Category Archives: Book Review

Works in Progress: October 2014

It’s a works-in-progress month around here. And I sort of love it because when I hit a road block on one thing, there are eight more projects waiting in the wings.  But, to the detriment of this particular space, it means that I have no finished work to share.  (And my real camera is still being repaired, so I must make do with the phone camera and RadLab editing).  Are you ready for an assortment?

Paper to Petal

I began writing a review for Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell over a month ago. I had great success making some blossoms for a wedding, but felt that I needed more crepe paper.  So while I await some vintage Italian crepe paper, and continue to scour my go-to thrift stores for millinery supplies, here are some complete flowers.  I have a notion to make a giant Polish pajaki for Christmas with this paper flowers—big plans!  Pajakis are paper chandeliers that are a traditional Christmas decoration in Poland.

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Teeny Tiny Menagerie

This book by Niriko Komurata with “380 Whimsical & Wonderful Animal Embroidery Motifs” landed in my book bag, and I was instantly inspired to take up the hoop. Around here, we use cloth napkins every single day.  All but four newer ones have been in heavy rotation for twelve years.  They are tired.  So I had been thinking about whipping up a new set of matching napkins, 24 fresh ones to take us through the next twelve years.  I don’t want to embroider each napkin with the same thing, and I don’t want our initials on them—some of us are messier than others, and then there’d be evidence of it!  But Noriko Komurata’s book solves this challenge.  I plan to choose 24 (or so) animals and embroider them on the napkin corners.  This is a longer term project that I intend to realize over the winter.  Each of us has favorite animals, and family members and friends will be assigned accordingly.  In preparation, I borrowed a serger as I feel the serged napkin edge will allow me to make all the napkins now and press them into service, while embroidering them at will.

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Art Journaling

There is a band of self-proclaimed “crafty vixens” who create weekly art journal pages based on prompts. They have created a space for accountability and creativity, and I’m vicariously following along (#getmessyartjournal) until there is room for me to participate.  So, while I am just doing my own thing, I’m really inspired by their gang.  Here are links to their ring-leaders: Caylee and Lauren.

I found an old banco di roma calendar book at the SFPL BIG book sale. I extracted half the pages to allow room for my own add-ins.  And I cannot stop making pages. Love it.

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Scandinavian Memory Book

We took a trip. We took 3000 photos.  And before we forget (who’s kidding; we’ve already started to forget…), I want to capture as much as I can.

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Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies

I just met Megan Gordon. (Not in real life, but in a book which is nearly as good). Especially because she gave me the recipe to her Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies.  I am a creature of habit, and my breakfast each and every morning is nut granola with some berries or diced apple with almond milk.  Done.  Daily.  Except those mornings when we run out, and then I scramble to throw the mix together and bake it off.  When I spied these cookies, I thought they might just solve our whole entire morning.  The kids would gobble them, they are freeze-able, so we won’t run out.  They are easily portioned.  And they are chock full of good whole grains.  I did have to specially purchase barley flour, wheat bran, and millet.  I followed Megan’s recipe to the letter (though I used golden raisins instead of conventional).  These cookies are perfection for me, and not just for breakfast.  I am telling everyone about them.  (I’ll be honest though, my kiddos didn’t love them—for breakfast or otherwise).

Ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup barley flour 3/4 cup rolled oats 1/4 cup millet 1/4 cup wheat bran 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup coconut oil, (melted) 1/2 cup maple syrup 1 large egg (beaten) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/3 cup raisins (I used golden raisins) 1/4 cup roasted walnuts (chopped) 1/3 cup roasted pecans (chopped) To prepare: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In a large bowl, add the flours, oats, millet, bran, baking powder, baking salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Mix until combined; set aside. In medium sized bowl add the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla, mix; then add to flour mixture stirring ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Stir in raisins and nuts. Mixture will be very thick. Let sit 10 minutes. Using a large spoon scoop out dough and place on cookie sheet about 1-1/2 inches away from each other. Flatten dough to about 3/4 inch thick.

Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes before moving to wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Freeze-able. Makes about 18 cookies. Recipe has been slightly adapted from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook by Megan Gordon.

Next up, I’m going to make the Peach Breakfast Cobbler with Cornmeal Thyme Biscuits and the Blueberry Breakfast Bars.

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Thanks for jumping all over the place with me today.

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To Do Lists

Over a year ago, I purchased four linen chevron curtain panels from the Crate and Barrel outlet (meaning, once they are gone, they are gone forever). They sat in the bag in a corner of the living room.  Then I found the perfect wood and brass rods…which sat in their own corner for a few months.  Myquillyn Smith’s book was just the kick in the pants I needed to get out the drill, tape measure, and level, and go for it.  I have tall windows.  I thought I bought four 96-inch panels.  Alas, I did not.  Somehow, one 84-inch panel was in the bunch.  So now I have one high-water curtain with three that need a little hemming.  This needs to be said: I know that I have a beautiful home and I am grateful for our bright, safe shelter from the world and all its elements.  But there are neglected spots, odd cover plates missing, and a desperate patio.

Smith, Myquillyn.337904
The Nesting Place:
It Doesn’t have to be Perfect to be Beautiful.
Illustrated. 199pp. Zondervan, 2014, $19.99.
ISBN-10: 0310337909
ISBN-13: 978-0310337904

When I think of what needs to be finished, or rearranged, or painted….well, you know those people who magically get stuff done? Those people who Christmas shop in July?  Who actually professionally frame artwork?  Who commit to gorgeous wallpaper?  I’m not one of those people.  I second-guess.  I ruminate.  I consider my options in a very non-statistical, intuitive fashion.  Then, I get lost in a tangent of art journaling, crepe paper flowers, and snippet poetry only to be snapped to reality with a kitchen island that desperately needs paint, and kids who need help with their homework.  And the holidays are coming!  Which means I need–of all things–candles.  And that’s how my To Do list starts.  Each and every autumn, I decide to be WAY more organized about the holidays (which I love).  But I also adore autumn: cool sweater weather, rainy days, meat braising.  I soak up all the autumnal goodness, making Halloween costumes and carving pumpkins.  Don’t even get me started on my homage to apples…  The next thing I know it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and people are asking me what the kids might like for Christmas.  Ack!

Where was I? Oh yes, my To Do list.

Have you ever come across an anonymous Shopping or a To Do list? The scrawl of tasks and necessities.  The block-print of forgetfulness overcome.  The illegible short-hand.  Well, I have altogether stopped creating To Do lists for the house on account of feelings.  I am afraid to make mistakes.  And then, The Nesting Place landed in my book bag.  Myquillyn (also known as the Nester in home décor/DIY circles) is a champion for the “get it done, and live in it” style.  Her subtitle says it better: it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.  This isn’t solely a home décor book.  It’s not just a how-to book.  It’s more of a reminder that I need to enjoy the space I have, and quit these fears of making another mistake, and hem the darn curtains already!

I read Myquillyn’s book cover to cover and am absolutely motivated to write this review, but all I really want to do is declutter (or “quiet”) every room in our house, photograph the back patio and get some reader opinions on what might work in that space, buy some crisp mat board for two thrifted pieces of art, and dig out the stud finder to hang that mirror in the dining room. Basically, I want to make a list and get stuff done.   My living room looks like it belongs to someone else, and that needs to change NOW.

You can find Myquillyn creating amazing vignettes and spaces at her website, but plan accordingly because there is SO much goodness to read and view.  Also, she’s on Instagram.

Thank you, Myquillyn Smith, for writing a purposeful, old-soul book about making an authentic home that allows people to live and breathe and play and work in it.

 

PS: In the meantime, I leave you with a curiosity.  This is “old” news.  Back in March of 2014, an apartment in Paris that had been abandoned some 70 years earlier was unlocked:

http://www.boredlion.com/lost-parisian-apartment-is-an-unmatched-time-capsule-from-the-40s/

A thousand stories are coursing through my imagination on this discovery. French privacy laws protect the identity of the granddaughter, but these laws also allow me to linger in the mystery and build my own fiction as to why the owner never went back, yet kept paying the rent.  Fascinating!

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Fabric Sculpture.

Having grown up in the woods of Connecticut, bird stories in my family abound.  There was once a woodpecker that confused my grandparent’s aluminum siding with wood, and hammered away at it (loudly) every morning at dawn for weeks.  There was a saw whet owl that, one winter, perched in an evergreen outside my mother’s bathroom window, hooting for his mate.  We all hoped he’d return.  And my grandmother, lover of hummingbirds, did everything in her power to lull them into her yard.  She planted gladiolas and electric begonias.  She filled red feeders with nectar.  She carved out small spaces for them to hover and drink.

Glassenberg, Abigail Patner.The Artful Bird cover
The Artful Bird:
Feathered Friends to Make and Sew.
Illustrated. 159pp. Interweave Press, 2010, $24.99.
ISBN: 1596682388
ISBN 13: 978-1596682382
745.592-G464a

For years I’ve been meaning to try fabric sculpture, so I was thrilled to see that The Artful Bird featured a perched woodpecker, and an expressive owl.  I was hoping to find a hummingbird pattern as well, but as I fast discovered, sewing tiny pieces of fabric together isn’t easy, and sewing a hummingbird would require magnifying glasses and immeasurable patience.

Abby’s book covers the depth of materials, tools, and instructions needed to create the birds in her book, as well as any bird pattern that you wish to create yourself.  There are 40 bird projects and patterns, plus a gallery of guest artists, a stitch guide, and a resources section for finding specialty tools, stuffing, tapes, and wire.

Even though I have a queue of bird project possibilities, I spotted Abby’s penguin pattern and knew that it would be my first art bird.  I appreciate starting with the penguin for two main reasons: 1). The color palette was simple.  2). I know someone who loves and collects penguins, and I pour everything into a project when I know it has a recipient.  I went to my local crafter’s reuse facility, SCRAP, and dug around for black, white, grey, and yellow fabric.  For this project, I enjoy relying on the spontaneity of what might be found at SCRAP instead of purchasing new materials.

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one of two aisles of fabric at SCRAP.

The pattern pieces for all the birds in the book aren’t large, so many small scraps will do, and—bonus—you needn’t worry about fabric grain because Abby promises that grain variety only adds to the individuality and character of each bird.

I washed and pressed all my chosen fabrics.  I traced the photocopy pattern onto freezer paper with a sheet of blue carbon paper in between; this wasn’t the best idea since the carbon tends to smudge a bit, and rubbed off onto the white fabric I had found.  I had a small hiccup when I realized one part of the bird needed to be enlarged–my own oversight.  I used Photoshop to enlarge to the proper proportion, and re-cut my piece.  This wasn’t difficult, but it would have been easier while I was standing at a copy machine.

Cutting, pinning, and sewing the body was straightforward, and I followed Abby’s directions throughout.  I referred back to the Basic Birdmaking Techniques, especially with the neck, where I struggled to get my seams smooth.

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I thought I had selected thick white fabric for the penguin’s belly, but the inside edges are somewhat visible once the bird was fully stuffed.  Speaking of stuffing, next time I will certainly source Abby’s recommended wool stuffing.  I used the polyfill that you can find nearly everywhere, but it is slippery, hard to pack in, and its micro-threads popped through the fabric of the bird.  I have gone over it several times with a lint roller, and a pill remover with only passable results.  It’s also really easy to puncture through your stitches when stuffing the bird. I reinforced a couple spots along the way, and I did have to close a gap at the top of the head to smooth out a buckle.

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The feet were my big challenge.  In my stubborn, use-what-I-have mentality, I made the whole bending-of-feet part very difficult on myself.  Abby’s instructions are clear, easy to follow, and make sense.  She recommends 16-gauge brass wire.  Well, I had 22-gauge silver wire, which was too light weight, and I had 12-gauge wire that is made for rewiring your “wireless” cable system, or something.  What can I say?  It was in the garage, and it was GO TIME for penguin feet!  Lesson learned.  Bending 12-gauge insulated wire with petite jewelry-making tools is like mixing chocolate chip cookie dough with a fork—doable, but irritating.  As a result, my bird has out of proportion ankles.  But nonetheless, they work!  The armature of the feet is genius: the feet are essentially a giant bobby-pin and the bend extends up into the bird’s neck area.  This design allows for great balance of the bird, and I suspect if I’d used Abby’s recommended stuffing, the bird would perch even more easily, due to solidly packed wool stuffing and the overall weight of the wool.

The only real divergence I made in this penguin was a bit of fun fabric on the inside of the wings.  I’ve had this Route 66 road sign fabric for a while, and it wasn’t until I cut it out that I spied the “I Love Lucy” ® heart that was scattered into the pattern. (“Lucy’s Hollywood at Last” by Quilting Treasures).  This penguin is headed to a new home soon, where she’ll be greeted by a host of smaller penguins that protect a stretch of woodwork in our Auntie’s home.  I’ve been promised that all penguins are welcome in Sacramento, and I’ll get to visit Lucy on occasion.

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I think The Artful Bird is for an intermediate sewist who has experience with following patterns, a sewist who has patience for smaller pieces, a bird lover who can commit to a detailed craft, or anyone who wants the tools to craft their own favorite bird.  Trying one of Abby’s patterns will dramatically increase your confidence in making a fabric sculpture of any kind, especially one that requires an armature for support.  All that said, Abby’s chapter on Birdmaking Techniques is really superb, and will surely guide an intrepid beginning sewist through to bird completion.

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Abby writes regularly at whileshenaps.com.  Every Wednesday she releases a podcast about crafting, sewing, and the business of a creative life.  My favorite is her chat with Ann Wood, who makes sculptural fabric owls and ships and other woodland curiosities.   Abby is very transparent about her craft business, which is refreshing and unbelievably helpful in these competitive waters.  And she is honest about the joy and pain of writing, creating, and publishing a book.

Thank you, Abby Glassenberg, for sharing the tools to help me create my own artful aviary, to encourage ignorance of fabric grain, and to be so willing to discuss the business of crafting in a intelligent, exciting, and transparent way.

 

PS: It’s midsummer, and I’m going to press pause on artcraftnarrative.com until my kids are back in school.  Please come back in August for my report from ALA Las Vegas (upcoming craft & creativity books!), more craft projects (grey denim owls!), and book reviews.

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Exploring Image Transfers.

One of my creative goals for 2014 is to take more art classes, and explore new mediums. I spotted a class at the San Francisco Center for the Book which featured image transfer techniques taught by Courtney Cerruti. I peeked through Courtney’s Instagram feed, and knew that aesthetically, the class would be a great fit for me. I have attempted image transfers before (mostly by heat transfer), but I appreciate having a whole day to just play—and thankfully, Courtney encourages that kind of exploration in both her class and her book. So imagine my dismay when I enrolled in the class, ordered the book, and….the book didn’t arrive in time.  In class, I joked with Courtney that she should sign a scrap of paper, and I’d image transfer it into the book.  When I arrived home after class, the book was waiting. Silver lining: Courtney and I are both local, so I’m hoping to meet up with her again, share a pot of tea, and chat about art, craft, and old books.

Cerruti, Courtney.cerruti image transfers
Playing with Image Transfers:
Exploring Creative Imagery for Use in Art, Mixed Media, and Design.
Illustrated. 144pp. Quarry Books, 2013, $24.99.
ISBN: 1592538568
ISBN 13: 9781592538560
746.62 C336p

I have had the benefit of seeing Courtney demonstrate the techniques from her book, and I’ve had a day of studio time to play alongside her and a group of likewise intrepid image transferring gals. I think the class has given me a little more confidence than if I’d just cracked open the book. But truly, the trickiest part is finding and copying all the images you will want to use in all your art journals, collages, handmade cards, and art projects. I have spent the weeks between the class and this review building a file of images to photocopy. Last week, I took two burgeoning files and a stack of old books and Dover catalogues to my local copy shop, settled in and copied—for two hours. I made black and white copies. I made mirror image copies. I made color copies. And I happily trotted home with 75 pages of imagery to transfer.

In Playing with Image Transfers, Courtney covers five main methods to transfer images: 1) packing tape transfer, 2) blender pen transfer, 3) acetone transfer, 4) gel skin medium transfer, and 5) acrylic paint transfer. Each method features a full page of instruction including what kind of image or photocopy you’ll need, and whether the image will be reversed in the process. Also, Courtney includes a few tips for success. There are many techniques for this beguiling medium, but as Courtney states in her introduction: “I’ve experimented, tried, and tested every method and process out there. After many failures and many discoveries, I’ve settled into a set of methods that work both beautifully and consistently.”

At home, with my stack of copies and Courtney’s book, I started small. I made some quick blender pen transfers of birds and butterflies on a few mat-finished cards from Studio Calico for my Project Life® album (this is my week by week family journal with photos and stories). Blender pens are xylene or xylol with a felt-tip applicator. The tip makes it easy to apply to small, detailed images. The Chartpak Blender pen is nontoxic, but really pungent (you will not want to use this pen in an enclosed space or near unsuspecting companions). This pen works best with straight black and white toner photo copies. The results are similar to rubber stamping with black ink, except that the image options are limitless. If your image shifts a bit during the process, it can cause some haloing, which only adds to the charm. This is a very easy process, and can add to your art journaling, collages, and any other variety of paper projects.

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I attempted a couple acetone transfers on those same Studio Calico cards, but the results were spotty. I think the images didn’t have enough contrast, and the stock absorbed too much of the acetone. Then I tried the Blender Pen with the color prints. I recall Courtney saying that it may not work, but she also advises that all copiers are different, and to keep playing. Happily, the Blender Pen worked!

Packing tape transfers are the easiest transfer technique, but I sometimes don’t want the high sheen of packing tape, and I feel limited by the 2 inch wide roll. It does make for a cool project though, and can be done with kids. Just adhere the tape carefully to a magazine page or photocopy, burnish it, then soak the paper pulp off. The toner sticks to the adhesive, and yields a highly transparent tape. I used packing tape transfers in some of the collages I made a few weeks ago.  Here are the latest batch drying on a window with the smooth side against the glass.  I keep them on sheets of waxed paper, as recommended by Courtney.

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Courtney includes 19 project ideas to take you from playing with image transfers to actually making something from them. Collaged postcards with packing tape transfers. A jumpstart for sketching. Wearables, pennants, and stationery. Plus a host of mixed media project ideas.

Fauxlaroids. Brilliant name, eh? This project features packing tape transfers onto Polaroid-sized paper that will take you straight back to 1986. This project inspired me to order a 6 inch wide roll of packing tape. Then I thought it could also be scaled to fit Project Life 3X4 pockets, and take on the appearance of an Instax print. I think the high gloss of the packing tape translates well with this project.

Photo Sur Bois.  This project features my favorite transfer method–the Gel Skin Medium Transfer on wood. I had success with this method in Courtney’s class. At home, I had a couple small wooden plaques. I learned from the class that the hardest part about transferring on wood is waiting for it to dry. So I painted on the gel medium, and carefully smoothed an image (image side down) onto the gel medium, then allowed it to dry overnight. Once wet, the paper rolled away, revealing some marbling on vintage paper that I made a few years ago. Then I layered on some other elements.  Outcome: the transfer over transfer wasn’t a complete success.  Too much text in both images.  Next time, I want to try to cover the wood with vintage fabric, and transfer an image onto it. Or perhaps photocopy the fabric and use that as a background.  Or paint the wood, and use the acrylic paint transfer method.  Likely,  there will be more of this image-play to come since I have a stack of veneer varietals.

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Above left image of portrait & chair, and donut with hands are courtesy of Courtney Cerruti.

Mixed-Media Wall Hanging.  Another method that I want to spend more time exploring is transferring onto fabric.  Courtney’s piece features an assemblage of fabric with a photo of her grandmother framed by stitching, fabric scraps, and buttons. It hangs from drift wood and heavy red thread. An homage, and utterly tactile. This piece inspires me to make.

Modern Magnets.  I’ve gathered the materials for this project, and plan to spend an afternoon making a batch of artisan magnets with my boys.  They each have magnetic boards, and a set of animal-themed magnets is required.  In my copying expedition, I included their favorite animals, and other vintage curiosities.

Typewriter Tape Transfer.  Courtney recommends typing on tape. I was surprised to see how well my old Smith Corona typed onto the washi tape.  No smudging.  And what you can’t see is how deeply etched the letters are. This would work for any type of papery tape like masking tape, washi tape, or artist’s tape. It strikes me as the reverse of a Dymo labeler.

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This book is for the artist or crafter who wants a little image transfer guidance and inspiration.  You do not need to have any previous experience, though an art journal to play in would be helpful.  Courtney’s methods are solidly illustrated, and the materials are easy to find.  Courtney also includes a number of templates for completing the projects, and a resources guide for finding all the materials needed for sourcing and transferring images. The mat-finished pages of this book feature cleanly-designed layouts, and artfully illustrative photography.  I would be remiss to omit mention of the extensive contributor’s section. Each of a wide stylistic range of pieces is visually inspiring, and notes the specific transfer method used.

You can find a window to Courtney’s visual world on Instagram, or at her website, and blog–which features a video peek at Courtney’s process. She works and teaches at Creative Bug, and SF Center for the Book. She also has a new book about the many delightful uses of washi tape.

Thank you, Courtney Cerruti, for creating a tried and true book of methods that have me contemplating the purchase of a giant, grinding copy machine, researching 6-inch wide packing tape, and making great use of all the scrap wood veneer that I’ve been stockpiling.

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Printing: Potatoes, Rubber, Gelatin.

One Christmas, I came home from college, and showed my grandmother how to make potato prints. She had never seen such a thing before, and we made sheets and sheets of snowflake-patterned kraft paper to wrap gifts. Grandma would cut up the previous season’s Christmas cards with pinking shears, and use the snippets as gift tags. But that year, she used every scrap of snowflake paper. She said, with a wink, that it was the first trick I’d ever taught her. It had always been the other way around.

I loved the simplicity and the thrift of potato printing, but I also love to carve very detailed imagery. Potatoes hold up somewhat to detail, but lose their edges after much stamping. Further, you can pop them into the refrigerator to keep from spoiling, but only for a week or so. I eventually graduated to rubber stamp and lino carving, and have a growing collection. But no matter how impermanent, I will always remember those lopsided potato prints in my grandmother’s breakfast nook.

Mooncie, Vanessa.Mooncie cover
The Print Making Book:
Projects and Techniques in the Art of Hand-Printing.
Illustrated. 175pp.  Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, 2013. $19.95
ISBN-10: 186108921X
ISBN-13: 978-1861089212
760—M7789p

Vanessa Mooncie is known for her crochet and textile work, and has an established career as a silk-screen artist and illustrator.  It is clear, when I thumbed through The Print Making Book, that Vanessa took a great deal of time and care illustrating this book.  It is wholly appealing.  The cover has a watercolor paper texture.  The images range from foxes and feathers, lipstick prints and oxford lace-ups, to the line art of a washing machine.  And a plumed zebra!  Vanessa covers relief and screen printing, mono and sun printing, plus a section on images transfers and stencils.  Each type of printing requires a slightly different toolbox, but once you’re set up for silk-screening, for example, the options unfold.

Several of the 23 projects caught my eye.  One example is the Eraser Stamp alphabet.  I love Vanessa’s block font; it is endlessly useful.  The uniformity of the eraser’s size allows for a tidy A-Z set.  A few years ago, I carved an alphabet set based on my handwriting, upper and lower case with variations, numbers, and punctuation.  I use this alphabet often, and have contemplated carving a smaller alphabet.

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There is a useful and fun set of tote bags featuring the plumed zebra and a leaping fox.  I’m always reaching for reusable totes.  I even plan to use Vanessa’s fox image—a two color template that is crisp and fun.  I do not have a traditional silk screen set up, but Vanessa’s how-to is clear. I am eager to learn a home silk-screening method even though I have a small Gocco printer.  As many of you may know, Gocco stopped making the supplies for this small-but-perfect set up.  It requires screens, and bulbs to burn the image into the screen.  And those two things are proving difficult to come by.  And expensive.  Therefore, I try to make screens that will be reusable in the future.  I’m buoyed by Vanessa’s tutorial because then I wouldn’t be limited by any one screen size—I could craft my own!  The hunt for frames and screen printing mesh is on.  I have a couple squeegees, and I hope to use the inks from my Gocco printer.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m completely at home with rubber stamp carving.  I have carving tools in spades—I use Speedball lino cutters and pink rubber sheets.  And it’s something that my kids enjoy as well.  In the past, I’ve had them draw directly onto the carving rubber, and remove the negative space.  It’s a fine way to get started, but note that your art will be a mirror image, which presents a problem if you have any text.  This time, I asked my boys to draw on paper, and they filled up pages of medieval bows, arrows, and shields.  And a yo-yo.  Then we transferred their imagery by burnishing the pencil onto the rubber.  My kids have had many opportunities to carve stamps.  (I have formed a habit of writing their names and dates on the flip side for posterity).  I set them up on a cutting board, and always give them a safety refresher: keep your fingers out of the path of the blade.

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I joined the boys, and made a small label stamp—which is vintage in flare.  I hand-drew the label, transferred it into the rubber in reverse, carved the negative space, then stamped my first try.  From there it took five more passes to clean up my image.  I use two main carving blades: a U-shaped channel for swaths of open carving, and a medium V for detailed lines and edges.

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It feels useful to me in many ways: for the spine of a collection of art journals, for a “Nº 1 Dad” card, for Project Life journaling, for a summer jam-jar canning label.

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A giant California return address stamp has been on my to-do list for some time.  I found an outline of California, and sized it to the rubber sheet.  Then I printed out several copies of it, and played around with lettering in our address.  Once I arrived at a well-spaced version, I traced with pencil onto tracing paper, and burnished the reverse image on the surface of the rubber sheet.  I carved away the pencil markings, taking time around our address, the zip code, and the Bay Area delta.  I fine-tuned the southern California islands as a last pass.  And while the islands probably aren’t critical to the overall stamp, I really wanted to include the Farallones, and felt it democratic to include the Channel Islands.  It’s a sizeable stamp, so I use an acrylic block to make the impression.  If the envelope has an overlap or a seam, then I carefully press down on the rubber alone just in that area.  It isn’t perfect, but it is handmade.  If it bothers you to not get a full impression, you could touch up any bald spots with a matching marker.

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Gelatin prints are another method of print-making that intrigue me.  Like potato prints, gelatin printing has a short lifespan, yet yields interesting and varied results.  I have a Silhouette Cameo paper cutter, and while reading Vanessa’s process for making Gelatin-printed placemats, I had visions of all the possibilities: organic shapes like tree rings, bird feathers, and lake outlines.  A menagerie of animals.  My own line art.  The hardest part is deciding what shapes to use.  I have a 12X17-inch cookie sheet filled with solid gelatin in my refrigerator—a note on the door reads: Please do not eat or move or place things on top of gelatin!!

You can view Vanessa’s artwork at: www.vanessamooncie.com or kissysuzuki.com.  There you can learn more about her crochet and knit work, and connect with her on Ravelry.

Thanks, Vanessa Mooncie, for writing and illustrating a diverse print-making book that compels me to get my hands dirty, try a new-to-me technique, purchase an enormous box of gelatin, and add to my hoard collection of hand-carved stamps.

 

PS: I’ve got a collection of inspiration for hand-carved stamps, and rubber stamps in general: http://www.pinterest.com/cortneysf/hand-carved/  And if hand-carving isn’t your thing, there are thousands of artisan stamp-makers on Etsy who will make you nearly any kind of stamp you can dream up.

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Books for Your Back Pocket.

jotters cls

jotters suitable for gifting. (featuring Poppy’s paintbrushes).

I have a fondness for books. I love the structure, and the variety.  I like that they can hold secrets or daily-ness.  They can contain personal wishes or public proclamations.  They can house technique-testing or sketches or big ideas.  I make books for all seasons, and just as a creative exercise.  I also make small, pocket-sized jotters for lists.  Lists of art supplies and groceries and to do’s.  It began as a way to use up small scraps of ledger and patterned paper.  I bind these jotters with waxed linen in a pamphlet stitch.  Simple, and purposeful.  I have, on occasion, gifted these jotters as opposed to a card, and I affix a greeting with washi tape.  And I often collage or otherwise embellish the front—you know, for fun.

McCafferty, Kathleen.making mini books
Making Mini Books:
Big Ideas for 30+ Little Projects.
Illustrated. 144pp.  Lark Crafts, 2011. $19.95
ISBN-10:1454702001
ISBN-13:978-1454702009
686.3—M1235m

Making Mini Books, edited by Kathleen McCafferty, is arranged from the simplest matchbook projects to the more elaborately sewn accordion books, and includes an appendix to help guide you through an assortment of sewn bindings.  It features the work of 22 book designers, and 30+ projects in total.  Any level of book-maker can leap into this volume and find a do-able project without needing any elaborate supplies.

My journey through Making Mini Books made my art room look like a recycling tornado swept through.  Vintage papers, maps, patterned scraps—everywhere.  The tail ends of waxed linen thread, scattered buttons, and leather snippets.  The books may be tiny, but I made a huge mess.  I wish I took before and after pictures.

First, I made the simple matchbooks, designed by Leslie Werner. I had some 3X3 inch scraps. Leslie’s matchbooks are smaller, so I adjusted accordingly.  I used double-sided scrapbook patterned paper, so when opened, the matchbook would reveal a wholly different color.  I stapled with the tiny attacher; I like the smaller staples.  I also tamped down on the back side of the staple with a flat tool so the sharp legs were embedded and would not snag.  These portable little books would be fine for lists and favors.  But I made one exclusively for dinner-time hang man.  My husband and I recently discovered that our boys (almost 10 & almost 8) love this game, and it is great entertainment while waiting at restaurants or while traveling.

DSC_4727

matchbooks for grocery lists, and hang man games.

I also made the equally simple, sewing machine-bound beveled books, designed by Stephanie Morison. Again, I worked with scrap papers.  (I was given a ream of old company letterhead.  The paper is a crisp, heavy white stock, and once I trim the left margin with out-dated company information, I’m left with a 5½X8½ inch block).  The instructions recommend testing out 14 sheets to see if your machine can handle the bulk; mine needed some manual assistance, so next time, I’ll reduce sheets.  These petite books will make useful jotters for all notes: garden seed varieties, sticker collections and wedding shower gift-listing (who gave what for the Thank You notes).

small jotters

palm-sized jotters for keep-able list-making. (I love hyphens).

Since I had a scrap of leather, I made the petite fold journal, designed by Marie “Wee” Calogerro.  More scrap paper, waxed linen thread, and two old buttons.  I had attempted the French stitch binding, and I had success with the instructions, but I feared that if I pulled too hard to keep the binding tight, I might ruin the holes I punched into the leather.  So I went with a straight stitch.  If you’ve never sewn together multiple signatures before, you may want to find a video tutorial to see the process in action.  I found that the tutorials took a broader approach, and I can see how a beginner might be flummoxed.  I’m happy with how this book turned out.  It’s a good size at ­­­­5½X4 inches (which is larger than the book sample), and it lies relatively flat when opened. Only one of my buttons is functional, the distressed brass one is sewn on, but solely decorative.

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old books, book binding, & a new-to-me matryoshka.

DSC_4711

leather-bound journal, with accompanying minis

My favorite project from Making Mini Books was the book On the Go, designed by Heather Carden.  I had an immediate need for exactly this type of book.  Many years ago, I learned how to cross-stitch and embroider, and worked my way through monogrammed bookmarks and a Holly Hobbie wall hanging.  Lately, I’m seeing great embroidery everywhere (Etsy, Pinterest, Creative Bug), and, if you’ll recall from a few posts back, I have many empty hoops.  So I’m taking it up again (and reviewing a few embroidery books in the process).  I had started with some simple linen and a line drawing. I wanted to take the project on a long flight.  But, how to remember the stitches?  Yes, simple ones are easy; it’s those fancy ones that I always jumble.  I thought I could either print and cut a stitch guide and bind it into a little book, OR make a mirror image photocopy and image transfer the stitches into a book of interesting vintage papers.

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on the go stitch guide! and starting a new hoop.

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it unclips! and fastens up!

The cover for my book On the Go features an embossed bee from an old book, and a mash-up of old pages inside.  I used a lobster claw swivel clasp to allow me to remove the book, and thumb through the pages.  The necklace portion is a length of paracord, enhanced with a portion of rhinestone chain that I simply wrapped and knotted with waxed linen thread.  The book also has a band of elastic bound with a metal eyelet on the back cover.

Aside from my initial stitch guide idea for this book, I plan to make a couple more for our big family trip later this summer.  With this little book, I can—on the fly—record things that we don’t want to forget: observations and priceless words from our kids while exploring completely foreign turf.  Further, this On the Go Book could house pictures of your beloved ones, SAT vocabulary words, knitting stitches, or twenty of your favorite quotations.  The sky’s the limit.

Thanks, Kathleen McCafferty, for rallying 22 crafty book-makers, and organizing a syllabus of simple to complex book projects that are diminutive and practical, and allowed me to up-cycle a stack of old letterhead, and carry on with my embroidery like an old pro.

 

If you enjoy making books by hand, there are many great books available.  Some of my favorites:

Making Handmade Books, by Alysa Golden.

Rebound, by Jeannine Stein.

How to Make Books, by Ester K. Smith.

And a suite of non-adhesive book-binding books by Keith Smith.

PS:  A couple weeks ago, I wrote about miniature faux taxidermy animals.  Lest you think I’m morbid, or that taxidermy isn’t cool, I spied an article in last week’s United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine featuring a UK shop that teaches taxidermy classes!  You can create your own mouse wearing a chef hat or knitting an afghan.  The accessories may be faux, but the mouse is for real.

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Big Excitement about Tiny Crafts.

I never had a dollhouse.  There was a communal one that we all played with, made of tin, at my grandmother’s house.  And a grand Victorian that my grandfather made my sister when I was an age considered too old.  It occurred to me when my boys were in preschool that they could have a doll house; they had a vague interest in the giant one at our little school.  But the time came and went, and Legos entered our lives.  Legos.  We could fill a macro-sized dump truck with the Legos in our house.  The most popular series under our roof is the line of Minifigures, from generic space guys to specialized licensed characters.  We’ve got them in abundance.  My almost-ten year old has versions of himself “in Lego.”  Made his whole class “in Lego.”  Made all the Greek gods and goddesses “in Lego.”  We’ve customized some parts with Sharpie.  And I have on two occasions made miniature rolls of toilet paper for a Lego port-o-potty.  This has been the extent of micro-crafting at our house.

McGuire, Margaret.  Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz.microcrafts
Microcrafts:
Tiny Treasures to Make and Share.
Illustrated. 87pp.  Quirk Books, 2011. $16.95
ISBN-10:1594745218
ISBN-13:978-1594745218
745.592—M5835

I found Microcrafts while browsing the 745s at my library’s main branch.  There were thousands of books keeping this one company, but the enormous spool of thread on the cover captured me, and when I peeked inside and saw the miniature deer heads—into the book bag it went!  The microcrafts featured are very small scale versions of stuffed animals, sculptures, jewelry, books and cards.  I generally steer toward purposeful crafts, and I have to say that outside of accessorizing a doll’s house, you may have trouble imagining what you’d do with some of these little trinkets.  I suggest that most of the crafts can be glued to a magnet or clothespin, rendering them more useful.  They can also punctuate a gift, be tucked into a lunch box, or be intentionally left on a park bench to be delightfully discovered.

Once home, I fawned a bit more over the deer heads (and ordered a brick of Sculpey).  I also flagged a page featuring a book no bigger than a postage stamp.  There was even a tiny bird feeder made from a clear drinking straw!  (But seeing as how I’m well underway in killing the lemon cypress trees* on the patio, I’ll have to table that idea till I can get a bonsai to thrive).  Meanwhile, I obsessed about those deer heads for three days…

When the Sculpey arrived, I halted the presses.  I preheated the oven, rolled out some waxed paper, and dove right in.  Shaping deer heads isn’t quite so easy; I used some internet imagery to help.  Then, because I have 1 ¾ pounds of clay, I made a rabbit, a tiger, a brown bear, and some feathers.  I baked them while our dinner cooked stovetop.  My husband, the cookie fanatic, was sorely disappointed to discover a menagerie of taxidermy baking in the oven.  I made my deer heads slightly bigger by accident, so I had to size up the mounting plaques.  I should have checked them against the pattern first, because Sculpey doesn’t shrink.  I had plans to use some wood veneer for the plaques, but have you ever tried to intricately cut wood veneer with scissors?  It was like cutting a cracker.  Bits everywhere.  I recommend a cracker box, or chipboard.  Now, to find some proper antlers…

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Absolute magic happened when I showed the book to my almost-8 year old son.  He’s a tiger lover, a magpie, and a hoarder in training.  And green is his signature color.  I once rescued a green sequin from the gutter for this child.  He saw the mini cat project, and had to have a tiger.  Except in green. With gold stripes.  He ran for his own supply of green felt, and green yarn.  We sat and made this tiger-kitty in ten minutes, then painted his features.  He requested orange felt be added to the shopping list.

green kitty

Invigorated with the quick success of micro-tiger, I set to work on the miniature book.  I followed the instructions to the letter, since I knew the binding step would be easier if I didn’t make drastic alterations.  And I must say, if this is your first foray into book-binding, just be patient.  Follow the chart.  Give yourself time to do the sewing in one sitting.  You can hold the book with two fingers, and sew with the opposite hand, unlike a larger book that requires lots of cumbersome back and forth maneuvers.  If you are completely new to book-binding, there are great books that take you step by step through many binding varieties.  (If you fall in love with the craft, visit Dispatch from LA with Mary Ann Moss.  She makes beautiful, authentically-Mary Ann books, and teaches online classes.  Actually, you should just visit her site regardless.  She makes good stuff).  Midway through the process, I chose petite anchor-printed endpapers, and found a snippet of text about fair winds and sailing for the cover paper.  At this point, I also had a recipient in mind, and I spent the rest of the evening building a book that will house a years’ worth of thank yous from a great class of fourth graders.  The miniature book instructions in Microcrafts yielded a fetching little book.  I added endbands made from a piece of ribbon, and also affixed a jump ring so it can be worn as a necklace.

minibook

I order my bookbinding supplies from Volcano Arts (Japanese screw punch bits, endband, needles) and Etsy for waxed linen thread.  A quick search of “miniature” on Etsy or Pinterest produces thousands of small things, perfect for terrariums, doll houses, and curios.  But I think some of them may also have potential for one of my favorite things—water globes.

This book is for all levels of crafter, especially one who likes to sew tiny felt animals or assemble micro-scraps of fabric and paper.  It is light on prose, but is brimming with great photography and descriptive instructions.  Many projects feature a little magnified snippet with a tip on managing such a small pieces.  There is a reference section in the back focused especially on the miniature scale.  (Hint: toothpicks, nail art brushes, and HO-scale railroad people are recommended).  Also, there is a section for modifying Microcrafts, plus a list of shopping resources.

You can read more at: www.quirkbooks.com/microcrafts.  Margaret posts on Pinterest.  Alicia’s Etsy shop is: eternalsunshine.etsy.com.  Katie’s Etsy shop is: katiehatz.etsy.com.  The contributor’s section of the book hosts fourteen more artists, and their respective online spots.

Thanks, Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz, and Co., for compiling a book that surprised and delighted all members of my family, helped us use 3 dozen toothpicks, and compelled me to buy a rainbow of felt.

*I welcome all advice on the pair of dwarf lemon cypresses that I happen to think were failing when I purchased them.  They should be bright chartreuse.  They are crispy and brown, and—I fear—done for.

 

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Collaborative Crafting for Bibliophiles.

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.

Pigza, Jessica.Bibliocraft
BiblioCraft:
A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects.
Illustrated. 207pp. STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book, 2014. $27.50
ISBN-10: 1617690961
ISBN-13: 978-1617690969
745.5—P629b

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.

Pigza quotes

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:

wish 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.

Read more about Jessica’s adventures in making at handmadelibrarian.com.  Also, she writes on NYPL’s blog about events, crafting, and Crafternoons at http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/jessica-pigza.

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.

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Collage for Keeps

As a mom with two very active boys, the “get started” part of any project is often my biggest hurdle.  It’s easy for me to derail when I don’t have the right ingredient, the perfect shade of paint, or an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  (I do have a neighbor who buys her chocolate chips in bulk, so there is wiggle room on that one).  My chocolate chip neighbor—and friend, opera singer, (& editor: thanks Ann!)—will often send one of her boys running down to our house for large sheets of paper, pipe cleaners, or fabric.  It’s the best kind of neighborhood smack in the middle of our beautiful city.

Plowman, Randel.The+Collage+Workbook
The Collage Workbook:
How to Get Started and Stay Inspired.
Illustrated. 132pp.  Lark Crafts, 2012. $17.95
ISBN-10:1454701994
ISBN-13:978-1454701996
702.812—P726c

But collage!  Getting Started!  Randel’s approach requires very little start-up materials.  You can jump right in with an old National Geographic, scissors, and glue.  You can use what you have.  The phone book you don’t reference, but they insist on delivering.  Junk mail.  Magazines.  Workbook pages from your kid’s homework, especially with some scrawling.  The envelope from your tea bag: Harney & Son’s Paris, hands down. Randel recommends a few other supplies like inks, crayons, paints and a bone folder.  And he discusses foundations for your collage, adhesives, cutting tools, and other media.

plowman quotes

Randel also suggests printing some collage materials on tracing paper.  I love this idea for the semi-transparent quality and layering it creates.  I receive a weekly newsletter from Dover Publications, which features public domain imagery samples that can be saved directly to your computer. I created a few sheets of these vintage images and printed them to add to my bin of materials.

This is a book to help you investigate your own collage style.  The only way to get there is to get started and make.  And make some more.  Collage can be as simple as a few scraps of paper combined in an interesting way. Sometimes, seeing two distinct items conjoined is enough of a commentary.  Randel is a pro at creating.  Several years ago, he started a blog called Collage a Day, and committed to using his collection of ephemera.  His dedication to the art form resulted in hundreds of collages, many followers and collectors of his work, and this book.  He wants us all to make collages!  And he encourages us to jump right in.  This enthusiasm folds into his first exercise: Five 5-minute collages.  Five sheets of watercolor paper cut to 3X5, five minutes per card, and twenty-five minutes later you have surprising results.  Here are a few of mine:

For me, the collages begin with a piece or two of interesting background paper.  The secondary images inject color and texture (snippet of Braille, origami paper, upside down popsicles*). Then, my favorite part, adding in bits of detail (postage stamps, vintage labels, packing tape transfers, washi tape). I layer rubber stamping in plain black ink, and toner image transfers as well.  A few of the collages have some machine stitching, which looks good on a window ledge, since the light peeks through the needle holes.                     *I regret that I do not know the source of this image.

After completing my small series of collages, I took a step back and observed what I was inclined to use.  Old book pages, tattered sheet music, and a forest map.  Birds. Postage. And also texture.  There is a scrap of Braille glued down inversely, zigzag stitching, and a stencil that I spackled with Texture Magic (by Delta/Plaid, which doesn’t seem to be available).  Texture is where the internet fails us all.  I foresee combining more stitching with paper and fabrics, more layers, more pinked edges.

This is a great book for those new to collage, or needing to refresh their style.  But seasoned collage artists will still find value in many of the exercises, and inspiration in Randel’s work.  The fifty exercises vary between color studies and image pairings, geometrics and typography, maps and storybooks.  The  collages feature birds, flowers, and power lines.  And he even incorporates the scribbling of a child.  My favorite collage of Randal’s is called Ten, featured in the section on working with Numbers.  I love the bits of penciled arithmetic, a chemical compound, the digits 10 and word ten, and a vintage bird.  If you search for Randel’s collages, you’ll find hundreds to peek at online.  That alone is hugely inspiring.  Plus, he included a duplicate-able image library in the book to get you started.

Find more of Randel’s art for viewing and for sale, plus collage ideas at: randelplowman.com, acollageaday.blogspot.com.  The Collage Workbook blog features other collage artists: www.thecollageworkbook.blogspot.com

Thanks, Randel Plowman, for writing this book on jump-starting an intuitive collage practice that encourages me to collect (even more) ephemera and forlorn manuals to build into curious vignettes of jump ropers and the U.S. Post Office.*

*among many other agreeable and strange topics.

 

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the antidote for blocked artists.

Clearly, I’m a sucker for any book with projects or prompts.  Add in tons of current and full color art, and you might find yourself slightly overwhelmed!  Oh that Jealous Curator, and her insanely good taste…

Krysa, Danielle.  (also known as The Jealous Curator)CB
Creative Block:
Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists.
288pp.  Chronicle Books, 2014. $29.95
ISBN-10:1452118884
ISBN-13:978-1452118888
DDC 701.15

This project, coming from Danielle Krysa’s own desire to become unblocked, cannot—should not—be devoured in one sitting as I tried to do.  There’s just too much mining, too much good art, too many references sending me to Google this admired artist in Oakland and that series of bird collages from the guy cutting paper in the Midwest.  Danielle has chosen artists from a wide spectrum of disciplines (painters, illustrators, collage/mixed media, multidisciplinary, photography, ceramics, embroidery, paper cutting, installation).  Each entry for the 50 contributors has a short bio, a selection of work, and a shovel-full of questions about his or her particular creative process.  Danielle uses some questions on repeat: When did you first feel like an artist?  Or how do you feel when you are in your creative zone?  But there is tailoring too. Questions like: What are your tips for dealing with collages that are giving you trouble?  Do your commissioned projects drain or fuel your personal work?

There are some glistening gems of advice from artists who have ironed out their processes enough to write things like:
watercolor quotes
You will surely find other thought-provoking lines that resonate with you and your process, whatever your medium.

And there are a handful of artists who do not feel the pressure of a block—they’ve made a sort of peace with their muses, and allow that non-art time to serve as a transition, a breathing space between major projects.

But all 50 artists give you, the reader, a Creative unBlock. These delicious prompts &/or exercises are thoughtful nudges or smack-in-the-pants cattle prods to stir you up and get you MAKING. They range from breaking out of a rut by going for a walk and documenting your findings, or completely destroying a piece that has failed—or one that you love!—and rebuilding it. Some prompt you to leave art out in public, to be discovered and delighted by a stranger. There are challenges to help you mix things up, like move out of your natural medium and try something new. Catalog particular spots around your house, or arrange items pleasingly. Create a series of somethings. (I’m being intentionally vague because if you’re a working artist, writer, or maker, then you know the vacuous place called Uninspired. And this book would be a very handy antidote to have around when you’ve found yourself untethered in that barren land. And if you don’t know this space, then, as one artist’s claims: you’re lying). Though I do wonder what Danielle did regarding blocks before she amassed this collection of unblock exercises….

krysa quote

Danielle is no slouch to the visual world.  Her blog has become a spring-board for many up and coming artists, and for art-loving people who like to put interesting work on their walls.  Further, Danielle is making superb art as well, though she strikes me as veritably humble about it.  I’m not an art critic, but I know what I like, and I very much like what Danielle creates, especially her crisp collage and painted art with embroidered pops of color and texture.  Danielle vows to work through each of the challenges included in the book, and I can’t wait to see the fruits.

Find her at: thejealouscurator.com

Thanks, Danielle Krysa, for compiling a book so chock-full of great art by articulate and generous artists that I’m buying a rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight (instead of cooking) so I can keep working on my Creative unBlock #04 found-art sculpture exercise.

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