Friday, November 22, 2019

Advent Calendar: Mistakes were Made

This is the ninth in a series of decidedly secular advent calendars. This year's theme is climate change since the recipients, now ages eight and ten, are becoming increasingly concerned and even skipped school to go see Greta Thunberg at a protest rally. Thus the title: Mistakes were Made — by many humans over many years, including probably you and me. 

However, it is also a double entendre —I made more than a few mistakes myself in the course of making this advent calendar (like forgetting to put something in one of the ornaments before sealing it closed with several layers of papier-mâché). This led to a number of weird little notes that direct you from one ball to another ball, and a lengthy, two-page "Advent Manifesto" explaining how all of this works. For you rugged readers who make it to the end, you will find the manifesto there.

I started off with one  papier-mâché ball because the idea of using recycled paper seemed to suit the theme, without thinking much about what kind of commitment that would entail when I needed twenty-four, one for each day of December leading up to the 25th. My work room was awash in flour-water sludge for weeks.

The larger balls hold climate-change-related projects, while the smaller balls hold a chocolate, foil-wrapped "coin" along with a climate change joke. And believe me, climate change jokes aren't easy to come by. I got most of the ones below from a German site, Die Klimaschutz Baustelle

Climate change jokes - click to enlarge

Just to make things a little more difficult I decided to add some papier-mâché birds, thinking in terms of the planet earth and the "fowl of the air, fish of the sea" sort of vaguely biblical thing.

Crazed polka dot cardinal

Little yellow bird

A pigeon so gorgeous it warrants several photos...

Pigeon close-up

Pigeon closest-up

And on the twelfth day arose the problem of the fish of the sea. Happily (and it took me half-way through the project to realize/remember this) I have an entire school of papier-mâché fish suspended from my bedroom ceiling. It was simply a matter of reeling in a few, gutting them by cutting a little hatch cover in their bellies, stuffing them with goodies, and papering the hatch cover back in place.

The fish of the sea
The trout

The goldfish (which is truly huge)

The objects inside the larger balls, fish, and pigeon were all accompanied by copy explaining the objects. They included things I've featured on this blog in the past, like DIY Seed Bomb Bangles and Living Mold Jewelry, and futuristic baskets made from recycled plastic and soda top tabs.

Inside of the gorgeous pigeon are several little bags of vintage buttons with the following copy:

While in the midst of making all of this, I spotted and bought two whoopee cushions at the Dollar Store, stuffed them into one of the larger balls and accompanied them with this copy:

Other items included bracelets and necklaces made of corn, peas, and beans that you could plant or eat, a shrine for old sewing needles, pins made out of rusted metal found on the railroad tracks, bee pins with copy about the importance of bees, and much, much more.

My original plan had been to create a garland out of recycled lace, with the objects hanging from the garland. As the project progressed I realized trying to assemble and pack a garland with so many unwieldy objects at this end and having them try to unpack and hang it somewhere at the other end seemed insane.

The garland idea

As a result, and because I was exhausted and had to get this in the mail, I decided to make it a "some assembly required" piece, including all of the lace and hanging supplies, but leaving the decision about how to hang it up to them.

I could not resist accompanying the entire package with the following manifesto. And yes, I hand-drew a picture of the chandelier-style hanging option on page two of the copy I sent. You will simply have to imagine it.

Manifesto page one - click to enlarge

Manifesto page two - click to enlarge

And great good luck to the recipients at the other end!


  1. you are the best grandma ever!
    I'm one of those folks that has too many windows/tabs open and finally I found the tab I was keeping for you.
    Happy unholy Days <3

  2. Wow, that is truly a great link. Love the intricate work/weaving with fruit. Thanks!


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