Methods

 

Art: I’m a doodler.

I didn’t begin my life as an artist until 8-hour graduate school seminars and a set of Stabilo markers gave me time and opportunity.  Art was a way I could multi-task and make my notes look like Seurat’s pointillist landscapes.  As a kid, my older brother was the artist; I wanted to be one as well, but all I produced  was really uninteresting blobs. Somehow during those endless lectures, I spiraled dots and they started to look beautiful.  I gained confidence and abstract dots became mountains and sunrises.  Dots turned into lines, which turned into landscapes or trees or fists.  As it turns out, I’m a doodler. For the past few months I’ve been exploring prime numbers and the patterns they can make both on a grid and in more organic free-form drawing. I think numbers are beautiful and complex.  I am not a mathematician. I majored in history and journalism. My highest math class was not calculus, it was math for  liberal arts majors, or as my transcript says “Concepts of Fundamental Math” (lovingly nicknamed  ‘fun-for-mentals’ by the mathematics department). But I love math and I love art, and I love creating art that also uses math. I am fascinated by shapes, patterns, design, and colors.

Craft: I hate wasting stuff.

I never really thought of myself as crafty.  I had some crafty-artsy creations near the end of high school, melodramatic poetry with Pollack-styled splattered paint, but that had been on hold for 7 years.  It all started when I was searching for a new journal.  I was looking at the Moleskins and at the price and I thought: that couldn’t be too hard to make.  It wasn’t.  I’m a teacher and at the end of each year students throw paper in the recycle bins; I take the paper and fold it to be pages of the journals.  My school gets rid of tons of old and/or politically incorrect books; most of them have beautiful or interesting illustrations.  They make wonderful covers for journals or note cards.  With the left over scraps, I make bookmarks and magnates. I have collected nearly 100 discarded and damaged books.  My classroom is filled, my home is too. Stamps! Yes, stamps. I’ve loved stamps and maps since I was a little kid.  My first year of teaching, I inherited many boxes of educational materials.  One of these boxes was filled with thousands of stamps: from Spain, Hungary, Canada, Equatorial Guinea,   Chad, Italy, India, Pakistan, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. I started using cereal and pasteboard boxes and deco-paging them with stamps and baseball cards on the inside.  On scraps of mat board, I made magnates. On scraps of cardstock, I made bookmarks.  I hate wasting stuff.  I look in my recycling bin and am brainstorming ways to repurpose the packaging.

Design: I like stuff that looks cool.

I have a love-hate relationship with educational materials.  As a kid, the always had cheesy illustrations that you could make much more interesting.  As a teacher, I just think most stuff looks lame and if I were a kid, all I’d do is make funny doodles on the illustrations.  I try and make my classroom not only hip, but inspiring in a way that doesn’t make someone cringe.  My goal when I create something for my students, whether it’s a worksheet, website, or PowerPoint, is to make it accessible and relevant.  I want it to be something that engages them and pulls them into whatever the topic may be: supranational cooperation, consumption patterns around the globe, feudalism, or current  events.  If it looks uninteresting, it probably is.  My students have that assumption as well. I’ve always liked stationary and when I got out of college and everyone was getting married, that was my favorite gift to make for someone.  Someone’s having a baby, what do they need? Diapers? Not from  me.  Stationary? Yes.  I apply the same principles when I create for my students, as when I create for a friend.  In both instances I am creating something that probably already exists in some form.  However, I like stuff that looks cool.  Invitations are my current favorite thing to design.  Many times this means finding an old picture or design and tweaking it to fit my idea.