How I Play

(Note: some of you may recognize this post. It’s an edited version of a post I originally published on my personal blog in 2011.)

Here’s how I play.

Okay, it’s ONE of the ways I play. Sometimes I feel like everything I do (writing, knitting, gardening, designing patterns) requires so much . . . revision. Planning. Testing, trial and error, perfectionism. And I’m fine with that–it’s important to me to get things right. But sometimes I need to just be sloppy and careless and free-wheeling and just PLAY. I need to just throw things together and see how it all comes out, try new techniques without worrying about screwing up, improvise. For some reason, paper craft is one of the few places I can let myself do that. Maybe because paper feels so ephemeral?

One of my favorite projects is art books. They have ratty edges. They aren’t perfectly straight-edged or perfectly aligned.

As you can see, this particular book folds up accordion style.  The pages are held together with hemp twine. The book is a tribute to oak trees–one of my favorite kinds of tree, and one that is very common in my part of the world. I put little tidbits of folklore about oaks, along with excerpts from Yeats’ “The Two Trees”.

You’ll see as this post progresses that I also did a lot of pointing out the obvious in this little book. But there’s a reason for this. While I was making this book, the tactile nature, the pockets and envelopes all reminded me of this book I had when I was little. It was a fabric book, made for very small children, with bright colors and block letters and lots of different textures. There were things to snap and unsnap, zip and unzip. There were little pockets. And for some reason, even as I got older, I found this little book inexplicably comforting to handle. Very early on in the process of making my little oak book, I realized that it evokes a similar emotional response in me. So I went for the child’s book feel; this is an acorn, this is an oak twig, this is an oak leaf.

I can’t draw. I really, really wish I could, but I can’t. So that little guy in the funny cap is a bit of art by Brian Froud that I clipped out of a magazine ages ago. I am in complete awe of his work. BUT, I am rather proud of the green man mask. I traced leaves on paper, then I used the leaves like stamps to make the veins and smudges. Then I cut out eyes. The pretty leaf up in the corner is from a rubber stamp. The little twig with buds is from a picture I took, manipulated it in iPhoto, printed it, and cut out. And those little snippets of handmade pape I made from paper scraps, torn wrapping tissue, the edges of sewing patterns and bits of herbs from my garden.

Here’s more of my handmade paper scraps–some from my own paper making, and some scraps from some that I bought. In addition to my handmade paper snippets, I used parts of a paper grocery bag that tore in transit and couldn’t be reused as a bag anymore. All the sort of pale sagey green paper is leftover from a project I did a few years ago–actually it’s from a project that I MESSED UP a few years ago. There are random things printed on the other sides of the paper. The envelopes came from a box of things I got at Goodwill. The foundation pages, to which everything is glued and taped and sewn, came from a day planner I used several years ago. And that flower pattern paper came off the back of a publisher catalog from my office employee days. This a highly eco-friendly creation.

Here is where I start to get ridiculously squealy excited. Open up the envelope, and there’s MORE inside! Some folk magic; an equal-armed cross made of twigs, and lore about the protective qualities of the oak tree.

More words and handmade paper (and paper bag remnants) on the other side of the little insert card.

The handmade paper on the bottom of the left sheet? That is all garlic peels. It was very fragrant when I made it! But it has a great texture, and now that it’s dry it doesn’t smell of garlic anymore. The wire leaf with beads I did NOT make myself. I bought it somewhere ages ago. BUT, I did make the flat copper leaf at the bottom of the envelope.

See how the copper is all rainbowy? That’s from me setting it on fire. Okay, not really. I just held it with a pair of pliers over the flame from a match, then rubbed off the thin layer of soot. And the leaf in the pocket is made from more of my hand made paper, and held to some more card stock scraps with bits of copper wire that was left behind by electricians when a friend of mine had some wiring work done in her house.

Another envelope. Are you excited? I’m excited.

Here’s what’s inside! More magic! And I got carried away with the rubber stamp. The other side:

I mentioned it was messy yeah? So last of all, I just wanted to zoom in on a few cool details.

So, writer and artist friends–do you play? And if you do, how do you play? If you don’t, I recommend you find some way to do it–you know it’s important to feed your creativity with fun and games.


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