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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #51: Origami


I am not an Origami expert. By any stretch of the imagination.

But I like trying new creative techniques and today I am wearing the origami creations I made this week.

When I was about ten years old, a young woman from Japan stayed with us for a weekend during her first trip to America. Her name was Miyuki and she brought us some origami paper to fold into stunning three-dimensional shapes.

Unfortunately, I made folded two-dimensional shapes that looked like notes you’d pass in class. They weren’t stunning. But they were colorful.

Over the years I may have tried origami once or twice more but it’s safe to say that my skills are no more advanced than when I was ten. I do love seeing the brightly colored squares of Origami paper in my local craft stores. Some have patterns or are metallic. They beckon but I’ve resisted. I wonder if that’s because origami involves following a precise recipe with specific rules, and I like making up my own art techniques as I go.
 
But I decided to give it a try this week. This morning I hot glued my creations to some felt and made a necklace and head piece to wear as accessories. Here’s how it all turned out: 
 
 



The timing of my origami accessories is not coincidental. Last night we came back from six days in the Midwest, visiting relatives. I wanted to make something to wear today and I decided that I'd create something that was lightweight and easy to transport. I also wanted to work on a theme that didn't require electricity, as I planned to do some of my creating while on an airplane. Origami fit the bill nicely, as it's lightweight, small, and can be done on an airplane without a hot glue gun (unlike many of my creations). The upside to doing origami for three hours while on an airplane is that it distracts you from looking at the time every fifteen minutes to see how much longer you’ll be stuck on the plane. The downside is that if you are seated on the aisle (as I was), you have to pick up all your papers and stand up every time someone needs the bathroom. Still, I managed to make a couple dozen creations and it did pass the time.


The paper instructions from the package were not very helpful but there is a great resource called the Internet, which had lots of tutorials for origami. I ran into the dilemma of whether to use  folding techniques only, which is what origami purists would favor, or whether I'd choose to fold and also to cut the paper. I ended up doing a mix of the two techniques. Paper crafts using cutting and gluing are called kirigami (whereas origami is folding only) but I decided to mix and match and not stress out over the whole thing. 


Origami has its origins in Japanese culture dating back to the Edo period (1603-1867). I love that the basic technique hasn't changed in four hundred years. Folding paper to create something playful or beautiful is such a nice concept, and I like that it doesn't require technology or electricity. Believe me, I love technology and electricity! Especially together. But it's refreshing to use neither one to create something with your hands.


If you've ever held a piece of origami paper, you know that this paper is lightweight. This means that it is easier to fold than heavy weight paper is. Therefore it also holds the crisp folds better than a thicker paper would. Having a crisp fold contributes to the overall effect of whatever you are making. The shape is more defined and the individual parts all work better together if you've made good creases in your paper.

 

The shapes I made include cat face, fox, butterflies (I did lots since they are easy), hearts, box, leaves, flowers and jets. The hardest shape I made was the crane. It took longer than the other shapes and even watching the technique on YouTube confused me. But I associate origami with cranes and I was determined to finish one. Here is my lavender crane:





Cranes symbolize love in Japanese culture. They mate for life and are considered a lucky symbol in Japanese wedding ceremonies. Some brides (and grooms) make 1,000 origami cranes before their wedding, a tradition believed to bestow longevity on a marriage. It can take a beginning origami crafter 100 hours to make 1,000 cranes, so bridal couples intent on following this tradition start working on their cranes months ahead of time. (Given my very slow pace at making a crane, I can confirm that it could easily take six minutes to make one crane, or ten per hour, so 100 hours for 1,000 cranes is not an exaggeration. Sure, you'd get better and faster with practice, but this definitely could take a while...)


The paper I used for this project came in many bright colors. I didn't buy a package with metallic prints or other patterns on the paper, but these are beautiful, too. Given how much I love color, this project has been fun for me. It's also been challenging. It still amazes me how many three-dimensional things you can make out of a flat piece of paper. I'm always interested in new creative techniques. It's a good challenge and it's also good gymnastics for the brain. Like cross word puzzles and all the other activities that are supposed to keep our minds nimble.


Today I told someone about spending several hours on a plane last night, making origami. I joked that my body feels like origami today—all my joints feel tightly folded. I was on two airplanes yesterday, and sitting still for that long will make your joints feel stiff. I’m not thrilled to feel tired and inflexible today, but it does feel fitting that my paper and my body both did origami together! 


It is unlikely that my new (basic) origami skills will lead to my making a scale model of the White House from origami paper. Or a life-sized peacock from a single sheet of paper. But I’m proud of my crane, the trickiest thing I made this week, and I had fun making all the figures.


Now my crane and butterflies and I are going to fly off to bring color and maybe a little luck to all those we see...




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #50—Easter Eggs


Easter is this Sunday and today I am a walking, talking Easter egg hunt.

Kids all over the world will search for Easter eggs in a few days and since I’m a kid at heart I may join in the hunt!
 


 

It gave me a boost to create this costume because spring colors, like these Easter eggs, are so cheerful: full of life and color. Spring is a season of new life and the spring colors are pure joy, from dyed eggs to blooming flowers in all shades of the rainbow. Color is an instant mood boost and this costume put me in a great mood.

The lime green fabric I used for dress and grass is the same fabric my adorable neighbor gave me last month, which became my green eggs and ham hat three weeks ago. (If you thought it looked familiar you were not imagining things…) The Easter eggs are ones I’ve had for years, ones we use each year during egg hunts, then stash back in the garage until the following spring. I made a few colorful eggs out of felt because the back of my dress needed eggs too, but I decided that sitting on breakable plastic eggs would not contribute to my happy vibe.
 
This outfit was made mostly from things I already had: chicken wire for my hat’s structure, felt and plastic Easter eggs. The dress fabric was given to me, as were the beads for my sunglasses (I thought the beads looked a little like Easter eggs). I did buy a few more Easter eggs and some hot glue sticks, but the total cost to make this was $5. A lot of people seemed to like this costume and I’d say it was worth every penny to share some cheer with my community.
 
As I think about Easter eggs, I remember egg hunts I went to as a child. Believe it or not, I was a very shy kid when I was young. I got over that when I hit double digits but I remember the egg hunts I attended in my single digit years. I wasn’t an aggressive kid who raced for the eggs with the killer instinct of a hard core competitor. This meant that I ended up with very few eggs! It’s okay. My aunts and grandparents made sure I had tons of Easter treats. But it’s funny to remember how cautious my egg-hunting approach was. Hunting for eggs is a fun activity and it makes me happy just to see brightly-colored plastic eggs. These eggs haven’t changed at all since the 80s, when I was a kid, and they instantly transport me back to other egg hunts, and the magic of discovering something hidden in the grass. It’s pure happiness.

Today’s costume is all about the fun of wearing Easter eggs, but I do have other another funny (related) story to share, if anyone’s interested. A few years ago I blogged about my brief experience as a mall Easter Bunny when I was in my twenties. If you need a laugh (and yes, of course you do), here’s the post I wrote four Easters ago about bunny-hood:

Whatever you’re celebrating this season, have a happy spring. May it bring lots of color to your world, fun surprises to your day, and new life to your soul…


 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #49—Straws

This week the creative challenge I dreamed up was to make a dress from drinking straws. White or clear straws? Too boring. Brightly colored straws, please. I estimate that I used at least 200 straws and the whole outfit came together for $5 ($3 for straws and $2 for hot glue sticks, plus fabric I already had in my sewing stash).
 

There is no symbolism intended in this costume. No agenda. No hidden cause. Just the fun of wearing something that isn’t usually seen on clothes.

When your shadow is pointy you know your costume has texture…
 

 
 


In progress…



The back has straws except for the lower half, which has pipe cleaners—wouldn’t you rather sit on pipe cleaners than straws? Me, too.





One fun feature of straws is that they have a bendable neck. This makes drinking easier and it also makes my wacky straws dress even wackier because seeing hundreds of bendy straws going in lots of directions—hey, that’s just delightful. One girl I saw today described it as a rainbow cactus, a description I thought was terrific.

I look like a package of straws and a porcupine had a baby. (And I’m fine with that.)

Adding some bendy straws to my sunglasses seemed like a good touch, so I did…



Bendable straws are quite common—to the point that when I get a drink somewhere and I’m given the straight straws that don’t bend, it’s a little surprising. (Maybe they’re cheaper to manufacture so some places buy them, figuring it won’t kill us to use a straight straw.) When I get a non-bendy straw I think, “Hmmm. This is less convenient. I like conveniences. Do they also want us to go back to other old-fashioned customs like rubbing sticks together for fire and driving cars as Fred Flintstone did, feet to ground?” (I shouldn’t speak for everyone, of course, but I think it’s human nature to adjust to changes that make our lives easier and then to feel a little annoyed when we’re expected to do things the old (more tedious) way.) There are bigger problems out there, but still…

Bendy straws actually have been around longer than I’d realized. It was in 1937 that Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw (aka the “articulated straw”). And straight straws have a much longer history than I’d ever thought. Who would have guessed that straws date back to 3,000 B.C.E., when the Sumerians used them? The oldest straw found was a gold tube inlaid with lapis lazuli, found in a Sumerian tomb. Next to it was a solid gold Big Gulp cup. Just kidding. Maybe.

Anyway, back to my costume. Unlike some of my creations, this costume is very lightweight, which is always a bonus. I also liked that the straws move in the breeze like a kinetic sculpture.

And while we’re on the subject of moving straws, a happy memory came back to me yesterday while I was putting finishing touches on this costume and post. I remembered a funny moment from the tv show Alice, which I watched as a child in the 80s. (You remember it? It deserves its own post, so I’ll add that to my list of future blog posts.) The show was set in Mel’s Diner and was about a waitress named Alice, her two waitress friends and Mel, the grouchy cook. There’s a moment when scatterbrained Vera attempts to open a big box of straws and hundreds of straws fly in all directions. Below is a photo of Vera opening the straws. It's a screen shot so it's not very clear but it gives you an idea of the moment. I’m including a two-second video clip below.



This moment makes me laugh every time I see it.  Although I hadn’t channeled that moment consciously, I love that my dress has an explosion of straws on it, just like Vera’s straws.




I’ve said it before in Sarah’s blog land: art needn’t be something fancy, tucked behind velvet ropes and available only in museums. Art is all around us. Sometimes it’s made of everyday materials and a fun idea. It’s not always serious. Sometimes it makes you laugh.


I hope you’ve found my latest creation fun. This week’s costume is not meant to be symbolic or deep. It’s just about trying something new. Just because. 

 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #48—Pennies

 
The penny: often taken for granted. In America today a penny is not worth what it once was. Why else would people throw them onto the ground? But I say the penny is worth celebrating and that’s what I’m doing today. I see pennies as pretty, with their copper shine. And if you put a lot of them together, you’ll get a lot of shimmer. I’ve called myself pennywise, and today I’m wearing my penny passion for all the world to see.
 
 
When a lot of pennies gather for a meeting of metal, they get fairly heavy. Today I’m wearing two pounds of pennies. My capelet has roughly 350 pennies on it. Did you know that it takes 181.4 pennies to equal one pound?
 
 
Pennies may be easily dismissed. Their monetary value pales in comparison to their silvery cousins and green dollar bills. The penny gets no respect! (Except from me.) But it has such beautiful color. It deserves some love.
 
My dress is made of fabric I already had (thrifted), with an overlay of shimmery copper-colored fabric (on sale!). I’m using real pennies on my capelet. For my head ornament, I painted some cardboard to create an oversized penny.




 
 


For this costume I bought $5 worth of pennies at the bank. I didn’t use all of them. Some I had to clean, as these pennies had seen a lot of life over the years. They looked like they’d been through wars. Others were only a year old and they looked too new—like they hadn’t lived at all. (I am very picky—it’s true…) I ended up using a mix of new and older pennies.

When people asked what I was dressed as I told them I’d declared it Penny Appreciation Day. Two people said I looked like Cleopatra, one person said a gladiator and my friend Andrea started calling me Penny Marshall. I’m okay with people having different interpretations of my costumes. Art gets people talking, which is part of why I love it.

This idea probably has its roots several years in the past, when I used pennies in an art piece. I loved their shimmer, and I liked highlighting the beauty of a material that is considered to be of very low value. Irony! Contrast!

Why is it considered bad to be a penny-pincher, but considered good to be pennywise?

You know the phrase “Penny for your thoughts?” (I almost used that for the name of this post.) It may need some updating, to keep up with inflation. Of course, here in my blog land, my thoughts are free

Here’s something to consider: even though the penny is dismissed by some people as almost worthless, there are many sayings that refer to pennies, which is not true of more valuable coins. I like this one:


A penny is a lot of money if you have not got a penny.
                                                         -Yiddish Proverb
 
 
I don’t know if pennies bring luck, as the saying goes, but at the very least it’s fun to use unexpected materials in a costume.

Here are a few fun facts about pennies:

 
Did you know that since 1982 pennies have been made of 97.5 % zinc and 2.5 % copper? They are copper-plated zinc. (Just in case you’re playing Trivial Pursuit and you get this question.)  

Pennies did not show Abraham Lincoln’s profile prior to 1909. In 1909 Lincoln Pennies were introduced in honor of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

From 1909-1958 the reverse side of pennies had the Wheat Cent design, and “one cent” embossed on them.

From 1959-2008 the reverse side of pennies featured the Lincoln Memorial.

In 2009, to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, the reverse side of pennies were embossed with four different designs.

In 2010 a new design was featured on the reverse side of pennies: the Lincoln Shield.

The oldest penny I came across while making this costume was from 1950. Below are a couple of photos I took of pennies from different years. I thought it was interesting to see how a penny from 2012 looked noticeably worn, compared to the 2015 penny:


 
 
 
If you’ll excuse me, I need to take off this weighty capelet. I suppose I can legitimately call myself a heavy metal artist now! It’s been a shiny day for me, but I’m ready to put my feet up for a minute before I start work on something fun for next Wednesday…
 
 
 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #47—Dr. Seuss

 
 
This is a poem I created in the style of Dr. Seuss, in honor of his birthday today…
 
 
Did you know, did you hear
What is special today?
Let’s shout it out loud:
It’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

 
Today he would be
One hundred and twelve.
I’ll go get the candles
Off of the shelf.
 
Dr. Seuss lived
To be eighty-seven.
I think he’s now drawing
And painting in Heaven.
 
Oh, such joy
Oh, what fun
All his books
bring to everyone.
 
Did you know that he wrote
More than sixty books--
In twenty languages?
The whole world is hooked.
 
How we love
All his rhymes
As we read
At bed time.
 
Funny words
And colors bright.
I read them all day.
I read them all night.
 
Dr. Seuss,
Your books bring such joy
To women and men,
And girls and boys.
To cats and bats
And rats and gnats
And rats in hats
And bats on mats.
 
You made us laugh
So many times.
Such delightful words.
Such fun-filled rhymes.
 
What can we offer
To thank you so much
For sharing your humor
with all of us?
A sculpture?
A song?
A note
That is five miles long?
 
Thanks for
Making the ham green--
As well as the eggs--
They’re the greenest I’ve seen.
 
From all of us readers
From near and from far
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss,
You raised the bar.
__________________________________
 
 
I was going to post only the poem and not do a big back story about this costume.
But that just isn’t me. For me, the back story is part of the fun. So:
 
This costume idea came to me months ago when I discovered that Dr. Seuss’ birthday was going to fall on a Wednesday this year. Dr. Seuss is delightful, no matter where you live. But I live in San Diego, where Dr. Seuss spent the second half of his life, so we have a lot of enthusiasm for him here.
 
A few weeks ago my adorable neighbor gave me yards of lime green polyester pant suit material. She once sewed her own clothes and has given me fabric and patterns she’s had since the 60s and 70s because she isn’t likely to use these things anymore. I’d just realized that I didn’t have a lime green polyester pant suit, so her timing was perfect. Just kidding. I prefer dresses. So what should I do with this material? Soon I realized that the Kermit the Frog color of this fabric was the exact shade I needed for my green eggs and ham piece of today’s costume. Solution found. Here is a 24-second video of me. I’m putting the pieces of my hat together: 
 

 
 
 
 
 

This is a photo of a tree a few miles from here in La Jolla. Years ago, before I knew that Dr. Seuss once lived in San Diego, I saw these cartoon-like trees:

photo credit: Jason Zite

At some point I realized that these very trees were ones that Dr. Seuss (who lived in that neighborhood) probably used as inspiration for truffula trees he drew in books like The Lorax:



This is the fabric I used to make my skirt. Happy clothes make happy people!







Dr. Seuss’ drawing style and color choices are bright and full of life—and not limited to the colors you usually see in nature. I love that he made up words and names and embraced silliness. That appealed to me as a child and it appeals to me as an adult. As I often say, adults need laughs, too.

As an artist I’m in awe of Dr. Seuss’ imagination. The ideas kept flowing and he wrote book after book, full of strange creatures and made-up places and a few life lessons, too. Could he have guessed how much his characters would mean to kids and grownups alike?

 

Dr. Seuss, happy birthday

From all of us fans.

Thanks a lot for the books.

You make our hearts dance!

 




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