castles

As soon as I found this illustration of a castle (that’s my trusty tea bag along side it, for scale) I knew immediately that I wanted to build it as a tutorial. It’s from a book that has been languishing in our used book store for months and months, ever since I started to co-manage the shop in February:

As you can see, the illustrations for this book border on being creepy which is why, I think , nobody has bought it even though it’s only a dollar. I took it home last Friday, but I just couldn’t cut it up. So, instead, I’m using a book that is vey cut-up-able, one of ten that I bought accidentally on eBay:

The best thing I can say about these old Horizon magazines-in-book-form is that they are cheap, their pages are sturdy, and they are usually so boring that you don’t mind cutting them to bits.

I am also going to use pages from a previous book that I have vandalized:

And I’m using pages from that old German almanac that I used for my Rapunzel tower (see last week’s blog):

That old german almanac has lots of interesting doo-dads that I am dying to use as decorations on future castles:

Getting back to this week’s inspiration, I made a few thumbnail sketches to figure out how to interpret this flat illustration into a 3-D castle:

I am going to make all the elements — the various towers — as stand-alone structures, and link them up as I go along. But first, I have to re-inforce the more fragile pages from the old books. I like the way they have aged, but I need to glue them onto regular old typing (bond) paper in order to use them for construction:

Just a note on how I measure stuff: I don’t think in inches, or fractions of inches. For instance, as shown below, when I have to measure a legnth, I put my see-through 6-inch ruler down, and tick off the increments as “Start at 4 and go to one before the 8”. I build, mostly, by eye, and use the ruler to draw straight edges and to keep measurement uniform…I do not think in eights-of-inches.

I don’t usually have to draw out my plans, but for this tutorial I drew the plan for the first tower that I am going to build so I can show you how I think:

I put very light pencil lines on the re-inforced page and I use an exact knife to cut it out:

And I end up with this:

Which I can tell, right away, is the wrong proportion for the castle I want to build. You read that right: from the get-go, I have to rescue this thing. So I add height to it this way:

Yeah. This is more like the tall, skinny rectangular tower that I want:

For the crenellated top of this tower I have to make a tray, so this is how I will mark it out:

The pink lines indicate where I have to make a little cut so that when I fold it, it will have tabs:

I will glue the tabs:

Crap. I dont have a photo of the tray  — but here it is, in a crap photo, poised on top of my “tower”:

To this tray, I will add the crenellations (using the margins of the sturdy Horizon magazine pages), measured and marked through trial-and-error because, at this point in my castle-making carer, I don’t know how to anticipate the correct intervals between the “downs” and “ups” of crenellation:

I slather the glue onto the upright edges of my little tray and wrap the crenellated strip of paper all around it:

There’s the finished tray, and next to it are small flaps of paper that I have glued for a nefarious purpose:

I glue these into the interior of my rectangular tower in order to give the tray, which will sit atop it, some support:

I hope you can see that I have put the tower upside down on top of the tray:

I am using my long, needle-nosed tweezers to tap down the glue flaps so that they touch the tray:

I am sure that the previous few photographs were not in the least helpful, but in the end, this is how the tower comes together as a nice, stable, heavily-glued structure:

All it needs (according to the illustration) is a roof. I hope you can see the pencil lines that I made here (in the raking light):

Those lines help me make two triangles, comme ca:

Glue these triangles in place:

I took over 100 photos while I was building this castle. I could not possible bore you with every detail of the craft (ha! I said craft!) so I had to edit, but the kind of thing that I edited out is the part where the paper pieces need a little weight to get them to glue together properly. My staple-remover thingy comes in handy as a weight to set on these delicate objects while the glue dries:

Voila: Here is my first completed element of this castle, the rectangular tower:

By my count, I will need three rectangular towers and three round towers for this castle, so let’s now do a round tower!

Round towers are much more fun and harrowing to make. In preparation, I like to roll my re-inforced paper a bit, to get it in the mood to become a tube:

I would be nothing without good old Elmer’s glue:

I order to make certain that your tower is rolled properly you have to make the ends meet exactly, or else the tower will not stand up straight:

As this is the fourth castle that I have built, I have learned that using my circle-drawing tool to size the road towers is extremely helpful (for reasons that will become apparent very shortly). So, while the glue is still wet and fungible, I “size” my tower by pushing it through one of the apertures:

I can hardly believe I am saying this, but the good thing about knowing the size of your round tower (by making fit in the circle-drawing tool — what is this thing called, any way?? — is that you also know the diameter of your tower!

This is extremely exciting because, for the first and only time in my 62 years of life, I need to know the diameter as indicated on this circle-drawing tool of a circle!! Because now I can figure out the circumference of my round tower!!

I need to know the circumference of this tower because that is how I will make the crenellations!! As before, I draw a strip of “ups” and “downs”, but I cut notches into the bottom part of it, as shown here:

Putting crenellations on a round tower tray (which I cut out to be larger than the tower itself) is like, I hope there are sewers reading this, setting a sleeve into a shirt or dress:

Ta-Da!

The bottom of the round tower tray looks like this:

How cool is that?

Ok. Truth to tell, now that I’m a few (three? four? five? ) hours into this project, is when I start to question if this is the best way a person my age should be spending the precious minutes of her life. Making paper castles? Shouldn’t I be composing sonnets, or learning sign language, or day drinking, or something? Instead of cutting out itty bitty bits of castellations? Is this really how I want to spend my ever-dwindling days on Earth?

Hell, yeah!

Dear Readers, I know that it feels as if we are making this castle in real time, but let me assure you that castle-making is a much, much  s-l-o-w-e-r process than shown and we have oh, so much more to do on this project.

Now I know, Dear Readers, that you are not me; you do not have the type of idiocy that makes you spend a thousand minutes making a paper castle FOR NO GOOD REASON other than it fun and rather soothing, in these times of peril, to make your own 3-D puzzles while listening to NPR.

So let’s take a break and consider the heartening news this week that makes me think, and hope, that the end of right-wing putrescence in America is nigh. Paul Manafort is going down — it looks to me that the gummint has an open-and-shut case of tax fraud and money-laundering against him. Everyone says that this is Robert Mueller’s  opening shot at Trump; if not to show cause for swift impeachment, then to expose the fake, filthy, and flimsy pretexts of Trump’s businesses. I would rather see Trump forever and truly bankrupt for now and all history than see him hounded out of office (reason: President Pence).

SDNY: Southern District of New York.

And how about Rudy Giuliani running around laying the ground for the inevitable by spreading the word that “collusion is not a crime”?

And then there’s the NRA cozying up to a known Russian spy, and the Kock Brothers funding a multi-million dollar campaign against Trump, and the two civil trials against Alex Jones (the conspiracy theorist who claims that the school shooting at Sandy Hook, CT was a government fake and that Hillary was running a child sex ring out of a pizza joint in DC, etc)…

Friends, the arc of history towards truth and justice is drawing ever tighter, into a noose, against the throat of evil. I hope you have your victory party champagne chilling.

Back to castle building.

Now that we know how to make our two main elements (rectangular tower and round tower) of this, and every other, castle, I should say that the next bit gets a little wired. But first, let’s complete our facade by constructing this:

See? I smarted-up and cut out my box tower to include flaps that I can glue down to support whatever roof or castellations I might need:

I use these itty bitty bits as braces to secure the castellations on either side:

Putting the braces in place with tweezers:

Facade almost complete:

For the roof here, I found this illustration of Queen Elizabeth and am using the pattern of her skirt for roof tiles:

DONE (so far):

This photo shows that I’ve already jumped ahead and put in that tall rectangular tower that backs up the facade (see reference illustration below).

The complete front of this castle won’t be complete until I figure out how to make a short tower that has a wrap-around porch that connects the front of the castle to the back. I’ll show you the original illustration again so you can see it:

It was difficult to envision this, since I’ve ever made one before, so I did indeed draw up a plan:

And this is how you do it:

To make this nifty feature look nice and clean, and to give it a bit more stability, I made a little strip that I glued all along the inside castellation:

And here is where things get weird. This round tower in the very back must fit into some kind of platform structure that will kit into the nooks and crannies of back end of the facade…

And here is where I will leave you for this week because this has been a very looooong post and I know some of you Dear Readers who are making this castle along with me are dying to sweep up all the bits that have scattered themselves all over the floor…

…and it’s FRIDAY and we deserve a big stinking glass of ice cold Chablis for having lived through another week of the Trump Atrocity, or maybe just for making it through another week.

We will finish this castle next Friday, Dear Readers, when we are one week closer to the end of our national nightmare.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your thousands of minutes be spent in joyful contemplation of towers and turrets and castle of your dreams.

XXOO

 

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So I’m looking through an old YA novel, searching for inspiration for my second Book Art project, and I came across this:

The illustration, I mean. Not the tea bag. The tea bag is the same one I’ve been using for about ten years to show with my various Triscuits and paintings and things, to indicate scale. I hope it’s not too scuzzy, after ten years. At least it’s never been used…The New York Times just did a story about an artist, Laure Provost, whose prized possession is a 15-year old tea bag once used by her grandfather:

So. Tea bags. Where was I?

Oh, right. Book Art.

The used book store that I volunteer/co-manage for our local library has four (one hardback, three paper) copies of this book:

I do not remember this book, Half Magic, from my childhood, although it was a best seller when it was first published in 1954 and appears to still be in print. The book is nicely illustrated and the pages were kind of soft but substantial and there was that one castle pictured in it (see above), so I knew I could make something out of it:

In answer to Dear Reader Megan’s question last week: For my first castle (see: last week’s post)  I did not use any other material except the old, brittle pages from my source, a book from 1920 (don’t worry, you can buy your own copy on eBay for $9.99…I wouldn’t cut up a precious book!) . That paper was very tricky, being so dry and  flimsy, but I learn from my mistakes so  for this castle I did build up the main castle parts with some sturdy backings, a very inexpensive Canson “Biggie Jr.”  90-lb paper for kids crafts. For the crenelations and the flag pole I glued several pages together so they would be stiff enough to not flap in the wind.

Crenelations:

I give Dear Reader Megan this word in swaps with the most excellent word she left in her Comment last week — punnet. I never heard or saw that word before and now it’s one of my favorites. Thank you, Megan!

My first two castles were made like stage props — hollow, and want to be viewed only from the front. Here’s the back of my Half Magic castle:

But after making two stage prop castles, I think I’m ready to build something totally 3-D. And here’s the book that became my inspiration for my third castle, a book that has been ignored in our used book store for at least three months:

It’s in German and appears to be some kind of Year Book and yes, it’s from 1905.

It had great end papers . . .

I already ripped out the loose end paper, but it had the same cool blue design on it.

. . . and it also had fine (but strange) illustrations:

So, I thought about Germans, and Nazis, and lederhosen, but I wanted to think nice thoughts about Germans so I thought about the Brothers Grimm, and then I thought, Aha! 

Rapunzel.

Working on this free-standing tower gave me lots of time to think about Rapunzel, so that’s why  my Rapunzel isn’t letting down her hair because my Rapunzel enjoys her life in her tower just fine, thank you very much, with her books and her paints and her tea cups and her cats:

This little side-tower was fun to do:

It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to cut those eaves so the two roofs could fit together, but it was awfully relaxing to do so. The harder it gets to put these castles together, the more I like it; it requires the same concentration as watercolor or embroidery, but is much more playful. It’s castles!

I’ll be back at the book store today, going through some children’s books, looking for more inspiration, and maybe I’ll show you the step-by-step next time, if you Dear Readers think that would be of interest. I know you want to know how to make those neat pointy roofs.

Last week Dear Reader Birdie asked whether we at the used book store sold out books on line. Let me give a long answer:

This week we got a big box, full of donated books — all the books we sell at the used book store are donated to us — that contained a lot of Book of the Month and Reader’s Digest books from the 1960s and ’70s. The donor dropped the box off, and we didn’t get a name or any contact information. . . most people are glad to get rid of books that they feel too guilt to throw away, so they tend to dash off once they have unloaded the responsibility on us.

Most of the books in this donation were not suitable for us to sell, as they were too worn out or were about the last 100 days of WWII. There were a few woodworking books in there, too; it seemed to me that the books came from the library of a guy who had served in Europe in the war and come home to a lifelong hobby of making bird houses and decoy ducks.

Then, in the very bottom of the box, I found gold. I found this:

This is a pristine first edition (1971) of Sylvia Plath’s only novel, published by Harper & Row. The cover is immaculate and it seems to me that the book has never been read, not surprising when you consider the company it’s been keeping for the last 47 years.

It has a minor condition issue in that the binding is very slightly bowed:

This is the first valuable book that we’ve had donated to us, so this is the first time that I’ve considered putting one of our books on line.

But I’m giving all you Dear Readers first crack. If you or anyone you know would like to own this amazing first edition (fifth printing), let me know. All sales benefit the William Cullen Bryant Library in Roslyn, NY.

The other most exciting thing that’s happened in the neighborhood recently is the sighting of a pair of male and female coyotes living in the woods behind the high school. It is assumed that they are a breeding pair, and that they have a den. Coyote babies! How cute!

But that means that there are some hungry coyotes prowling our sleepy little h hamlet here on the north shore of Long Island, and all residents are advised to keep small dogs and cats indoors (cats are coyotes’ favorite food). Scary!

All my cats are on ultra-high alert:

P.S. Sorry, but the Sylvia Plath book is already sold. There are still Sylvia Plath fans out there!

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. May all your castles have a room, just for you, with a view.

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I’m trying to find a way to sell more used books. While we are making more money than we made last year at the used book store that I co-manage to benefit our local library (Bryant Library in Roslyn, Long Island, New York), I want to “grow” the business because I’ve promised myself a case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc the first time we hit the outrageous monthly goal of $500.00. And I really like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I like to drink it knowing that it’s for a good cause.

So I’ve started to make structures out of the books that no one wants. The castle (above) is my first attempt to make something enticing.

There’s an empty room at our library, a “Maker Space” for “teens”, that I’d like to fill with” teens” making Book Art. And I want these up-to-now-hypothetical “teens” to use our used book store as their art supply source.

BTW, when I was in that age bracket, I did not like being called a “teen”. I did not have a “teen” life, as was shown me by TV and LIFE magazine, and I hated every “teen” who did.

This was soooooo not me.

I am currently almost finished with my second structure, another castle made out of the classic illustrated YA novel, Half Magic.

It might surprise you that making Book Art is not nearly the dirty work that running a used book store is. Lately we have been receiving really filth donations — literally filthy. We get books that seem to have been stored in oily  garages for decades, we get books that have have been absorbing years and years of cigarette smoke, we get books that come from damp basements, we get books that have been pried out of dusty bookcases from the 1960s (we can tell because they are all Book of the Month Club sections, none more recent than 1972), we get books that have been colonized by spiders. Cobwebs are the worst.

This week we got a very nice donation from an SUV that had been caught in a sand storm. I unpacked the cartons in the hall way of our historic house, and had to wipe down every book cover to remove a fine layer of grit:

After wiping them down with a damp paper towel, every book had to dry off. And although this was a rather good donation, it also contained a book about how to manage your bowl disease. Really? You think a used book store would want that??

My favorite book of the week, however, is this one:

It was printed in 1962 and, I suppose, acquired that same year by Mill Lane Junior High School in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. But as you can see, this book was never checked out, not once, in its lifetime:

For 56 years, this book has waited for someone to care. But alas, its Due Date was never stamped.

That’s an ugly cover, but the title is killer, if you ask me. Uses of Infinity: I can picture a great fantasy novel with that title, or a moving memoir of loss and recovery.

Hoping to find something the lived up to its first impressions, I peered into its pristine pages:

Without actually reading the book, which I don’t have the energy or the smarts to do, I have surmised that Infinity is something that you can graph, which means that Infinity is something that you can quantify, or present in an arcane visual language. Who knew?

Some of the sub-heading are as good as poetry:

Wait. This book was purchased for junior high school kids?? No wonder it was never checked out.

THIS BOOK MUST BE MINE.

At first, I wanted to bring it home so I could cut it up and make mysteriously inspiriting collages out of it, but more and more I have the feeling that this book is an artifact of the colossal curiosity of its author, Leo Zipkin, and all kindred souls who find beauty and meaning in higher mathematics. Now I don’t have the heart to destroy it.

One of our volunteer book sellers was working last Friday and she left a note that one of the library workers had come into the book store and taken 8 novels “on loan”. She said that she wanted to read the cover copy to a house-bound friend, get her selection, and return the books she didn’t want.

All our novels, hard cover and paperback, cost 50 cents. 50 CENTS.

I put my foot down and wrote down our store policy for all future cases of such entitlement and cheapskatedness. We do not  “loan” books. WE ARE NOT A LIBRARY.

People are amazing, are they not?

Then again, we’re talking about people, and there are still people who love Donald Trump, despite the clear Helsinki-adjacent evidence that he and the Republican party are determined to destroy our democracy through alignment with Russia.

I get stomach cramps just thinking about it. The times are desperate, Dear Readers, and it makes me crazy. So I bring you stories of paper castles and equations for infinity because we all need to think about something else, now and then, other than the pure venality of the right wing, or we will go insane.

I also have kitty cats:

And I forgot to tell you that when I was in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check in with Mr. Fluffy, the horribly mangy, filthy, smelly, scraggly, skinny, sickly cat who I rescued from the streets in ’17, who now looks like this:

He’s gorgeous and he doesn’t know it. He’s a very sweet kitty. You can pick him up and smooch him, he doesn’t mind.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Our country still has the chance to redeem itself.

And if you want to read up on the latest in the resistance led by two smart and smart-ass women of spirit and gumption and righteousness, click here:

JackieSue, Yellow Dog Granny

Juanita Jean, The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon

XXOO, Y’all.

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