Quilts: finished

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Two quilts finished in three-ish half-days. The top one is the penguins from earlier, the bottom one in pink is the owls quilt.  Both are already spoken for, you can’t buy them.

Really, it’s three quilts but I’m having my doubts about the arrangement of materials for the third quilt. I think I could get the third done if I could get some feedback on whether or not people think it’s a good layout.

Here’s the third quilt. Tentatively, anyway.  I’m worried that the dark blue of the starry swirls doesn’t really match the green or the blue of the top of the quilt; and that the baby-blue trim doesn’t match either.  I suppose I could tie it all together with some thread of the right color… but it still makes me a little nervous.


What do you think? Leave me a comment.

What I Do: Vision Statement #makered

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My friend Stephanie challenged me to write a marketing plan for my business (Watermountain Studios), in sonnets.  I don’t know that I can write a marketing plan in sonnets, but I can write two that qualify as a vision statement, I suppose.

The human hand used to shape all our needs
and make all our wants from creche to casket;
the old factory is now choked with weeds,
and we mock those who can make a basket.
Robots build cars, machines sew our raiment
and the sweat of slaves dapples our plastic toys…
our children sit idle, workshops vacant —
we test to exhaustion both girls and boys.
Yet numbers and letters can still be learned
through artisan’s arts of loom, forge, and press.
By hand and eye’s labor are truth discerned
and concrete order made from abstract mess.
Children learn best when their hands learn to make,
for artistry helps our minds to awake.

To start a MakerSpace right now is hard:
we sold off the shop tools and burned the scrap,
put abstract thought on every student’s card,
and put computers in each student’s lap.
We tested for phonics and random facts,
and jumped for joy at every new reform —
yet abstraction has been a kind of trap
to make a man who thinks instead of acts.
Ask me — I’ll guide you through these thickets,
to where your students thrive with tools in hand
making theater props, posters and tickets,
costumes, the stage — instruments for a band.
When children make, they become more adept
at fixing the world that broke while we slept.

 

Sewing: Tudor Doublet

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I joked on Gordon’s post about divination recently that I’d finally had a weird sync with him, because I was making a “broidered coat of scarlet, blue, and gold.” But I was doing so.  I’d decided, on the advice of several seamstresses and tailors I know, to go ahead with a project that I’d already done and didn’t like.  That project didn’t turn out well, but my friend Jen commented that muslin was the wrong kind of fabric for this project, and that I hadn’t put in a lining, and those were probably the reasons that it didn’t hang right.  She’s probably not wrong. More

31DoM: Create a Sigil

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Today in the 31 Days of Magic project, I’m supposed to create a sigil.  This project was launched by someone in the Strategic Sorcery community around Jason Miller; if you’ve enjoyed it, and want more depth — you might consider signing up for his class before the end of January.

That said.  I think that the purpose of today’s activity was to make a sigil.  Now: a sigil is usually an interesting squiggle, a non-random arrangement of lines and angles and emblems that forms a piece of information.  Gordon has written about sigils extensively, and I’ve done some work with them myself. So has my mother, though she’d deny it, perhaps.  They’re powerful bits of work, if you have the patience for them, and can shift your thinking enough for them to work. I recommend the robofish and shoaling as part of the complete package.

Enough with the link spam.  If you wanted to read about sigils, there’s plenty out there.  I have a magical project underway; I launched a servitor to do my bidding earlier this month.  But if it’s going to be successful, it needs some more characters besides the one magician who’s been introduced already.

Back to squiggles.  The notion is that each line or element in a sigil has some deep meaning, some verbal or imaginal component that can be reflected outward at the world.  Some people use the Spare method, developed by Austin Osman Spare, which converts sentences into glyphs. Some use runes.  The group of which I’m a member, the DOGD, uses the Coelbren alphabet and the figures of geomancy.

Squiggles.  The term suggests an un-disciplined approach to making marks on a page. But there’s nothing undisciplined about drawing.  In fact, the only people who consistently say that drawing is easy are the ones who say it should be free.  I know that after six years, I have not developed my skills enough that I can draw realistically.

But comic stories, visual storytelling, graphic novels, don’t require realistic drawings. They require drawings that tell stories, that communicate meaning by line placement. And it’s no wonder, really, that Mr. Charles Shultz, of Peanuts fame, could draw any of his characters, from memory, at almost any scale.  So could Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes.  It’s a critical skill, those repetitive squiggle drawings that mean something and that carry an entire personality or identity within them.  The magician, or perhaps I should say the comic book writer, Grant Morrison, knows this well.  His characters are distinctive, realistic, powerful, personal, magical, recognizable.

So I spent some time working on characters for Dabbling this evening.  I’ve completed a number of strips for the comic, but I’m not happy with all of them.  Some of them fall flat, and some require too much detail for the story I’m trying to create, and the practice work I’m trying to do.  But many great stories aren’t driven by the lone narrator alone in his (graphic novel) cell. Rather, they’re driven by the interaction of characters.

31 DoM: sigilsHere’s the magician himself, Roger, looking a bit more dapper, and a little older, and perhaps a little meaner, than I intended. He’s got a man-bun, just like me. Maybe a little sensitive about that growing bald spot, hmm?  Sometimes wears a tie, sometimes doesn’t. Touchy clothes, off-kilter glasses. DOesn’t seem like the sort of person who could summon an archangel, perhaps.  But he knows his stuff when he puts his mind to it.  I’d like to think he’s a magician’s magician. But it occurs to me that maybe he knows his magic, but maybe not other humans. He could get a lot accomplished, though.  Or lose everything.

31 DoM: sigilsHere’s Jim, the carpenter. Jim is a bit heavier-built, a bit more thick in the arms, a bit more thick in the head, perhaps. Or maybe not?  The eyes in the full-body image convey a weariness, a slowness.  But maybe that’s just because he can carry a 4×4 beam one-handed.  He’s sort of a circle on top of a box — heaven surmounting earth, perhaps?  It’s important to remember that figures are just geometry.  His eyes in the facial portrait look a little brighter, a little more intelligent, a little more frat-boy and a little less heavy-lifting blue-collar guy.

31 DoM: sigilsLaura, the Librarian. A long narrow body, a tendency to skirts that are somewhere between the knee and the floor.  Long hair, a weird set of teeth in her hairline — I’m not sure why those came about, but they did.  Cardigans and shawl collars, button-down shirt underneath.  Not sure about the coloration of this character yet — does she favor bright or muted hues? Could go either way.  Do you have an opinion about this?  What do you think of her?  Of the other characters so far?

31 DoM: sigils And finally, Miss Wanda. She is still changing shape, I see. She’s not clear yet about whether she wants short, efficient hair or big 1980s hair. I’m sure she’ll let me know.  One of her side-faces is rather sweet and positive.  Her full-on face makes her look like the wife of a Televangelist.  And her last image makes her look like a furious opera singer.

I created six more sigils this evening. That’s a total of ten. Ten characters, ten signs, ten quick-sketch images for the figures of power and transformation that I want to introduce into my story arcs for Dabbling.  Each of them is recognizable, easily created, distinguishable one from another, and with relationships one to another that are already becoming clearer before I’ve even created stories for them, completely.

And maybe they’ll bring me what I want, which is a way of teaching my students how to create characters of their own. Maybe they’ll show you that your drawing talents are something to cultivate, as well.

But it wouldn’t be magic, of course, if there weren’t some hidden meanings.  So after I post this, I’m going back to my notes, and writing some ideas about how each of these characters carry my magical energy into the world.  And when these characters appear in my stories, they’ll be asking the world for something, even when that message is hidden.  And they will do so with their own personalities, their own way of appealing to the universe, and their own kind of thankfulness about their work in the world.

Creativity within Rules

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Centrifugal Force toy
Originally uploaded by anselm23

There’s a book in the how-to section of the Design Lab called Making Things Move which contains a whole series of electronics and robotics exercises. And there’s also this other book with lots of electronics exercises called Vacuum Bazookas, which I’ve been experimenting with.

But something that Bill said at the Eli Whitney Museum during my last visit has really triggered me. He said he was using these books as inspiration. Batteries were really expensive, of course, as were electric motors and wire, and soldering opened up all sorts of cans of worms — especially in a risk-averse culture common among parents today. And electronics is a whole set of skills which I don’t yet have (So I dumped most of that problem, in the form of the Make: Electronics book, onto my science-teaching colleagues.)

Yet, as Bill helped me to understand, most of the machines discussed in these books can be built or at least approximated using other methods that don’t involve electrical systems at all — wooden dowels and rubber bands and ribbon and cloth, instead of metal and plastic parts and elaborate gearing systems. (There’s also Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is awesome for teaching some kinds of mathematics, but also will so grossly upset the culture of my school, I’m reluctant to really use it or push it).

So I’ve been trying that, in part to experiment with Andrew Carle’s point about “breadcrumbs” all over the school — you have to leave things lying around your school that encourage students to come to the Design Lab or Maker Space or Collaboratory or what-have-you… that make them understand that there are mysterious forces at work in the Universe, and that certain kinds of toys celebrate and help unfold that mystery. More

Creativity within Rules

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Centrifugal Force toy
Originally uploaded by anselm23

There’s a book in the how-to section of the Design Lab called Making Things Move which contains a whole series of electronics and robotics exercises. And there’s also this other book with lots of electronics exercises called Vacuum Bazookas, which I’ve been experimenting with.

But something that Bill said at the Eli Whitney Museum during my last visit has really triggered me. He said he was using these books as inspiration. Batteries were really expensive, of course, as were electric motors and wire, and soldering opened up all sorts of cans of worms — especially in a risk-averse culture common among parents today. And electronics is a whole set of skills which I don’t yet have (So I dumped most of that problem, in the form of the Make: Electronics book, onto my science-teaching colleagues.)

Yet, as Bill helped me to understand, most of the machines discussed in these books can be built or at least approximated using other methods that don’t involve electrical systems at all — wooden dowels and rubber bands and ribbon and cloth, instead of metal and plastic parts and elaborate gearing systems. (There’s also Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is awesome for teaching some kinds of mathematics, but also will so grossly upset the culture of my school, I’m reluctant to really use it or push it).

So I’ve been trying that, in part to experiment with Andrew Carle’s point about “breadcrumbs” all over the school — you have to leave things lying around your school that encourage students to come to the Design Lab or Maker Space or Collaboratory or what-have-you… that make them understand that there are mysterious forces at work in the Universe, and that certain kinds of toys celebrate and help unfold that mystery.

More