Embellished Envelopes

July 29, 2014

Painted envelopes by Mikisaburo Izui, interned at Minidoka

Painted envelopes by Mikisaburo Izui, interned at Minidoka

My decorated envelopes

My decorated envelopes

I was inspired to embellish a couple of plain envelopes with little watercolor sketches after seeing a display of envelopes by Mikisaburo Izui at the Bellevue Arts Museum.  The envelopes were included in an exhibit of arts and crafts created by Japanese Americans in the internment camps of 1942 – 1946.  The exhibit is called“The Art of Gaman.”  The concept of Gaman is “to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.”

I am drawn to the Japanese way of imbuing a sense of grace and beauty in everyday, ordinary things.  It takes time and attentiveness and a calm mind, I think, to live in this way.  The exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum shows that this sensibility did not break under the unfair and harsh conditions of the internment camps.  The art created during this time was remarkable and inspiring.

On those now rare occasions when I mail a handwritten letter, I plan to take just a little extra time to embellish the envelope with a watercolor sketch.  My small attempt to add a grace note to someone’s day.

 

 

Folding Paper origamai exhibit at Bellevue Arts Museum

Folding Paper origami exhibit at Bellevue Arts Museum

Yesterday I travelled by bus across Lake Washington to see the origami exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum, which is an easy stroll from the Bellevue Transit Center.   The exhibit, “Folding Paper: Infinite Possibilities of Origami,” runs through September 21st.  I love papercraft of all kinds, and this exhibit showcases the intricacies and magic of folded paper.  Many of the pieces on display were constructed from a single sheet of paper.  I can’t begin to comprehend the vision, engineering skills, and artistry needed to create such amazing art objects.  I was astounded and delighted by these imaginative works.

Paper dress and shoes

Paper dress and shoes

Pli Selon Pli No. 2 by Koshiro Hatori

Pli Selon Pli No. 2 by Koshiro Hatori

Twirl Rhombuses by Kystuna and Wojtek Burczyk

Twirl Rhombuses by Kystuna and Wojtek Burczyk

The Plague by Siphon Nabone

The Plague by Siphon Nabone

Square Limpets by Polly Verity

Square Limpets by Polly Verity

Giotto's Circle by Andrea Russo

Giotto’s Circle by Andrea Russo

Frog on a Leaf by Bernie Peyton

Frog on a Leaf by Bernie Peyton

Mother and Child by Christine Edison

Mother and Child by Christine Edison

The staircase at the Bellevue Arts Museum is very origami-like, too, don't you agree?

The staircase at the Bellevue Arts Museum is very origami-like, too, don’t you agree?

I learned that paper folding has real-life applications that go way beyond creating art objects.  Scientists who want to transport large objects, like sun shields or telescope lenses, into space might engineer a folded apparatus to save space during the haul, only to be unfolded at its destination in space.  Or doctors might transport tiny folded repair materials through a blood vessel, to be unfolded and applied as a heart stent.  Think of the miraculous properties of the air bags in your car — another piece of origami-like engineering.

You can read more about the origami in this exhibit in a book, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami by Meher McArthur and Robert J. Lang.

 

My rubber band ball

My rubber band ball

On this day in 1845, England’s Stephen Perry patented his invention, the rubber band.  In honor of this remarkable and handy fastener, I made a rubber-band bracelet from instructions I found on one of the New York Public Library’s blogs.  I don’t know whether Perry intended his invention to be used for jewelry making, but some creative soul stretched his or her imagination to come up with this crafty pattern.  The bracelet isn’t hard to make at all, and it looks quite nice.

Rubber-bands link to form a chain

Rubber-bands link to form a chain

Finished bracelet

Finished bracelet

Cherish Peace and Goodwill

December 25, 2013

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
— Calvin Coolidge

Small ball ornaments on vintage Ball jars

Small ball ornaments on vintage Ball jars

Woolen stocking garland

Woolen stocking garland

Nutcracker from Germany

Nutcracker from Germany

Cross-stitched jungle bell

Cross-stitched jungle bell

Just a few holiday touches at my house.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Of Thee I Sing

July 4, 2013

The kitchen window at my Dad's house

The kitchen window at my Dad’s house

Embroidery by my sister Margaret

Embroidery by my sister Margaret

Happy Fourth of July!  This is my fifth Fourth of July post, and it’s fun to look back on my past posts to see which thoughts and images I chose to celebrate this quintessential summer holiday.  Here are links to my old posts:  2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.  Enjoy!

 

 

“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long.  And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”
— Eric Carle

Painting by Eric Carle, acryllic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

Painting by Eric Carle, acrylic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

In keeping with my resolution to drive less, my niece, a friend, and I made a day trip to Tacoma by bus to see the Eric Carle exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Carle is a well-known, award-winning children’s book illustrator, so I have been familiar with his work for a long time.  I enjoyed reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See to my daughter when she was very young.

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

I was so enamoured of Carle’s illustrations that I adapted some of them into applique for a handmade quilt.  Carle’s stylized, simple shapes were perfect for copying as appliqued patterns.

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (2003?)

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The Tacoma exhibit, “Beyond Books:  The Independent Art of Eric Carle,” presented another side of Carle as artist.  It included some of his wood block prints, framed paintings, amazing works on painted Tyvek, and even handmade greeting cards for (lucky) friends.  Now I am even more impressed by Carle’s talents.

The exhibit runs through July 7, 2013.

 

 

 

 

New Use of Old Wood

December 31, 2012

“When trees mature, it is fair and moral that they are cut for man’s use, as they would soon decay and return to the earth.  Trees have a yearning to live again, perhaps to provide the beauty, strength and utility to serve man, even to become an object of great artistic worth.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

Handmade wooden bowl

Handmade wooden bowl

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family's farm

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family’s farm

“Ours is a search for pure truth in the most realistic ways — the making of things.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

“There is a line from a Sexton poem: ‘The writer is essentially a crook./  Out of used furniture he makes a tree.’  . . . After all, that is what art should do; create something natural out of all the used-up sticks and bureaus of our lives, the detritus of our lives.”
— Maxine Kumin, To Make a Prairie

One of my most cherished Christmas gifts this year was this wooden bowl made from a fallen red maple tree on my Dad’s farm.  My sister and brother-in-law commissioned the bowl from a wood worker they knew.  It’s a wonderful keepsake from my childhood home, a one-of-a-kind work of art, new use for old wood.

Coincidentally, David Perry, one of the bloggers I follow, just wrote about handmade wooden plates made by a Vermont woodworker and friend.  Perry’s post is a love song to things analog, like the handmade wooden plates and bowl.  I can relate.

 

Missing My 15 Minutes of Fame

December 28, 2012

Andy Warhol's iconic paintings of Campbell's soup cans

Andy Warhol’s iconic paintings of Campbell’s soup cans

Seattle’s City Arts online magazine recently sponsored a contest for Andy Warhol-inspired art in conjunction with the Tacoma Art Museum‘s current exhibition, “Flowers for Tacoma.”  I entered two pieces, each playing off the pop art image of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans.  Instead of the Campbell’s soup can found in our mothers’ pantries, I featured a more contemporary everyday icon, the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee cup.

My entries did not win a prize, but I had fun executing my pop art vision.  Here are my Andy Warhol-inspired creations:

Collage of Starbucks coffee cups with pop art effect

Collage of Starbucks coffee cups with pop art effect

Watercolor sketch of iconic Starbucks coffee cup

Watercolor sketch of iconic Starbucks coffee cup

Humble Keepsakes and Customs

December 17, 2012

“It comes every year and will go on forever.  And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs.  Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.”
— Marjorie Holmes

Handmade paper ornament

Handmade paper ornament

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”
— E. B. White

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more.”
— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The largest part of my Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  My keepsakes are handmade, for the most part.  And yes, they are humble, like this paper cut Scandinavian horse ornament I made this year from instructions I found in Mollie Makes Christmas:  Living and Loving a Handmade Holiday.

Or my traditional holiday wreath, made from rosemary sprigs from my garden.  For me, simple is best.

Homemade rosemary wreath

Homemade rosemary wreath

“Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling gently on a winter’s night.”
–Linda A. Copp

Paper Star Snowflake

Paper Star Snowflake

Several years ago one of the gift wrappers at the University Bookstore in Seattle was making these holiday snowflakes (or they could be stars, I guess).  She gave me a photocopied set of instructions, original source unknown.  I’ve been meaning to make some of these snowflakes for holiday decorations, but until now, I never got around to it.

My finished snowflake hangs in my kitchen window, a lacy wonder that lets in the light.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own paper snowflake/star:

Fold each square in half to make a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

Fold each square in half to make a triangle. Then fold in half again. And again.

You need six square of paper.  I used 5 x 5-inch squares.  Fold each square in half along the diagonal, making a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

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Cut slits into each triangle.

Now, keeping the little triangles folded, cut four parallel slits on the solid side.  Cut almost all the way across.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open each piece of paper back into a square and flatten with your fingers.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Next you will bring two opposite points of the inner squares together in a sequence.  In order to do this, you will first have to cut the corners free along one long diagonal fold line.  (Leave the other points/corners so that they are not cut all the way through.)

Starting with the smalled inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two opposite points together and tape into a cylindrical shape.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

1. Turn the square over.  2.  Bring the opposite points of the next larger square together and tape.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all of the opposing points have been taped in the center.

You've finished square one!

You’ve finished square one!

Your square should now look like this.  You need five more.  Start folding and taping!

Staple three sections together at a point.

Staple three sections together at a point.

Once you have completed all six sections of the snowflake, take three and match up at a point.  Staple at this point.  Repeat with the other three sections.

Finished paper snowflake

Finished paper snowflake

That’s it!  Your paper snowflake/star is complete.

Hanging snowflake

Hanging snowflake

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