Friday, January 27, 2012

Week 4: In the Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year! This past Monday, January 23rd, 2012, was the first day of the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. In Chinese astrology, dating back thousands of years, the dragon symbolizes heaven, luck, and power. Those born in the year of the dragon (1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952,  1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012) are thought to be creative, ambitious, and successful extraverts. Chinese astrology is complicated as well as fascinating, so rather than misquote the information, I urge you to read more about it on your own. If you missed celebrating Chinese New Year on January 23rd, you can follow the Chinese tradition of celebrating until the Lantern Festival, which occurs every year 15 days after Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, I'm celebrating by eating lots of dumplings and tangerines, which according to folklore, will build up my stash of good luck and prosperity!

For this week's Book of the Week I was inspired to make a dragon book, titled In the Year of the Dragon. The scale pages are a string of origami "stars" made of pastepaper lined with suminagashi on kozo, the scary mouth is a folded "devil's pocketbook" of marbled paper lined with suminagashi  on kozo, the legs are accordion-folded marbled paper lined with natural dyed kozo, the tail is a strip of serrated pastepaper, the eyes are spiral-cut circles of pastepaper, and the fiery breath is two strips of marbled paper lined with natural dyed kozo. All along the breath, the tail, the scales, and the legs I wrote fortunes, facts, and folklore about the wonderful Year of the Dragon. Below are some photos of the book, In the Year of the Dragon, taken at NC State University's Ralston Arboretum.
                                    Dragon in a Tree
                                      Dragon in a fiery bush

                                             Dragon in the Dragon Bush

My friend mentioned these pictures reminded her of certain gnome photography... oh dear...

Have a Happy Chinese New Year and may your year be filled with good luck and happiness!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3: Ages of Japan

Two things... The scroll book Ages of Japan and healing energy. I spent last week working on the sample book for this week's Bento Box of Books class. Its the scroll, one of the oldest book forms in existence. Egyptian antiquities as well as the ancient Chinese have examples of the scroll that date to the 3rd century BC and before. The Japanese got it from the Chinese.. rather late in the game... maybe 12th century AD. The oldest Japanese book (in existence) is a scroll... The Tale of the Genji written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu between 1120-1140AD. It's all written (very small!) on my scroll, Ages of Japan... my book for Week 3.

The scroll is made of strips of kozo with suminagashi background which are glued end-to-end for over 6 feet then glued to a small handprinted Japanese paper wrapper with satin ribbon. The strip is glued to and wrapped around a shortened round wooden chopstick. The ends of the chopstick dowel are paper beads. Once I finished marking the Japanese cultural timeline from the present back to 10,500BC in 1-inch/100 year increments, I was afraid the thing would resemble a roll of toilet paper rather than a lovely scroll. But, it didn't, thank goodness, and is quite sweet.

Now about the healing energy... I attended my first qigong workshop this weekend. Titled, The Healing Energy of Qigong, it was led by Kert Peterson of Eastside Qigong in Burnsville, NC. We practiced the sitting modes of movement. Actually the first 10 of 30. One of the other 8 students asked me if I had fun. "No." I said rather emphatically. But on thinking of it now, the reaching our hands up, rotating them in a circle, wiggling our fingers, sweeping them gracefully from side-to-side or floating them up and down, breathing in and out, and counting it all... it was fun. Or will be fun... when I'm not concentrating so much on following the directions and mimicking the others. Paulus said, "Just don't think about it so much." He is right about that. And I was wrong, it was FUN, I just didn't realize it... You can read more about Kert Peterson's form of qigong by checking out his website at

With (more) energy,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Grids in Chaos

That's the title of the tiny book I've made for week 2 of the Book A Week challenge. What is it about grids,  an array of lines in a repetitive pattern, that calm and intrigue at the same time? Graph paper grids, like some urban street patterns, have that  element of assurance that things will turn out as expected. Point A will lead to point B... and there is no unexpected, no's all right there.. on the grid. Math is like that.. 1 +1 = 2 and so on..except math goes on to infinity...wherever that is.. which in my mind looks like chaos. So the tiny book, small enough to fit in a hand, is a mathematical line from 1 + 1 to infinity...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Book a Week

That's the challenge that Jenny and I have made for 2012. There are all sorts of ideas, but for Week One, Jan. 1 to midnight Jan 7, I have bound a book that has been sitting unfinished for 3 years. Editions can be like that.. write the story, draw the illustrations, letterpress the text.. and the background... and the illustrations... then sew up ONE book. The other 9 just sit on the shelf. Waiting. It's because the covers are the real problem for me.. all that judgement based on the covers! So finding just the right cover for this book has been... hard. The story is called "The Tale of the Blueberries". This is the story and a picture of the cover.

The Tale of the Blueberries

On top of a mountain, in a land far away
The blueberries lived each glorious day.

They lived all together on Bob's Berry Farm...
in neat little rows, far from danger and harm.

Each berry wore a button that said, "Sinners Repent! 
Blueberries are the Best, 'cause we're Heaven-Sent!"

The berries were raised with culture and art
given every advantage to promote a strong start.

Farmer Bob watered and fed them, and cultivated them too.
So the proud little berries grew, and grew, and GREW!

Over in the valley, in the Tall Piney Wood 
lived a family of robins - their songs sweet and good.

Mother Robin loved her babies, and went searching each day
for fat worms and berries - her brood's hunger to stay.

She flew to The Mountain and asked the berries there -
a bit of their sweet fruit with her would they share?

"Oh NO!" said their leader. "We won't share our wealth.
We need all our berries to ensure our perfect health.

"We live on this mountain, the richest on earth.
We're Heaven-Sent berries. We're special from birth!"

"Oh please," said Mother Robin. "My babies need food.
Just a few small berries to feed my poor brood?"

But the berries were certain that their way was the best.
So they ignored Mother Robin and the babies in her nest.

Then Old Mother Earth said to Great Father Sky,
"If you don't do something, those babies will die!"

So Great Father Sky gathered the clouds and the wind
and made a huge hurricane - No WAY to defend.

And he sent it to The Mountain, and it did its job well.
It was a Blueberry Hurricane! It was Blueberry Hell!

Some say 'change is inevitable'; and 'from each bad comes some good.'
Well, the berries blew ALL OVER, even Mother Robin's neighborhood!

Now the berries are scattered to lands HIGH and lands LOW;
a treasure to EVERYONE - and this we all know.

For each berry wears a button. You know, that small round dent?
Well, it says quite plainly, "Blueberries Are Heaven-Sent!"

Jenny and I would like to invite anyone reading this blog to join the One Book A Week Challenge for your own enjoyment. You can start any time, but make it for an entire year to complete the challenge. To see a photo of Jenny's weekly books check out her blog, and if you would like to share some examples of your books, email them to me and I'll try to get them on the blog. I'd love to see them!