February 25, 2010

Hand-Bound and Reclaimed Journals

I received my first journal as a present when I was 9 years old. I began writing and never really stopped (I'm currently on my 25th). While I don't expect my journals to ever be published as some epic memoir - let alone read by anyone but myself (the horror!) - they have become a very interesting way for me to look back at the different phases and major events of my life.

Over the years I have collected lots of journals. Some of them very beautiful, and others cheap and tacky. It's the cheap and tacky dollar-store journals that I have recently become very interested in. Because the bindings themselves are usually quite solid, they are perfect for re-covering. And the possibilities are endless. Here are a few that I recently re-covered with photos taken from art gallery pamphlets.

And here are a few that I bound myself. The cool thing about hand-bound journals is that you can customize the shape, size and paper. For these journals I used two different binding techniques. The pages in the beige and orange books were sewn together with a needle and thread (the way most hardcover books are bound today) and glued to the cover. The blue book was bound by drilling holes through the paper and weaving in a blue ribbon to hold the pages and cover together.

February 23, 2010

Pop-up Clock

Remember pop-up books? Remember how cool they used to be?

I used to get so excited by the idea of a flat, unremarkable-looking book being opened up to reveal an image in 3D.

Channeling that wonder I had as a child, I decided to learn the principle behind pop-ups, and created this simple little clock card that opens up to reveal a stylized version of pop-up clock gears.

Materials: paper, glue, scissors, acrylic paint

February 22, 2010


I found these glass coasters in a little store in Chinatown just on the border of Kensington Market. They came in a package of green, blue, yellow and black, but I just wanted the black ones, so I pulled them out from different boxes and stuffed them all into one package. I took a few B+W photos of different landmarks close to my home, scaled them according to the measurements of the coaster windows in Photoshop and got them printed at Shoppers.

A sort of quick and dirty little projectile, but I think they're rather cute.

February 19, 2010

Bird Mobile

This is another mobile I made just because I felt like having birds hanging from my ceiling. This is probably the most simple project I've posted so far - the birds are cut out of regular white paper and attached to a white thread. I also cut out a few circles and flowers for variety.

February 18, 2010

Little Creatures

I was inspired by Adam Elliot's film Mary and Max. It is a beautiful stop animation film - a very sensitive portrayal of a man with Asperger's and his friendship with a young girl named Mary. When Mary is a child, she is obsessed with a TV show called the Noblets. She loves the characters but her parents cannot afford to buy the Noblet toy collection, so she makes her own out of sticks and pebbles. These are the little creatures I was inspired to make.

And of course, they are made of Fimo! They were shaped out of white Fimo, with sticks for the arms and legs, and little pieces of wire. They were hardened in the oven and painted with acrylics. After they were dry, I covered them with a clear coat of glossy acrylic varnish. They each stand a little less than 2" high.

They are probably the ugliest little creatures I have ever made, but I think they all look genuinely happy, like they are celebrating some joyous occasion. When my roommate first saw them, she said, "I like that they're all carrying gats."

February 17, 2010

Cabinet of Curiosities

This little 4"x4" shadow box frame combines my obsession with miniature elephants and the cabinet of curiosities. The shelves are just pieces of cardboard cut and glued to the back of the frame, and the objects are things I have collected over the years (two of the elephants were originally beads from a necklace I received from a friend when I was in Grade 5).

The four-leaf clover is the only one I have left.

When I was a child, my family used to go to the same cottage every year on Georgian Bay. In the middle of the yard, there was a little patch of grass that was always full of four-leaf clovers. Every year, my sister and I would jump out of the car after the 2 hour car ride and race for the clover patch to pick as many four (and sometimes five) leaf clovers as we could find. I used to tell my little sisters it was a magic clover patch, but secretly, I would wash my hands after because I suspected it must have been a chemical spill that caused them to mutate.

February 16, 2010

Old Man

Fimo is one of my favourite materials to work with. It is soft, easily shapeable, never dries out, hardens in the oven at a low temperature so there is no need for a kiln (and it is cheap!) It comes in a variety of colours, but I prefer to use just white, and paint it after hardening. The paint offers an extra layer of texture, and it can be blended and shaded in a more subtle way.

This old man puppet was created for a stop-animation that I never ended up making. His head, face, hands, buttons and shoes are made out of Fimo. Because he was going to be used for animation, his arms and legs are made from armature wire, so he can pose in different positions. His clothes are made from one of my old t-shirts.
I still don't have a name for him. Although I think he is a sort of Old Man and the Sea type.

February 12, 2010


Black and white acrylic on canvas, 8"x12".

I painted this as a birthday present for a friend. It is based on a photo I took of a fire escape in Montreal.

Also, I received two beautiful paintings from friends for my recent birthday, and I thought I would include them here.

Mixed media on canvas 6"x12" by Maya.

Maya is my roommate, this an amazingly accurate portrait of the street we live on. You can see the CN tower in the background.

Acrylic on canvas 6"x20" by Dusty.

February 10, 2010

Birthday Presents for a Friend

My friend and I have had several conversations recently about the feeling that we are losing our minds - that our memories are slipping away, especially from our university years, whole chunks are missing. So for her birthday, I decided to make her a unique present: a memory journal. And I would start it for her. I emailed her friends, asking for fun/embarrassing/adventurous memories. They could be a single sentence or several pages long. I printed them out on different types of paper - blank white, cream, lined, graphed - and bound the paper into a little book. I also scattered a few illustrations of birds and branches. The idea was that the memories would be ordered randomly between the blank pages of the journal, because that is how our minds work - we have random access to all our memories (that we haven't yet forgotten), and there is no real rhyme or reason to the order in which we recall past events.

I bound the book by folding the papers into bunches of four or five sheets, and sewing them down the middle. I created the cover out of two pieces of cardboard, and covered it with some pretty hand-made paper. Then I glued it all together.

The second present I made was a scarf. I've known how to knit since I was a child, but I had never done cable knitting before (the braid pattern in the middle). I never learned how, because whenever I looked up knitting patterns, they seem to be written in a secret code that is impossible to crack. So I turned to youtube, and quickly learned the basic concept to the "twist" look: skip two stitches, knit two stitches, then go back and knit the stitches that you skipped. I had no idea it was so incredibly simple. Once I understood the basic concept, I was able to make up my own pattern, which you can see in these pictures.

February 9, 2010


These are projects I made a long long time ago, when I was in high school. I thought I would include them here because it was in my high school woodwork and stone carving classes that I began working with my hands, and experienced the feeling of creating something tangible for the first time.
Even though I made many of these objects more than a decade ago, they've stuck around in my life because they are solid and functional.

The female torso bookend is made out of soap stone. We were given a selection of stone chunks to pick from, and I chose one that had a vaguely female form.
We were encouraged to sculpt the stone into an organic shape, inspired by the shape of the stone itself, rather than imposing our own idea on our rocks. I used a coarse rasp to create the rough shape of the torso, shaving away the excess areas. I then used finer and finer rasps to create the soft curves, and finally a fine sand paper with olive oil to polish the stone and give it a smooth, natural finish. This picture shows the soap stone sitting on my shelf, propping up my books.

For this stool, we were given a single log of wood, completely covered in bark. I had to split the wood into long chunks using a wedge and a mallet, get rid of the bark, and produce six rough pieces that approximated the size and shape of three legs and three rungs. No power tools were involved. Again, I used a series of coarse to fine rasps to shape the legs and rungs, finishing with sand paper. The seat was created from a separate piece of wood.

Our teacher was skilled in traditional wood joinery techniques and was very adamant that we use no mechanical fasteners or adhesives to put our woodwork projects together. All our joints took advantage of the material properties of wood - particularly its flexibility and grain structure. I don't remember the  name of these joints, but the idea behind them was very simple: the rungs were inserted into holes in the legs like little pegs which were split down the middle. Tapered wedges (the dark wood) were hammered in horizontally - exerting pressure up and down (rather than side to side, which could cause the legs to split because of the direction of the grain). The same joints were used to attach the legs to the seat. I love the idea that this piece of furniture is made entirely of wood, with no metal accessories. And the joints have proved to be solid and durable to this day.

This filing tray was made with the same naturalistic philosophy. In this case, I used dovetail joints which fit together like interlocking fingers. This type of woodwork requires a certain precision, to make sure that all the parts fit together securely. Most of my time was spent measuring and planing the wood, so that all the edges were perfectly flat, and the pieces fit together at perfect right angles.

February 8, 2010

Art Bike

I painted this bike as a birthday present for a very dear friend of mine. I had known her for six years, so, collaborating with a few of our mutual friends, I compiled a list of all our memories - fun, hilarious and strange - and tried to found a way to represent each memory through a simple drawing or icon. I drew a map pattern that travels along each bar - like a route map of her memories - and painted the little icons randomly along the way. I knew she loves the aesthetic of tree branches, so I incorporated them as little graphic vignettes in the corners of the frame. You can also see a page from my sketch book, where I began collecting images for this project.

The materials I used were white spray paint for the base and black sharpie for the drawings. The bike was then coated with a clear lacquer.

February 7, 2010

Paper Mobile

I wanted something to hang in my kitchen window, and I have always been fascinated by semi-opaque objects, so I created a simple paper mobile out of Japanese rice paper filled with bits of leaves and flower petals. The circular frame surrounding each disc is a thin piece of paper glued into a circle, spray-painted metallic gold.

February 6, 2010

Deconstructed Watch

This is a photo I took in the summer. I bought a handful of 99¢ watches at Value Village and cracked them open with a hammer. Some of the clock mechanisms were made of plastic, but there were a few gems among them. The process of disassembling the watches was violent and delicate work at the same time. I did not use a screw driver - I bent and twisted the metal until it came apart layer by layer. I laid the various parts on a piece of glass and snapped a few photos. I later glued them to the glass and placed them inside a shadow box frame which is currently hanging on the wall in my living room.

February 3, 2010

Dead Basil Plant

I've been trying to grow basil in my apartment for the past year, but for some reason, it is the one plant that keeps shriveling up and dying before I've had a chance to harvest any of the leaves. I'm not sure why. Anyway, when I was pulling out the roots of my most recent basil miscarriage, I was struck by how beautiful they were. So I snapped a few digital pictures and created this photo collage in photoshop. (I had taken the pictures of the birds a while ago when I was designing my website).