Playing With Paper Kits

Playing With Paper Kits

Today’s post features the new Playing With Paper Kits, which I recently launched in my on-line store. Blog image

My mother always encouraged me to make handmade gifts, and for a few years, she even hired me to make her holiday cards. And then there was the year she hired me to make latch hook rugs with the names of my cousins on them. I can’t remember how many I made, but thankfully I don’t have that many cousins!

It is an interesting process when writing a book (and producing kits)… to decide what projects readers might be interested in. Some of these projects have been tested in workshops, but others are merely ideas. I usually run my ideas by at least one editor.


I went to Japan for two weeks in 1989, and decided then and there that I was going to learn how to make paper. I was mesmerized by the way the light filtered through the shoji screens in the traditional inn I stayed at in Kyoto. This shadow screen is a variation of the Shadow Lantern Kit and was made by a student at the San Francisco Center for the Book a few years back (as an aside, I’ll be teaching a workshop at SFCB on Feb 6/7, 2015). 

red shadow ornament

When I wrote Paper Illuminated, which features the shadow lantern project, my friend Linda Riogeist made lanterns for several relatives and then came up with a simplified version – the Shadow Ornament! The ornament pictured above is Linda’s original design, and I’ve simplified it even further by using a punch to create the cut-out design. Of course, the sky is the limit if you use other punches or cut out your own designs.


Image 1

My children went to grammar school at a charter Waldorf school in Portland, Oregon. They made many wonderful crafts from felt, sticks, beeswax and other natural materials. But these window stars caught my eye. These have a long tradition, but you can’t find kite paper at any store (unless there is a Waldorf school with a store nearby) so I’ve packaged 10 assorted colors (for making ten window stars) and included instructions for this version.


I was looking through my folded paper samples for project inspiration for Playing With Paper and came across a series of folded circles. I remember making the model while at Haystack Mountain School, but I don’t recall its exact origin – it could have been a Hedi Kyle prototype. My model was just a string of origami circles, and somehow I stumbled across the shape that was created when the ends were connected. The scale of the piece I made was ring-sized, and thus the Interchangeable Ring was born. I had to source a ring base that would allow for mounting, and by simply gluing a flat magnet to the bottom of the origami ring topper, the ring becomes interchangeable.


Once, when I taught a workshop at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, I had a student named Anneke who made these lovely sketches for the Envelope Folding Screen project I taught that week. She had a dreamy sketchbook, as you can imagine! This project features an adapted version of the piano hinge, and bamboo barbeque skewers are what holds everything together.


During my early years in Portland, I was involved in a paper lantern project and was charged with the task of coming up with a simple lantern that children and adults could make. We facilitated workshops around the city that culminated in a lantern parade along the banks of the Willamette River. I designed these Party Lights, which are formed over yogurt container armatures and are a simple adaptation of the collapsible Chochin lanterns. We’ll be making these same lanterns at the Vail Public Library for the second annual Vail Paper Lantern Project, which will take place on December 21st prior to the holiday tree lighting. 

It has been fun designing, teaching and assembling the Playing With Paper Kits. If you’d like to try your hand at making some of these projects, please join me for a day of Holiday Gift Making at my studio in Red Cliff on November 15th or in Albuquerque on November 22nd. You can also order kits here. And soon you will find them in select stores, including The Bookworm in Edwards, CO and Oblation Papers & Press in Portland, OR.

Stay tuned, there are a couple of giveaways that will take place during the holidays – you might just be a lucky winner!

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Middeleer says:

    Dear Helen, I just took your CAW class/demo on paper weaving. I would love to get a kit that you’d shown us, the tea light lantern with piano hinge closure. But I don’t see it here. Sorry if I overlooked it! Ps – Your work is beautiful and inspiring!