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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Making Tradition By Hand

Growing up in a half atheistic, half non-church-going-believer type of family made my childhood holidays a find-your-own-meaning sort of situation. My mom created the mood, my dad tried to ignore the whole thing. I don't remember wondering what the meaning of it all was — I suppose getting presents was my main concern. But, I do remember loving the ritual of our family's traditions: opening family presents on Christmas Eve/Santa's in the morning; baking a long list of very specific goodies (Granny's Fudge, mom's Russian Tea Cakes, Becky's Peanut Butter Balls, grandma Ruby's Peanut Butter Cookies, Renie's Magic Bars, etc.); and, most importantly, the making of handmade gifts and decorations. We did *a lot* of making. We never stopped making, not even in those awkward teenage years.

When I was in college I printed a very small edition of miniature books about our family's Christmas traditions. Talk about being a dork! There is nothing more un-hip than illustrating Christmas when you are a fine arts major — my teacher was not impressed. It was an earnest book, though, full of love and memories. Each spread features an item handmade by family or friends: my sister's toilet paper tube angel; Wayne's machine-lathed aluminum tree; my soft sculpture snowman; Kathy's felt advent calendar; Patty's patchwork placemats; even our favorite baked goodies are in there.

My printmaking teacher might not have liked it, but it was tear-worthy over at our house that Christmas. It's probably the best present I ever gave to my mom. And, in a way, it's one of the best presents she gave to me.

Here it is:
Miniature Book

Becky's Angel / My Snowman:

Patty's Placemat:

Kathy's Advent Calendar:

Wayne's Aluminum Tree:

The Goodies:

The End:

Some technical info:
I printed the book on a stone lithography press with black ink. I hand-colored each illustration with Prismacolor colored pencils. The text is handwritten (I forget what kind of pen — heck, it was 20 years ago!). Each page is glued together accordion-style. The binding is red leather with what used to be gold ink.

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Blogger OldRound said...

Did you make more than one? How many? It is gorgeous. That fine arts prof is probably been secretly making things like that ever since. Now,I too,of course, feel consumed with the need to make little books just like it. Except I'm not so talented as you. Brilliant!

Wed Dec 05, 04:39:00 AM PST  
Blogger brenda said...

Beautiful story, beautiful book....

Wed Dec 05, 04:44:00 AM PST  
Blogger Mandy said...

Wow! I thought it was bigger until that last picture with your hand in it. What a treasure.

Wed Dec 05, 05:41:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Heather said...

I just discovered you through soule mama...what a beautiful little treasure! And a great idea for making! I have great memories like you and now have 2 1/2 year old son that I want to have many good memories like me. Thanks for sharing!

Wed Dec 05, 05:52:00 AM PST  
Blogger Bitterbetty said...

That is so amazing. I love this post.

Wed Dec 05, 06:57:00 AM PST  
Blogger meg said...

these are even my traditions and I'm tearing up.

Wed Dec 05, 06:57:00 AM PST  
Blogger mimulus said...

from one dork to another, this little book is worth way more than some slick presentation that your art teacher would have approved of. Your book and post are distilled and refined love!

Wed Dec 05, 07:07:00 AM PST  
Blogger Amanda said...

That's an amazing gift, truly amazing. You can immediately see the love and care that went into making it!

Wed Dec 05, 07:19:00 AM PST  
Blogger meg said...

that is so flipping cute. you are the coolest dork i know!

Wed Dec 05, 07:27:00 AM PST  
Blogger PamKittyMorning said...

I love the book. Very cool. But what I really love is FINALLY someone else who opened family gifts on Christmas eve and Santa gifts on Christmas morning. FINALLY.

Wed Dec 05, 07:40:00 AM PST  
Blogger Blaize said...

That particular art teacher? Pedantic, strange, and uptight. The book is great, and IS "fine art."

Wed Dec 05, 08:08:00 AM PST  
Blogger Green Kitchen said...

oldround: there are two finished copies, several printed sheets that could be made into books.

brenda: thanks, glad you liked them.

mandy: Yes, it's quite small. I think I'll measure it today.

heather: welcome. I wish I could see where you came from, but Blogger is bad like that.

bitterbetty: i tried to work in the half Jewish, half vegetarian thing, but thought it might confuse people.

meg: i tried to make it not too sappy. ;)

mimulus: thank you, C.

amanda: thank you, too.

meg: remind me to talk to you about ornaments.

pkm: dude! we're secret soul sisters. I, too, have never met a fellow member. Maybe we should start a flickr group. ;)

blaize: yes, and years later he did play wonderful music at my craft fair. ironical.

Wed Dec 05, 08:22:00 AM PST  
Blogger stephanie s said...

i suppose that could sum up the difference between art and craft... the craft having soul and the fine art prof not understanding that most important element, glad to hear he came around some....
the book is beautiful, the idea of it even more so.

Wed Dec 05, 11:17:00 AM PST  
Blogger harmonicbarbie said...

That prof must have been wacky! What a gorgeous little book! I love handmade crafts like this, esp when they celebrate traditions. My fave book that I often give as a gift is called Together: Creating Family Traditions. It's a gorgeous book with nature-based projects for families to create traditions all year round. I'm 40-something and I still love the traditions I grew up with...

Wed Dec 05, 04:26:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Rose said...

OMG - I was a printmaking/book design major!! Just thinking about lithography and making books makes me all misty. I am pretty cynical about all things exceptChristmas, so I can relate. Your book is absolutely lovely!

Wed Dec 05, 05:53:00 PM PST  
Blogger Emily said...

Oh Michelle-- how cool! What a great idea. Dont you love how art schools can be so- dare i say- confining? I love the size!

Wed Dec 05, 08:52:00 PM PST  
Blogger Project Pink Suitcase said...

LOVE it! You know how I feel about miniatures.
Dork, OMG, if you're a dork, then
I'm a real dork.
I'm fine with that classification.
It's Loser, Geek and Nerd that I have problems with. (Just kidding. See I am a dork.)

Wed Dec 05, 11:35:00 PM PST  
Blogger futuregirl said...

That is so precious! I love those kinds of presents the best (and Xmas was all about presents for us, too). I think it's a wonderful art school project, too. What an assh*le that teacher is for not encouraging you to do personal work. Isn't that what art is all about - self expression? Well, isn't that what art is *supposed* to be all about?

Thu Dec 06, 12:28:00 PM PST  
Blogger Sonya said...

My god woman, you and your miniatures - you are one creative maniac. A leather-bound book. Any books arts professor would cream their jeans over that their treasure. It's all that fine arts and craft divide. Book arts gets no love.

Thu Dec 06, 07:25:00 PM PST  
Blogger Kim Carney said...

OMG, I love that!

Sun Dec 09, 09:42:00 AM PST  
Blogger Wendy said...

"My mom created the mood, my dad tried to ignore the whole thing"... sounds just like my family, not growing up, but now. Funny.

And amazing book. wow.

Mon Dec 10, 01:21:00 PM PST  
Anonymous mrspilkington said...

Very glad that there are dorks like you.

Mon Dec 10, 04:41:00 PM PST  
Blogger LisaZ said...

Well, I can join the Christmas club with you guys, pkm and green kitchen! My family has always opened family gifts on Christmas Eve and Santa's gifts were then presented under the tree on Christmas morning (unwrapped, actually--do I still qualify?). I never knew anyone else who did it that way, either.

I love your blog! I am having so much fun reading cute blogs. I found you through Soule Mama, who I found through someone else who I found through someone else and all the way back to the website. Check it out!

Lisa in MN

Tue Dec 11, 09:36:00 AM PST  
Blogger Regina said...

Beautiful post. Wonderful little traditions book. Thanks for sharing!!

Wed Dec 12, 01:26:00 PM PST  
Blogger gracia said...

This little book is wonderful... g xo

Sun Dec 16, 02:07:00 AM PST  
Blogger Victoria said...

That is an amazing idea. It's giving me all sorts of ideas about making a family memory book, maybe to give my parents, very inspirational - thankyou!

Wed Dec 19, 02:51:00 PM PST  
Blogger Joanne S said...

Your christmas is nearly identical to my childhood one. Presents on the Eve and Santa in the morning. And the holiday was all about the company, the food and the baking. We didn't begin to "make" things till I was married and had NO money and wanted Christmas. so I made Christmas.

I was also an art major but intaglio not litho. a book would have been very nice. We didn't do that in the 60's. Homemade was so not the thing and then of course the hippies made it THE thing in the 70's.

Fri Dec 28, 06:59:00 AM PST  

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