Thirty Days of Making: Stave-Book Text

I’m in Day 26 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor. (My friend Alicia is beginning a new series along these lines, 12 weeks of the Artist’s Way — I wish her well in her process, go check her out!).  Also, there was a technical glitch with Day 24, which is now posted.

Reason for the Project:

Ok, it’s not necessarily connected with school. This started out as a magical project, really, or a poetry project. I’m a geomancer — that’s my go-to method of divination — and I really wanted to create a shortish poem that helped convey some of the meanings of the symbolism to a new audience.  But because I practice geomancy with both Druidic and astrological overtones, I needed a text in English that also drew on geomancy in these various guises.

I also intend to leave this on my desk at work, possibly in the design lab and possibly in my Latin classroom.  I want kids to get the sense that adults as well as children can make things just because they’re cool things to make, and not just because they have usefulness or clear value as purposeful objects.  This may not be an entirely purposeful object, but it does have some technical value as a manuscript copy of a poem in the poet’s own pyrographic hand.Thirty days of making: stave-book

Process and Results

Yesterday I put down pencil lines for four of the stanzas, penciled four of the stanzas on two staves (front and back) and pyrographed three of them.  Those two are in the lower left of the picture.

Today, I don’t have my pyrographer with me — that’s my wood burner, really — and so I just lined the remaining six staves with lines, and then copied out the text and symbolism in Welsh, Latin and English terminology.  So the next time I have an urge to burn wood, I don’t have to do any preliminary work. That part is already done.  It will be easy to pick up the burner and set to.

I find this is pretty important in Design Thinking-style work generally — set things up in such a way that the next step, whatever it is, can be easily and simply carried out.  For example, before I copied out the text, I confirmed that all the staves were lined up to match holes drilled through all the panels.  I’m afraid the final version, when they’re all tied together, won’t be that good; but at least I started with the right intentions in mind. They may have also gotten out of order when they got knocked over at one point.  Oh, well. I tried.

Reflection on My Learning

Thirty days of making: stave-book As might be expected, there were some challenges.  The “Crossroads” stave almost became the “People” stave, when I read the poem in the wrong order.  I should have written down the titles of each stave on them before I wrote them out by hand fully.  I could have lightly sewn them together in the right order, so each one was easily manipulated and worked with, but I didn’t mistake which order they were supposed to be written in.

I also didn’t leave an easy way to write my name on them.  Maybe on the side of one of the staves?  I feel like I should claim the poem, the artwork, and the page layout, all for myself as a total art project.  Next time, I think, but I’m not sure I’ll ever do this project again.

Reflection on General Learning

I said at the workshop the other day that Design Thinking is about the knowing how rather than the knowing what.  A lot of this project was “how-to” stuff, like how to get lines even and straight on mis-matched pieces of wood.  It was also about knowing how to write letters so they look clear on each stave.  So some of it was about knowing a little bit of calligraphy, in the Italic style (the handwriting form, not the font-style).

There’s a lot of how-to in this kind of project.  A kid might see mine, and be inspired by it, but then not be able to reproduce the results.  And that would frustrate him, especially once I showed him all the books that I consulted to make this one — a book on building books, a book on calligraphy, and a bunch of books on poetry, and a book or three on geomancy. There’s a lot of research that goes into a project like this, even though on the surface it’s only eight pieces of wood.  The object has a backstory which is implicate or enfolded into the design, but which is not intuitively obvious to the casual observer.


Three of five stars. Not a finished project, but moved significantly along the curve of completion.

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