I’ve finished my own commitment to Autumnal Maker School, but something urged me to keep going. And something else said, “go back to some of your paper-engineering stuff. That’s important, because paper engineering is an important route into the Maker movement, especially for schools with little to no money to invest in tools and equipment.”
And then Deb Castellano kicked my ruck-sack with her current post, Glamour Practical: Burn this Place Down. Mentally, I’ve been under the weather, and unwilling to get out of my own head to get stuff done. Sure, I built a bunch of cool crafts and machine models for working on automata. But I was doing that for school, not for me. I wasn’t contributing to my own wonder about the world, my own sense of amazement and my own joy in creating. That was work. But her she was, reminding me to play.
The Kavad & Making
And that meant going back to an idea which I’ve had for a long time. A long time indeed. The Kavad.
For those who are just joining me, and don’t feel like reading through a whole lot of posts from several years ago, the Kavad is this idea I had for a magical box. The box would be made of wood, with a lot of hinged and spring-loaded panels. Each of the panels would be painted and carved with traditional imagery from Hermetic and astrological teaching. It would be my Maker cabinet of curiosities, designed to teach me engineering and woodworking and three-dimensional design and astrology and Hermetics and neoplatonism, all at once. I did manage to build four prototypes of it, in increasing complexity; but I got bogged down in the engineering and woodworking of it, and the challenges involved in learning how to automate it.
And then I discovered bookbinding. And see, the Kavad of Hermetics was always a cool thing, but it was a three-dimensional representation of a set of spiritual concepts, trying to cram a western/magical system into a device/tool/imaginarium that came out of India’s vedic and yogic traditions. Whereas the Western world has always crammed its mysteries into books and scrolls, into grimoires and sworn books and papyri. Different technologies, different mysteries. It’s not to say that the Kavad can’t be built, or won’t be built. Just that right now, I’m learning the skills that are required to build it.
See, the nature of the Kavad for me was always as a tool for exploring the nature of Making. It would require skills in carpentry and cabinetry, rendering a two-dimensional material (like plywood or wood or foam core) into a 3-dimensional object. But the source material kept pulling me back to books, to paper. How can these materials be used to convey particular ideas, particular concepts? Not just concepts of spirituality, but also concepts of Making?
In any case, I got out my paper cutting mat and some scrap and good paper, and made a bunch of things. I’m not happy with many of them, but I’m looking forward to fussing with these elements further.
Gender and Craft
Ironically, a good deal of the paper and book arts generally have been left to women, in the form of scrap-booking and album making. I don’t wish to get into a huge fight about gender here, but women’s arts have been regularly relegated to the realm of “arts and crafts” and discounted as less valuable than the more ‘masculine’ arts of painting and sculpture. Which is silly — painting and sculpture are wonderful, but they’re also sort of useless. Whereas “women’s crafts” like knitting and sewing and paper and scrap-booking and related book-binding and -making arts are intensely practical… but also seen as less valuable? What’s up with that?
Women have known this for years, of course. And I have, too. But Design Thinking teachers have to take care to notice this, to call it out, to object to it, and to demand that their students notice it and work to minimize and correct it. When we run MakerSpaces, we have to take care that the gender issues in our society begin to be corrected in what and how we teach. Hence the continuing focus in my Design Lab on making the tools for braiding, weaving, spinning — because those tools and skills lay at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.
(I’ve seen this in my own Design Lab, and I have to work to nip it in the bud, that the girls move in the direction of fabric or paper arts and the boys move in the direction of carpentry. I have to work to stop this, or at least arrange for more divergence.)
I also spent some time tonight building a little paper album based on some designs I found on Pinterest. I intended it to be a frame for some calligraphy practice, writing out some of the prayers and hymns and calls of druidry in the various pages. The video is very fast — time-lapse photo rather than a true video — but it gives you a sense of what paper craft can accomplish these days.
This is based on Loretta’s video, here (and the website from which she got it is here):
She’s quite right — this is not particularly complicated or heavy-duty work to make. But you have to Make it to learn how to do it, just as with the Pulley Card. And you have to have a sense of what you’re going to use it for. Could this be a book about geology for one of your colleague’s classrooms? Could it be a place to collect a short story in a foreign language? Could it be a place to store a kid’s short poems? Photographs? How do you make the process of teaching someone to Make this part of curriculum, whether in Design or embedded in core (or encore) curriculum? I don’t know yet. But I know that Making it helped me develop a sense of what’s important in a MakerSpace, and how to use paper as one of the key materials to teach important skills for Making generally.