Posts Tagged ‘crafts’

Easter eggs

Photo: While unable to write anything, I did manage to create a nest from yarn (drape glue-soaked yarn over inflated balloon; pop balloon when dry) and decorate a few Easter eggs. I did the two-toed thumbprint biddy, my sister did the caterpillar. This counts as an appropriate illustration because Fabergé made both eggs and icons. So ha.

We can compare an icon to a carefully constructed poem. Indeed this is why we call it icon “writing” instead of “painting.” Every “word” or element fits very concisely and precisely to contribute to the overall meaning and integrity of the whole. – Marek Czarnecki

Photo: While unable to write anything, I did manage to create a nest from yarn (drape glue-soaked yarn over an inflated balloon and let dry, then pop the balloon) and decorate a few Easter eggs. This counts as an appropriate illustration because Fabergé made both eggs and icons. So ha.

One of the tricks of icons: paint it 50 times. Also: do not be realistic. Also: use gold that will shine out of shadows, and eyes that will follow you. Icons aren’t really windows. Because they aren’t representational, they are actually the presence of Heaven. It’s Catholic (Western Rome) tradition that features windows that open, beyond which is Heaven. In the Orthodox tradition, saints are sanctified by the belief of believers only, with no canonization process needed other than the devotion of repetitive layers of paint, which is a lot of devotion to be sure! Like making a pie. – Harold Rhenisch

I wanted so much to write an icon. It would be nice to find all of the right words, arrange them concisely and precisely, and wind up with a story that is haunting in its intensity and as tasty as pie. But I can’t seem to do that. I’ve been sitting here at the computer for days and days, completely unable to write anything in spite of having been so inspired by my new pie basket with its mandala lid.

I blame the whole idea of icons, which are beautiful but scary. Trying to make my ordinary writing fit into my mental image of what an icon should be brought me to a complete standstill. Then today I stumbled across an old piece I wrote about writing, in which I preached blithely that one must treat writing as an adventure, to be approached with joy! In fact, here’s exactly what I said, if you think you can stand it:

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public. – Winston Churchill

A writing project is an adventure, and one of the first and most important tricks to success is to approach it as one. Gear yourself up for it by anticipating how well it is going to go and how much fun it will be. Imagine launching a kayak into a river or floating in an inner tube down a mountain stream. The words, like the water, will flow easily and take you exactly where you want to go. Don’t forget to wear a helmet.

The second trick is to maintain perspective. Remind yourself that you are good at what you do. You are intelligent, and capable, and interesting. Once you leap into your writing project, all of those characteristics—and thousands more that are unique to you—will be at your disposal to get you moving.

The third trick is to focus your attention. Your project will not be as successful if you are not giving it your full attention. This does not mean straining and forcing your mind to labor over the task; it means thinking about your topic and your purpose and then applying the first two tricks by reminding yourself: This is an adventure I am well-equipped to enjoy. If after gearing up mentally you find that you still face a blank screen or page with an equally blank mind, try this: Recall a time when you were feeling particularly creative. It can be from as far back as kindergarten, when you were happily stringing colorful beads on a piece of yarn. Writing is simply a more complex type of bead-stringing, after all. Banish your fears and concerns about it, and try to regain that spirit of calm absorption you feel while doing something relaxing and enjoyable. Isn’t it wonderful that you can bring back that peaceful feeling right now? And isn’t it much nicer to look at the blank page while feeling that way than it was to slump down and bang your forehead on the desk?

Why yes, it certainly is. But lately my writing projects have skipped the toy and amusement stages and gone straight to tyranny.

bunny jars

Another thing I did while I wasn’t writing was I put some Lindt chocolate bunnies inside little jars with Wilton candy grass (left) and paper grass (right) as nesting materials. Yeah, I don’t know why I did this, either, except that I saw it in Martha Stewart’s magazine and knew it was something that even I could manage successfully.

I did find a nice set of Rules for an Icon Painter online that I thought might be helpful, like a sort of recipe to make a pie. I borrowed the first three rules and adapted them for my own use in writing:

  1. Before starting work, pray in silence & pardon your enemies.
  2. Work with care on every detail of your ikon, as if you were working in front of the Lord Himself.
  3. During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid above all useless words and keep silence.

Do you ever read the reviews of Internet recipes? There is always at least one that says, “Really enjoyed this recipe, which I followed to the letter except that I didn’t have ground beef so I used ham, and then I added a can of black beans to the sauce and substituted crushed pretzels for the sour cream because my family is lactose intolerant.” That’s basically how I treated the Rules for an Icon Painter, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I never did end up with a digestible pie.

But I have several Easter treats to show for my trouble, and all my enemies have been pardoned.


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Waiting for the bats in Austin

Transform a recycled umbrella into a very clever bat puppet. ~ Martha Stewart

I like to visit Martha Stewart’s Web site from time to time, and this morning the home page featured an episode wherein Martha made a bat puppet from an old black umbrella.  I didn’t want to watch the episode, which was oddly titled “Halloween Bats and Chinese Cuisine,” so I searched for written instructions. Evidently they aren’t yet posted, but in searching for “umbrella bat” I came across something even nicer: a bat costume made from a black umbrella!

[U]se a bolt cutter to clip metal joints where angled support bars meet spokes; also cut off central rod and handle. Trim all metal as closely as possible; cover any remaining sharp points with black electrical tape. Slit opposite-facing panels midway between spokes, all the way to umbrella top. With pliers, untwist small wire that holds plastic center piece to spokes, and remove both wire and plastic; umbrella should separate into 2 pieces. Discard plastic. To rejoin spokes at top, cut wire in half (or use any similar-gauge wire), and thread a piece through the small holes in spokes of each half; bend in a loop at each end. Secure loose fabric to spokes on each umbrella half: Catch edge of fabric with a 3-inch-long piece of 28-gauge wire, and twist its ends tightly around wire that holds spokes together; trim ends.

There were additional instructions to make a harness to attach the wings to a child. That project called for grosgrain ribbon, hot glue, safety pins, welding equipment, and a tractor. Okay, I made up the last two items, but if I wanted a bat costume, I would buy one. All that wire-clipping and bolt-cutting sounds like a first-class ticket straight to the emergency room.

But it’s nice that Martha has come up with two ways to recycle an old umbrella. It reminded me of my own umbrella-recycling story….

A couple of years ago, in a failed attempt to be more environmentally responsible, I took the Metro to work for several months. It didn’t work out for several reasons that I won’t go into here. But on one of the days when I was still trying to soldier through, my co-worker, Mary, offered me a ride from work to the train station.  I accepted with great pleasure, because it was raining something awful and the prospect of waiting for the bus held no charm.

We walked to Mary’s car with our umbrellas up and angled to protect ourselves from the driving rain and blustery wind. Sadly, the forces of nature overcame my umbrella during the walk, and one-third of it flopped over and became useless. When we got to the car, Mary threw her umbrella into the floor of the back seat, and I threw mine back there too, with slightly more force than necessary. I thought: “Gah. I am not taking that umbrella out of this car. It’s trashed.” 

Now it was very wrong of me to dump my umbrella in Mary’s car simply because I couldn’t be bothered to take it with me and give it a proper burial. I wouldn’t have done it except that I was so fed up with that umbrella that I couldn’t bear to look at it, much less pick it up and carry it somewhere. So I washed my hands of it.

The next morning, Mary stopped at my office and held out my umbrella. “You left your umbrella in my car,” she said.

I explained that I had decided I never wanted to see that umbrella again. 

“Oh, it’s fine now,” she said. “I fixed it.”  And she had!  I told her it was like a fairy tale, where elves come out at night and fix things for people. Not that I deserved it, of course—but if I hadn’t abandoned my umbrella in her car, it wouldn’t have gotten fixed and had a second life. This was truly a Good Thing, because my umbrella was tan, not black, and wouldn’t have been suitable as a bat puppet or bat costume.

Ernesto and I have often talked about putting some bat houses up around our garage. When we were in Austin this past June we walked from our hotel to the Congress Avenue Bridge where spectators line up to watch more than a million bats fly out into the dusk. The bridge was still empty when we got there, so we passed the time before sundown exploring the nice trail along Town Lake, just below the bridge. Ernesto found an informational display about the bats, and he read every word while I sat on a bench and took a couple of pictures. When Ernesto was finished reading every word about bats that he could find, we settled onto a nearby dock that was touted as a good place from which to see the bats.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, more people arrived at our dock, including children. It was difficult for parents to explain to children that they, the parents, didn’t know when the bats might come out, and the children should just be patient (and quiet). The children were neither patient nor quiet. A small boy threw leaves, caring not a bit that they landed on persons not in his own party. A little girl on a Snow White blanket whined incessantly and worried about ticks. That made me worry about ticks.

At long last, someone noticed that the bats were flying. They didn’t emerge from under the bridge in a big swoosh. They were completely silent, and we had to watch the skyline to see that there was a huge number of flying objects in a line up there—a line that went on and on and on.

D. H. Lawrence despised bats, but this passage from his poem “Bat” is a good description of what we witnessed that evening:

Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.  

In the poem, the narrator initially mistakes the bats for swallows.  He describes their

serrated wings against the sky,
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light,
And falling back.  

Later, he realizes that he is seeing bats and refers to their “Wings like bits of umbrella.” And so they are.

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