Brain Stretching

This last week was all about brain stretching.  I immersed myself in volumes on illustration, fonts, and related areas of book design.  I stared at letters and pictures until I could see them as shapes, not as information symbols.

Lucky Canister!

Lucky Canister!

Did I enjoy myself?  Get back to me on that.  I feel like someone who has just run a marathon and hasn’t stopped panting.  My mental muscles are still aching.  Oh, and someone just walked over and told me that the race is far from over, it’s only starting.

When my mind was saturated with information, I took a sideways turn into using my hands so my head could recover.  I’ve been wanting to try decoupage.  I’d even bought a jar of ModPodge several months ago, but it had just sat in my closet, waiting for the right time.  When I found a book specifically about using ModPodge (as opposed to several I’d looked on about decoupage, all of which seemed to assume you wanted to reproduce Victorian effects or things you could achieve far more easily with a  cheap decal), I knew the time had come.

Because I’m a practical person, and because Jim and I have just about no available wall space, I decided to decorate a canister that, at some future date, I could use to store something.   Then I went and stared at various types of paper, looking for what would appeal.

I was about to give up until I could make a trip to the craft store when, stuck up on a high shelf, I glimpsed the remnants of a craft project I’d tried – and failed to complete – some years before.

My sister, Ann, had given me a kit which promised to show you how to make a hanging globe from the scarlet and gold envelopes the Chinese use to hold New Year’s “lucky money.”  I’d not done very well with it – although whether the fault was mine or the kit’s is anyone’s guess.  But I’d loved the paper and couldn’t make myself throw away the envelopes.  Thus, there sat the partially completed project, a mute reminder of failure, for several years.

Now I grinned, pulled down the partially formed globe, and, before I could think my way out of it, started cutting up the envelopes.  Where possible, I preserved the diamond shapes that had been part of the original project but, when I couldn’t, I allowed myself to just keep pieces and trust they’d come in useful.  Then I started putting on the ModPodge.

I was about half-way through when I realized that what I was doing was actually related to the research I’d been doing.  As with fonts and illustrations, I was making myself look at the envelopes not as envelopes, or as carefully folded diamonds meant to be fit together, but as paper.  The image printed on the envelopes had a distinct orientation which I preserved, but when I needed a small piece to patch a gap or create a border, I looked not at the picture, but at the underlying pattern until I found what I needed.

The process was extremely satisfying.  Three coats of sealant gave gloss that, if possible, brightened the original scarlet and gold, as well as protecting the paper.  As a final touch, I slid the tassel that had been intended to hang from the bottom of the original folded paper globe over the knob on the lid.

And there my new canister shines.  I’m not sure what I’ll put into it.  Maybe some of the guinea pigs’ treats.  Maybe tea bags.  Maybe…  Who knows?

As if doing this one project opened up a storehouse in my mind, I have ideas for related projects.  The same book contained instructions for making votive candle holders.  I’d liked the tops, but found the bottoms boring.  However, I’ve thought of some very interesting alternatives involving polymer clay, wire, beads, even gravel from my landscaping.

More brain stretching…  As I have written elsewhere (see “Walking Away from It” in my Wanderings on Writing), sometimes the best way to solve a creative project is to think about something else for a while.  You may be surprised at what comes forth.

3 Responses to “Brain Stretching”

  1. henrietta abeyta Says:

    If you search a bit on websites about designs you’ll discover some shapes symbolize universal facts or personal expressions of a special connection. Mandala books for adults by Susanne F. Fincher teach both what different cultures believe certain colors mean as well as what a whole mandala is supposed to symbolize, she shows you many of the intricate mandalas and teaches you about the 12 stages your ego goes through.

    Jasmine Olson sharing her interest in art and crafts, but giving these facts of shapes and colors found in Susanne F. Fincher coloring books in case you’d like something designed in a peaceful but personal way.

  2. Louis Robinson Says:

    Ah! A Useful Pot to Put Things In, for those who know their Pooh.

    And very elegant, too. I assumed it was painted.

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