I was asked to create a cardboard “fireplace” for an event that will involve children drinking hot chocolate before school. While it usually isn’t cool enough for daytime fires in Arizona, lately it kind of has been, but I guess you can’t have a real fire at an elementary school, so they still will have to sit around the pretend fire.
This piece took a little extra time because it had to fold flat, meaning that I couldn’t just wrap the whole thing up, but had to keep each panel separate. There’s one piece of tape on the back and the whole thing collapses if it’s removed. The fire itself comes out: the grate isn’t attached to anything, and the flames and the wood are stuck into grooves cut into the grate and can also be removed.
Currently, the cozy pretend fire is sitting in the front office next to an artificial Christmas tree. Maybe I should make a pretend Hanukkiah to go along with it. There probably aren’t that many Jewish kids at this school—guessing we have more indigenous kids than Jewish kids—but not everyone is cool with Christmas stuff. I never do overtly religious designs, although I’ve done culturally relevant adjacent imagery, like luminarias.
Just a little guy I made for someone else’s “character strong trait” display. There are 9 of these traits they want to communicate to children, one for every month of the school year. We added “kindness” so the weights could balance, plus we’re a “Be Kind” school. I guess they’re going to laminate the pieces and reuse then for a while, but it’s not my bulletin board so I don’t know the whole story.
As I was working, one kid informed me that, “there is this thing called heterochromia,” and that I should make a lion with different colored eyes. Then another kid told me that I should give this lion abs.
I honestly cannot tell you what the Monster Box is all about. The front office staff just asked me to make this for the PTA. They wanted a large box that looked like a monster and you could put candy in the mouth. They did not explain anything beyond that. I gather someone saw a similar project on Pinterest or something. I will have to go to the Fall Festival to divine the true meaning of the Monster Box.
Getting the box was a bit of a chore, and then I had to rebuild it because it didn’t have a bottom, and the top was kind of weird. After I cut the mouth I realized that they wouldn’t have any good way to get the candy OUT of the box, so I cut another access panel in the back. Then I made it look like the monster was wearing novelty underpants.
If I had to do it again, I would do a lot of this differently. I’m not use to working in 3 dimensions or with cardboard.
This project took about 7 hours, and used 1 1/2 bottles of Elmer’s glue. There was also a lot of tape involved and a little of my special bookbinding plastic adhesive. I might go back and hit the horns with the hot glue gun just to be sure. They are the number one thing I would do differently if I did this again. I’m not sure they’re stable.
Hooray! Halloween! I’m definitely one of those people who believes the entire month of October is intended to build up to Halloween. In fact, I made this one at the end of September, and I think I did an excellent job of creating something that suited the entire autumn and can stick around until after All Souls’. I love how the entire design came out (even though I made mistakes with my own font) and may try to preserve it when I swap it out for my holiday design. I was thinking about making it all summer! If only I had also been thinking about all my fancy, patterned scissors, I could have save myself a lot of time cutting it out.
Gila monsters are venomous lizards, one of two venomous lizards that live in the region. They are not super interested in biting humans. In fact, The Man and I once attended a lecture about venomous reptiles of the Sonoran Desert, and the herpetologist delivering it asserted that there is a profile of the sort of person who gets bit by a Gila monster, and that nobody who doesn’t fit this profile ever turns up at the ER looking for help for Gila monster bites. The profile is thus: a young man, between the ages of 20 and 40, heavily tattooed, under the influence of alcohol. This tells you a lot about how dangerous Gila monsters are: not at all, unless you are the kind of idiot who gets drunk and harasses native fauna.
They literally have “monster” in the name. Why would you pick it up?
At any rate, their bite is only mildly neurotoxic and there are no recorded cases of death by Gila monster, although I gather it’s not exactly a fun experience either. I’ve lived here 17 years and never seen one in the wild.
Today is my little sister’s birthday! I usually think about sending her something at the beginning of the month, and then don’t think about it again until it’s too late (she doesn’t live in the States so I have to plan ahead to get it there on time), but this time I remembered at the exact right moment. Well, a bit late. But I had a few moments, and some collaged bits, and I used the materials at hand to make something new.
Not sure why I chose to photograph it when it was still wet. It was dry when I mailed it but I didn’t take more photos. Also there’s a couple lines missing, which I forgot to ink. Anyway, on the inside it says, “I hope your birthday will BEE SWEET,” because my sister seems really obsessed with animal puns these days.
I hope she likes it. Or at least appreciates the effort.
They gave me another bulletin board so I made this monach butterfly, which is a good choice for autumn in the desert. The monarchs breed here, especially if there is enough rain, and they are also thematically appropriate for Dia de los Muertos. There are people who attend the All Souls’ Procession dressed as monarchs, or in costumes covered with hundreds of (replica) monarchs.
I couldn’t think of a good tag or phrase or anything. Kept meaning to come back to it but I’ve moved on and I guess it’s fine by itself.
If you know me, you might know that I have a psychologically difficult time with the autumn in general. It’s nice to hold on to symbols like this.
Around the time I made this butterfly, some guy who didn’t know anything about seeking asylum in the US but felt compelled to make some ridiculous marks about it nonetheless boxed himself into a corner during an online discussion about the subject and, unable to make a cogent argument, resorted to looking at my profile and then, I guess, attempting to insult me personally. One of his remarks was, “I work for a living,” presumably meaning that art is not work. Even though I spend between 4 and 17 hours on every single on of these ephemeral paper works, and my back and hands hurt when I am done, and I have to take breaks due to the sheer amount of pain I’m in.
It’s odd that someone thinks “I work for a living” is a flex. When I hear that comment, my thought is, “You’ve a slave to capitalism and you’re proud of it.” Nobody I know thinks that working is a flex; everyone I know would prefer not to work, or, at least, not to work under the fist of capitalism.
How much nicer would the world be if we divided all tasks into “essential” and “voluntary,” and then EVERYONE did SOME of the essential tasks. It’s not right that there are people who do nothing, or who only work for their own enrichment without contributing anything of value to the world, and then there are people who carry the whole weight and are barely compensated. It makes no sense, for example, that schoolteachers work full time, plus many unpaid hours, with little support, for little money. Nobody should have a classroom of 30 kids they have to manage by themselves 5 days a week. Everyone with the inclination and skills should participate in educating kids; this is one of the most important jobs there are. Nobody should work 40+ hours a week in a factory, or a fast food restaurant, or as a plumber (unless they really, really want to). We should all share the crappy jobs, and then we should all have ample time for the fun ones. Nobody should get rich playing football or designing couture gowns, but everyone should have the opportunity to play football or design couture gowns, in the hours that they’re not doing essential jobs. That should be what civilization is about.
It’s true that I don’t get paid a lot. But I do work. I work harder than a lot of people. And I make the world a nicer place for a lot of them. But I guess I make it a less nice place for certain unbearable people.
For my spring bulletin board I was inspired by images of lush cherry blossoms. After deciding that I wanted to recreate one branch, I knew that I needed a Japanese haiku to accompany it, and turned immediately to the words of Basho, whose poetry you probably read in school. I considered some other cherry-blossom haikus but ultimately thought this one the most accessible to schoolchildren, although it’s really about the fact that Basho is, at the time he wrote it, an older man recalling his childhood.
I cut the flowers from 4 different types of paper I found around the school. They often change suppliers so I’m never quite sure what I’ll have, but this offered a nice effect. I cut them all from a single stencil, and created the anthers from 5 staples for each flower. I estimate that I used 1500 staples here, so maybe 300 flowers?
First, though, I cut the lettering. I wanted to make it look like it was done with ink and brush, so after cutting the basic shapes, I went back and snipped at the edges and I have to say the effect is perfect. I’m so thrilled with this one and would like to keep it, but I don’t know how to deal with the 1500 stapes, and half the flowers are construction paper, which tends to fade in the sun anyway. Japanese people use the time of the Cherry Festival to reflect not only on the beauty of the cherry blossoms, but also upon their fleeting, delicate, and ephemeral nature.
Aside from the logistical issue of having to use small sheets of black construction paper to make up for the weird lack of large rolls of black butcher paper (sorry, but light gray just won’t cut it for Halloween/All Souls/Dia de los Muertos season; this is the dying of the light we’re talking about here, not the general malaise of the light) this one came out pretty close to perfect.
I was inspired by the vast number of great horned owls in this neighborhood; I never see them, but I have frequently heard them and occasionally found their feathers. They’re definitely around. I’ve even heard them in a tree on the school property, although I used for my model and different, more photogenic, and creepier tree two blocks down the street.
Weirdly, none of the pictures came out great, but I did get some nice details of the owls, which I might put on Instagram. You can find me @hubris_and_smoke. It’s mostly photos of flowers but there’s other fun stuff too.
Since the pandemic started I’ve made and mailed a lot of cool cards but I realized that I never took high quality photos of most of them or shared the pictures online. Ran across this image on my DSLR the other day. This is a sunflower card I made for my mother-in-law back in Kansas. Kansans love sunflowers. This is a very Kansas card.
Sunflowers seem simple but if look carefully you realize they’re so complex. I love this card but I could have made it ten times more complicated if I really wanted to get down into the plant’s anatomy. One day I’ll do one where I cut each individual little floret in the center and each individual petal on the outside.
Anyway, my mother-in-law loved it and said she’s hanging it up, which is what I hope people do with these little custon artworks that I spend hours making!
This morning I did a professional photoshoot (headshot type stuff for an organization’s website), after which the client wanted to see the raw images right away, which led me to realized that I had not uploaded anything off the DSLR since late spring, which meant I hadn’t posted this cool hummingbird I made for my end-of-year bulletin board (and school starts back up in like 3 weeks here!). So here it is: my rainbow hummingbird.
If you zoom in, there’s a lot of detail. I think this one took about 6 hours total over 3 days.