Tools determine Output

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Here’s a popular dessert in our house. It’s frozen cherries (but sometimes mango or peaches or berries) mixed with a little extract — usually vanilla but sometimes almond or hazelnut — and then blended with a mix of milk and half&half (or heavy cream) until smooth. Ish.

It’s not ice cream but it tastes like ice cream. It’s not sorbet but it tastes like sorbet. It’s sort of an ice milk, I guess? But it isn’t. What it is, is a dessert. We eat it straight out of the blender instead of letting it “set” in the freezer, because we find the setting process makes it disgusting. You eat this fresh or not at all.  You also eat the variants from time to time, too: peach cream where the peaches have been in the freezer too long; or where there’s not enough milk or too much almond extract. The balance is never exact.

But it’s dependent on the tools. Without the blender or the food processor, without the refrigerator, without the whole apparatus to harvest cherries in season and flash freeze them, without milk or cream, this dessert is impossible. It’s not a dish of Ancient Rome; it’s a dish of modern Americans looking to avoid too much processed sugar in their diets.

A makerspace can have a range of tools of all kinds — but without accurate measuring tools, all projects will be sort of sloppy (With accurate measuring tools, projects may still be sloppy, but that’s the choice of the maker). No sandpaper and no files? Projects wind up looking a little rough.  No paint or stain? Things look a little unfinished, more structural, with more emphasis on materials. No drills, no saws? — projects wind up being made of other things than wood.

Tools determine output. If your MakerSpace is producing projects with a lot of bent nails, you might want to take a look at how many hammers you have, and perhaps invest in some saws or drills.  Or maybe a sewing machine…

Or maybe an ice cream maker.

Little Viking Bags, finished 


I used a lucet today to make three cords for these three Viking bags — appropriate for dice or for runes, or small stones. Lined but unpadded inside. One of the bags is spoken for, but the other two are up for grabs.

The Viking Bag is not a komebukuro.  This is a piece of fabric — the row of marching vikings, with the wave-band and the red and white stripes — sewn in a round around a base fabric, and then given a lining of brown cloth stitched with a drawstring tube.  The new cord, in a persimmon-dyed merino wool is pulled through the tube and finished with a wooden bead (or unfinished, in the other one).

One will go up for sale on my Etsy site next week. Probably the other one as well. Do I hear any bids?


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I had some leftover 11×17 paper from a project, so I folded it up into a number of quires, and then found some papers and cardstock for covers for them.

The result is a trio of handsome sketchbooks, including the one with fishy covers that reminded me of the emblem or personal sigil of my high school friend, the painter Fred Poisson (who does some amazing work!).  The books’ covers are covered with papers from Michael’s DIY, nothing particularly spectacular; the interior of the covers are a heavy cardstock, and the body of the covers is a medium-weight pressed cardboard that provides the book with its substantiality and weight.

The use of waxed black thread provides a nice contrast with the lightness of the covers; but I must admit that it results in some stains on the pages from the process of binding the book.  And, since I don’t have sewing frames (for case-binding a book, which is the traditional method of making hardcovers in the western European style), nor a guillotine cutter, the arrangement of quires and covers is sometimes a little uneven.

The binding of a book is not a particularly difficult process; I’ve documented it before in my writings on the Coptic Stitch, of which these are examples.  In essence one (or in these books’ cases, two) thread is passed backwards and forwards through the quires in a long serpentine or Celtic interweave not unlike a knitted stitch.  The result forms these thick black bands along the spine of the book (not visible in these photos), and eventually emerges as those lines that run perpendicular to the spine on the cover both inside and out.

I have one more of these books ready to bind, in a lovely blue marbled paper cover.  All four are likely to wind up as Christmas presents this year, though I may put one or two up on my Etsy shop for sale.  Are you interested in buying one?

Mostly, though, I think of the making of these journals as an intermittent project, or practice, or a way to use up materials for the larger project, which is producing my own books —  The Book of Splendorwhich explores my own Sun and Moon poetry; the Behenian Stars, the Decans of the Zodiac, and the Mansions of the Moon. Would you buy those, in a format that involved the author hand-binding each copy?  I hope so — I’m planning to do it whether or not anyone buys them.


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what do you do when you have a lot of little scraps of fabric but no real use for a small quilt?

Bags are simple

Make bags.
Small bags — for decks of cards, cribbage boards, magic wands, family heirlooms, game pieces, gift-giving —  are fairly simple. Even with a lining of a contrasting color, they’re not terribly complicated. Most of them are simple straight-stitches on a machine. Point the sewing machine in the right direction, and go. All of the bags here have basically three seams: one for a drawstring or ribbon casing; one for the side of the bag; and one for the bottom. They’re not intended or designed to hold up to a lot of abuse; but they could. Seriously, they’re pretty well-made for being made from scraps. 

But why make them?  For being so general purpose, they’re remarkably hard to use well. Still they teach important sewing lessons: pinning, ironing, making casings for drawstrings, pulling a drawstring, and making linings (in two different ways). They teach fabric selection and color-scheming and cutting and assembly. And they teach turning, too, which is the basis of pillow making as well. 

Once you can make this sort of simple bag, most other sewing is fairly easy. 

31 DoM: Make a Potion


31 DoM: Mead-makingFor today’s program from 31 Days of Magic, I was supposed to focus on a specific color.  Instead I chose to do Day 10, “Make a Potion.”

And what a potion it is.  Fifteen pounds of honey dissolved in about five gallons of water, capped and caged in with some proofed yeast.  In a year, this might actually be drinkable mead: honey-wine of some substantial level of alcohol content.

I got the recipe, and the process, from Caveman Chemistry several years back. Since then I’ve tried it a couple more times, and now I figured it was time to make a large batch, since the previous three have essentially been successful.  I hope this will work again, but it’s not an exact science for me, yet.  At the rate I drink alcohol, even at sacred days, it will take me about five or six years to drink through this.  No bad time to be starting this work; maybe it will even work.

Assuming that it doesn’t turn to vinegar.  When you intend to make vinegar, of course, you let air get at the yeast and the sugar matrix, and you pronounce yourself thrilled with the acetic acid.  When you intended to make alcohol and you get vinegar, you should several angry words, and then pronounce that vinegar was your goal all along to your friends, even while you bemoan the garbage you have created.

There’s a lot of honey in here: fifteen pounds.  The going rate for honey around here, good honey, is 7-8 dollars a pound.  That’s around $115 of core ingredient in this potion.  You had better believe I said my prayers and made my devotions over and around this carboy.  You’d better believe that there’s a sigil on the floor, and a special wash to keep ants and other critters off the bottle.  This is a serious working.

And from a magical perspective, so much of the success of this operation is dependent upon the operation of the unseen.  Without the millions of yeast microbes, without the labor of tens of thousands of honeybees, the potion-making I’m attempting here would be impossible.  There isn’t much I can do besides be patient, be watchful, be prayerful, and hope that it all works out.  The peculiar work of alchemy here is that I am dependent on the interactions between microbial life, oxygen, alcohol, and carbon dioxide for the success of my operation.

The beginning of the making is begun.  Now there’s is little else to do but hope, and wait, for the magic of the unseen ones, to do its work.  My success is utterly in the handless existence of hundreds of millions of others, as they eat and drink and be merry.  And when they are done, I will drink their waste — the alcohol — and celebrate.

Or I’ll have a lot of really good vinegar to give away as presents in ten months or so.  Let this fate be averted.  Instead, may the powers look favorably upon my work, and adorn my labors this day with mead in a year.

There’s something to be said for long-term magics.

31 Days of Magic


I’ve been working with the #StrategicSorcery community (led by Jason Miller) community on and off over the last few years, and I’ve decided that I’m actually going to be doing this project here.


31 Brilliant Ways of rooting your magic in materia

The idea is that on each of the 31 days of January, we’re to do some magical work that uses one of these 31 types of magical work in the illustration at right.  As Kalagni of BlueFlame Magic  points out, the list asks for a lot in terms of technique and skill and development, but doesn’t ask for a lot in the way of cultural or specific spiritual framework.  Essentially, it asks the practitioner to work on putting this specific type of material basis or process to work within their own tradition (which for me is primarily DOGD work at this point, though it contains elements of the work of Rufus Opus).

In any case, new years’ is a good time to join up with the Strategic Sorcery course, and to do the opening work of this practice; but if you’re one of the magically-minded readers of this blog, guess what?  You can do these 31 days of magic without being a member of the Strategic Sorcery community.

And guess what?  If you’re a teacher, attracted to the Maker-y-minded stuff on this blog, you can do the Strategic Sorcery 31 days of magic, too.  Our profession is, too often, considered to be very much stuck in our heads, in our minds.  But perhaps, for these 31 days of January, you can experiment with Making and building things with your hands, and discover what that does in your mind.  On January 1, light a candle and consider what that means.  On January 2, consider the list of things you have to do in the coming year.  On January 3, put on perfume or put olive oil on yourself and declare some specific plans with regard to your work as a Maker and a teacher.  Each day, see how you can incorporate more Making, and more hands-on experience into your life’s work.

It’s worth a try.  Leave me a comment to tell me where to link to; and I’ll be linking back to this post as the 31 days go on.

  1. Candles
  2. Petition Papers
  3. Anoint Self With Oil
  4. Charge an Item of Jewelry
  5. Cord Magic
  6. Charge an item of clothing
  7. Poppet or doll magic
  8. charge a crystal or a stone
  9. Use a single herb or flower (done on January 12)
  10. Brew a potion (done on Jan. 11)
  11. Use a specific color as the focus [done on Jan. 9]
  12. Use a seal (e.g., of Solomon) [done on Jan. 10]
  13. Use an item from an animal
  14. Create a talisman (Jan. 14)
  15. Use a box in a spell (Jan. 15)
  16. Use something combustible (written Jan. 17 — see day 29 below for Jan. 16)
  17. Have a magical bath (Jan. 28)
  18. Create an elemental/servitor (Jan. 18)
  19. Use Tarot/Playing Cards (Jan. 19)
  20. Create a sigil (Jan. 20)
  21. Create a jar spell (Jan. 21)
  22. Sex Magic (Jan. 22)
  23. Lay a powder somewhere (Jan. 23)
  24. Use a mirror in a spell (Jan. 24)
  25. Create a magical incense (Jan. 25)
  26. Chalk a sigil/sign somewhere (Jan. 26)
  27. Use a found object in a spell (Jan. 27)
  28. Create a mojo hand (Jan. 29)
  29. Use some “personal concerns” (written/lost/rewritten Jan. 16)
  30. Cook a magical meal (Jan. 31)
  31. Free Day — choose your own! (Jan. 30)

Autumnal Maker School: Art Exhibit


This fall, I’m running the Autumnal Maker School (AMS). What’s required to be in the school, and to graduate? Make ten things between September 21 and December 21. Preferably useful things, but artistic things work too. I have made a Volvelle, a computer program that calculates the area of a hexagon, a graphic design sample that shows how to make an Egyptian god, a braiding disk, and picture IDs for my school. 

Part of me feels slightly guilty for sharing this as part of my Maker School series. The paintings were produced between August 2014 and October 2015. Most of them were finished only in September and October of this year, as in a couple of weeks ago.

But I also wanted to create an online record of my art show, and give blog-readers a chance to see the images I created for this art show, called Golden Mysteries: Paintings inspired by Traditional Geometry.

There will be a “meet the artist” evening on November 12, 2015, from 5:30 pm to 8:00pm, at Klekolo World Coffee, 181 Court Street, Middletown, CT 06457.  I’ll be there.

Golden Mysteries

It was a lot more complicated to set up an art show than I thought it would be. There was the question of positioning the hooks on the wall, and then writing up the descriptions of each painting, and deciding on a price (I’m thinking the paintings are overpriced, really… even though they’re priced to sell.) And there’s the added challenge that I walk into this coffee house every day, see the paintings, and — I’m dissatisfied.  I’m sure that I could have done better with these paintings than I actually did.

That said,  Click through on the image to see the full 35 pictures on Flickr.

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