Monday, September 30, 2013

Illuminated Blueberry Buckle Recipe

In 2002, I got really into studying old books, really old books, the kind that were written by hand with a chiseled reed and burnt walnut shell ink, the kind that were painted on parchment or vellum with hand ground pigments of white lead, green malachite and blue lapis lazuli.    Most of what I studied were old religious texts, some dating as far back as AD 400.  After hours and hours of pouring over all of the books I could find on illuminated manuscripts, I learned to do calligraphy and how to glue real gold leaf to paper.  I wanted to make something similar to what I saw in books like the Book of Kells, but not being a particularly religious gal, I looked for some non-divine inspiration and found a recipe for a blueberry buckle, which I adore. 
I wish I knew who wrote it, but I don't.  It was ripped out of some home magazine in the late 1990s, and I won it in a party game with a mug of blueberries because I gave the best guess for how many blueberries were in the mug.   Here is my illuminated recipe for a blueberry buckle.  All that glitters is 24K.  It's a combination of ink and gouache on paper.  It's currently hanging in a fancy gold frame at my mother's house.
If you don't know what a buckle is, it's like coffee cake, with a crumble topping, and this one is overflowing with blueberry goodness.  Seriously, it's so good with all of that cream, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour, and blueberry goodness, I had to immortalize it in gold leaf with a rose vine, ivy, Celtic knots, and three different portraits of my late kitty, Boo.  If you like cooked blueberries, stop what you are doing and MAKE THIS RECIPE!  You won't be disappointed, unless maybe if you skimp on the butter and cream. 
By the way, if you click on the picture of the whole recipe, then right click, then click view, and click once more, you can see it large to get a better look at some of the details that are hard to make out at this size.  Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lotus Drop Pendants Bracelets

So there's a lot of different ways to link together Lotus Drops to make jewelry other than earrings.  In particular, you can make this pendant.
Or you can flip the drops with the petals pointing in and make this pendant.
You can also make bracelets like this.
And here's a Doceri drawing showing some other possibilities for bracelets.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Pattern: Beaded Wisdom Mandala

Here's my latest pattern, the beaded Wisodom Mandala, named after the five Wisdoms.
The Beaded Wisdom Mandala is a symmetric beaded pendant that is reversible. It is woven with two layers of seed beads throughout most of the piece except for an abundance of crystals that show through the windows of seed beads. The layering creates a pendant that looks different on each side. It has five-fold symmetry on one side, and nearly ten-fold symmetry on the other.
 The mandala hangs from a beaded tube with jump rings to make an easily wearable pendant. The 22 page pattern shows a variety of pendants in different colors, a few of which I show here.
Beaded Wisdom Mandala
In the pattern, I explain how to make the pendant and the hanging tube in three different sizes so you can make a complete necklace, like this Earthy Mandala Necklace. The mandala is woven with a combination of double outline stitch, loops, square stitch, and peyote stitch.  Here you can see one of my early Wisdom Mandalas, before I figured out how to link the mandala to the hanging tube with jump rings.
The hanging tube is woven with super right angle weave (SRAW) with embellishment.
I really love that the front and back are so different.  Measuring just 1 3/4 inches across, and the complete pendant is just 2 1/2 inches tall, they are pretty detailed for their small size. If you like playing with color (and size 15° and 11° seed beads), you'll love making these.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Math Anxiety Camp: An emotional art piece

For the last few years, I have been attending a festival in the middle of the Nevada desert called the Burning Man Art Festival, where tens of thousands of artists and revelers join together each summer to celebrate art while camping in some of the harshest conditions in the US.  One of the peculiar features of Burning Man is that groups of people band together into "theme camps" which offer free gifts in the form of art, music, food, drinks, experiences, and other life pleasures and fancies to almost anybody who stops by.  Many of the gifts come with the touch of a prankster, designed to shock and amuse. Last year, we created the idea of Math Anxiety Camp, where we would give people math problems in an attempt to provoke math anxiety.  Burning Man has a culture of gift giving, and we joked, "Math anxiety: It's our gift."
because math matters
Great art provokes emotions.  This is a reason why music is so popular and powerful.  Music provokes intense emotions in listeners.  Have you ever cried to a love song? I have.  Now, I have never seen a piece of artwork that was designed specifically to provoke math anxiety.  So I created Math Anxiety Camp with the help of my camp mates.  For Burning Man 2013, we wrote a short book of 38 math problems, and I designed a sticker so we could hand out awards to those who achieved math anxiety.
Math Anxiety Camp Achievement Award
My campmates and I drilled unsuspecting Burning Man attendees (i.e., burners) with our math problems in the hopes of provoking the emotion of math anxiety for the sake of art.  We did all of the things you're not supposed to do as a good math teacher, like telling our examinees, "You should already know this," "You should have learned this last year," and "Work faster! Faster, faster, FASTER!"  When participants got wrong answers, we made loud buzzer noises.  The purpose was not to focus on the math, but to focus on experiencing and emphasizing the emotion of math anxiety.
Those who are tardy don't get a fruit cup (Thank you Kimberly Laabs)
Vi Hart and I wrote the book of the math problems together with several features in mind.
Vi and me sitting on Bat Country
All of our math problems were designed to be actual math problems that have at least one right answer (some have more).  Topics included arithmetic, combinatorics, geometry, calculus, and logic. Problems ranged in difficulty from trivially easy (e.g., "Name a number that is 3.") to tricky (e.g., "Name a triangle with two right angles.") but all were chosen to be simple enough that most of our subjects would at least understand the question, even if they couldn't solve the problem.   Some problems were designed to be funny.  We included several classic, well studied math problems that are known to confuse people.  Most of the problems have multiple choice answers, and the distracters (incorrect wrong answers) were designed to be funny or deliberately confusing or deceiving.  We included lots of "All of the above" and "None of the above" options because of their cringe value. We added scenarios relevant to the art festival, and where the characters were in mortal danger.

My campmates eagerly distributed math problems, books, and awards throughout the festival.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many people engaged in the project.  We handed out nearly 500 achievement award stickers and almost 20 math books to specific people who wanted to own a copy.  I listened to and heard about several people who read the entire book, thoroughly musing over each the 38 problems.  Some were math teachers, married to math teachers, physicists, geologists, engineers, and others who just enjoy the satisfaction of solving a good math problem.  Here is a PDF copy of the 2013 Math Anxiety Math Book if you'd like to take a look.  This version is edited to make it more suitable for a general audience.
Ethan Port brought a whole suitcase of math books, and Paul McGlaughlin painted us a sign for the front of our camp so that passers by would know we were there and what we had to offer.  As one young man biked past, we overheard, "Math Anxiety Camp!  That's TERRIFYING!"  So of course, we invited him in to share our problems and win an achievement award.
Camp Sign
Photo by Daniel Thornton
When people asked us about our sign, they often confused us with "Math Camp at BRC", a different theme camp that touts themselves as "a safe place for mathematics." We were the opposite: an unsafe place for mathematics.  We were there to give problems, not solve them. "Our problems are your problems," and, "We have so many problems, we'll give you some!"  I saw people tense up instantly when they heard these statements.  Although we gave them lots of problems to solve, and many people successfully solved them, my favorite part always was watching their anxiety transition into laughter when they were presented with anxiety achievement awards.

Paul painted half of the sign with chalkboard paint so we could write a new problem each day. We left chalk by the board, and many of the problems were solved by the next morning.
Question of the Day
Photo by Daniel Thornton
In addition to working independently, Math Anxiety Camp also joined forces with Camp UFOm and the Civil Defense Camp.  UFOm provided an "interblastive foam experience" where participants performed foam art.  UFOm was so popular, that the Civil Defense crew was enlisted to conduct drills on the revelers in an attempt to slow down the line of entry into UFOm and deter all but the most dedicated from entering. 
Civil Defense Bunker, Tent and Ropes Course
Burners were subjected to drills including physical exams such as a rope course, running laps, push-ups, jumping jacks, rolling in the dust, and games of duck-duck-goose.  There were also oral exams on outdated American civil defense literature from the 1940s, and people were drilled with math problems from the Math Anxiety Camp Math Book.
Civil Defense Drills: Photo by Ben Harper
A little background on the Math Anxiety Camp project:  I am a former teacher of mathematics, and the idea of provoking math anxiety on purpose is simply ridiculous to me.  I spent many years of my life trying just about anything to minimize, or at least reduce math anxiety in my students because students who are too anxious don't perform well in school.  Math anxiety makes people hate math and avoid it.  Wanting people to love math and engage, I read many papers on math anxiety, attended lectures on the subject, wrote worksheets and led discussions in my classrooms that were designed to reduce my students' anxiety.  It seemed to be an ever-present problem in my classrooms of college students, many of whom had learned to fear math from a very young age, typically spawned from negative interaction with their teachers and parents.  I was often surprised at how quickly some of my students were to state their disdain for mathematics publicly, even though they were studying for professions that would require them to do mathematics regularly, like engineering or teaching children.

My experiences as a math teacher showed me just how common math anxiety really is and how intensely some people suffer from it.  Some people will go to great lengths to avoid math at all costs just to avoid the anxiety that goes with it, and this makes me sad.  But outside of the context of teaching, it seems that math anxiety is an emotion that is rarely discussed in depth, especially in the art world.  Creating math anxiety in a novel context devoid of high-stakes consequences seemed like a good way, a safe way for people to confront their negative emotions about math.

Math has been a theme for me and my camp mates already at Burning Man.  This year, Math Anxiety Camp was also an art support theme camp, building Bat Country, a Sierpinski tetrahedron jungle gym.  Here you can see Bat Country this year on the night of the Man burn.
Bat Country
Photo by Daniel Thornton
 Here is Bat Country with the Rainbow Bridge art car.
Bat Country and the Rainbow Bridge
Significantly, we were not able to elicit math anxiety in all of our subjects.  Many participants easily and eagerly solved our math problems without anxiety.  It's not terribly surprising that burners were quick to engage in the idea of Math Anxiety Camp.  My sense is that burners are more mathematically literate than the average American population, which probably correlates with the maker attitude of the festival participants.  In addition to Math Camp at BRC, there is a thriving tradition of beautiful mathematical art at Burning Man.  My favorite returning piece this year is the honorarium art project Zonotopia and The Quasicrystalline Conjunction by Rob Bell
Zonotopia and The Quasicrystalline Conjunction
The mathematics behind these "pavilions" is polar rhombizonahedra, one of my all time favorite mathematical structures.  I've been watching this series of inhabitable structures evolve, changing from year to year, but still maintaining its same aesthetic and mathematical essense.  This portion below was the new addition to the set for 2013.  The panels have a lot more details than most of the older forms made in earlier years. Beautiful. 
My favorite new piece of mathematical art this year is the honorarium art project, The Penrose Triangle by Blake Courter and Blake Courtney
The Penrose Triangle
 This triangle looks very different from different perspectives.
The Penrose Triangle
Unfortunately, I missed a shot of the triangle in perfect perspective where all of the lines look straight, but this one is pretty close.
The Penrose Triangle
Fortunately, I climbed up to the top of this triangle and successfully climbed back down without killing myself. Burning Man always has a plethora of climbable objects, and I love to watch the acrobats and other "monkeys" climb and hang off these piece.  However, I rarely climb anything at Burning Man, which is a little ironic since I brought my own jungle gym (see Bat Country above).  Although I don't generally suffer from math anxiety, I do suffer from a fear of heights (or high anxiety), but I don't really want to talk about that emotion.

Pavel Curtis sent me this link.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...