Paper from Vegetable Fiber

This is one example of many projects found in the book The Best of Making Things – A Hand Book of Creative Discovery. Find out more about the book!

You wil need: 8 strips of wooden lath (or cut a wooden yardstick) – small nails – hammer – window screening – staple gun – dry vegetable fibers (such as corn husks, onion skins, celery strings, sawdust, weeds, or straw) – scissors -blender – paper towels, napkins, paper bags, newspaper or tissue – dishpan – newspaper – sponge – iron.

Make 2 wooden frames the same size (any size that fits in a dishpan).…

Guest Article: An Earthen Oven Odyssey by Joe Kennedy

I have been making earthen ovens for over twenty years now. I made my first one in 1991 when I was working with architect Nader Khalili at CalEarth in the Mojave Desert. We were making a lot of adobe bricks at the time (friendly Persian-sized ones – 8”x8”x2”) and also building domes of regular fired bricks. I’m not sure what got it into my brain to make an oven, probably an old picture of the ovens at Taos Pueblo. One day I made a round foundation of adobe bricks in a mud mortar bed right on the ground, then hammered a string in the middle and used that as a guide to lay up a dome of the half-sized bricks.…

Low-Relief Mudwork

I cut these low-relief directly into wet mud smeared on sheetrock panels. After they are finished (and dry), I apply colored washes, which also make the surface more durable. Click on the thumbnail to see the entire image, uncropped. They range in size from about 16 x 24 inches to the big mural, which is about 8 x 20 feet. All were part of an installation/show at the Bush Barn Gallery in Salem, OR, in 2004. Note the wall made of temporary gallery wall panels that we assembled into a gateway, covered with cardboard, and then plastered with mud. The finger pattern was copied directly from a photograph of an actual African wall, in the book Butabu, about west African earthen building.…

Art Is…

 

The following essay is from the Introduction to Dig Your Hands in the Dirt:

“Art is…”

Art is many things, but here what I mean by “art” is that kind of experience by which humans learn.

Working with mud, sand, and straw is a way to teach geology, engineering, physics, history, drawing, composition, and design. It is also a way to teach social skills, like cooperation. But more important than just what it teaches is how it teaches:

Jon Young is a wilderness educator who takes kids into the woods, and teaches them to identify and track wildlife, among other things.…

Dig Your Hands in the Dirt: A Manual for Making Art out of Earth

purchase

As you might suspect, a book with this title features many photos of barefoot kids happily stomping in the mud. Mud huts and mud pies conjure up pictures of primitive peoples and childish pleasures. But then you realize that the kids aren’t in Africa, but in Washington DC, Chicago, Portland (Oregon), and Berlin. And they aren’t all kids!

Looking past the pictures of giddy, muddy fun, here is substantial and serious inspiration and practical lessons for artists, teachers, students, and designers, as well as builders interested in natural materials like adobe (and, more recently, it’s British counterpart, “cob.”)

The book begins with a color section of stunning murals based on traditional south African pattern design, a monumental labyrinth and sundial, a whole earthen park (in Berlin), large-scale sculpted benches and structures, model villages and even tiny bird-houses of mud sculpted on woven frames.…

Make a Simple Sundial: Measure the Earth, Discover the Cosmos

This book shows how to make an accurate sundial with just a bit of simple materials, geometry, and a map with information about your longitude and latitude. It also shows how a sundial is really a model of the relationship between the earth and the sun – and, by extension, between you and the cosmos.

A few experiments help to see what’s happening as if you were looking at the earth from outer space. Starting with a stick and its shadow on a sunny day, the books shows how to locate true north, how to feel the earth turning under your feet, and how to turn the stick into a small scale model of the axis on which the earth turns.…

The Best of Making Things: A Handbook of Creative Discovery

[product id=”2″] 123456789101112131415202530405075100

Children everywhere will welcome this new edition of a classic activity book – as will their teachers and parents (especially those seeking to simplify). A “best of” compilation of two volumes, it is a unique, affordable, and child-sized handbook that doesn’t talk down to anyone. In fact, it is mostly pictures drawn in a simple and elegant style clear enough for anyone to follow, whether or not they read (though some projects, like paper making or batik, ask for adult supervision).

Thirty years later, author Ann Sayre Wiseman says “I still meet people who say ‘Making Things was (or is) my bible.'” What’s the appeal?…

The Hand-Sculpted House

(Excerpted from www.cobcottage.com .)

A Cob Cottage might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that the authors refer to it as “an ecstatic house.” They build a house the way others create a natural garden, using the oldest, most available materials earth, clay, sand, straw, and water and blending them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning “lump”) is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind.…

Rocket Mass Heaters: Superefficient Woodstoves YOU Can Build

This book is the second edition to Rocket Stoves to Heat Cob Buildings published by Cob Cottage Company. Drawings, descriptions and photos are improved and added to. This time, they provide more clear instruction on the brick assembly, the part of building rocket stove that is all in the design, and mechanically somewhat baffling until you actually do it a few times. The case studies and color photos will get you thinking about the possibilities, and there are extended Troubleshooting and Question-and-Answer sections. The Glossary is still practically non-existent, testament to how simple this is.

From the Introduction, by Ianto Evans:

“Here is a superefficient wood fired heater you can build for yourself in a weekend for less than a hundred dollars.…