Larks as Learning Opportunities

Last night I went through a stack of magazines I’d picked up at a tourist information stand and free at work. Something caught my eye as I was paging through a tourism magazine, and a while later I had this:

No. 1: The Larch.
No. 1: The Larch. 9″x12″, 2017. Sketch pad paper, Mod Podge, two outdated issues of the Vermont Visitor’s Guide.

Well, not literally; I trimmed the edges this morning. But essentially.

Just a lark, slopped together with lots of mod podge and minimal care. I intend to make more collages in the future, though, so I thought I’d record what went well here and what I would change if I were doing a collage like this to be a serious piece.

The Good:

  • I laid my sketch pad paper out on waxed paper and glued magazine clippings off the edge. The waxed paper meant I could turn it over and see the edges for trimming this morning without having to try to peel it off in advance.
  • I had tons and tons of the little clippings. I kept cutting them even though I was sure I would end up with something like twice as many as I needed. Nope, I needed all of them.
  • I saved out one of each version of the key to make sure they were all represented on the top layer.

The Not So Good:

  • I couldn’t get a sweet spot between too much and not enough Mod Podge in its role as adhesive. If it was a thick enough layer not to dry immediately it wrinkled the paper and made it translucent. If I were doing this “for real,” I would … well, I’d be a lot more careful in a lot of ways! But in particular, I wouldn’t use Mod Podge as the primary adhesive. Instead, I’d use a glue stick to attach one round of clippings (probably over half) with minimal overlap but hopefully good coverage. Then I would dab on a thin layer of Mod Podge, covering the whole page, and let it dry. Intermediate layers of Mod Podge should mean I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure the glue stick was all the way out to the corners of every clipping. Repeat with the rest of the non-reserved clippings, and finally with the reserved clippings. Then probably one more layer of Mod Podge, thicker now because the previous coatings should protect the paper from wrinkling.

Quite a bit gained from following that moment of silly inspiration!

I’ve got a fever!

And the only prescription is… more Mod Podge!

notebooks decorated with magazine cutouts and other paper, via mod podge

It started with the silver notebook. I got it for free at work but it had a big ol’ vendor logo across the front. I wanted to cover it, and pulled out a magazine clipping from my stash – but my Mod Podge was nowhere to be found (it probably dried up). After procuring new Podge, I covered that, but then thought, “what other notebooks could I decorate?”

I wasn’t so keen on the tan plaid notebook to begin with; it came in a set. The chickens, from the back cover of a calendar, dress it up nicely, despite one likely being 90 degrees incorrectly positioned. The gopher-y creature was the front of a birthday card received from my parents years ago. I liked that notebook fine, but the whole back cover still has the zig-zag lines so there’s no real loss.

At that point I thought my supply had dried up – my remaining notebooks were too attractive to decoupage some random paper onto. Then I had a meeting and took the pinkish notebook – and realized I’d been using it for two years and was only maybe 1/4 through. Boring! Addition time. I do wish I’d trimmed out some of the white between the leaves near the bottom of the image, but it’s nice nonetheless.

Decoupage: highly recommended for instant gratification.


Four years in the making…..

photo of a flexagon face photo of a flexagon face

In 2012 I cut out triangles of paper to glue together into a dodecahexaflexagon (documented in a post about a smaller flexagon). I also found instructions: scanned typed instructions from David Pleacher, and instructions incorporating triangle orientation from Kathryn Huxtable.

A dodecahexaflexagon is a 12-faced (the dodeca-, as you will know if you’ve read The Phantom Tollbooth, or been a long-time reader of this blog), 6-sided (hexa-) flexagon; each face is made from 6 equilateral triangles. I had cut each face from a different scrapbook paper, and I had small squares of white paper to serve as hinges.

In the summer of 2014 I dug out the paper pieces and started gluing them together. I glued one side of the strip together in an evening, but didn’t get back to the other side until now. The second side was quite easy, since on side 1 the faces were scattered around and on side two they were much more orderly.

photo of in-progress flexagon strip, one side glued together photo of flexagon midway through folding process

There was some confusion in the folding and a length of time before I found all 12 faces. I didn’t know the trick! To flex, you’ll pinch the hexagon so that three of the lines between triangles are outward corners and three are inward corners (see photo below). Which edges are inward and which outward will change which face you see next (in some cases you’ll only be able to flex in one configuration). To see all of them, you can simply pinch out the same corner over and over again, only rotating to a neighboring corner if it is impossible to flex the first one. I found hanging on to the same pair of faces with one hand, doing the rest of the work with the other, was the best way to enact that. It is awkwardly thick and I’m glad I spaced the triangles apart a bit with the paper squares.

photo of flexagon mid-flex

Each face is connected to at least two additional faces. I haven’t explored thoroughly enough to know whether I found the full set of options, but I made a little map and had each face connected to 2, 4, or 6 others, with complicated interconnection. This lines up with a diagram on Kathryn Huxtable’s general flexagon page, where I also learned about the “pinch one corner repeatedly” method of finding all the faces.

Want more flexagons? Harold McIntosh has an interesting read about the history and theory of flexagons, and Vi Hart’s videos and more (the first of which inspired my flexagon crafting) are all on a hexaflexagon page of Woolly Thoughts, a bastion of mathematics-inspired crafting, has a page of crochet and knit flexagon cushions.