Mommy, how does glass make babies?

Mommy, how does glass make babies?

I’m working on a commission, a beautiful memorial tribute book comprised of these seemingly disparate elements. And today is my favorite part: it’s math day.

I will spend my day calculating precise page measurements, photo sizes, which side of which page they go on, margin edges, lengths of copper pieces for binding, diamond drill bit size, minutes needed to rust copper pieces, on and on. 

Only when I started making books did I realize how much I love math. I love the precision of the physical book pages and materials combined with the art of photographs. I can’t wait to see this book as it becomes a real, living thing. 

Sure, glass and copper sometimes make a clanging sound when they get frisky with numbers, but I sure do love it. I guess that’s just how I roll.

Glass Book of Otis

Glass Book of Otis

Glass, copper, and handmade paper?  What could be better?  Adding ‘book’ and ‘photography’ into that mix. I LOVE this book. A beautiful, handmade book, with glass covers, hand-hewn copper binding, with my photographs printed on beautiful fine art rag pages.

This set was commissioned by my client and the shoot, book, and photos are a package or available individually – book only (blank), book with your photos, book with my photos, or a commissioned shoot just for you.  Prices vary.

Available now on my Etsy store, WonderAndQuirk

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I’ll Give You a Day’s Grace Handmade Journal

I’ll Give You a Day’s Grace Handmade Journal

Blank, handmade book, stitched covers and binding with red paper thread with beeswax, heavy, hand-torn watercolor paper, and the cover made of authentic pages from a vintage Chinese dictionary. The title is taken from a cover page definition, “I’ll Give You a Day’s Grace,” encircled in red. Book ties with red binding thread. 3x4x1/2″

Comes wrapped in red burlap, paper thread and handmade paper.

The Mathematics of Listening

The Mathematics of Listening

cornicello-20150102-7829.jpgMe: “Mom, do you want me to hang up the clothes I brought over for you?”
Mom: “No, just leave them on the bed. I’d like to put them away.”
Me: “Ok, so just remember that when you go in your room tonight, you’ll have to put them away first to get IN the bed, since there will be lots of clothes on TOP of the bed.”
Mom: “What?!? You’re going to bring them over and then just leave them there? You’re not going to put them away for me??”

The exhausting part of taking care of my mother is living two people’s lives at once. Her phone bill, her home, her health, her dog – her thoughts. I must hold my own life, my bills, my dogs, my hunger, my weight, at all times in my mind while also holding hers. Her world, her internal world, her conversations, are different from mine. They seem so rumbly-tumbly, so much like a rolling sage brush in the wind – to me. To her, the tumbles of her thoughts make perfect sense because when she has them, they are the ONLY true thoughts. It’s just that they get easily replaced by the next thought in the queue, and you never know who’s standing behind you, when you’re a thought in line.

Her logic, her memory, her priorities are, for me, so mercurial, so lightning fast in their fluid, instantly changing nature as to leave me breathless. It’s not just memories, either. It’s her actual opinions and feelings about things that change without warning or hesitation.

Me: “Mom, what do you want for dinner tonight?”
Mom: “How about fish?”
Me: “What? You hate fish. You’ve always hated fish.”
Mom: “Noooo, no, no no. I like fish. Just not slimy, naked fish, like that…. what’s it called?”
Me: “Sushi?”
Mom: “Yes, sushi. Awful! It’s like swallowing snot.”
Me: “Have you ever actually eaten sushi?”
Mom: “Certainly not. That’s disgusting.”
Me: “So how do you know it’s like swallowing snot?”
Mom: “Because I just do. I don’t like sushi. Who would eat that? Other than that I like fish.”
Me: “Ok. Alright. So you want fish for dinner?”
Mom: “Fish? For dinner?”
Me: “Yes, you said you wanted fish for dinner.”
Mom: [Silence. Blink. Blink. She stares at me.]
Me: “Mom? You said you wanted fish before.”
Mom: “I said no such thing. Eiew. No way. I don’t like fish.”
Me: “I thought you just didn’t like raw fish, like sushi.”
Mom: “NO! I HAAAAAATE fish. You know that! Let’s have Mexican for dinner.”
Me: “Uh, ok, you don’t like fish, no problem. Well, sure, we can have Mexican for dinner.”
Mom: “Mexican? I thought we were having fish?”
Me: “Wait. You don’t like fish!”
Mom: “Who said I don’t like fish? I love trout. Hey, I have an idea. Let’s have trout for dinner!”

This is what got me thinking about the mathematics of listening.

When we are speaking, there is only one thing that can come out of our mouths at a time and only what currently, in that moment, exists in our minds can be excreted and extracted in language, and we cannot speak two words at the same time. We only have one mouth. So… with only the thoughts that currently exist in our minds, we must utter the thoughts we hold in that moment, one word by one clunky word in sequence, one after another. The thought/word pairing may be replaced by another, and then we can say another stream of words, representing another set of ideas, but that’s it. One mouth. One word at a time. One set of existing ideas already present in our minds. It’s a pretty small pipeline, when you think about it.

But listening is a totally different equation. While she is talking about fish, I’m calculating how tired she is, how likely it is that she’ll maintain this opinion long enough to get her to a restaurant, how wonky her hair looks as it grows back in from chemo, how my own stomach is growling, how I’m feeling bemused by her changing opinions on fish as opposed to how irritating the hanging clothes thing was last night, how I can’t wait to get back home to my own life. The TV is on in her room, and it’s loud again, and she’s talking a little loudly about trout, which once again reminds me of those damn hearing aids we paid $3500 for, the ones she won’t wear because “she’s not deaf.” She likes fish? Hates fish? Do we have trout in the freezer? Wait. About those hearing aids. Should I take them back? How do I balance her need to communicate with the people in her new assisted living apartment if she can’t hear them? By cajoling her into wearing them? But how to balance that with her need to maintain her independence? Haha, I think, sure, we can have Mexican, and also everyone else in her building is half deaf too, so what do they care if she can’t hear them, when they probably can’t really hear her? I can picture it now, as I grab her sweater and my car keys and remember that she will mistakenly head to the driver’s side again, I picture her saying to her new neightbor Arlene in the apartment next door, “What did you say about your couch? I didn’t hear you!” And the lady says, “Huh??? My pouch? WHAT? I can’t hear you.”

Then all of this must stop while I say only this: “Hop in, mom. I’m starving. Where’s your cane?”

I can think so many thoughts while listening to her opine about the world coming to an end, take in countless new thoughts (of hers!), one tumbling new idea after another, while hearing the blaring television, her voice, my stomach, tasting the residue of coffee in my mouth from this afternoon’s writing session, worrying about my bank account, chuckling about her wearing pink high tops at 85 yrears old, and helping her into the car.

When I answer, “I thought you didn’t like fish,” I really can only say that one thing. The other bits and bobs of thoughts and sensations stop for a tiny second to let the words out, as if they are the big fried onion smell in the room that crowds out the other nuances, the wafting gardenias and cinnamon.

Speaking requires one focus at a time, while listening is so much more juggly, so much more adept at squeezing 15 things out of a moment. It’s seems obvious that listening is the more powerful mental exercise. Maybe it’s me, but I can accomplish so much more while listening than while speaking.

Wait, accompishing? Is bearing the weight of 15 thoughts at once really getting anything more done than wearing myself out?

Speaking = one simple event at a time. Listening = rats nest o’ thoughts, all at once.

Perhaps, for an ADD mind like mine, listening is not the beautiful thing. Listening is diving headlong, back into the turbulent river of my mind, swirly swirly, swim little fish, swim! But speaking is where I can slow down, and rest. What??

Fish, or Mexican?

I started out this article thinking that listening clearly has the moral superiority, obviously takes the high road when it comes to things to do. But after writing one clunky word after another, which is as close to speaking while listening as I think I can get, I think I might be wrong. Listening kind of wears me out. Listening is loud inside my mind, it’s a torrent, while speaking is at least one conceptual foot in front of another at a time. Maybe speaking is the real reprieve to a busy mind. I thought listening is meditative but honestly, speaking is more like a walking meditation. You can only do so much at a time, whereas sitting and thinking thoughts *only* is enough to drive me mad.

I don’t know which to believe. But I’m certain of one thing: writing is the great in-between of listening and speaking, nestling into its quiet, feathery nest between the two. Writing is the middle sister, trying to make everything smooth.

Writing is the camp counselor of ideas, saying to the speaking and the listening, if they were gawky, pokey teenage girls in the hall, “Hey, now, how about both? Yeah! Fish tacos for dinner? Eh, eh?? Can’t we all just get along?”

Can’t we?


Photo ©2015 John Cornicello

Film Review – Water Paper Time – Helen Hiebert’s Explorations in Paper

Film Review – Water Paper Time – Helen Hiebert’s Explorations in Paper

Film by Gretchen Hogue
Music by Kell Black

Snowy mountain air, bold, strong coffee, bright red poppies, chocolate pudding, and unexpected kindness. Also, spaghetti marinara. These are just a few of the great and tiny pleasures of life. I would add to that list the exquisite sensation of utterly new thoughts finding their way into my mind. Helen Hiebert’s work, in her film Water Paper Time, is for me is one of those experiences.

I had no idea paper could do these things – could be this way.

While it would be technically correct to say that Helen, a paper artist for the last 16 years, creates handmade paper sheets and sculptures from smashed plant bits, what is more true is that she is a paper midwife. She is the Pulp Whisperer. In her film Water Paper Time, Helen creates sentient, papery living beings with her bare hands. Into her freshly handmade sheets she embeds copper wires, string, nails, or other materials which introduce tension as the paper dries, and as it does, it arches, curls, twists, balloons, folds, unfurls, pauses, lurches, and splits apart. From what she says, the magical part happens after she leaves the paper babies alone in the womb of her studio and when she comes back, poof! Amazement awaits! It’s as if she’s found a whole new tooth fairy most of us have never heard of.

I have secretly suspected for years that inanimate objects have private lives and relationships. Chairs and couches talk about us when we’re gone. Forks and lamps – what do they do when no one is eating or reading? Do they wait? Do they covertly meet in the bathroom while we are at work? It could happen in the world of magic, and their experiences with each other could be hidden from us largely because we are not so observant. Helen’s work has pushed me over that cliff. She has convinced me that objects that seem static and ‘devoid of life’ may simply be hiding their potential; perhaps they are shy and speak softly. But this wonderful artist seems to hear perfectly the conversations between the materials she uses, even if they themselves have never met. Lucky for us, the hidden world is made plain in her care, and it is a sensuous world of curves, wrinkles, grooves, valleys, and, don’t ask me how, longing. Paper feels longing, you say? Well. I didn’t know either, but evidently it’s been there all along. Each piece is its own person – surprising, unpredictable, and with its own secrets.

Helen opens Water Paper Time with a story of children who have never seen, touched, or written on paper. What? Really? I had never thought of that either. All my life, I’ve had the privilege of having paper in my life. I’ve printed my photographs on paper, and my writing on paper; I’ve drawn on it, painted it, inked, glued, crumpled, torn, kept, discarded it, folded it up around gifts, and made my own. I’ve cried over pieces of paper and laughed over others. But I had no idea paper could be alive, could do what Helen so lovingly coaxes it to do. Now I know. This film introduced me to the secret life of paper.

The visual aesthetic of the film contributes to the magic and wonder in her work. At first, as a photographer and book artist, I wasn’t sure I’d like the visual style of the film: when the paper is doing its thing, the film is an old-fashioned home movie, shot on my dad’s ancient, whirring movie camera. I could almost feel my brother poke my little kid leg while we watch the family swimming clips again. As the paper protagonist grows up, passing from plant to pulp to sheet to sculpture, the images become dreamy, filmy, moody, grainy, and blurry, adorned with a light leak here and there. This stylistic choice makes perfect sense, and I am a child again watching a sweet, private family moment on screen. The filmy style is beautifully imperfect, nostalgic, playful, and wondrous.

At 16 minutes long, the sounds of Water Paper Time are also deeply pleasurable, a real human being touching real things with real hands. She plucks plants from water, her hands squeezing and pounding stringy pulp, water dripping or gushing, spinning or falling. We hear every drop. We are there with her. I found my hands squeezing when she did, squishing and stirring right along with her, laying wire on wet paper, watching it dry in its magical way, pinning it in draped white sheets to a clothesline, enjoying the little breeze on the back porch with her.

Helen Hiebert’s shares with us the earthy, natural and sensuous experience of life on our exquisite earth as expressed through paper, water, and time, and where she goes with them is pure beauty and charm. Her work with paper is truly inspired.

– Anjani Millet, ©2015


Paper Artist Helen Hiebert and Water Paper Time can be purchased and downloaded here:

Download Water Paper Time

Website: Helen Hiebert Studio






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Posting From the Heart(s)

Posting From the Heart(s)

Building some wonderful things for my studio. Found these pretty little wooden pegboard locks at a recycled home store, $5 for a giant bucket. Wheeeee! Gave them a little red happy face (yay nail polish!) and today they will make a vertical home for my tools. So fun! 

#bookart #StudioDesign #recycled #wood #love #hearts #DIY #artist #photographer #carpentry 
from Instagram:

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579 – The House Thief

579 – The House Thief

579 – The House Thief – is available now on Etsy

This book, 579 – The House Thief – is a tribute to my mother, and to all of us as we age. To the things we lose and the things we can lose if someone isn’t helping along the way. It is a one of a kind, original work.

For my mother, last year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, placed in a facility, then later removed when family members tried to rob her blind, then cancer, then – believe it or not – UNdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  We learned her former home had been full of black mold, which contributed mightily to her symptoms of memory loss and terrible asthma and eventually caused her to lose that home entirely. Mold stole her home, and it almost cost her her life.

But last year in the midst of all this, in a terrible depression, she said to me, “I am 84 and I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”  This inspired this book, which had direct quotes from her on each page. Pages are wooden and handpainted with milk paint, then bound in a Secret Belgian Binding with black wool.


The book cover is adorned with a miniature glass doorknob, and the entire book lives inside the house.  The roof of the house comes completely off.  The house is also painted with milk paint and ink and the interior of the house is black, to signify the mold that took away her life.


My favorite part of this book are the quotes, which provide an interesting view of life at 84, and the clacking sound the pages of the book make when the book is open or pages turned.  579 was her street address.


579: The House Thief
Book: 3x 2.5 x 2.5″ when closed.
Box/House with roof is 6.5 x 4.5 x 3.5″
Wooden pages, glass doorknob, Secret Belgian Binding, woolen thread, milk paint, ink.
One of a kind, original work
Feathers and Rhymes in the Desert

Feathers and Rhymes in the Desert


Feathers and Ryhmes in the Desert: The 7 Day Collection


Last week I spent 7 days shooting in the Arizona and Utah deserts with 16 other professional photographers. Each day I assembled one thing from the shoot that will go in a book along with my photographs from the trip. 

Here’s what I found and assembled, including a book of charming rhymes from my Aunt Carmen’s high school days, written over 85 years ago, as this trip also included a trip to visit my mother in Phoenix.  The C41 film and the Polaroid backs were given to me by other photographers on the trip.  Thanks, Don and Bryan!

3 pheasant feathers; 1 creaky wooden plank; 8 shiny black feathers; 2 discarded Polaroid backs; 1 zillion creosote seeds; 2 sprawling, tangled wires; 1 roll medium format C41 film; 1 circular upholstery needle; 1automatic awl, threaded; 1 blue,  vintage leather book (“My School Day Autobiography”) of my Aunt’s, circa 1927-1930.

Today begins the process of finding images and assembling the book. I wonder what will come of it!


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I’ve recently finished making a new book: The Devil’s Passport. Does the devil ever take a break, get out of town? Maybe overseas? Does he have a passport? Is it well worn and gloomy? Does anybody travel with the evil one? How could it ever be a fun vacation if you were with THE gigantic party pooper to All Life? Here’s my best guess at what we’d see if we could peek inside The Devil’s Passport. (Click on link in my profile.). #humor #tongueincheek #justwondering #philosophical #spiritual #religious #irreverant

I’ve recently finished making a new book: The Devil’s Passport. Does the devil ever take a break, get out of town? Maybe overseas? Does he have a passport? Is it well worn and gloomy? Does anybody travel with the evil one? How could it ever be a fun vacation if you were with THE gigantic party pooper to All Life? Here’s my best guess at what we’d see if we could peek inside The Devil’s Passport. (Click on link in my profile.). #humor #tongueincheek #justwondering #philosophical #spiritual #religious #irreverant

from Instagram:

I’ve recently finished making a new book: The Devil’s Passport. Does the devil ever take a break, get out of town? Maybe overseas? Does he have a passport? Is it well worn and gloomy? Does anybody travel with the evil one? How could it ever be a fun vacation if you were with THE gigantic party pooper to All Life? Here’s my best guess at what we’d see if we could peek inside The Devil’s Passport. (Click on link in my profile.). #humor #tongueincheek #justwondering #philosophical #spiritual #religious #irreverant

Are Limitations The Path to Freedom?

Are Limitations The Path to Freedom?

Quote by Orson Welles

“The enemy of art…”

From Instagram:


Are limitations the path to freedom or an internal prison? Without them I feel constrained and overwhelmed but with too many, numb. Limitations, to me, are order out of chaos and a path through the forest. They are also not my natural gift but a skill I long for, need and cultivate. You?

Antique Watch Repair, Time-Telling Cards, and Roses on Your Pillow

Antique Watch Repair, Time-Telling Cards, and Roses on Your Pillow

Vintage Book-making Ephemera

Antique Watch Repair, Time-Telling Cards, and Roses on Your Pillow. ©2015 Anjani Millet

Ah, the beautiful ephemera of book making.  A few things from my studio make me happy today: antique watch repair bottles, children’s time-telling flip cards, vintage ledger, blue silk ribbon and a tiny brooch.


I’ll use these in my transparent book called Roses on Your Pillow, about the transient, fleeting nature of our time here on earth in the fragile little physical containers which we inhabit while we live.  

Coming soon!