Binding of love…

The wedding of a dear friend prompted a collaboration with three others in our women’s circle. One took luminous photos of the ranchland that is the literal grounding force for the newlyweds. The second hand painted a complementary layer of floral and textural patterns in rich metallics and natural hues. The third created a unique essential oil for the couple. My role was to create the book and protective sleeve. When I received the painted photographs, already folded in half, I had no idea what I was going to do. I have never made a book before. But I knew I only had one shot at getting the design right, so I decided to create some mock-ups. My experiments (not pictured) turned out to be crucial in finding the right design solution. A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting; Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and might create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting. Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and would likely create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

Watercolor paper was cut to a size a couple inches longer than the paintings, folded in half, and stitched into a traditional codex. The paintings were then glued to the forward edges of pages. I used museum board and metallic scrapbook paper for the cover and stitched the cover to the pages using copper wire. The heart charms represent the bride, groom, and the bride’s two children from a previous marriage.

For the sleeve, I wet felted natural brown and beige alpaca roving, incorporating a small pouch for the essential oil.

I am so happy with the outcome. It is as uniquely beautiful as the couple who received it.

Back to the stars…

There are certain materials that are my comfort zone – my star materials. You’ve seen them here. Felt. Paper. I even own the domain just in case I ever choose to focus and create exclusively with those two materials. I do love them. They are stars that I reference and return to over and over in my creative making.

This geometric star is inspired by traditional Finnish straw ornaments called Himmeli. (The root word “himmel” means sky or heaven in German, Swedish or Norwegian.) The foundation of the Himmeli is the triangle. Tying varying lengths of straws into triangles, and then combining the triangles into 3-dimensional structures, you can create all sorts of beautiful sculptures. Made of tightly rolled magazine paper threaded on silver floral wire, this unique wall decoration is light enough to hang on a pin. I have used it to display tillandsia (air plants) and it even was the star topper to our tree last Christmas.

Look around the internet and you’ll see a variety of traditional Himmeli made from natural straw, and contemporary Himmeli made from metal tubes or colorful, plastic straws. May you find the inspiration you need to create your own.

Handmade Hearts…

As a maker, you would think that I never buy commercial Valentine cards. In a perfect world, I would make all holiday and event gifts, cards, and decor by hand. Now just imagine that. Not happening. I buy things like most everyone else, and for the same reasons. Time, resources, personal tastes, etc. So this year I bought Valentines with cute erasers for my 6yr old to give to her classmates. And then I felt guilty. How many cards are actually saved? What is the real lasting value? I bet all of these end up in the trash or recycle bin. In our home, we have amassed quite a collection of (unused) erasers and pencils from every holiday and birthday. Too much stuff.

So I returned the Valentines and erasers to the store, then sat down with my daughters to create special hand made hearts using supplies we already had at home.

The first is a transparent heart filled with glitter and iridescent paper hearts inscribed with sweet phrases. The plastic for the heart was cut from packaging for a bed linen set. We used a sewing machine to stitch the edge in pink thread, but handstitching would be extra special.

Next, we made a 3D heart ornament using a hot pink paper that we had collected from a recycling bin. Using a paper punch, we cut 14 hearts, folded them in half, and glued them together. We added the ribbon before gluing the final sides.

Finally we cut up an old, dark pink, wool sweater that we first felted by washing and drying hot. Felted wool can be cut without unraveling. We used a sewing machine to stitch around the edge with pink thread, filling the heart with polyester fill that we had saved from an old stuffed animal. “Love” was handstitched onto the heart with cream wool yarn.

I can never assume that these handmade Valentines will be saved or cherished any longer than a storebought one. But I’m OK with that since the resources we used were either on-hand, or upcycled. The real value is the experience of making them and giving them away. That is a lasting, joyful memory.

Origami Coffee Scoop

I recently acquired an unlikely but exceptionally effective Aeropress espresso coffee maker that consists of 3 simple plastic parts. I do still miss the hum of our old Expobar espresso machine that died, but this new set up makes an awesome Americano and has the added advantage of being portable for camping or travel.

The only problem, albeit a small one, was that I needed an efficient way to transfer the coffee grounds from our grinder to the Aeropress. I wanted something reusable, easy to wash and simple to store. The idea for a fused-plastic, folded scoop was born.

I have made things using fused plastic in the past. The process for fusing plastic is very simple, although it can be a challenge these days to find plastic shopping bags. As you can see from the photos, there is only one store I frequent here in my town that still uses plastic bags. I cut off the seams and the handles of 4-5 bags and stack the flattened layers of plastic between two sheets of parchment paper. Using an iron on medium heat setting, press firmly and evenly across the pile of plastic. The plastic will quickly melt and shrink into a solid sheet of plastic. Keep ironing, turning and flipping it occasionally, until the sheet of fused plastic is no longer visibly shrinking. Once the plastic cools, you can trim off any irregular edges.

To make my scoop, I trimmed the plastic sheet into a long rectangle. Then I folded it in half in both directions as well across both diagonals. The open, creased rectangle is laid under the spout of the grinder to catch the grinds. By pinching half of the long rectangle together, a scoop is formed on the other half, making it easy to pour the grinds into the coffee press. The fused plastic is durable, easy to wash, and dry, and fold to store away.

What have you created out of necessity – the mother of invention?

Handmade Holidays…

Winter has officially arrived with the first snowfall of the season. It has been a busy few months here on our new property. Observing the seasonal changes of this high desert landscape has been a favorite activity of mine. At least that is my excuse for not posting about all that I have been making recently. I do want to share it all, but I will spread it out so I don’t flood my otherwise quiet blog with too much noise.

The holiday season means a bevy of creativity in my studio. Decorating the house, organizing and filling the Advent calendar, creating a seasonal card, and making ornaments are just a few of the things on my to-do list.

This year, my card is a 3-dimensional construction – a little house. Photos (credit: Eji Eustaquio) adorn each surface of the house which was created using SketchUpPro. I printed the 3-dimensional box pattern on glossy photo paper, then used spray mount to glue it to heavy cardstock. Assembly involves cutting, folding, and gluing each of the boxes by hand, as well as adding a hanger ribbon. Mini candy canes are hidden inside; revealed by lifting the roof flap.

The ornament this year (shown as a prototype) is made from paper and felt; a small Himmeli gem made from rolled magazine paper, with an origami star above, and a felted wool ball and tassel below. The final version will likely use different colors of magazine paper for the Himmeli gem, and glossy or glittery origami paper for the star.

May you find inspiration for your own handmade holidays this season!

Structure and the heart…

I’ve always considered myself to be spontaneous and flexible; a lover of change and newness. The only habit I’d claim was breaking them.

I have evolved in the last decade. And the change includes a great deal of love and appreciation for habits, structure and routine in my life. They create the mental and physical space within which creativity flourishes. Ironically, although I have been slow to adopt structure in my life, I have always appreciated structure in my making; from architecture and furniture to origami and geometric Himmeli.

Understanding the basic structure of something allows for elaboration and invention. Most Himmeli are based on the aggregation of triangles of different proportions. A 3D diamond gem-like shape is the simplest form. So creating a heart is just a matter of tying together a bunch of triangles – smaller ones on top for the humps, and longer ones for the point. For my Himmeli heart, I made tubes by rolling up old magazine pages, and then tied them together with silver floral wire. The final piece is almost 18 inches tall and is a beautiful adornment for our living room wall. I also made some smaller Himmeli with the leftover paper tubes.

For me, this Himmeli heart has become a symbol for the relationship between structure and creativity; that the spontaneity and flexibility I love and crave are best supported by a structure of routines and habits.

DIY Holidays


Creating handmade cards, ornaments, decor, and gifts for the holidays is an ambitious undertaking every year. I won’t lie. It is much easier to go out and buy everything – where the biggest challenge is just choosing (and maybe being able to afford those choices.)

This year, my holiday making took a back seat to an important project; my first time creating a major presentation as an architect in years. It was difficult to shift gears into a mode as a professional with a deadline and responsibilities to a boss and a client. I spent several days floundering and feeling overwhelmed with the task. Big thanks to my former business partner for talking me off the ledge and reminding me what a concept proposal actually looks like. And more thanks to my family for dealing with my moodiness and my obsessive detail-oriented work ethic as I muscled through and created a successful presentation. It feels good to be working as an architect again.

So here it is, nine days before Christmas. I am usually mailing off cards and gift boxes of ornaments and cookies about now. Instead, I am posting these photos; a willow wreath adorned with felted wood balls, red and silver bells, crystals, and a large silver bow; a Himelli geometric ornament made from rolled metallic origami paper; a holiday card with an origami crane floating in a circle window.

Dear family and friends, I hope to get enough made in time. But just know the thought is there, and the effort is ongoing. Love and happiness to everyone this season.


A cardboard light box…

I have been brainstorming ways to use what I already have to create an interesting display of products from BypPauline for the upcoming ARTist Saturday at Armature. Supplemental lighting is encouraged, so I decided to make my own ambiance floor lamps. Using heavy duty cardboard (yes, I’m still making use of moving boxes) I created a “Golden Section” rectangular light box. Tracing a few glasses of various sizes as templates, I cut a few holes on each side and even across one corner. I’ve never wired a lamp from scratch before, but the plug and inline switch were super easy to install onto the cord using the instructions. The actual lamp holder was more of a challenge to wire because it didn’t come with instructions. But thanks to YouTube, I safely attached the hot and ground wires and turned on my light box with giddy excitement.

Paper polyhedron for an air plant…

Continuing my play with geometry and paper tubes, I created a Himmeli-inspired polyhedron. You can find varieties of Himmeli all over the Internet. Traditionally a Finnish craft, these geometric shapes were made using straw and combined into mobiles to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Contemporary versions are often made using metal tubing or straws. I really like these made from colorful magazine paper tubes. Using floral wire, I tied four three inch paper tubes into a square. Then I threaded wire through one side of the square and into four six inch paper tubes to create a pyramid shape on top. Adding another pyramid below completed the Himmeli shape. This geometric sculpture hangs from the ceiling with string and is adorned with two air plants.