Very Pretty Pages

When legendary musician David Bowie passed away last month, much was written about his trendsetting sense of style. It was only natural that people should ask who Bowie's influences were. The answer to this question, interestingly, may lie in his extensive collection of books. Literature captures the imagination in a way no other medium can. Although the rise of tablets has made it possible to carry 100 books in your pocket, tablets just don't match the feel of actual paper. Physical, printed books are special. And they're becoming the stuff of art.

No Words Needed

Literature translates thoughts and images into words. What would happen if a renowned literary work were presented without its words? The result might not count as literature, but it could certainly make for a striking visual.

spiral of punctuation from Moby Dick
Image via Wired.

Punctuation is one of the most important details of the printed word. In an attempt to shine a spotlight on this importance, Chicago-based designer and artist Nicholas Rougeux decided to literally reduce some of the greatest novels of all time down to their punctuation. The project, which Rougeux calls "Between the Words," turns all the punctuation marks of a single book into a spiral, with a single identifying image in the center. Rougeux has made spirals out of such classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Wonderful Wizard of OZ.

Crystal Clear

Although the point of owning a book is to read it, there's something heartbreaking about finding a discarded, damaged book. It can be considered a sign of disrespect to the author. One San Francisco artist sees it as a statement on the evolution of the printed medium.

open book sprinkled with crystals
Image via designboom.

Alexis Arnold was disturbed by the number of discarded books she often found around her neighborhood. As many of her favorite bookstores closed, she suddenly became aware of why so many headlines were declaring print to be "dead". It was this realization that led her to create her crystal book project. The project takes old books and glues living crystals on them. This makes the books impossible to read, but stunning to look at. Arnold's project proves that's there's still life to be found in those old pages.

Page by Page

Although downloading to a tablet is as simple as pushing a button, the process of creating a printed book is remarkably complex.

weaving of a book cover
Image via Gizmodo.

In the latest episode of his online series How to Make Everything from Scratch, Andy George, the creator of the series, shows the intricacies of creating a printed book. George's mini-documentary examines the differences in the choice of paper. It's a short but insightful look at the craftsmanship behind a format that has existed for hundreds of years.

Turn the Page

No matter what advances are made in the medium of print, printing itself has endured for centuries on account of the inherent human need to share stories. We can't be certain how stories will be told in the future, but we know there will be plenty of people ready to devour an exciting new tale.

Office Supply Art

When you spend most of the day surrounded by office supplies, it's easy to overlook them. Pencils and paper clips can easily remain unnoticed until they happen to go missing when you need them most. One of the defining characteristics of a true artist is being able to make the most out of available resources, no matter how limited those resources might be. The artists we look at here took the abundant supplies they saw every day and turned them into stunning works.

Paper Flame

With the advent of digital tools in the workplace, many prominent businesses have taken steps to make their offices as paper-free as possible. This is often done to expedite the exchange of files, as well as promote the company as having "gone green." Still, many companies are unable to afford making the switch to being completely digital. Paper remains an important element in modern business.

man holding flame to painting
Image via Buzzfeed.

Stephen Spazuk began incorporating fire into his art in 2001. To create the initial primer images, he uses carefully controlled flames—usually with methane candles—on acid-free paper. He then completes the images with light brushes or pencils before spraying the final image with varnish to preserve the flame's soot. Says Spazuk, "When I put the flame to paper, I don't know what I'm going to get, and that's the pure joy of working with soot."

Message Received

Post-It notes are one of the most ubiquitous office supplies. They offer a fine way to remind oneself or others of work that needs to be done. With their bright color scheme and adhesiveness, it's easy to see why they're often used by artists as a means of self-expression in an otherwise mundane office setting. That's the sort of inspiration that struck a Japanese architect in 2001.

colorful building made of Post-Its
Image via mental_floss.

Yo Shimada had a point he wanted to make about structural integrity, so he decided to use Post-It notes as paper building blocks for a construction demonstration. With the help of students from the Kyoto University of Art and Design, Shimada spent three days turning more than thirty thousand Post-Its into a carefully constructed "brick" wall. Though the wall has long since come down, images of it continue to be popular among architects and casual viewers alike.

Office Ink

Office buildings frequently vary in shape and structure, but not often in color. Since the materials used—brick, mortar, metal, glass—don't generally lend themselves to eclectic color schemes, one rarely sees the equivalent of a Lisa Frank design on a building's exterior. Nevertheless, one Southern California business has used the illusion of an artistic faux pas on its building as one of the business's defining traits.

mural titled Technicolor Ooze
Image via designboom.

Artist Jen Stark was given carte blanche when she was commissioned to design the exterior artwork for Platform, a business hub in Culver City, CA. Representatives of the building wanted something that would stand out from all the surrounding buildings, and knew that the Los Angeles-based artist would do just that. Stark's mural, dubbed "Technicolor Ooze," is a carefully designed image that gives the illusion of various colors of paint dripping down the side of the Platform building. Although it may appear to be a work gone horribly wrong, the mural has become the calling card for Platform's standing out from the competition.

Memorandum

Just because worker efficiency is coveted in an office environment doesn't mean creativity should be discouraged. The average workday provides plenty of opportunities to express yourself artistically if you know where to look and don't ignore your responsibilities. Let productivity be the goal, and creativity be the reward.

The Future: Foldable and Functional

It’s hard to say which invention came first, the paper airplane or the real thing. Did some poor soul suffering from boredom folded a piece of paper to mimic an actual airplane, or did aerodynamic pioneers create paper models as prototypes? It may be easier to create an artistic rendition of a functioning device, but that doesn’t mean the rendition has to remain unable to function. The following stories prove that one doesn’t need state-of-the-art technology to create a workable piece of machinery.

Paper Pictures

From tourists to traffic stops, it seems every step we take these days is captured on a camera. Cameras are now standard on mobile devices. As the lenses get smaller, and the images more detailed, it's easy to forget the long journey image-capturing technology has taken. One inventive designer took such an interest in that history she decided to write a book about it.

cameras
Image via designboom.

Kelli Anderson’s book, This Book is a Camera, is one of the few literary works whose titles can be taken literally. In addition to explaining the process of pinhole photography—a method that hasn’t been regularly employed since the nineteenth century—the pages of the book itself fold into a working pinhole camera. Although the book isn’t likely to replace any top-of-the-line electronic model, it serves as a contemporary adaptation of a method that paved the way for the devices we use every day.

Cardboard Beats

For nearly 70 years, the Fender brand has served as the worldwide standard for electric guitars and has become a staple of rock music. The guitars can be found everywhere from suburban garages to the stages of sold-out arenas. After decades of refining their design and function, the builders wanted to see if they could actually build a fully functioning model out of packing material. The experiment was a treat for the eyes and ears alike.

cardboard rock guitars 
Image via mental_floss.

The Fender team visited the packing plant for Signal Snowboards, in Los Angeles, in hopes of trying their experiment with high-quality materials. The result was Fender Stratocaster, made entirely from cardboard except for its strings and electrical attachments. The guitar is just one of many cardboard designs from Signal.

Souped-Up at Six Millimeters

Some people can go their entire life without looking under the hood of a car, secure in the belief that the engine is functioning properly. But the intricacies of a six-hundred-pound V8 engine are not lost on those who have popped the hood. The complex design has powered hot rods for nearly a century with barely any decrease in size—until, that is, one creative designer made one no bigger than his thumb.

6-millimeter engine model
Image via Gizmodo.

Craftsman Aliaksei Zholner decided to have some fun with the design of the engine, and built one out of paper and glue. The six-millimeter model of the engine features a side handle that allows the person holding it to turn the small gears inside.

Designing Dreams

The above examples give one a glimpse into the creative process. So many of history’s great inventions started with someone examining something ordinary, making a few adjustments, and tapping into a need.

Child's Play: New Printing and Design Tools

Scientists the world over agree that encouraging the creative tendencies of children is not only helpful to their overall intelligence, but crucial to their mental development. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in playtime activities such as assembling blocks, drawing pictures, and playing on jungle gyms.

While such playtime activities are encouraged during childhood, they're generally expected to be given up by adulthood. But if childhood games can stimulate the brain of a young person, who’s to say they wouldn't work on people who’ve become set in their ways? Several of the world’s most prominent behavioral therapists have asked that very question.

Fine Line

Coloring books have been a staple of children’s playtime for over a century, and their popularity shows no signs of waning. A typical volume consists of vector-like black-and-white images, with color added by the user. Recently, this “childish” past time has seen an increase in popularity among adults as a calming activity for their increasingly stressful lives.

adult coloring book design
Image via The Atlantic.

In a recent piece for The Atlantic, writer Julie Beck argues that, although this appears to fall into the recent trend of adults' recreating childhood activities, coloring is in fact a form of art therapy. “There's something satisfying about seeing your thought and effort create a tangible, pretty thing at a reasonable, predictable pace,” says Beck. “This rarely happens in life.” Beck reports that the technique has proved useful for her in dealing with the pressures of everyday life, and believes it could for many others.

Baby’s First Design Kit

In an increasingly digitized world, it’s easy for both children and parents to look at modern technology as nothing more than an easy distraction for the little ones so that parents can steal a few moments for themselves. But this hasn’t stopped many innovators from using technological tools to teach children practical skills.

can-do children's products
Image via Mental Floss.

Khandu (pronounced “Can Do”) is a forthcoming game created by the Spanish design agency Seven Thinkers. The goal of the card game is to teach children how to think like designers, getting them to come up with and implement ideas. Although the game is currently only available through Seven Thinkers’ Kickstarter campaign, the creators are hoping to have it accepted as part of Pope Francis’s Scholas Occurentas program.

Repeating Patterns

No matter what one’s age, it’s important to have a creative outlet in one's life. The stories above show that age need not decide how one's creativity is expressed. Whether you're an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old, you should feel free to take a little time out of each day to color the world your own way.

Tiny Masterpieces

For centuries, scholars and commoners alike have debated what defines the word "art." Is the distinction between what is and isn't art made by financial valuation? Do people need to have training in order for their work to be considered legitimate art? Are artists truly artists if their work is not their sole occupation? These questions and more have kept history's greatest minds awake at night.

Still, if there's one thing humanity has proven throughout its existence, it's that there's no limit to the type of canvas people can use for their art. From etchings on cave walls to galleries of the modern metropolis, our species has shown its boundless creativity by designing with whatever materials are available and on whatever canvas can be found.

By the Spoonful

All parents have told their children at one time or another not to play with their food. Ioana Vanc was told the same thing growing up as a child in Romania, but her artistic sensibilities were hardly reined in. Now an adult and a professional artist, she has taken her messy childhood habit and turned it into a hobby that has brought her worldwide recognition.

zebras on a teaspoon
Image via Ioana.

Using nothing more than the most minimal of food scraps, Vanc creates colorful landscapes and recognizable portraits on the surface of a teaspoon. Her works include zebras in an open plain, as well as likenesses of celebrities Karl Lagerfeld, Iris Apfel, and even Kermit the Frog. Regular updates to Vanc's gallery can be found by following her Instagram page. They make for some of the more interesting food pictures one can find on the site.

Petri Paintings

With art being such a deeply ingrained part of the human experience, it isn't very far-fetched to think that artistic urges might be part of the very building blocks of our existence. Similarly, it isn't too great a stretch to imagine those very building blocks becoming works of art themselves. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) recently launched the first-ever Agar Art competition, inviting challengers to use microorganisms and mold to create art pieces that fit inside of petri dishes.


Petri dish
Image via Hyperallergic.

The above stories show how, more often than not, art adheres more to vision than to tool or format. All it takes is a little imagination to transform something ordinary into something truly inspiring.

Autumn Activities for Kids

As the leaves begin to turn brown, and kids head back to school, it becomes clear that summer is over. But you can still help your kids to make the most of their after-school hours. Here are some creative projects specially designed to help you and your children get the most out of the fall season.

Pages and Petals

Your little ones may not have finished their summer reading list, but they’ll certainly be hitting the books now. One way to make sure those books aren’t left behind in lockers or desks is to personalize them. With a few household items, you and your kids can create these floral bookmarks.

floral bookmark
Image via PBS

Friend-finder

One of the most admirable traits of children is their ability to make friends easily. One classic schoolyard method is trading friendship bracelets. If your children are a bit too young for the complex embroidery of a traditional bracelet, you might want to try a simplified glow-worm bracelet. Just think, your children could have their own googly-eyed companions to follow them wherever they go.

glow-worm bracelet
Image via PBS

For the Birds

A typical autumn school day is a lot like a typical day for a bird. Birds fly off early to learn about the world, only to fly back to the nest for food and rest. With all the care you put into your own home, why not make a separate home—or even just a feeder—for your
feathered friends

bird feeder
Image via PBS

All of the above projects and more can be found on PBS Parents. Do you have any favorite fall crafts? Share them with us in the comments!

Crazy Cardboard Crafts for Kids

Have you ever had to watch after a child? If you have, then you know that even if you aren’t a parent, it’s a challenge to keep them occupied for very long. They seem to have unlimited supplies of energy, their small size allows them to get into areas you can’t, and the more of them you have around, the more exhausted you’ll be by the end of the day.

Fortunately for you, a child’s energy is matched only by their curiosity. It can be tempting to simply drop them in front of some electronic device or another to keep them distracted. But with a child’s developmental years being the most crucial, this is an opportunity for parents and guardians to help children channel their curiosity into creativity.

If you’re worried about not being able to afford the latest hot toys, don’t worry: here are a few craft projects that can be done with something you probably have all around the house. These projects will teach your children not only how to use their imaginations, but also how to make the most use out of discarded materials. All it takes is a little cardboard.

Ringing Endorsement

It’s easy for a kid to look at their parents’ shiny baubles and want to try them on. It makes them feel grown up and fancy. It also might be expensive, so a parent isn’t likely to just let a kid go through their jewelry box at their leisure. Luckily, there’s a way for kids to get fancy without you getting expensive. Try making cardboard rings.

All it takes is a collection of thin cardboard (cereal boxes will work just fine), scissors to cut them with, paint, brushes, a hot glue gun, and a marker. You and the kids can design them in whatever shapes come to mind, then show them off to everyone you know.

PBS-cardboard-rings.jpeg
(via PBS.org)

Tall Wall

Once you have kids, doesn’t it seem as if you’ve suddenly wound up with enough toilet paper rolls to reach the roof? Well, now you can do that by making your own stackers.

You can use the empty rolls from toilet paper or paper towels. The only supplies you’ll need are scissors, paint, and paintbrushes. Once again, the design is whatever your child can imagine. Paint the rolls as bright as you want and stack them as high as they can go. Just be sure not to let your kids try to climb it.

PBS-tall-wall.jpg
(via PBS.org)

Very Fine House

Rings and walls are nice, but what if your child is looking to build a home all their own? They might want to take a shot at building the cardboard neighborhood.

Once again, you’ll need cereal boxes and a hot glue gun. You’ll also need a pencil, paint, a ruler, string, and scissors. Now your children can actually build the houses they go past every day.

cardboard-houses.jpg
(image via Rudy and the Dodo)

Crazy Cardboard Crafts for Kids

Have you ever had to watch after a child? If you have, then you know that even if you aren’t a parent, it’s a challenge to keep them occupied for very long. They seem to have unlimited supplies of energy, their small size allows them to get into areas you can’t, and the more of them you have around, the more exhausted you’ll be by the end of the day.

Fortunately for you, a child’s energy is matched only by their curiosity. It can be tempting to simply drop them in front of some electronic device or another to keep them distracted. But with a child’s developmental years being the most crucial, this is an opportunity for parents and guardians to help children channel their curiosity into creativity.

If you’re worried about not being able to afford the latest hot toys, don’t worry: here are a few craft projects that can be done with something you probably have all around the house. These projects will teach your children not only how to use their imaginations, but also how to make the most use out of discarded materials. All it takes is a little cardboard.

Ringing Endorsement

It’s easy for a kid to look at their parents’ shiny baubles and want to try them on. It makes them feel grown up and fancy. It also might be expensive, so a parent isn’t likely to just let a kid go through their jewelry box at their leisure. Luckily, there’s a way for kids to get fancy without you getting expensive. Try making cardboard rings.

All it takes is a collection of thin cardboard (cereal boxes will work just fine), scissors to cut them with, paint, brushes, a hot glue gun, and a marker. You and the kids can design them in whatever shapes come to mind, then show them off to everyone you know.

PBS-cardboard-rings.jpeg
(via PBS.org)

Tall Wall

Once you have kids, doesn’t it seem as if you’ve suddenly wound up with enough toilet paper rolls to reach the roof? Well, now you can do that by making your own stackers.

You can use the empty rolls from toilet paper or paper towels. The only supplies you’ll need are scissors, paint, and paintbrushes. Once again, the design is whatever your child can imagine. Paint the rolls as bright as you want and stack them as high as they can go. Just be sure not to let your kids try to climb it.

Very Fine House

Rings and walls are nice, but what if your child is looking to build a home all their own? They might want to take a shot at building the cardboard neighborhood.

Once again, you’ll need cereal boxes and a hot glue gun. You’ll also need a pencil, paint, a ruler, string, and scissors. Now your children can actually build the houses they go past every day.

cardboard-houses.jpg
(image via Rudy and the Dodo)

You Won't Believe It's LEGOs!

2. April 2015 13:06 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

They’ve been one of the world’s most popular toy lines for over 60 years. They’re found in the toy boxes of children all over the world. They’ve inspired video games, TV specials, and even an award-winning film. There are few brands as beloved or as easily recognizable as LEGO. It’s a shame that they’re just for kids.

Or are they? In the past two decades, LEGO appreciation has almost become as renowned for uses by adults as by children. Popular uses include sculptures, recreations of movie scenes, and even functioning science projects. What was once merely a staple of nurseries is now the basis of one of the world’s most popular hobbies. And a few enthusiasts have taken that hobby and applied it to items we use every day.

In the Bag

Taking their enthusiasm for the brand past mere playtime, a company called Agabag has created a line of jewelry, purses, and bags from actual LEGO bricks. Though not officially endorsed by the toy company, all of the items sold are made from genuine repurposed LEGO bricks around satin interiors. The line also includes cufflinks, brooches, and flash drives.

LEGO-purse.jpg
(via mental_floss)

Lego Laptop

Not only do LEGO exteriors make great for handbags, they also work great for that most customizable of devices: the laptop computer. A new Kickstarter recently went online for a laptop attachment known as The Brik Case. The attachment fits on the back of your laptop and is compatible with a variety of childhood block toys. These include K’Nex, Tyco, Mega Blox, and of course, LEGO blocks. An early pledge even comes with a “bag o’ bricks” to help you customize the plate the way you want it. And if you don’t think there are many ways to decorate the plate, take a look at the promotional video.

LEGO-case.jpg
(via Wired)

Lego-puter

Sure, bags and laptops are one thing, but both of those are just for decorative purposes. The mastermind behind the website Total Geekdom has used LEGOs to create a fully functioning desktop computer. The exterior LEGO design is just as customizable as the hardware inside. With a base price of $999, you can upgrade the design and the functionality as you see fit.

LEGO-PC.png
(via Gizmodo)

With its appeal nowhere close to slowing down, let these projects serve as inspiration for your own LEGO projects.

Keeping Productive During the Holidays

December is usually crunch time for everyone. All of the year-end work deadlines are piling up, in addition to holiday shopping, party planning, and visits to see in-laws. If you're stressed out and feeling unfocused, don't worry! That's totally natural. But rather than feeling like your holiday season is a bust, take time to reflect on strategies to keep you productive and on task, no matter what you have to do.

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