Category Archives: Green stuuf

Bean Bag Book

Bean bag book

Recently I spent a day traveling. By mid-day I had eaten nothing but the  17 peanuts that the airline offered me, so during a 3 hour layover I set out to find something resembling actual food and ended up with a pretty darn good food court Mexican lunch of a tasty bean and chicken burrito and some reasonably  good chips and salsa.

Detail of bean bag book

Detail of bean bag book

Bean bag book detail

Bean bag book back0001

As I was about to crumple up and toss the paper bag in which my lunch had been served, I saw the polite admonition on the bag to recycle, and instead tucked it between the pages of The Interestings, my travel book of choice that day.

Back at home yesterday I pulled the brown bag from my carry-on and started piddling with it, and by afternoon I had turned the take-out bag into a spur -of- the-moment  journal. I added only odds and ends already in my stash: some blank brown kraft paper pages, a bamboo chopstick, some black rubber bands, a date stamp just for fun, and some color accents from an old gouache paint set of my dad’s.

I’m giving a book-making class a month or so from now. While this one wasn’t completely perfect, I may use it as an example of how to create a nifty little book out of just a few odds and ends.



That thing that I made you that you don’t know what it is–I don’t know what it is either, but isn’t it awesome?

About this time last year I bought a gigantic plastic storage container at Goodwill. It was filled to the brim with those wonderful plain wooden building blocks for kids.  The old school kind that last forever. Rectangles, squares, cylinders, arches, and those cool wedge-of-cheese shaped blocks. I stowed them in the way-back of my 14 year old Subaru wagon, and didn’t really think of them again until the fates decided about 6 weeks ago that the Subaru’s time had come (I can’t complain: it hit the 250,000 thousand mile mark in June and had never, but never let me down). But it had to be cleaned out in preparation for moving to its new home, and the blocks came to light again and started nagging at me.

And then I needed a present for someone special.  And this was born:

Inspired by a number of different projects, I pulled together various tools and decorated papers–monoprinted, stamped, brush painted, watercolored and so on.  You can actually get a better look at the kind of things that ended up papering the block in these shots. I quite like the little green bit of paper with the fish and tadpoles on it–it has a wonderful (IIDSSM) 3-D look to it, but I assure you, it’s perfectly flat.

And these–the stamp of the little person in the hat was made for another project, but it makes a credible appearance here, I think.

On this block printed strip, which ended up on the front of the bridge, a recently carved fish stamp and a poem by Issa:

fish frolicking
on foot…

I assembled it all with Golden semigloss gel, let it dry (hurrying it along a bit with a heat gun) then covered the whole with a layer of natural colored encaustic medium.  Then I sat watching Top Gear (British version, of course) while I buffed all the surfaces to a nice low-level gloss, kissed it goodbye, and packed it for shipping to the birthday girl.

It’s called Chrysanthemum bridge, but I  still don’t know what it us. Maybe she will.

Mail art and true confessions

I have a confession to make. This thing that I am about to show you, this thing that I just made?  I did not make it up myself.

As my friend Sandi, channeling Matthew Arnold, reminded me yesterday, “There is nothing new under the sun.” But, still, I really didn’t invent this idea so I want to make it completely clear that I did not just steal it from someone else. Okay, I did, but I admit it and I can’t remember from whom I purloined it.

And I started this blog entry determined to give credit to the blogger at whose site I first encountered it.

Dear reader, I tried. I tried so hard to find She Who Thought of This First.  And if someone can tell me, I will hasten to edit this blog to give credit where it is so very, very due.

In the meantime, however, see what I made this evening?

The better half and I went to a sad small tag sale this morning (one of those where they all but tell you about the gall bladder surgery they’re trying to make possible for their ailing mother and so you must buy something or never be able to look yourself in the mirror again) and I picked up several wonderful things: 3 Pyrex bread pans for $2 for the lot, and two lovely illustrated children’s books for 25 cents* each.

These books were charming and colorful and just ratty and bedraggled enough to enable me to cannibalize them without (too much) guilt.  I always feel terrible deconstructing nice kids’ books (please don’t leave comments yelling at me about this), but–and trust me on this–on purchasing the books I bought this morning I only saved them from a more dire level of recycling, and they weren’t in good enough shape to add to the long shelf of books I’m putting together for the grandchildren I’ll have someday.**

Anyway, I got these books and after a long nice Saturday of chivvying Second Child through a wicked pile of homework, getting First Child to work, finally getting to try out the oil pastels First Child got me for my birthday,*** and going to the movies***** with the Better Half, I turned my attention to them and turned out these two padded mailers in about 9 minutes for the pair of them. Easy peasy.

They are sweet, I must say, but I feel guilty still, not about the books, but about not being able to give proper credit to the craft blogger at whose site I first saw this. If you’re out there, please speak up.

Again, the process is intuitive. If you want to make some, you’ll need:

  • a few pages from illustrated children’s books (or computer scans of same)
  • a bit of bubble wrap (the little bubble kind, not the fat bubble kind) in need of recycling
  • a glue stick
  • a slightly more precisely directable liquid glue product for sealing the side edges

If you can’t figure it out from there on your own, leave me a note and I’ll write a real tutorial. Really.

Oh, and to use these nifty padded envelopes, of course, you’re also going to need a plain white 2 by 4″ sticker for the front so you have a non-illustrated place to write the address of your terribly luck recipient (would you not love to receive something like this in the mail?), and some more glue or double-faced tape to facilitate the secure closure of the envelope.

Second Child is so tickled with these two that I don’t know whether she’ll actually let me send them off in the mail.

*Someone please tell me when and why the little “c with a line through it” symbol for “cents” was deleted from American keyboards? In these uncertain economic times, such a symbol is more and more useful for describing my economic worth.

**In other words, the books I won’t let my kids throw out. I mean, really. Can’t you just hear my someday grandchildren saying, “Oh, Granny! You have Miss Bianca?! The real books and not those hideous theme park driven movies?  And all of the Tom and Pippo books?! Oh, I love coming here so much more than I love going to my other gramma’s house!”  Just saying.

***What I learned today: oil pastels were invented by Pablo Picasso (with Henri Sennelier, from whom he bought his paints and other art supplies) . Oil pastels are difficult. Oil pastels are richly beautiful. Pablo Picasso is spinning in his grave watching me try to draw something of value with my new pastels. In your face, Pablo–I am not beaten yet.

****The Better Half and I–who never, never agree on movies–saw L’heure d’ete (sorry, too tired to go to my character map for the properly accented characters) and both loved it. Go. Go. Go.  Then come home and make padded envelopes from your (otherwise unusable) favorite childhood books.