custom paper gems or polyhedra

Big Ol’ Paper Gems

I was excited when I was hired to make these big paper polyhedra, because I have a loooong personal history with these shapes that begins somewhere in California before I was born. One of my family’s stories involves my parents fighting over checking out the same book from the library (you know, you go to check out a book & someone’s already checked it out, so you place a hold and then the other person has to return the book immediately, that kind of thing). The book was Magnus Wenninger’s Polyhedron Models.

custom paper gems or polyhedra

Although they had different approaches to it, building polyhedron models was a hobby my parents shared, and our house always had some of these models hanging from the ceiling or sitting on the mantel. For the last few years, I’ve been studying these shapes too, and have started building the models myself. It’s even more fun than it looks!1)If you want to try it out, I recommend Fr. Wenninger’s book mentioned above, or this awesome website. And they hold a lot of meaning and magic going back to the ancient Greeks. (I wrote a small book about it.)

custom paper gem event installation

Back in January, I made this set of 80 or so large paper gems (and a few paper airplanes) for Relevé Unlimited, an event planner in California2)All event photos here are from Relevé Unlimited. I love how she hung them in these mobiles & matched them with the candle holders. LOOKS FABULOUS!

custom paper gem event installation

80 polyhedra was a lot to make, but I really enjoyed the process. I even got Nick to help a bit, and carting all these things down to UPS to ship was hilarious.

We’re calling them “paper gems” because they’re reminiscent of crystal structures, a human imitation of natural geometry.

paper gem pile

Paper gems under construction! I use recycled paper for these, and for most things, from a 100% renewable energy family-owned local mill (French Paper! You know them, they’re awesome).

I’ve just listed some of these shapes in Felis Major’s etsy shop, so if you find yourself in need of some geometry in your life, get at it. (Or email me for custom orders, as always.)

drifts of colorful paper scraps


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1. If you want to try it out, I recommend Fr. Wenninger’s book mentioned above, or this awesome website.
2. All event photos here are from Relevé Unlimited

Guardians of the Poles


Polophylax, Guardian of the South Pole, wears a blue robe and stands next to an imaginary 1)Every constellation is a function of the imagination, but I am calling imaginary constellations the ones that have no stars to back them up. southern cross2)There is a real Southern Cross, but it isn’t this one..  Full map

Polophylax was one of the shorter-lived constellations, appearing only on a couple of maps made by Petrus Planicus in the 1592 and 1594, depicting the constellations near the south pole. The name comes from Greek words meaning “Guardian of the Pole,” but it appears only here, sort of a back construction of a mythological figure. Planicus never actually saw these stars. His constellations in the Southern Hemisphere were based on astronomical observations made by sailors, and when they brought him more detailed data in the late 1590s, Polophylax dissolved into two birds: the toucan and the crane. The responsibility of watching over the south pole now falls to them. It’s a difficult job! They have the phoenix and the peacock to help them3)The constellations Tucana, Grus, Phoenix, and Pavo are known as the Southern Birds., but I’d much rather have the blue-robed guardian of the south pole back. Since he has no mythology – he was probably created as a counterpart to the guardians of the north pole – I’m going to make up a story for him:

Polophylax, like Petrus Planicus, fled from Brussels to escape the Spanish Inquisition, but instead of ending up in Amsterdam and becoming a cartographer like Planicus did, Polophylax kept fleeing all the way down to the south pole, pursued relentlessly by evil inquisitors and unable to find any rest or safety anywhere. He left his home in Belgium a young man, but by the time he finally arrived in Antarctica, he was very old, with long white hair that blended in with the frozen landscape. And of course, he wore a big, shapeless blue gown. He was immediately surrounded by a herd of friendly penguins, who carried him off to a warm cave, leaving the inquisitors to be eaten by killer whales. Polophylax was so happy to finally find a safe home where he was welcomed and protected, that he decided to do everything he could to protect it. And so, he became the Guardian of the Pole. The end. Unfortunately, he turned into a couple of birds only three years later and the tracks the inquisitors left behind them as they chased him across the globe turned into fire and creeping ash, and within a couple centuries the whole planet became uninhabitable.4)As for Petrus Planicus, he had a much more peaceful life. He became a cartographer and astronomer in Amsterdam, soon becoming the expert on shipping routes to India, and was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company. Currently, he exists as an asteroid called 10648 Planicus.

guardians of the [north] pole

Kochab and Pherkad, two stars in the bowl of the Little Dipper, circle close around Polaris and are called the Guardians of the Pole. In the northern hemisphere, these two stars never set, and circle around Polaris once in a day – so they can be used to tell the time. Sometime I’ll show you how to make a star-clock out of paper. This will be a very useful & handy thing for you, because you don’t wear a watch anymore but when it’s dark out your sundial doesn’t work.

Ursa Minor could use a couple of guardians right here, getting rudely kicked.

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1. Every constellation is a function of the imagination, but I am calling imaginary constellations the ones that have no stars to back them up.
2. There is a real Southern Cross, but it isn’t this one.
3. The constellations Tucana, Grus, Phoenix, and Pavo are known as the Southern Birds.
4. As for Petrus Planicus, he had a much more peaceful life. He became a cartographer and astronomer in Amsterdam, soon becoming the expert on shipping routes to India, and was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company. Currently, he exists as an asteroid called 10648 Planicus.

A high, dark void

How comforting it is that the stars still exist! Still! And in a high, dark void, unmoved. How comforting – is it ok to want to be comforted? – to know that only 50 miles up all noise becomes silence and by the time you get to Mars, the Earth is just a bright star.

If all life on Earth was wiped out, it would go on elsewhere without pause, would in fact probably creep back out of this planet’s pores and start the whole mess all over again. Even if the Earth disappeared, sure maybe the moon would be at a loss, but there wouldn’t be much more effect to our cosmic neighborhood than a slight shifting around of gravity. And how wonderful to think of our rovers on Mars blinking back radio signals at the empty space they came from!

How comforting to think you could be the destruction of every living thing you have ever heard of, and the rest of the universe will go on unperturbed!

Did you know you can watch a live streaming video from the International Space Station? While all this madness has been going on down here below, I’ve been thinking about those astronauts up there in space, working together, doing science. How do they feel about having to come home again?

Enforced fictions

FACTS have been voted out. Many people see no use for them. TRUTH has been trampled on and torn apart. Its face is bloodied & unrecognizable.

I have to write this before I can write anything else.

The thing that interests me about constellations is their place between the real – the actual stars visible in the sky – and the imaginary – the stories that people have built around them throughout the centuries, and how both of those things change over time. With new telescopes we discover new stars, and as light pollution seeps out from the cities and takes over an ever-increasing area of the night sky, some constellations vanish, some disintegrate. The names and stories of the constellations change from culture to culture, and from imagination to imagination. Although, “officially,” the names of the constellations (the stories that fill our sky), and of the stars and the planets and the craters on the planets & other astronomical objects are regulated by the eurocentric International Astronomical Union, defining the filter through which our imaginations view outer space (the final frontier, where anything should be possible). Which is not totally unrelated, but I think would be better left as another rant for another day


right now I feel like these things are pretty trivial, compared to the more immediate, dangerous tension between the real and the imaginary – the way we are encouraged to define ourselves based on our fears, tricked into thinking there’s an easy route to a better life guided by self-interest, disconnection. What can we do? What can we do? What can we do? Everything is terrible. Everything is terrible. Yes, for the last few weeks, since Trump was elected president and the country was revealed to itself not as a place of hope for progress but as a place where fear and hate win, I’ve been feeling depressed, angry, frightened, etc, like you have. And even now I feel like I should apologize for talking about politics: I was taught not to mix politics and art, not that all art is political. I was taught that art is useless – and this was supposed to be a good thing. That the artist has no place in society, too frail & fucked up to function. These are stories we tell our young artists in order to hobble them before they have a chance to challenge us. Or we give them the option of being “creatives” – productive members of capitalist society making innocuous objects for our consumption/distraction. I am working on reprogramming my brain. Please be patient with me. There’s a lot of really stupid stuff packed in there.

What can we do what can we do what can we do? Here are some ideas:

  • Make thoughtful work, hold onto subtlety in a world that wants to beat subtlety out of us
  • Get off of Facebook! Delete your Facebook account! They are using you like a lab rat & a cash cow!
  • Stay weird, weird, weird
  • Read & learn, research & share your findings
  • If you can give money, give money; if you can give time, give time
  • Please be patient with your friends
  • I think it’s important for artists to work toward change through their art, but we can also do more direct political work

Maybe you know all these things already. It has taken me a while to write this and a while to post it. I have made myself so quiet! Do you remember when you were seven years old visiting your great aunt and she said, “let’s play a game! It’s called, ‘So Quiet You Can Hear a Pin Drop’.” And you had to be very quiet, so quiet that even a mouse couldn’t hear you, and you had to wait for no cars to be passing by and no planes, and then your great aunt gestured for you to lean in close so you put your ear right up to the edge of the kitchen counter and she got out a thin needle from her sewing box and held it up over the counter and let go

I have been holding my breath ever since


a poetry chapbook with a volvelle wheel cover

I recently finished printing & binding this poetry chapbook for the poet Maura McDanel, and I want to share it with you because I love the idea for the cover that Maura came up with: a volvelle, which is a wheel that you can turn to make different pictures show up in the windows. You’ve seen these things before, but maybe you didn’t know they were called “volvelles” instead of “wheel thingies.” Early volvelles were used to calculate the positions of planets and stars:

volvelle, from wikipediavolvelle

The one I made for Maura’s book is not quite so complicated! Instead of calculating the positions of the stars in the sky, it shows drawings of things she’s interested in (only everything), and positions them in relationships to each other that are sometimes funny, sometimes make some kind of sense.



A visit to the Art Farm, a sighting of the constellation Ardea (the great heron)

Ben and I walked out to the country road to look at the sky, clear and full of stars, the bright half-moon behind the trees on one side and across the road endless corn. As we have been driving through Nebraska and Iowa the last few days we have seen the husks dry and curl up to reveal flashes of yellow. I want to ask: does living among all this corn make you want to eat it more, or less? but I’m afraid that might be a rude question. The corn has been talked about so much, maybe it’s better not to mention it at all. So I’ll try to avoid calling attention to the rows, the tunnels of corn stalks, the bristles and waves, the long, low land (this used to be ocean?), and any discussion of where all this corn is going, and why, and what machines are needed to harvest it, and the livestock it implies, and what harm the whole industry is doing to the land, our bodies, leave it!

“What constellations do you know?” Ben asked. I pointed out the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. I pointed out the Milky Way and a red star that might be Mars. It had rained the day before, a real Nebraska storm that flashed red lightning in the back of my eyelids and washed out all sign that any world existed outside the windows of the car. The road was still soft under our shoes. The enormous silhouette of a heron passed over us, its seven-foot wingspan black against the stars. I dreamed all night of the sound of its wings.

art farm, text in the floating barn

This weekend I visited the art farm in Nebraska with my poet friends, Ben and Josh. Josh is there doing a residency and I hope I can do that next summer, too. There is a room full of presses, linotype machine and who knows what else, but it was walled off a long time ago and all you can do is circle around it, looking in the windows longingly. In a dusty corridor between piles of lumber and broken saws, I met a woman who was setting type for some letterpress bookmarks. She’s starting a new publishing project that sounds really cool. Later, I got to hear the most hilarious, amazing karaoke rendition of Psycho Killer, in a bar called Don’t Care, on a deep-starry night in the middle of the cornfields. I said I wouldn’t mention the cornfields. I’ve mentioned them! Although karaoke was marred by (being karaoke & by) the headache I got from drinking Ben’s special “Nebraska Farm Hammer,” recipe below.

Nebraska Farm Hammer*:
take a glass
add a bunch of whiskey (probably bourbon)
some lemonade
some Sprite
ice (if available, preferably from thick&unfiltered water)

* copyright ben clark ©

Felis the Cat

Once upon a time there was a constellation called Felis, the cat. What happens to a constellation when it dies? It’s already up among the stars, so where else can it go? Does a constellation only exist if it’s on a map? There is our definition of a constellation: a drawing on a piece of paper, or a figment of the collective imagination. You don’t have your own personal constellations, you follow faithfully the 88 prescribed by the International Astronomical Union. The IAU are in charge of the names of everything in the sky. We gave them that power. It’s safer to have a governing body in charge of the naming of things.

Jerome Lalande

Joseph Jerome Lalande

Felis was invented in 1799 by Joseph Jerome Lalande, a French astronomer and lover of cats. The illustration of Felis that appeared in Bode’s Uranographia in 1801 (pictured below) bears a striking resemblance to Lalande. I think this might give us a clue as to where the cat went when he was removed from the heavens. Or what happened to Lalande when he died in 1807.

the cat constellation

There’s no myth behind the cat. This is just a cat for cat’s sake. She digs her claws into Draco’s tail. She laps up the Milky Way and then vomits it into Libra’s scales.

Where I live, the streetlights are too loud to see anything at night. They fill the air with a cicada-like buzzing. Sometimes, in the neighborhoods to the west where the lights are dimmer and farther spaced, I can see a few pieces of constellations — Orion’s belt, a fragment of the big dipper***not a constellation but an asterism*** — but mostly the sky is covered at night with dull orange clouds. That there are any constellations left at all we have to take on the word of the IAU.

But maybe you live in the countryside, where it’s always dark. The stars are still there, and you can peer through the figures of dragons and warriors that crowd the night sky to see what remains of the cat, his skeleton, a few faint stars. (I’m going there this weekend, I’ll let you know.)

Benjamin Franklin (Part 1)

In the morning, if I don’t feel like riding my bike or if it’s raining, I take the brown line to work. The brown line is slow, winding between old brick buildings and over busy streets on its way downtown. I ride in the last car and when the conductor goes fast around a curve it feels like we’re about to be flung off the tracks. The people who ride with me wear khaki pants and blue button-up shirts, or pencil skirts and sneakers and large diamond rings, and they work in the financial district. Many of the young men have bought their khaki pants and blue button-up shirts in a size too large, so they can grow into them. They eat steaks and drink beer every evening after work in order to hurry up the process. This morning, one of the young men in a baggy blue shirt is reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I take this as a very good sign. I love The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. It’s one of my favorite books.

I work in a building that used to be a printing office. Now it’s just an office. My boss likes to show people how the floor is slanted so paper could be rolled out the door more easily. The building across the street also used to house printing companies and the facade is covered in tile murals of printing scenes from Benjamin Franklin’s time. When I sit at my desk at work and look out the window, I see a mural of a man with a great big round belly. I think of him as Ben.

I recently bought an awesome new tool that I’m super excited about, a big, heavy, guillotine paper cutter that can cut a whole stack of paper at once. Until now I’ve been cutting each piece of paper one at a time, and I spent many many hours this winter and spring trimming hundreds of chapbooks for Meekling Press by hand. Now I can trim books much more tidily and a stack of paper in a few minutes. I love it. At my friend Ruthie’s suggestion, we’re calling him Franklin, or Frankie for short.