Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

I thought everyone knew about Instructables, but no one has posted about it yet, so I thought I’d put it on our blog. It’s a searchable collection of instructions for…lots of stuff!

Another great resource for tutorials on cool crafts is a blog called How About Orange.


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Little Dragon – Twice  (shadow puppets video)

How to make shadow puppets video

Puppet Uprising


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Random, but Relevant

So, I was thinking about this paper about our top five resources, and how I use so many different sites. One of the best is not an art education site, but it’s definitely cultural production so I thought I’d share if you haven’t already used it, it’s one of my favorite resources in general.

All Recipes is where I go for anytime I need something quick and awesome. It’s all community based, so people post their recipes (usually with terrible photos of them) and then people comment on them and how they changed the recipe, etc to make it the best possible.

They have the ability to ingredient search (see image) so that you can put in only the ingredients you already have, or want.

At any rate, this could probably fit under part of the food section we discussed… but, perhaps you could get some use out of the site during the holidays, and if you’re anything like me, the scramble to prepare something delicious 20 minutes before that party you were supposed to bring dessert for.

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and some artist for inspiration!

why make inflatables?

-interesting study of space and form

-can be used as an intro to patterning if design/form is more specific

-materials are cheap and accessible

-kinetic sculpture is awesome

-can be a fun collaborative/team exercise

Some Artists that Use inflatable techniques in their work =

Michael Rakowitz :::

(philanthropist / artist / architect)

Artist based in Chicago and New York City. In 1998 he initiated paraSite, an ongoing project – custom builds inflatable shelters for homeless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system


Joshua Allen Harris :::

Created New York street art in the form animals – made out of shopping bags – positioned on subway street grates – cause them to periodically inflate and animate

LINK on how to make specific Shapes- Stuffed Animals become Inflatables – A Patterning Exercise

Materials for project :

Plastic Garbage Bags


Packing Tape

A powerful fan (if working indoors) box fans work well


1) Cut garbage bags into flat pattern piece

2) Join pieces along the edges with packing tape – creating a seam without tears or holes for air to escape

3) Continue connecting bags until desired size/form is achieved

**remember you will want to have an attachment to some air source to inflate the bags

4) Attach tube/small opening in sculpture to a continuous air source (fans/vents etc)  –  turn on and watch it grow!

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One of my greatest interests is working with a specific material and using its characteristics, such as the objects popular associations, physical qualities, or structural integrates to help define a sculpture or installation.  While in my undergrad, I spend much time talking with my professor, Chris Lavery, and fellow students during critiques about how to use a material to your advantage.  In art making, especially sculpture and installation where you can use pretty much anything, the materials you choose can easily make or break your work.  In other words, the materials bring a lot of meaning that cannot go unconsidered because it greatly influences the meaning of your piece. With that said, this presentation is about looking at a specific material, the book, and exploring how this object can be worked with, against, and surprisingly transformed.

Working WITH a Material

artists:  Brian Dettmer, Maya Lin

organic chemistry

Organic Chemistry, 2008

This first image titled Organic Chemistry is the work by  Chicago born artist Brian Dettmer.  He currently lives and works in Atlanta and received his BA in Art and Design/Art History from Columbia College right here in Chicago.  Dettmer is known for working with objects that are slowly becoming less significant in our ever-evolving world.  He describes the used books and old cassette tapes he uses as artifacts of the pre-digital technology era, which gives us a glimpse into how these once popular objects are slowly moving into the background while digital technology continues to advance.  Many people refer to Dettmer as an archaeologist of contemporary objects, as a surgeon, or dissector of the disused and an excavator of objects near extinction.
Picture 2

title unknown

Others view Dettmer’s excavations as creating new relationships and meanings from the alteration of text and image, forcing us to respond with our own loaded impressions and interpretations of books.  Since he keeps the books recognizable, the viewer can respond from their own positions, and provoke feelings and memories they have with old  books.

Picture 3

Webster’s New Inter Diction

Dettmer uses xacto knives, tweezers, surgical clamps, needle-nose pliers, straight-edges and even pieces of metal that can bend into shapes while creating his sculptures.  Can you see why people are referring to him as a surgical master?  He also uses glue to help harden the outer surface enabling more concise and easier carving.  As he carves  deeper into a piece, he continues to add glue to preserve the work he has already done.  The process is rigorous and time-consuming, but produces a result that is well worth the time invested.

Dettmer’s objective while he is working on a piece  is to keep the inherent qualities of the items intact, while highlighting specific aspects of the book.  This can be seen in the first image, Organic chemistry, where he deliberately carves out certain areas to highlight the content of the book.  He often creates complex compositions and layers to help communicate what the books is all about.  To put it simply, he is working WITH the book.

Picture 4

Systematic Landscapes

Another artist that is a great example of working with the book is Maya Lin.   A trained artist and architect, she is most known for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial to built Washington, D.C. but has also created large installations, parks, monuments, and sculptures that explore  how the individual can become part of the landscape.  Above is an image  showing how she has used carving into a topographic book as research for her projects.  Lin has followed the contours of the topographic lines, transforming the 2D version of a mountain into the 3rd dimension. You  can check her out on the ART21 website.

Working AGAINST a Material?

When it comes to  sculpture, I often think about problem solving because the artist has the responsiblity to consider the materials being used and come up with ways to either enhance, hinder, or transform the material’s meaning with a purpose in mind.   Asking the question, What does it mean to work against a material? can be a fun excercise and challenge for students.  This question has the potential to open up the art making process and act as an oppurtunity to explore the possibilities of a material.  Below is another piece by Brian Dettmer.  I look at this piece and wonder about  his intentions.  The treatment of the books has led me to think about going against the properties of the book in order to create specific message.  What do you think?

Picture 5

Brian Dettmer, title unknown


Transforming a found object can be a difficult task since the goal is to surpass the objects original meaning in order to create something completely new.  I have not been able to accomplish this endeavor myself and have seen many artists successfully and unsuccessfully work with transforming everyday objects.  I have great appreciation for pieces that have moved beyond its original form and have come to possess a certain level of mystery.  I love to approach an art piece to be engaged in its story instead of being distracted by what it was made out of.  Below are some works that in my view are some great examples of transformation.  Enjoy.

Picture 6Brian Dettmer, Mound 1, 2008

Picture 7

Brian Dettmer, title unknown

Picture 8

Georgia Russell, title unknown

Georgia Russell is a Scottish artist who also uses a xacto knife to create her works. She cuts into books, music scores, maps, newspapers, currency, and photographs to create her incredibly intricate pieces.  They are often encased into plastic or glass containers, bringing a hint of scientific inquiry to her work.  Her work has also been perceived as an exploration of the relationship between the right and left hemisphere of the brain or how time often causes the dissipation of memories.  I look forward to learning more about his artist.

Picture 9

The Story of Art iii 2009

Below are two more images I want to show as examples of transforming an object.  These last two pieces by Brian Dettmer, the featured artist in this presentation, are not made out of books, but of old cassette tapes.  I may have chosen these pieces due to my recent fascination with antler and animal skulls, but I also believe these works to be great examples of using an object’s physical characteristics over its original form.  He has cleverly used a symbol of retro, pop culture art for his own purposes.  The cassette tape’s charged meaning does not over take the fact that this piece is inherently an animal skull.  The choice of materials and form are appropriate for each other, creating a solid piece with many layers of meaning.  I think Brian Dettmer is my new hero.

Picture 10

Ram skull, 2007, altered cassette tapes

Picture 11

title unknown

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There are many forms of documentation today ranging from professional documentation, to doing it for the fun of it.

With todays technology possibilities are endless

Different Forms of Documentation

1. CD/Floppy Disk/Flash Drive/ect.

2. Photography/albums

3. Journals/Diaries

4. Blogging/Internet

and soooooo much more.

Personally the best way for me to work and keep things in order and is fun at the same time is journaling.

Today we will be making a Japanese Stab Book

Materials Needed:

Paper, Cardstock, Awl or a nail could work, Scissors, Glue, Needles, thread (the stronger the better), and most importantly you’re Imagination

STEP 1. Gather your materials and decided what size you would like your journal, cut out the pieces of the paper and cardstock the size you would like it.

STEP 2. Measure out where you will be punch out your holes.  For small books holes should be away from the spine by a quarter of and inch, bigger journals 1/2 inch.  The same measurement applies to the holes spaced away from each other and away from the top and the bottom of the journal.

STEP 3. Punch your holes with your Awl (or nail) through the paper and the cardstock.  IMPORTANT make sure your paper is alligned

STEP 4 (optional).  Once the holes are punched through take your cardstock and place whatever decorations you would like on it (wall paper, construction paper, photos, stickers, ect be creative)

STEP 5.  Re-punch any holes on your cardstock that have been covered up by your decorating

STEP 6. Sewing the book,  this is tricky to explain so to help I found this helpful video on YouTube CLICK HERE


Write, doodle, make your journal creative….just like you.

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Activity: Stamping as a form of printmaking. A quick, cheap, and easy way for all ages to create personal stamps out of wood and foam.

Materials: Variety of sizes, colors, and kinds of paper to stamp on, stamp pads, ¼ to ½ inch foam cut into squares, printing ink or paint, wood bases, foam sheets, glue sticks (may not be needed, if foam has adhesive back), scissors, fancy scissors, hole punches & pencils


Cut wood stamp bases no bigger than 4” no smaller than 2 ½”. (Any type of wood will do, even balsa wood.)

Cut foam into pieces no bigger than 3” no smaller than 1 ½”. Scraps work well too!

Apply printing ink/paint to foam squares and spread into foam to act as stamp pad.

To make a stamp: Choose a wood base and trace the base onto a piece of foam. This shows how big your stamp can be. Keep in mind a printed stamp is a mirror image of your design. (Letters would need to be put on backwards on the stamp to make a correct print.) Cut design out of foam. You can draw a design on the foam, but small details will be hard to cut and may not show up when you use your stamp. Alternately, students can trace over their drawing, pressing hard enough to make indentations in the foam. These indentations will not pick up ink, making their drawn lines the negative part of the stamped image. Glue foam pieces onto level side of wood base, unless they have a foam backing, in which case you can simply remove the backing and adhere the pieces to the wood base.

Note: If students would like to change to a different color of ink, they should dab their stamp face with a wet paper towel/cloth. Immersing in water will cause the foam to come off of its base.

Possible One-Day Lesson Plan:

Lesson Plan based on having students create a stamp that is a personal symbol. Discussing symbols, and how one might characterize or represent themselves in the creation of a small symbol stamp. Using muslin fabric to create personal banners. Each student would get a narrow strip (about 3 inches across) of muslin. This banner would offer the opportunity to interact with their fellow students and collect a print of each student’s symbol. A class banner of symbols may also be created and hung in the classroom or school on a larger piece of fabric.

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