saw my first post on Antique Jumping Jacks and my post on Jumping Jacks made by students in 2010 you ‘ve seen that I haven’t been using patterns for making Jumping Jacks.  I encourage students to cut out interesting shapes from paper, then assemble them together to make their own unique works of art.

Jumping Jack in shades of blue

 These photos were take a few weeks ago, when I taught, for the second year in a row, a morning, vacation week workshop at the Southern Vermont Arts Center.

  I was delighted by how different the Jumping Jacks were from each other.

“Backstage” of a Jumping Jack

Here’s the back side of my Jumping Jack. Although I use heavy paper, I’ve decided that it’s wise to use support the neck with a flat wooden spoon. Also, I taped a paper loop to the head, to attach the string to hold Jack from the top. Oddly, I couldn’t convince any of the students in my workshop to extend a string from the head. They preferred to hold the puppet’s head.

Now, here’s another odd thing: this Dutch post that is referring me all these visitors was written in 2007, four years before my post was written.  Which means, I guess, that someone else has written a post that has compelled people to go to Elenea’s site, and then people come to my site?! Wait, no, that can’t be it…she must’ve recently updated it? …who knows!
Related links: Elenea’s post (in Dutch)

This past Friday I had the good luck of being able to work with students to test drive my instructions for making cut-paper Antique Jumping Jacks. The students were young, only in grades First through Fourth, but they were a surprisingly competent group.. Some of these childrens live nearby in Vermont, the others are from New York City, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

After seeing the my sample Jumping Jack, the students, knowing we had just under 2 1/2 hours to work, asked me how long it took me to make mine. I told them that I worked on mine for several hours,but that it would become boring to work on after kept I kept putting it aside and coming back to it later. It’s not good to be bored while working, so I told them I was structuring the class in a way that would keep things moving.

We started by cutting and gluing together simple shapes for the head and torso, using scraps of cover weight copy paper.

I told them we would work on the torso for only 25 minutes. If it wasn’t finished by then, we would still move on to the limbs, but they could come back to the torso later.
Before any ennui set in, I brought out some paper punches (of snowflakes. cirlces, stars and hearts) which kept things exciting.

These kids seemed to have no problem keeping focused on their creations.

As soon as the limbs started getting attached, the work pace picked up.

Here’s a line-up of Jumping Jacks at rest….

…and here they are again, jumping.

“Wave good-bye, Jack!”

Antique Jumping Jack Toy

December 28, 2010

This week the Southern Vermont Arts Center asked me to teach a Friday morning class for young children. The request was that the lesson be inspired by Alexander Calder. It is, fortunately, easy to be inspired by Calder. His work immediately conjures up colorful shapes, whimsy, animated forms, and circus-like figures. Putting this together, I decided to design an Antique Jumping Jack Toy project for the students to create.

An Antique Jumping Jack Toy, traditionally, is a figure whose arms dangle down when at rest.

When his string is pulled, Jack’s limbs jump up, as if he is dancing

To make a Jumping Jack one needs:

  • pencil to draw out the basic shape. or the confidence to just start cutting
  • cover weight paper or light cardboard
  • 4 or more paper fasteners (depending on whether or not you want to hinge the elbow and knee joints)
  • a one hole paper punch
  • scissors
  • needle
  • heavy thread

Start by planning out the pieces. Cut out torso (with head) arms and legs. Punch holes at attachment points

(Please note the picture above is NOT intended to be a pattern! If you really want to be provided with a pattern, leave me a note in the comment box, and I will email you a pattern that I created by a shameless reappropriation some images I found on the internet….)

Next, attach limbs to torso with paper fasteners. The paper fasteners should be loose, to allow the limbs to swing.

Finally, sew thread at the top of the limbs, right above the paper fasteners as shown by the green line in the picture above. Be sure to really be right above the paper fastener attachments, or toy will not be a good jumper. Also, attach a string to top and bottom strings as shown, and let the end of this string dangle loosely below Jack’s feet.

Now pull the string and watch him go. Oh, you might want to put a string through the head to hold him by.

Here you can see that I hinged the knees with paper fasteners.

Once you have the basics of this down, be playful with the pieces.  This particular guy was made from the scraps of paper that were left over from other projects.

Addendum   Gerelateerde links: – If you want to see the Jumping Jacks created in my classes at SVAC, go to this link: and Wat Meer Trekpoppen: More Jumping Jacks.

Also, for a post (written in Dutch) which list links to a variety of Jumping Jacks articles, visit

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