doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: Arts and Crafts

Friendly inspiration

When I was in Chicago over winter break, I spent most of my time with my family. But I also caught up with my old “crafternoon” buddy. We talked shop, discussing the best paper collage glue and the sharpest scissors for maximum cutting precision. We also wandered the aisles of Hobby Lobby, picking up random treasures to use in our respective craft projects. Going to Hobby Lobby with a fellow craft addict is both marvelous and dangerous. Marvelous, in that you inspire each other with ideas on how to use this or that trinket; dangerous, in that you rationalize each other’s ever-expanding pile of purchases. But it’s mostly marvelous. My friend also graciously gifted me some vintage children’s book and magazine images, as well as other colorful paper.

Below are some of my recent origami crane cards, made with these new acquisitions. Click on any photo to open up a slideshow with larger images.

 

Seeing the NYC street art scene

Joy (left) and me posing in front of one of the Bushwick Collective murals earlier this fall.

When my youngest sister Joy came to visit me earlier this fall, she had an offbeat itinerary. I previously wrote a post about our exploration of the Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image, which I highly recommend visiting. I also wanted to share some photos from another one of our excursions. Joy wanted to get in on the NYC public art scene so at her behest, we headed to the Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn. It’s an out-of-the way collection of vibrant street murals that run the gamut from political commentary to psychedelic-trippy. The art is all temporary, with pieces constantly being added or replaced. So the images I’m sharing here are a simply snapshot in time of the day we visited. It’s a quick cab/Uber or subway ride from Manhattan, and it’s definitely worth the trip.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to open up a slideshow with larger images.

Charting new creative territory

I’ve shared some of my origami crane notecard creations in another post. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve expanded into new territory. One of my new directions even relates to science.

I have plenty of paper — rolls upon giant rolls, all stored under my bed. But I was getting bored. I needed something to spark my creativity. When I was flipping through a box of cardstock recently, I came across some calendar pages I’d collected while working in a research lab years ago. They had colorful microscopy images on them.

“Huh,” I thought. “I could use these.”

And I did. Here are the results of my science collection so far:

With these cards now complete, I’ve basically used what I have in terms of glossy magazine-type pictures. But a classmate has promised to get me more science/nature magazines from her parents, so I should be getting additional inspiration soon.

Against my better judgment, I also headed to my favorite paper website, Paper Mojo. They have an insanely huge collection of both solid and printed paper. Specifically, I wanted to peruse their collection of chiyogami (a type of Japanese printed paper) and marbled paper. As I was scrolling through the pages of paper patterns, I was reminded that for many of them, you can buy 5″ x 8″ sample pieces rather than a large sheet. I only needed small squares or circles for each card, so this was perfect — I could get many different patterns without spending too much money.

My chiyogami and marbled prints arrived Friday night. I dove into using them yesterday, with great delight.

Here are the cards I made using two of the marbled prints:

And the cards I made using four of the chiyogami prints:

I’ve still got more chiyogami and marbled patterns to play with, and the promise of magazines soon, too. Working with paper, mixing colors, matching prints and solids, is a wonderful study break. And when so much of my time at home is spent with my nose buried in a book, it feels good to hold something tangible that I’ve made with my own two hands.

Note: For each of the photo groupings, you can click on any of the pictures to open a slide show with larger images.

An origami crafternoon

When I was living in the Chicago area, a dear friend of mine and I would get together for what we called “crafternoons” at her house. We each had our respective activities, but would do them side by side, chatting and listening to music or having a movie on in the background.

Last weekend, a rare “free” weekend in between my surgery and psychiatry clerkships (so no studying to do), I indulged in an origami crafternoon of my own. I caught up on my favorite podcasts while folding crane notecards. The cards have an origami crane on the front, and then unfold to reveal a blank space to write a message. Below are the exteriors of four of the cards I made, with one of the interiors shown as well. Click on any of the cards to see an enlarged image.

Given that I’ve got a long weekend starting today, more origami is definitely on my to-do list.

The theme of my summer break: exploring the integration of art and nature

Today marks the beginning of a new clerkship, surgery. I’m sure I will have plenty to say about that in the coming 8 weeks. But right now, I want to write about the marvelous summer break that just came to a close. Without intending this, my vacation decidedly had a theme: art, nature, and their integration. I explored this three-part theme both in New York City with a dear friend who came to visit, as well as during a brief trip to Chicago to see my family.

Taking a break to hug a tree at the Morton Arboretum.

It all started while I was in Chicago, with a visit to the Morton Arboretum. The weather was perfect for seeing this outdoor plant sanctuary, a favorite of my mom’s, and I had never been there. When my mom and I arrived, we discovered there was an origami exhibit underway. The beautiful arboretum grounds were sprinkled with immense metal sculptures, precise replications of miniature folded paper creations. We oohed and aahed as we walked around, both at the plants and the intricate folds of the sculptures, and took lots of fun photos. At the end of our visit, we stopped by the gift shop. I came across a craft kit on how to make origami flowers. It had everything you needed: instruction booklet, paper, and a DVD showing how to make the folds.

“This would be fun,” I told my mom.

Ever the supportive homeschooler, she replied, “I’ll buy it!”

An orchid bouquet that my mom and I crafted together.

So she did. We learned how to make orchids, plumerias, and leaves. I bought floral tape and wire, and we made bouquets. We found YouTube videos detailing how to make cards. We did all this not from the paper included in the kit, though — that paper was plain and boring, so we used it for practice only. But I’d left dozens of sheets of fancy paper at my mom’s apartment, the remnants of my decoupage days. They were still in her basement. I lugged them up the stairs, thankful that most art supplies find use in multiple projects.

I had so much fun that I mailed all my paper (in poster tubes) back to me in New York, and on my plane ride home checked an extra suitcase full of other art paraphernalia. Now I’ve got another way to express my creativity — one that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen.

I told my dad one morning a day or two later about the Morton Arboretum and our origami adventures. Along the lines of Japanese culture … he asked whether I’d ever visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford. I hadn’t. The afternoon forecast called for rain, so we hurriedly got ready and hopped into his Corvette for the drive to Rockford. Our walk among the Japanese maples and other carefully cultivated plants was sublime.

Enjoying the falling water and beautiful foliage at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Ill.

Posing with one of the Chihuly sculptures at the New York Botanical Garden.

Back home in New York,  a good friend of mine came for a brief visit. We headed to The Met, of course, at her request. At my suggestion, we also visited the New York Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly exhibition. I’d seen a similar show at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory several years prior, and had been blown away. His immense blown glass sculptures, which have an unmistakable signature, dotted the garden’s landscape. Some stood alone; others were mixed into the actual plant beds or flowing fountains. For those of you in New York City, I highly recommend going to the botanical garden before this show ends on Oct. 29. Pay the extra few bucks to see not only the outdoor sculptures, but the indoor ones too. It’s totally worth it.

Below are additional photos of my art and nature adventures. Click on any of the photo galleries to see a slide show version with larger images.

Morton Arboretum:

My origami:

Anderson Japanese Gardens:

Beautiful blooming dogwood tree on the grounds of the Japanese garden

New York Botanical Garden / Chihuly:

My own unsolved mystery

I’m a mystery junkie. My favorite TV shows and podcasts all involve drama, sinister intrigue, and crook catching. Right now I’m immersed in “Accused,” a nine-episode podcast about the unsolved 1978 murder of Elizabeth Andes.

And now I have an unsolved mystery of my own.

My unsolved mystery is not at all sinister though. Quite the opposite — it’s sweet; a puzzling act of kindness that I can’t completely explain.

Allow me to present my case, and the physical evidence I’ve collected.

I don’t get much mail. Not even the junk mail senders or credit card companies have found me yet. But about two weeks ago, a nondescript, cream envelope appeared in my mailbox. It was hand addressed to me in black ballpoint pen — clearly not an advertisement — but there was no return address. Curious, I opened the envelope and found a lovely card inside. The message — “Always remember … You are doing your best” — was exactly what I needed to hear that day. I’d had a long, rough afternoon at clinic and really needed some encouragement.

I was so grateful for this surprise act of kindness. But I didn’t know whom to thank.

The card itself looks handmade, which makes me think maybe it came from someone artistic. But that’s not much to go on. So I scoured the envelope for clues. I tried to make out the blurred postmark (of course the postmark would be blurred!). I think part of it says “SUBURBAN IL,” but I’m not sure. No other revealing markings on the inside or outside. I didn’t recognize the handwriting either. This wasn’t from either of my parents, my two sisters, or the friends who send me mail from time to time. My mystery writer would have needed help finding me, though. So I could try asking my parents and sisters whether they’d recently been asked for my address.

But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I want to solve this mystery. Which surprised me at first, since I’m all about the thrill of the chase. But the fact that my mystery writer sent me this beautiful card in an envelope without a return address was no mistake. She or he wants to remain a mystery. And I want to respect that.

Since I don’t know who sent this to me, I can’t thank them directly. But just maybe, my mystery writer will see this blog post and know how much this seemingly small act meant to me, how it truly lifted my spirits when they were low. I want them to know that I keep the card on my refrigerator to remind me that I am doing my best, and also to remind me that there are so many people out there who have my back — more than I even know.

So if you’re out there, mystery writer, thank you.

Crafty

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The arts and crafts bug really struck me during my vacation. Here are a few more pieces I made over the last week. As you can tell, I love working with colors, shapes, and textures. Here’s hoping I can find a way to better incorporate this kind of creativity in my medical school life!

Reconnecting with my creativity

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Coming home to Chicago means I’ve reconnected with my family. It also means I’ve reconnected with my creativity.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved creating things with my hands. Beads, wire, glass, and paper have all been my mediums, at one time or another. Before starting medical school, I even sold some of my work at arts and crafts shows. But creating takes space. That’s something I lack at my New York City apartment. So the few supplies I didn’t get rid of, I left at my mom’s place.

This morning, I zipped open the red duffel bag that sat on a shelf in her musty basement for the last year. Inside the bag are clear tubs of beads and spools of colored wire. A velcro-secured pouch holds my wire cutters and other tools. In another box are pieces of second-hand silverware that I’d bought at resale shops. Take all those supplies, add some personal inspiration, and what you see in these photos is what you get.

Watching something take form before your eyes, something you have designed and created, is a good feeling. I’ve missed it.

Creating a kid-friendly space in a kid-unfriendly place

Jemella, quite the talented artist, painting her masterpiece dolphin.

Jemella, quite the talented artist, painting her incredible dolphin.

The hospital is a scary place for kids, regardless of what country you’re in. Eva, a Dutch woman who funds various programs at Naggalama Hospital, recently had a children’s playroom constructed adjacent to the pediatrics ward. Before opening it to the kids, she wanted it decorated. So one Sunday afternoon, we (Eva, Randi, Howard, Jemella, and I) all got together and painted the long, narrow room in an aquatic theme — Jemella’s idea. We each took a wall as our personal canvas, then worked together to fill in the gaps at the end. Here are photos of some of the masterpieces. Click on each image for a larger version. (I don’t have pictures of Randi’s or Eva’s work, but it’s amazing too!)

After the paint had dried, Eva gathered toys and books to fill the space. Walking by the room now, even from the outside, you can hear the excited squeals of kids playing with those toys, happy to be away from their hospital beds. Happy to be distracted, if only for a little while. It’s a good feeling to have had a little part in that.

Howard, Jemella, and Randi shaking up the paint cans before starting our works of art. The only type of paint available was oil-based paint, and there were very limited colors. So we did a lot of mixing in the plastic cups you see here. As a result, the playroom is a vibrant mix of all colors, shades, and hues.

Howard, Jemella, and Randi shaking up the paint cans before starting our works of art. The only type of paint available was oil-based paint, and there were very limited colors. So we did a lot of mixing in the plastic cups you see here. As a result, the playroom is a vibrant mix of all colors, shades, and hues.

Exploring NYC: The MoMA

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One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of modern art from the 1960s. I grew up listening to the music from this decade, and so could appreciate at least some of the cultural references.

When I finished my final exam last Friday, I returned to my room and felt lost. What in the world would I do with 10 days of unstructured time? The answer: have fun! Do things in this grand city that I’ve wanted to do, but simply haven’t had the time (or taken the time) to do. I’ve teamed up with one of my classmates who is also in town this week, and is also casting about for things to do. First on our agenda was to hit The Museum of Modern Art, better known here as The MoMA.

I truly enjoy art, though I don’t pretend to understand all of it. To be honest, much of modern art especially is a mystery to me, though I am fascinated by it. When I read the placards next to the pieces, I can see where the artist is coming from, but often until then … not so much. I think, though, that while part of art may be understanding the thematic and stylistic elements, a significant part is simply experiencing it, the pure visceral nature of the visuals. And that—that I can do.

Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable paintings there is. How exciting to see it in real life!

Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” 1889.

Here are some photos I took at The MoMA yesterday. Every piece I’ve captured here intrigued me in some way, though the highlight was probably seeing Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” This is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable paintings in existence. How exciting to see it in real life! Most of the other pieces I saw, perhaps with the exception of works by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack, were not so familiar to me. But as I said, fascinating nonetheless.

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As a writer, how could I NOT love this, Dieter Roth's "Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst)." According to the exhibit explanation: "Between 1961 and 1970, Roth created about fifty 'literature sausages.' To make each sausage Roth followed a traditional recipe, but with one crucial twist: where the recipe called for ground pork, veal, or beef, be substituted a ground-up book or magazine. Roth mixed the ground-up pages with fat, gelatin, water, and spices before stuffing them into sausage casings." Apparently, he used both materials that he loved and hated, everything from tabloids to Karl Marx. "Roth turned literature into a metaphorical object for intellectual consumption and physical subsistence."

As a writer, how could I NOT love this, Dieter Roth’s “Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst).” According to the exhibit explanation: “Between 1961 and 1970, Roth created about fifty ‘literature sausages.’ To make each sausage Roth followed a traditional recipe, but with one crucial twist: where the recipe called for ground pork, veal, or beef, be substituted a ground-up book or magazine. Roth mixed the ground-up pages with fat, gelatin, water, and spices before stuffing them into sausage casings.” Apparently, he used both materials that he loved and hated, everything from tabloids to Karl Marx. “Roth turned literature into a metaphorical object for intellectual consumption and physical subsistence.” Hm. Well, consider the literature consumed, I suppose.