Make-a-Flake

Have you tried Make-a-Flake, the online snowflake maker by Barkley Interactive?  If you haven’t already then you should.  You really should!  It is so much fun.  Seriously, I could spend hours using their simple tool to make snowflake after snowflake.  In fact, this afternoon I may have done just that.

It should be known that I’m a snowflake snob.  That is, I don’t accept a design as an honest snowflake unless it is six-sided and exhibits both radial and mirror symmetry.  Similar designs that are four-pointed, seven-pointed, eight-pointed, or what have you do NOT count; nor do six-sided shapes with spiraling or fractal patterns.  They may be fantastically intricate, lovely, delicate and more … but to me they’re merely snowflake wannabes.  I’ve drawn, folded, cut, sewn, knit, crocheted, and sculpted enough snowflakes in my day to feel qualified to take this position.

The Barkley program makes proper snowflakes.  It’s set up to mimic cutting a snowflake from folded paper.  The intro sequence shows an animated piece of paper being folded to produce a six-sided snowflake, and your cursor becomes a miniature pair of scissors.  Click on the edge of the paper where you want your cut to start and again where you want it to end.  A colored dot at the pivot point of your scissors will turn from green to red if you try to make an illegal cut, for example one that doesn’t start and end on one edge of the paper.

One tremendous advantage of using this program over using real paper and scissors is the “Undo” function.  Snip too far, and one click will restore your flake to wholeness.  Decide you took a wrong turn several cuts ago, and you can undo one step at a time back as far as you like.  It’s also easier on the hands.  Repeatedly cutting through twelve thickness of even light-weight paper can produce very sore fingers.  As with actual paper and scissors, the Make-a-Flake program also allows you to unfold the paper to view your progress and refold to continue cutting.  The greatest disadvantage is that you don’t have very fine control over where the scissors go.  The cursor controls snap to the nearest edge, which is convenient for exterior cuts but makes closely-spaced interior cuts virtually impossible in many cases.  Another disadvantage is that all cuts are straight lines between two points — you can click a series of points to make complex shapes, but smooth curves are rather difficult.

After making a flake or two (or twenty!), it’s tempting to pass even more time browsing Barkley’s gallery of over 31 million snowflakes created by online users.  If the gallery is any indication, at least a few of them must have found a way around the program drawbacks I encountered.  Some of the flakes in the gallery have amazingly tight details.  Others exhibit graceful curves much smoother than any I was able to produce.  Unfortunately, the only way to navigate the gallery is in a straight line forwards and back. A slider allows you to jump to another portion but with 31 million entries compressed into a few inches it hardly qualifies as a navigation tool.  If you like your flake you should save it immediately to your own computer because it could be very hard to find even a few minutes later.  At peak times, new flakes are added at a rate of 30-40 per minute.

Occasionally you run into a section of the gallery filled with snowflakes barely bigger than a dot.  Apparently a few thousand users accidentally cut off all but the tip of their snowflake and thought it would be original to save it that way rather than undoing that cut and finishing the design they intended.  (They were wrong.)  If sifting through all the duds in the gallery becomes tedious, you can search Pinterest where other snowflake enthusiasts like Barbara Meserve and Barb Goings have amassed collections of the some of the best snowflakes from the site.  I even have a few on one of my boards.  The real fun, however, is making your own flakes. I urge you to give it a try!

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