craft, creativity, design, paper crafts


Two things: One, I have started experimenting with paper-cutting (or “papercuts,” as my old Art friends would have called it). Two, for the second day in recent memory, I woke up today striking out at something that was in a dream. (The previous time, I struck a pillow and my headboard, which woke me up.)

Luckily, I don’t share my bed with anyone; I was also on my back, so I only would have popped someone if they had been standing over me. It took me a little bit of time to get to the point of wondering how hard I would have struck. M says that it sounds like I’ve been under a lot of stress. It’s possible; I realized last night that I’m actually in the middle of three instructional programs, though none of them are in the University system, at the moment. I’m also kind of stressed from the job search, and the fact that I did not opt to take internships (which is apparently very important, though I’ve been told that my nine years in the system as an Aide [but not as a Library Assistant] suffices).

I suppose that by the beginning of this Fall, I should be fairly clear on whether I want to be a Cataloger, or otherwise concentrate on Web Development…

So…the other thing. I believe that the term for what I’ve been doing with knives and paper is called kirigami, though I’m not completely sure. My previous forays into kirigami were simple cuts into origami (paper-folding) which allowed slightly more complex structures (such as antennae on shrimp). Because origami has a strong inclination to avoid cutting of the paper, though, these cuts were minimal, and mostly not of a structural nature.

What I was doing last night was more experimental and playful, than anything. I had started experimenting with my knives and gouges on linoleum printing blocks. It was at this time that I realized that most of my gouges are seriously damaged; one had a bent tip which split and tore the linoleum rather than cutting it, while many of the others had otherwise chipped or deformed (dulled) cutting edges. It’s probably due to my using them without having realized how fragile they were; though I also wonder if these companies should be making gouges (as versus knives) in the first place. The blades which were undamaged (the U-gouges) also slipped on the harder blocks, which is an obvious safety hazard. Then there was the chisel blade, which was sharp, but hard to back out of a cut. It’s good for clearing away mass, but not so much in detailed areas.

These are Speedball and X-Acto blades (both of which have issues in fitting the blades to the handles, particularly where it comes to tightening the collets, which in both cases have resulted in metal shavings)…and I’m not entirely certain whether it’s worth buying replacement blades for them. This is especially as I can go to one or more Japanese toolshops and buy reusable blades that I know I can sharpen myself (I have a fine-grit waterstone built for this purpose, though my Japanese-language skills aren’t high enough yet to allow me to read the instructions, and Google Translate basically doesn’t play well with Japanese).

I do, however, know that high-carbon steel (the kind that rusts and has to be oiled and protected from air and water) is much better for blades of this type than stainless steel (the latter of which, looks like what I’ve got in my X-Acto set — I doubt high-carbon steel would bend). The deal is that Japanese high-carbon steel blades, I would think, would be made more for use in wood and food, not linoleum, which…really? Is made from sawdust and linseed oil (possibly with stone dust also)?

Anyhow…I wanted to cut some things, and upon seeing the damage that my gouges had largely gone through, I turned my attention to the straight and hooked blades (they worked better, fortunately)…and the paper-crafting drawer that I had not gone into, for months.

Turns out, I have a large number of origami paper sheets, mostly unfaded (though the faded ones are good for potentially disposable practice). This includes a lot of tiny papers (!) which are not as useful in kirigami, but fun to play with. I tried making a tiny crane from a paper which was 4 cm square…not easy! Especially when you haven’t done origami in years (and making Diamond Base means you’re working with a module that is 2√2 cm in height)!

Still, that stuff’s cute. I picked up the block (500 sheets) from a small Asian grocery store when I was a kid, probably for $1. I still remember that. The owner there has basically seen me grow up, though we don’t really talk…he’s much more comfortable using nihongo (Japanese language), and less comfortable with English, than I am. I wouldn’t be surprised if situations like that were part of the reason I originally wanted to learn (that, and anime, manga, games, and music, though that sounds silly as an adult — there’s way more to any culture than just pop culture and food).

So…let’s see. I don’t have pictures yet — I was up too late last night to consider it, and today I was largely asleep — but it was fun to play around with folding the papers different ways, to see what would happen. As I was messing around with that, I started remembering the ways I’d folded paper in the past, mostly as a kid and teen. With art, it’s really rare for there to be a rule that says you can’t do something (which is always meant to be followed)…

What’s interesting is that I seem to have stumbled back onto a modular component (one which fits into a bunch of other ones to make a larger piece), just from playing around. I don’t remember what to do with it, though. I just have it folded up and waiting for me to get back to it. (The tough part is dealing with the aftermath of the first fold, requiring an inversion and tuck of the last fold. This makes a smaller square where all the corners are tucked in.)

I also have the question of whether there exist origami and/or kirigami books for adults. There have to be, right? I haven’t run a search yet (edit: they’re in or near Dewey 736.982), though I can see from a basic Web search that kirigami in particular is inspiring people in Engineering. I think I’ve seen at least one NOVA program focusing on that, where it came to nanotechnology and self-assembling robots.

Hmm. I also know a bookstore in SF Japantown that did have displays on origami, possibly kirigami. Whether the person who was into that is still there (or can help me), I’m not certain. There’s a very real language barrier that I’ve dealt with for a very long time, which is why I’m currently trying to learn nihongo. That goal is also a large part of the reasoning behind considering moving further West; it would be much easier to maintain practice in Japanese language where there are a lot of people who need you to do so (and whom you can practice with).

What’s fun — with the papers, at least — is the fact that until you get a good amount of practice, it’s not easy to tell what is going to come out of any particular folding + cutting pattern. Getting a good handle on origami bases and modules (some of which, I’ll likely make up, solely as cutting patterns) should help, though.

The major drawback to using origami paper is that I haven’t known it to be colorfast (the colors, at least in the cheaper versions, often run with water-based adhesives); thus, gluing these things down to anything will require some skill (or spray adhesive, which I’ve been told is particularly noxious). There’s also the possibility of cutting my own paper, meaning possibly marbling or painting and then squaring up, folding, and cutting the paper again…which I might do if I find a nice enough cutting pattern. For example, I could take a folded and cut piece, then cut pieces out of it and glue those down to stiffer paper, possibly with overlap, to help make bookmarks.

(I’ve had a bookmark “trip” in the back of my mind for the last several years, apologies.)

I did also, though, find a bunch of bookmarks I made one Christmas which did not cure in time for the holiday, meaning that they would have left glue marks on the insides of books. Several years later, they’re less slippery. I’m still not using that glue again. I have three alternatives to test, now.

I could still do bookmarks. The major deal with those is the fact that I was using patterned greeting card paper along with paper blanks made for scrapbook borders…I never really got into the scrapbooking thing, but it’s nice to have a bunch of different papers available. It reminds me of quilting, really.

And yeah, right — now I have the washi tape in addition to acrylic markers! There are a good amount of possibilities…

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