Friday, March 21, 2014

Handmade Paper Dragon Books

This is another lesson I got from Keeli, who also gave me this awesome lesson.  Handmade Paper Dragon Books starts with making handmade paper (pretty self explanatory, right?).  Many many years ago, I taught some summer art classes through a community Arts Council, and taught papermaking and bookmaking for a couple of summers.  Because of that experience, I had a few shortcuts for the papermaking part of this project.  1.) I have no papermaking deckels, so I use a setup of plastic strawberry basket turned upside down with plastic screening then window screening. 

As you can probably tell, this has been used SEVERAL times,
note the gross-looking paper pulp remnants.
 2.) See #1, so I use a cup with the bottom cut out (when said cup from Starbucks gets gross, I throw it away and do another early-morning Starbucks run the next day)

This, sadly, is not the grossest looking cup.  

 3.) I do have a nice set of felts, so that works out.  

Nice clean felts on top of a screen with some leftover pulp stuck to it.

4.) I have only one blender, so the students rotate through, a small group of 3-4 at a time while everyone else worked on their origami dragons.  
The first 4-5 times of this project just involve students making paper:  they chose paper from the scrap box, added water, Elmer's glue and some fine glitter if they wanted, blended in our thrift store blender, then poured it through the Starbucks cup held tightly over our screens in an ice cream tub,

GROSS!!! But you get the idea of the set-up we used.
then carefully flipped it onto a felt and pressed water out of it before finally moving it to a manilla paper to dry on the drying rack.
I gave them a little talk about how the Chinese were the first to make paper, nothing big or elaborate.  They kept asking "but what is this FOR?" and I just made them wait.
After everyone got to make some paper and our origami dragons were done, we started on our books.  Each student got two 4"x 4" pieces of chipboard (just some leftovers I had laying around) and two 5" x 5" pieces of black paper.  I showed them how to glue the black paper on the chipboard, wrapping it tightly around the edges.  They then glued two popsicle sticks on and wrote their names on both.  Then they received two strips of white paper, I think they were 3" x 18", and they accordian folded them and glued them together at the end to made one LONG piece of paper, and glued that to their two black pieces, making sure the popsicle sticks were at the bottom (this was difficult for some of my too-social-to-listen-to-the-teacher friends, so I had to check theirs before the glue set).

This book isn't opened all the way because I couldn't get it to fit
in the frame when I did, but you get the idea.
Once everything was together, I gave each table a handful of handmade paper and showed them how to cut diamonds to be their dragon's scales.  

Some of our beautiful paper after some diamonds were cut out.
I forgot to take pictures as we were actually making the paper.
We really didn't have quite enough handmade paper, so I threw in some leftover marbelized paper from last year's sixth graders (the simple shaving-cream-and-food-coloring marbelized paper).  Students cut and glued their dragon scales, and one day at the beginning of class I met them at the door with a 3" piece of wire and a faux pearl.  I gave them to them saying "pearl of wisdom and wire" [side note, a sixth grade boy who I DO love, but is a bit of a pill, IMMEDIATELY lost his and shouted "I lost my pearl of wisdom!!!" to which I had to say "Of course you did.  Now go find it." He said "Can't you just give me another one?" And I replied "That's all the wisdom you get for free.  Go. Find. It."  He was kind of sullen about it, but he found it!]  They put their pearl to the middle of their wire, twisted it, and then used old metal compasses to poke holes through the back cover of their book.  It is important that the peals stand up enough to wrap around the front of their books.
They continue adding scales to form the dragon's face, and put some on the back to form the tail.  

This student spaced their diamonds out rather than overlap.  It worked.
They also used more marbelized paper than handmade paper.  Still worked.
Then they use these little U shaped patterns I made to trace lips on metallic paper (I used red for one class, gold for another and brass/copper colored for the third).  They glue the lips on, inserted a length of gold ribbon between the black and white paper (like the fire the dragon was breathing) and then use the ribbon and the pearl to close/lock their books. Final step was adding the eye and nostril with scrap paper and a bit of glitter glue.

Closed/tied book.
 Success!  I do like how they turned out, but after we started them I found the example I made at the workshop with Keeli, and I wish I'd made their dragon mouths bigger.  Oh well, there's always next time!

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