Monday, November 24, 2008

youtube tutorial

I spend a lot of my time making books and as Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, a simple handmade book seems appropriate to the season. I was inspired by the book Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message. Chief Jake Swamp says in his author's note: "The words in this book are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. These words of thanks come to us from the Native people known as the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois or Six Nations."

Since the accordion has four pages, I chose the four seasons and wrote about what I give thanks to. I used the front panel of a grocery bag folded in half the long way with the writing inside. It made an accordion substantial enough to not need a cover. I used cut and torn paper for the illustrations and a fine black sharpie marker. This would be a good project to keep the kids busy on Thanksgiving morning while the adults are involved in cooking.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Samhain (pronounced sow like the female adult pig-in) is the first day of the new year and the first day of winter on the Celtic calendar. As we gather in for the coming dark, let us renew our creative spirit and inner strength.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Autumn

I always think of this poem by John Keats at this time of year.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Saint Brendan's Day

May 16 is St. Brendan's Day. St. Brendan is known as the Navigator or the Voyager. The Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (the Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot) was written in the Middle Ages and presumed to be legend. In the 1970s Tim Severin recreated Brendan's voyage in a leather curragh and reached Newfoundland; he wrote about in The Brendan Voyage.

May we take inspiration from Saint Brendan as we navigate our way through this world.

About Saint Brendan

An English translation of the Navigatio sancti Brendani Abbatis

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Peace Star

This Mother's Day project has its roots in the earliest Mother's Day celebrations in the United States which were a reaction to the carnage of the Civil War by women who had lost their sons. Julia Ward Howe wrote this Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870. I used Peace Stars that I originally created for a Peace Star Accordion Book. Peace is written in different languages which reflects the global nature of our current striving for peace.


You'll need 2 CDs, a piece of ribbon, peace star patterns or your own designs, white glue, and a glue stick.

Put white glue on the label side of one CD. Fold a piece of ribbon in half, lay it in the center of the CD with the fold above the CD to form a loop for hanging.

2. Place the second CD on top, shiny side up. It is helpful if you (gently so you don't shift the CDs) put a weight on it (I used a couple of books) while it is drying.

3. Cut out, decorate, and color two of the peace stars from the pattern or create your own. Glue one on each side of the CD. I find it best to use glue stick for this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Basket

May Day is the first day of summer on the Celtic calendar and the real beginning of spring in New England. We celebrate it with a trip to Cambridge MA for May Day festivities where there is singing, dancing, Morris dancers, and a Maypole. On the years when I rise early enough, I deliver May baskets to friends' doors before we leave.


You'll need three rectangular pieces of paper (I used pages from a catalog) and a glue stick. Start by gluing two pages together to make a more sturdy basket.

1. Fold the paper in half the long way. When I teach kids bookmaking I say we are folding it like a hot dog. If your paper is different on each side, the one you want on the outside of the basket should be on the outside when you make the fold.

2. Open the paper and fold each side in to meet the middle.

3. Open the paper and fold in half the other way, like a hamburger.

4. Fold each side in to meet the middle.

5. Fold a triangle in each corner by bringing the side edge to meet the fold.

6. At the top of the triangles, fold the edges down to make long narrow rectangles.

7. Put your hands at the corners and raise up the side of the basket one side at a time.

8. Make a handle by
tearing or cutting the last piece of paper in half the long way,
folding it in half the long way
opening it and folding each side in to meet the middle,
putting glue on one side and closing it to make a narrow strip.

9. Glue the handle to the sides of the basket.

10. Put plastic inside the basket (I cut up a plastic bag), fill it with dirt and a plant (mine is a traditional May plant, sweet woodruff). You can also fill it with candy or other treats.

May Day in Padstow

My favorite May Day song is "Unite and unite" which comes from the Padstow May Day celebration in Cornwall.

Here's a BBC overview of May Day in Padstow.

And here's a long sequence of photos, both old and new, set to Unite and Unite. It's a long segment. I watched it once and then went back and listened to the music several times.

Monday, April 21, 2008

St. George's Day

is April 23rd. He is the patron saint of several countries including Catalonia in Spain, England, Portugal, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. St. George's Day in Catalonia is especially rich as it celebrates three things: St. George who fought and slayed the dragon and the day of the deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare (April 23, 1616). Boys and men give their girlfriends and wives roses; girls and women give their boyfriends and husbands books.


You'll need two pieces of paper (it's okay if they have writing on one side), a piece of ribbon or yarn (mine was left over from an chocolate Easter bunny package), a glue stick, a piece of scrap paper, and assorted decorative paper scraps for collage. A piece of candy wrapper foil or a bead for the end of the bookmark is an optional extra.

Follow the directions to make two hot dog booklets.

Insert a piece of scrap paper under the first page of one booklet. Cover the entire surface with glue. Place a piece of ribbon on the top of the book along the spine with the ribbon extending up beyond the book. This will be the bookmark.

Place the other booklet on top lining up the spines. Rub your hand over the surface to help the glue adhere.

Glue assorted pieces of cut and torn paper to the front and the back to make covers. Start with a not too small piece and wrap it around the spine.

Continue gluing on pieces until the front and back are covered.

As an extra touch, wrap a piece of foil from candy around the end of the ribbon or tie a bead to the end. It is helpful but not necessary to place the book under a heavy book or other weight for a few hours.


Use a rectangular piece of paper for the rose. I used newspaper (1/4 of a page made by folding the paper in half and tearing it, then tearing the half in half). I used a peppermint tea bag package for the stem. The leaf was cut from a mint medley tea bag package and held in place with a green elastic from vegetables.

Fold the newspaper piece in half to make a long rectangle

Roll it tightly around your index finger once and then more loosely around until the paper is all wrapped

Twist the bottom tightly.

Place the end in the open part of a tea bag package or wrap the bottom of the rose with green paper

Cut a leaf shape with a small stem.

Place the leaf stem on the stem and bind together with a green elastic.

Read the legend of St. George and the Dragon as written by Agnes Grozier Herbertson in London in 1908 here.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Of all the poetry I was required to memorize in school, this short bit from the Prologue of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is only thing I still remember. I always think of it when April comes especially when rain is falling. You can hear the Middle English being read here and read a translation into contemporary English here.

About the Creative Year

Three things that many of us can say about our lives are:
We consume too much
We create too little
We are losing our connection to the seasons

The Creative Year aims to take a small step toward righting these wrongs by making things with seasonal significance using recycled and reused household materials. I believe that everyone is creative and everyone has a need to create. Creative has become a word with value judgements. If you are creative, you make things that are beautiful or original. I take a more basic view, to be creative is to make things.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary
creative: having the power and quality of creating
create: to cause something to come into being

The Creative Year is not about making art; it is not about making keepers. In my many years as an artist, I have learned that the process is more important the finished product. The true life is in the work itself. Make something, enjoy it, and when its time and purpose in your life has passed, pass it along or recycle it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Day of Spring

Spring comes this year on a cold grey day. With nothing blooming outside, I made flowers from assorted discarded bits and attached them to a branch. The branch went into a pot which was the former home of a rosemary plant that did not make it through the winter. You could also use a can or a jar.

I used circles and squares of assorted materials including Britta water filter packaging, netting from cherry tomatoes, a plastic bag that held grapefruits, oreo cookie wrapping, tea bag containers, and the protective foil under the lid of the yogurt container. I used ties saved from bread and bags to twist and hold the flower.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Patrick's Day Cross

Young girls and small children wear on the right shoulder "a St Patrick's Cross", consisting of a single or double cross formed of pieces of narrow silk ribbon stitched to a circular disk of white paper, nicked at the edge, and measuring from 3 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. At the ends of the arms of the cross a very small bow or rosette is stitched and one a trifle larger at the junction of the arms; the more and the brighter the colours of the silk, the more handsome is considered the St Patrick's Cross.
Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society 1908

I made my cross from a piece of white shirt cardboard. I used pieces of plastic bag instead of silk ribbon. Even though I make an effort to carry a bag with me shopping, plastic bags do seem to multiply. I went through my bag of bags before I took them back to the supermarket and selected ones with color to make the ribbons and bows. I cut narrow strips and tied them into bows. The plastic I used for the center bag wasn't long enough to tie a bow so I just shaped one. I stitched the plastic ribbons and bows onto the circle but you could also use a stapler.

Information about the St. Patrick's Day Cross from The Year in Ireland: A Calendar by Kevin Dannaher

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Folded Heart Valentine

Hearts and Valentine's Day go together. Here's a simple folded heart for the occasion. Once you get the hang of it, they are easy to make in quantity. I used the label from a large can of tomatoes. I cut it down so that the paper was about twice as wide as it is tall.
Turn the paper over and fold up a flap about 1/4 the height of the paper. To be more precise, you can fold the paper in half, open it, and fold the the bottom edge up to the center fold.

Fold the paper in half with the flap on the inside.

Open the paper. Bring the bottom right side of the paper to meet the center fold and crease.

Bring the bottom left side of the paper to meet the center fold and crease.

Turn the paper over.

Bring the right edge to meet the right edge of the folded flap and crease.

Bring the left edge to meet the left edge of the folded flap and crease.

Fold the inside folded edge of each flap on the diagonal to make a triangle. This is the center of the heart.

On each side, fold the outside edge on the diagonal to form a triangle.

Turn over the paper to see the heart.

If you attach your heart to a card, it is helpful to glue down the triangle folds first. You can also combine hearts to make a wall piece. I used tomato can labels again. There are two layers of cereal box pieces. One is covered with plastic netting from a grapefruit bag. The hearts and the box pieces were attached by poking two holes with a needle and inserting and then twisting wire. You can also use white glue.

View a video on how to make this heart from a dollar bill.

Directions for a more (but not too) complicated folded heart.

Friday, February 1, 2008

St. Brigid's Cross

February 1st is the first day of spring on the Celtic calendar and St. Brigid's day. The day is celebrated in parts of Ireland by hanging a cross woven of rushes on the door for twelvemonth's luck. This is a simplified version using recycled paper.


You can use newspaper (I used 1/2 page), catalogs (I used double page spread), or brown paper grocery bag.

1. Cut the paper into four equal sections. I did it by folding the paper in half and cutting it along the fold and then folding each half in half and cutting along the fold to make four pieces.

2. Fold each piece into thirds the long way. Open the paper, cover it with glue (I used a glue stick), and fold it and smooth it out to help the glue adhere.

3. Fold each piece in half.

Place it so that the fold is at the top.

With the fold on the right, place it inside Strip 1.

With the fold on the bottom, place it inside Strip 2.

With the fold on the left, place it outside Strip 1 and inside Strip 2.

5. Pull on the ends of the strips to tighten the cross.

6. Keep the two layers of each strip together by tying the ends (I used pieces of NY Times delivery plastic bags and twist ties) or with glue. Because the strips will still shift a little if you move the cross around, you may want to add a little glue (white glue on a toothpick or strip of heavy paper) inside the center of the cross.

See an authentic cross made from rushes.

Learn more about St. Brigid's crosses

St. Brigid (Brighid, Bridget) was preceded by the goddess Brigid. You can find more information about the goddess and the saint at The Celtic Well and
Irish Culture and Customs.

I found information about St. Brigid and her crosses in the following books:
All Silver and No Brass by Henry Glassie
The Year in Ireland: A Calendar by Kevin Danaher