Friday, November 16, 2012

Liturgical Calendar

This post is not about the work of the child, but about the work of the catechist in preparing materials. One in particular.

I LOVE making materials. Making the materials is a meditation in itself and helps the adult to focus on what is the most essential. If you  make your own materials, you will find that you don't find the need to add little embellishments - because frankly, you don't have time, you've already put a lot of work into it and there is a main point to the work that is NOT going to be seen if you add that embellishment.

For example - I once thought, in my haughty adult mind that would impose itself on the children, that all of the international figures for the Eucharistic Presence of the Good Shepherd at level 2 should be clearly identifiable by country or region.

Um. NO.

See this recent response by the children in the atrium - look for their identification of the international figures:
The Good Shepherd will always find me

Yes, I make materials for sale, but I try to price them in such a way that the catechist is still encouraged to make them for him/herself. And I don't make them the same way a volunteer might.

My first chasubles had the edges folded over and stitched - they were not double folded, so the raw edge is still exposed. Most chasubles are made in such a fashion because it WORKS. Those first chasubles of mine are still present and used in a level 2 atrium (having been in 3 atrium spaces prior to that before being replaced by a local volunteer) - and are 8 years old. They are beautiful! All of this despite the fact I would never make them like that again! The ribbon I used down the front has metal wire in it and it holds it shape when bent. ;) But it WORKS for the children.

What more is needed? Yes I make them double-folded for customers; but they may or may not be Chinese-sweat-shop-perfect - in fact, I hope they're not! Because I am homeschooling my son, running two home businesses to get myself out of school debt and be home with my son, and working in various atriums. I WANT to provide a human touch! It was a person who made these materials - not a machine! Or a copier!

There is one material though - I don't know why I keep making it - the challenge I suppose!? I do not know why I continue to do so. Someone suggested it is because I have made all the mistakes that local woodcutters don't even think of.

The liturgical calendar. I'll be honest: I hate making them.

Here is my first liturgical calendar:

Christian Liturgical Calendar - PAINTED with unpainted available - domestic shipping included
I swore I would never make one again.
At the time they could be purchased for $75. Just buy it next time I said!
The next time I needed one, the prices had gone up to $125+ for unpainted.
The prices have come down SOME since then. But not $75.
I designed this myself WITHOUT the materials manual - just photos
 of the calendar in my level 1 formation course. 
It has 52 Sundays - I only cut 52 Sundays. But I cut them. And I cut them. And I cut them. And I sanded them. And I cut them some more.

WHY!? Because once PAINTED, the paint and polyurethane (A THIN LAYER) adds half a millimeter of thickness to each side. There are 52 pieces. Multiplied by two sides comes to 5.2 mm which is 2 extra inches of space, which is the equivalent of two whole pieces.

So I started making them that way - cut 54 pieces - since it is hand-cut the pieces are slightly different widths anyway, so move the narrow ones to the shorter seasons, and the wider ones to ordinary time; paint around all but 2 and call it good.

Christian Liturgical Calendar - PAINTED with unpainted available - domestic shipping included

Then I started working on a different saw with different blades. I found that even with cutting 54 and leaving 2 out, I had to NOT paint on the sides to ensure everything fit.

Great! Fine! And I even starting making custom calendars for Godly Play and Young Children and Worship.

(are you starting to add up how many calendars I have had to spend HOURS fixing up so that they worked!? because of all the adjustments!?)

But I finally got it working for several months.

Trouble is - then I switched to using different blades again (not my fault - it's a source thing) - that take out a bit more wood. So even painting the sides of the 52 pieces didn't quite fill it in - it's "ok" but not good enough for "customers". So I set those calendars aside and was able to locate the other blades again. Re-create those particular 3 calendars for customers.

Trouble again is - one of the set-asides was accidentally sent to a customer without the sides painted at all - and now she is accusing me of telling her to paint "thick" layers of paint on the sides (I never said that - I said thin layer), she doesn't believe me that any layer of paint will indeed add up quickly to achieve thickness, she refuses to believe that cutting 54 pieces is necessary to assure proper fit in the final product, among other lack of understanding any explanations given, refunds offered, etc. She has done everything except call into question my Montessori training and my CGS formation (and recognition as a formation leader myself) - perhaps she doesn't know I have those formations. So on the one hand, I am not "offended"; on the other hand, it was an honest mistake on my part, as well as a very real aspect of making such a detailed material. I am making her a replacement (still with 54 pieces) and will use the one she sends back to me in an atrium I know of that WANTS a bit more wiggle room of the pieces because of special needs children.

So here is another scenario - a local wood-cutter made a liturgical calendar for the local level 2 atrium. It is beautiful! As is everything this particular family makes!

But it didn't work.

Why!? Because he cut 52 pieces, his wife painted them, and by the time they were brought to the atrium, one piece didn't fit in AT ALL and a second piece would only go in sideways. So there are 50 functional pieces, with one on its side! I do not blame the wood-cutter - he'd never made such a product and the CRE who commissioned the project probably didn't give him the tips that were provided me in my level 1 formation (and I still made mistakes!!!), nor did she have any experience making such a material to KNOW that there are little issues like this.

So the catechist asked me to fix it - so that no feelings would be hurt anywhere. I quietly measured out the pieces, took the widest ones with me and trimmed them down on my own saw. I brought them back and found they just barely fit (but I'd not yet repainted!), so I took them back and trimmed them down again. They now fit - but it's a year later and we've not been brave enough to re-paint the cut off sections. Problem is: holding those little pieces up to that blade that is WANTING to take off my fingers. I don't want to have to do it again if I paint those sides and find it is too thick again!

Nope. I am sticking to 54 pieces and painting them on all sides. I like my finger tips ;)


  1. Cut 52, and then stain them with Rit dye. It will turn out so bueatifuly and no spacing issues

    1. Thank you - my first calendar was made in such a way (I didn't paint the sides to begin with on it - no color at all on the sides) - and the humid environment required me to cut the pieces down. Then another catechist had the bright idea to paint the sides - and I had to cut and cut and cut.

      Nowadays, I actually cut a small section out of each season - and paint them -I use a spiral blade. Even with a straight blade and a stain instead of paint, I found that once the pieces were rearranged, they didn't always fit - especially when sent to more humid environments. Much better to remove that little extra.


      I am glad you found something that works for you though :)

  2. So, if I were to purchase this material, unfinished, and the pieces happen to fit, then I should really be sanding it on the sides before any painting or varnish to make sure that everything might fit in the end? I was thinking about making this...silly me. :) The one I use in the atrium I work in actually doesn't fit at all. There is an empty space for another entire piece and the children are really confused looking on the floor for the piece that was "lost." Luckily the ones who do work with the calendar can count the control and count the pieces and find that there aren't any missing, but this doesn't quell the fact that they fit together so poorly. I am in admiration of your drive to keep making this material. I think it should only really be made once in a life time. :)

    1. Abbie - I would be happy to see a photo of the one you have in the atrium (I am curious about it).

      As far as purchasing unpainted - I would hydrate the room where you plan to paint; let the puzzle sit in there a couple of days; so that you are seeing it at its largest size. It might be just fine - and it might not be.

      After helping 3 new atriums start up this past summer and seeing the results of the calendars made by their local woodcutters, my STRONG recommendation is either the woodcutter should have level 1 formation (or level 3 where we do a changing the date of Easter) - or the catechist should learn to woodcut and make it him/herself.

      I have a new pattern and I almost like making these now ;) I like the final result for sure!

    2. AHHh, I had taken photos of most of the atrium but that particular shot has the control chart on TOP of the calendar. Arrrh. I'll get another shot this week. I serve on Thursdays.

      Humidity. Interesting. I'll do that though, stick it in the bathroom and see if it swells. Right now it is pouring outside, but in the winter, well, I guess it is kind of humid still. Not like the north for sure, but it does feel a bit dryer.

      I was thinking about making this myself, and I think that I might be able to with the tools that I have. I am proficient with saws and mechanical drawing and design and such...I was laying in bed wondering about the width taken off by the saw and how this would affect how tightly the 52 pieces would fit together. I see here that the width taken off by the saw is actually more than replaced by the paint and varnish and sometimes Mr.Humidity comes in a knocks the entire project sideways! This is what you get working with natural materials.

      I am love, love, loving making these materials for my level I formation. My kids keep poking at the raised map of Israel and telling me that it should be painted. My oldest two are making scripture booklets for me/us. These are just too cute! Thanks for your posts here, and the all the information that you share! So helpful to a newbie like me. and I'll look to send a long a photo when I can.