Thursday, August 9, 2007

Joseph Cornell Accordion Book

Buddha Accordion

Last week I went to see a wonderful exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum called Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. While best known for his boxes, Joseph Cornell also made collages, films, and a few books. There was one book that would fit into the category of altered book, several portfolio style boxes, and one accordion book.

His work combines found objects and images in surprising ways. I liked one of the descriptive tags so much I copied it. "In the late 1930's a chance encounter with caged tropical birds displayed against a pet shop's stark white walls made such a 'dazzling' impression that Cornell believed it changed his way of seeing 'the simplicity of magic' in the everyday." Our project for the month is an accordion book where we can express the "simplicity of magic" of the everyday in our lives.

Making the Book
You will need two long pieces of sturdy paper or cover stock or the back panel of a brown grocery bag cut in half vertically. I used the front panel of a large cereal box cut in half vertically. It was a little awkward to fold but made an accordion that stood up well for display.

This accordion will have eight pages. Follow the directions for making the accordion. Trim off the tab at the end. You are ready to add your collage images. Joseph Cornell used images of the things that he loved, including birds, ballerinas, and movie stars. Collect images of things you care about- flowers, musicians, baseball players, birds, and make your own book. Magazines and catalogs are good sources of imagery.


Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination
The Peabody Essex Museum has an excellent interactive online companion to the exhibition.

Guardian article by Jonathan Safran Foer, editor of A Convergence of Birds, original fiction and poetry inspired by the work of Joseph Cornell,,1778945,00.html

Straightforward presentations of images of Joseph Cornells' collages and boxes

Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Collections Online: Joseph Cornell
View some of his papers including diaries, letters, art works, and ephemera.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Information about Joseph Cornell and one of Soap Bubble Set boxes with suggestions for an activity for children

in good spirit Blog
More reflections on the Joseph Cornell exhibit and Edward Hopper at the MFA in Boston are on my art blog, ingoodspirit. Both exhibits close on August 19.

Adapted from the August 2007 issue of Making Books Monthly
Free subscriptions available at

Fall Workshops

Record, Reflect, Reminisce (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle)
Fiber Art Center
79 S. Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA
Saturday, October 13

This workshop is for anyone who works with or spends time with
children or who would like an introduction to simple bookmaking
techniques. In addition to the tactile pleasures of working with our
hands, handmade books give us places to celebrate our lives and the
world around us. Learning to look at the abundance of materials
around us for their potential in bookmaking encourages creativity as
well as benefits the environment. Come and have fun while building a
repertoire of creative projects for children of all ages.

Making Books with Recycled Materials Part I
Center for Global Education
Framingham State College
Framingham, MA
Saturday, October 20

Making books is a wonderful teaching tool across the curriculum. In this hands-on workshop, we will use recycled materials (paper grocery bags, cereal boxes, used copy paper) almost exclusively.With the increasing attention to environmental issues and climate change, it is time to think about what resources we consume as we teach. Print and web resources for children on recycling and environmental issues will be shared but the workshop time will spent in the creation of books. A materials list will be sent on registration. You are welcome to bring a camera to photograph Susan's samples.

Books Around the World and Across the Curriculum
Global Education Center
Winchester, MA
Saturday, November 3

Embark on a journey of cultural discovery. In this hands-on workshop, you'll learn how to make a variety of book forms from around the world including scrolls from Africa, slat books from China, palm leaf books from Southeast Asia, and accordion books from Mexico, a bit about their history, and how to use them across curriculum. The emphasis is on simple techniques and recycled materials. You'll leave with lots of samples and even more ideas.