Do you remember receiving your first library card? I wish I still had my card in possession, but I remember it distinctly. It had a wobbly signature, and was hand-laminated by a bi-focaled librarian from America’s first publicly funded library: Scoville Memorial in Salisbury, Connecticut. The library façade is granite mined from a nearby quarry, and from the walk, it resembles a small chateau. And inside it smells like a library. Papery and cool, even on the most humid summer day. I’ve since held many other library cards from other towns, colleges, and cities. And while I think it is still a choice pleasure to browse the stacks of a library, losing hours to that 90 degree head-tilt to read the spines, I absolutely love the ease and efficiency of the “request” system. This ability to create succulent reading lists online and have them delivered to my local branch was the difference between my sanity and an existence I’d rather not acknowledge during those early, frazzled days of motherhood. The library has saved me countless times in my life. So it is with the chiefest pleasure that I offer up my review BiblioCraft, a book that marries my two favorite occupations: libraries and making.
A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects.
Illustrated. 207pp. STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book, 2014. $27.50
Written by NYPL rare book librarian and avid crafter Jessica Pigza, BiblioCraft is a tremendous collaboration between a librarian and a crew of artists and crafters. The range of source material for the body of projects is completely diverse. This book makes me want to marbleize paper, embroider cartouches, and explore every library in my day-tripping radius. Jessica provides personal and useful commentary on the partnership of librarian and visiting bibliophile/artist. There are chapters on research libraries and the nature of special collections, finding the right library, planning your visit, and using the cataloging system. Jessica includes a copyright primer where there are some guidelines and many resources. There is a list of digital libraries to reference, and recommended library collections—helpful for planning your next getaway to, say, The American Craft Council Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Or the National Library of the Netherlands, in The Hague, for an exhibit on the history of decorated papers. Curious? I was. Here’s the link: http://www.kb.nl/en/web-exhibitions/decorated-paper. I completely appreciate the window into a far-flung library.
The 20+ projects included in Bibliocraft traverse stitching, sewing, embroidering, paper cutting, and stenciling a host of home décor projects. The ideas are all beautifully conceived, with full back-story on each artist’s source point. For example, the marbled fabric pouch made by Jodi Kahn was inspired by the historical marbled end papers found in old volumes. A delicately quilled willow pendant designed by Ann Martin sprang from the gilt blossoms and leaves of a book cover. Each project features a designer who worked with Jessica to find precisely the source material needed to propel the idea into fruition. There is a narrative about the craft, and its history, as well as the story of how the historical document converged with modern craft designer. I love reading about this process.
All the projects offer a full set of instructions and templates to complete each craft. Some projects offer ideas on how to take the project further or alter to your taste. Jessica, ever the librarian, instills more knowledge about each subject and suggests further readings and subject headings. There are so many possibilities in this book; I want to make everything.
The above quote in the teal spot isn’t from Jessica’s book, but it is a favorite. Prompted by Jessica’s quote about a wish list, I spent half an afternoon dreaming up wish list topics and things that fascinate me. Here’s my short-list:
Bibliocraft is a book all artists and crafters will want to own. My copy is borrowed, fittingly, but I plan to purchase it for its wealth of references, in addition to great project ideas. Some of my favorite projects from the book include Jessica’s dogwood blossoms (great for attaching to packages), Grace Bonney’s antiquarian animal votive holders (I need a set: tiger, bear, koala or owl, lion, and maybe a snail), Sarah Goldschadt’s paper towns (I want to make tall, skinny, ornate row houses from the waterways of Amsterdam!) And Rebecca Ringquist’s cartouche embroidery. She used an old map cartouche as inspiration for a quilt label. I have seen entire wall displays filled with hoop art. I currently have twelve empty embroidery hoops of varying sizes. I’m thinking about ampersands and arrows, initials, and a family crest. There might be some mixed media embroidery since I love to sew paper to fabric. Oh, the possibilities! My library field trip is scheduled! Phase one: completed! Phase two: bring copy card, wish list, ear plugs, and rations.
Thanks, Jessica Pigza, for researching, writing, and crafting a book that makes me want to befriend a librarian and hole up in the rare book corral at SFPL’s Main Library, then come home and turn old tea cup markings into embroidered wall hangings.