Crafting at the Library: Alcohol Ink Tiles

Here’s a craft that we did at the Central Library over the summer and we’re going to be doing it again at the Crozet Library on November 19 (sign-up here), as well as a few other branches in the upcoming months.
This craft is recommended for adults, as the alcohol ink can stain.

IMG_1790 (1)

Supplies needed:
Ceramic tiles, white 4”x4”
Alcohol ink
Rubbing alcohol- use at least 91%
Foam brush (although paper towels will do in a pinch!)
Acrylic sealer
Paper towels
Small paper/plastic cups
Cardboard or newspapers
Optional: Felt or cork pads or small frame

Step 1: Put a few paper towels on a flat piece of cardboard on several newspapers and place tiles on paper towels. The paper towels and cardboard will catch any excess rubbing alcohol and protect your table.

Step 2: Pour a little rubber alcohol in a paper/plastic cup. Use the foam brush to lightly spread the rubbing alcohol on the tile (only a little is needed). If you don’t have a foam brush, put the rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and spread it on the tile.


Step 3: Put a few drops of ink on the tile and move the tile around to spread out the ink (keep the tile over the paper towel to catch any leaks). Alternatively, you can put a few drops of ink on the tile and just let them spread by themselves, or blow on them lightly to mix the ink.


Things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use more than 4 colors because the colors will get muddy.
  • Each tile only needs about 15 drops of ink total.
  • And, work quickly as it will dry very fast.
  • You might want to add a little more rubbing alcohol and ink after a few minutes if there are any blank spots, but be careful, as adding rubbing alcohol will alter what is already on the tile.

Step 4: Spray (lightly) with 2 coats of sealer. You should do this in a well-ventilated area or outside. If you don’t spray your tile with sealer, the paint will flake off eventually.


Finally, add felt or cork pads to back of tile to use as a coaster. Or, frame the tile for a unique piece of art.
If you don’t like your tile, just wipe clean with some rubbing alcohol and start again!

Here are a few books for more crafting inspiration:
Creative Ceramic Painting by Cheryl Owen
Handmade Tiles by Frank Giorgini

“Message in the Closet”

pasted image 0Books on Tap read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood at  Champion Brewery on November 2. The book, originally published in 1985, is being read again both because of the current political climate and the Hulu television adaptation (many JMRL book clubs have read the book this year). The novel is based on the taped diary of Offred, a women living in the Republic of Gilead (one the United States), a monotheocracy where women are only valued for their reproductive potential. It is #37 on ALA’s frequently challenged list and #34 in PBS’ The Great American Read.

Book club members liked Atwood’s writing style, although the story itself was creepy. Those of us who have seen the movie or tv adaptations said their strong visual styling replaced their own mental images. We also thought that they story was believable; her Gilead was recognizably America. Why she never explains how the theocracy gains total power, Atwood has said repeatedly that none of the restrictions and oppressions in the book are invented. Everything that happens in Gilead happened on earth prior to 1986. The near-future setting allowed us to wonder what we would do in similar circumstances, and is clearly resonating with others today, like those have been dressing as handmaids at recent protests. While Atwood was writing about fundamentalism, evangelicals and environmental disasters specific to the mid 1980s, history repeats and keeps this story current.

Offred serves as a handmaid, a reproductive surrogate, for the Commander and his wife Serena Joy. While Offred had been an educated, caring woman before the establishment of Gilead, her current isolation dampens her personality. She once had friends, a child and a partner. Now, she only speaks with another handmaid on her weekly shopping trips and secretly both plays Scrabble with the Commander and meets with his chauffeur, Nick.

The isolation works to tamp down a small resistance movement. Communication is difficult. Ofglen, another handmaid, has to hide a message to Offred in a closet. The murdered bodies of resistors are displayed in public. Offred at first thought her husband could protect her from Gilead’s restrictions and then laid low in hopes of protecting her daughter. She seemed resigned at the hanging she witnesses, possibly due to Stockholm syndrome.

Rationalization was possible because Gilead’s policies didn’t touch anyone Offred knew at first. Then, women policed each other, saving themselves but reinforcing the patriarchy. While people must have believed in the religion at some point, it is now used as a weapon. Those not practicing face peer pressure and family alienation. The only way to integrate in the culture is to participate in the religion.

The epilogue revealed that the bulk of the story is taken from an incomplete set of of tapes of Offred’s oral history. It’s hard to judge if Offred is an unreliable narrator or if missing parts of the story are captured on the yet-to-be discovered tapes. Offred, whose true name is never known, is further sidelined from her own story by the male academics presenting a paper on her edited tapes. They care so little about her humanity that the reader is left wondering: did she escape?

More Information:
About the author
Interview with the author
About the book
Hulu series
1990 Movie
Gilead in the Bible

The Great American Read #1 is To Kill a Mockingbird. #100 is Dona Barbara.

Books on Tap Information:

Have a suggestion for future titles? Add them to this list.
Previous titles

Posted in Books on Tap

Veterans Day

18poster_lowresVeterans Day is celebrated on November 11 to honor and thank all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans.

It was originally called Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I. World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. But, the fighting ended about seven months before this date, when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, was greatly considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day.

In 1926, Congress officially recognized November 11 as the end of the war, and in 1938, it became an official holiday. The holiday was a day set aside to honor the veterans of World War I. However, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.  

Other countries also celebrate Veterans Day. Canada, Great Britain, and Australia call November 11 “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is pretty close to our own, except many of its citizens wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead. In Australia, the day is similar to our Memorial Day.

We now always acknowledge November 11 as Veterans Day as this “helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good” (US Department of Veterans Affairs), but this wasn’t always the case. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, and it moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. But in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, citing the important historical significance of the date.

Resources for veterans and their families:
Virginia Department of Veterans Services
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
Mitchell Hash Foundation (local organization)
Legal Services for Veterans

Books about Veterans Day:
Caught Up in Time: Oral History Narratives of Appalachian Vietnam Veterans by John Hennen
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Down Range: A Transitioning Veteran’s Career Guide to Life’s Next Phase by James D. Murphy and William M. Duke