How I Play

Warning: this post is absurdly verbose. It’s all me nattering about how I made this book, so if you don’t care, feel free to skip the descriptions and just look at the pictures.

Here’s how I play.

Okay, it’s ONE of the ways I play. Sometimes I feel like everything I do (writing, knitting, things for my Etsy shop) requires so much . . . REVISION. Planning. Testing, trial and error, perfectionism. And I’m fine with that. I like trying to do things right. But sometimes I need to just be sloppy and careless and free-wheeling and just PLAY. I need to just throw things together and see how it all comes out, try new techniques without worrying about screwing up, improvise. For some reason, paper craft is one of the few places I can let myself do that. Maybe because paper feels so ephemeral?

So I make these psuedo books. They have ratty edges. Things aren’t lined up perfectly. And for once I just don’t sweat it. (I’m not saying everything I make is always perfect. But with most things, I really try my damnedest to make it perfect, and if it isn’t perfect, I am not satisfied. Which means I spend a lot of time being not satisfied. Hey, I’m working on it.)

As you can see, this particular “book” is an accordion fold book. Or . . . something like that. It’s all held together with hemp twine. You can also probably see that the whole thing isΒ  a sort of tribute to Oak trees. I put little tidbits of folklore and magic, along with a bit of Yeats’ “The Two Trees”.

You’ll see as this post progresses that I also did a lot of pointing out the obvious in this little book. Yep, that’s an acorn, well done! But there’s a reason for this. While I was making it, the tactile nature, the pockets and envelopes all reminded me of this book I had when I was little. It was a fabric book, made for very small children, with bright colors and block letters and lots of different textures. There were things to snap and unsnap, zip and unzip. There were little pockets. And for some reason, even as I got older, I found this little book inexplicably comforting to handle. Very early on in the process of making my little oak book, I realized that it evokes a similar emotional response in me. So I went for the child’s book feel; this is an acorn, this is an oak twig, this is an oak leaf. This is how I learn about using herbs too. First, meet the plant. This is its leaf, its flower, its root, its seed. This is what each part can do. This is how it smells and tastes and feels in my hand. What can I say? The basic process of learning hasn’t changed much for me since I was about four.

I can’t draw. I really, really wish I could, but I can’t. So that little guy in the funny cap is a bit of art by Brian Froud that I clipped out of some magazine or other. I am in complete awe of his work, as most of you already know. BUT, I am rather proud of the green man mask. I made it myself! (Martha, you can laugh at me now. It’s okay.) I traced leaves on paper, then I used the leaves like stamps to make the veins and smudges. Then I cut out eyes. You see how very precise they are (*snort*). My inability to draw extends to an inability to make uniform shapes. But a little brown eyeliner fixed him right up, I think.Β  The pretty leaf up in the corner was a rubber stamp. The little twig with buds is from a picture I took. I manipulated it in iPhoto, printed it, and cut out the twig shape. And those little snippets of handmade paper? Yeah, I made those from paper scraps and torn wrapping tissue and the edges of sewing patterns and bits of herbs from my garden. They are remnants of sheets of handmade paper I made a few years ago for some other projects. I saved all the bits.

Here’s more of my handmade paper scraps–some from my own paper making, and some scraps from some that I bought. In addition to my handmade paper snippets, I used parts of a paper grocery bag that tore in transit and couldn’t be reused as a bag anymore. All the sort of pale sagey green paper is also leftovers from a project I did a few years ago–actually it’s from a project that I MESSED UP a few years ago. There are random things printed on the other sides of the paper. The envelopes came from a box of things I got at Goodwill. The foundation pages, to which everything is glued and taped and sewn, came from a day planner I used several years ago. And that flower pattern paper came off the back of a publisher catalog from my office employee days. Yes, I hoard paper, and turn it into “art” projects. That makes this a highly eco-friendly creation.

Here is where I start to get ridiculously squealy excited. Open up the envelope, and there’s MORE inside! Some folk magic; a protective cross made of twigs, and lore about the protective qualities of the oak tree.

But wait, there’s more! Sorry, couldn’t help it. More words and handmade paper (and paper bag remnants) on the other side of the little insert card.

The handmade paper on the bottom of the left sheet? That is all garlic peels. It was very fragrant when I made it! But it looks really awesome (and now that it’s dry it doesn’t smell of garlic anymore). The wire leaf with beads I did NOT make myself. I bought it somewhere ages ago. BUT, I did make the flat copper leaf at the bottom of the envelope.

See how the copper is all rainbowy? That’s from me setting it on fire. Okay, not really. I just held it with a pair of pliers over the flame from a match, then rubbed off the thin layer of soot. I had no idea if it would work; you should have heard the girlie noises I made when it did. And the leaf in the pocket is made from more of my hand made paper, and held to some more card stock scraps with bits of copper wire that was left behind by electricians when a friend of mine had some wiring work done in her house. I might also collect bits of wire and shiny things, as well as paper.

Another envelope. Are you excited? I’m excited.

Here’s what’s inside! More magic! And I got carried away with the rubber stamp. The other side:

I mentioned it was messy yeah? So last of all, I just wanted to zoom in on a few cool details, mostly because I liked how the pictures turned out.

Worthy of a magazine spread, totally. *snort*

So, writer and artist friends–do you play? And if you do, how do you play? If you don’t, I recommend you find some way to do it–you know it’s important to feed your creativity with fun and games.


18 thoughts on “How I Play

    1. Aimee, you could always make something similar with felt and heavier string, and have them find objects to attach to it. It would be sturdier! And then you could do a more fragile paper one when they’re older.

  1. I really felt your excitiment there, I love to do clunky stuff, but im guessing my patience would have run out before the end of that book, so hats off to you.
    I have been collecting feathers all summer, just really normal looking ones as we do not have birds with colourful pummage here in kent……….I am looking forward to playing with them all the same.

    1. Lynne, this book slowly evolved over the course of a couple of years. It wasn’t all done in one go–it sat in a box, neglected, for months at a time! Part of what keeps it a form of play is that I only work on it if I feel like it. πŸ™‚

    2. OH AND, I meant to say, I love the plain little birds and the little brown and black feathers the best! Will you post pics when you have created something with them?

  2. Thank you everyone, you guys are fab! Also, OMG I would LOVE to have a playdate with the ENTIRE goatposse. I think my dining room table is big enough to accommodate all of us . . .

  3. Michelle,

    You are about the most delightful creature I’ve ever met. If I could package you up and take you out…oh wait, I can. Your blog makes my day. Someday I’m going to introduce you to my little sister. You two would play for hours, weeks, months on end.


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