craft magazine

The lovely girls from Nuno magazine were very kind to send me a preview of their latest issue: The painted desert. I love this issue – this magazine is packed full of beautiful images, projects and inspiration.

I asked Heather Elizabeth and Rachel a few questions about this issue:

This issue of nuno was inspired by the desert and native American Indian culture. Can you be more specific about the details of your inspiration?

Heather: I took a trip through the American Southwest a few months ago and many of the projects and images in the magazine are inspired by that. All of the nature photographs in the magazine are from that trip. It was interesting that when I began to put the actual document together and match up pictures to each other I found that I had, when choosing materials for the projects, rather unconsciously been drawn to colors which appear frequently in desert environments. Dusty green, for example, appears over and over.

I love the addition of the drawings throughout can you tell me a little about them?

Heather: All the little line drawings and illustrations of Native American craft work that are tucked in here and there throughout the magazine are from a variety of turn of the century American books. For example: The Kachina drawings were taken from the incredibly titled “Twenty-first Annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1899-1900”. Buried in the whopping 364 pages, are some wonderful (and surprisingly modern looking) drawing of Kachinas. Reading the text in some of these old books is pretty heartbreaking, though. The treatment of Native Americans at the turn of the century is one of the blots on American history. There was a great fascination with the beauty of the objects that Native Americans created, but very little respect for the humanity of the people themselves.

Each nuno has a mix of projects for both kids and adults. Can you tell me a little about how you decide what sort of projects to include? And the process of design behind the various projects?

Heather: Rachel and I each start with a list of potential projects. My list is very long and very fluid. I find that the projects that I keep putting off are the ones that are too elaborate and get cut. Sometimes I start in on a project and find it frustrating to execute. That’s when I know that it will be frustrating for other people, too. At that point I abandon (or radically revamp) that idea.

For things involving patterns, I usually make two or three prototypes. Drafting patterns is fun, but moving from 2D pieces to a finished 3D object usually involves some “surprises of proportion” along the way.

Nuno also has a variety of techniques explored – this issue has paper and textiles predominantly – I love the Indian inspired designs. Can you tell me more about the chi-wee pillow and the fabrics and colours you used for the kaftan and owl?

The story behind the Chi-wee Pillow can be found here.

Rachel: For the pillow, I wanted to see if I could do something blanket-esque in knitting. I really like Native American and Native-American-inspired blanket designs (like Pendleton, which I think is more “inspired by”/based on than actually Native American designs). I liked the idea of doing something involving color gradations, which was something I’d seen in southwest designs–and I think I was also inspired by those bright tourist-trade Mexican blankets, without realizing it until just now. And I was curious to see if designs that are usually woven would translate well into a knit design. It was interesting to create the chart, because I had to work around things that are inherent in knitting. At first I was only thinking in terms of what I wanted it to look like, but I kept running into the fact that I was trying to put too many colors in one row (which I guess would be possible to knit, but such a pain that it would take all the fun out of knitting).

Heather: The Kaftan was made cut from an old bed sheet. I had originally planned to use something totally different to make it, but I ran across the sheet while thrifting and loved the pattern and colors. I had quite a bit of fabric left over, so I made a handbag and cowl from the same fabric.

The owl is made from a scrap of upholstery material that I found at a charity shop. The owl is heavily inspired by Acoma Pottery Owls and was originally supposed to be made of paper mache. The paper mache idea kept getting shifted to the bottom of the list (another one of those too elaborate ideas that was destined to be cut). When I found the fabric, I immediately thought “Owl!” and moved the idea (albeit in a very different medium) back to the top of the list.

I want to find out more about the paper crafts which are also great for kids to make. Can you tell me about the background and inspiration behind the paper mâché tray and the kachina?

My professional background is in Elementary Education and as a student I spent most of my summers working at camp teaching crafts to kids, so whenever I think about projects, my mind automatically thinks about whether they will be kid-friendly.

The paper mache tray idea came from something I saw in a 1960’s era craft magazine (although, the technique I ended up using for mine is quite different from theirs). The paintings on the trays are adapted from motifs that I saw on pieces of Native American Pottery.

The Kachina idea was originally conceived as a more elaborate set of multi-piece printable templates combined with paint. I tried making a prototype and found it frustrating. I axed the project altogether until I came up with the idea of making it into a one-piece printable.

I also love the natural sources of inspiration for many of the projects. Such as animals and cacti. Please tell me more about how you interpreted these into becoming craft projects.

Heather: When I first started planning for this issue, I made a list of desert animals. I think there were about 20. Most of those animals never materialized into actual projects, but I knew that I wanted to make a snake. I had planned to make a segmented snake with pieces of toilet paper rolls, but when I found the printed fabric, I decided to make it a softie instead.

I love making masks, but the fox mask went through several incarnations. After I made the first version, I held it up to my face and asked my husband what it was. “Donkey?” he, asked. That’s when I knew I was going to have to start over.

During my trip I saw hundreds of different types of cactus. Barrel Cactus (albeit in miniature form) won out because of it’s simple shape.

Thank you both for a wonderful magazine and interview: Now for a chance to win a copy. Nuno are offering three readers a chance to win a copy – so leave a comment here to be in the running. You have 48 hours and winners will be randomly chosen and then contacted via email.