Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Looking for Something to Read?

When I had a giveaway recently, I asked participants to recommend a "good read" for 2014 in exchange for a bookmarklet.  In case you are looking for some book titles, I thought I would compile the list of recommendations for you here!
  1. A Fine Romance:  Falling in Love with the English Countryside, by Susan Branch
  2. The Art of Silliness:  A Creativity Book for Everyone, by Carla Sonheim
  3. Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
  4. The Language of Flowers:  A Novel, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  5. The Paris Wife:  A Novel, by Paula McLain Jacqueline Winspear
  6. The Reason I Jump:  The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism, by Naoki Higashida
  7. Sing Them Home:  A Novel, by Stephanie Kallos
  8. The Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series, by Jacqueline Winspear
  9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows
  10. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand:  A Novel, by Helen Simonson
  11. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle, by the Countess of Carnarvon (This was recommended by more than one person!)
  12. The Art of Happiness:  A Handbook for Living, by the Dalai Lama
  13. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  14. I Dare Me:  How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day, by Lu Ann Cahn (A timely recommendation, since I got to see her speak at a local library just two weeks ago!)
  15. Fifteen Minutes:  A Novel, by Karen Kingsbury
  16. The Rosie Project:  A Novel, by Graeme Simsion
  17. Promised Land:  Thirteen Books That Changed America, by Parini
  18. Stitches:  A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, by Anne Lamott
  19. Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell
  20. 29 Gifts:  How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, by Cami Walker
  21. Harriet the Spy, and The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh
  22. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  23. The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness
  24. Mark Hearld's Workbook, by Simon Martin
It looks like there is a little something for everyone:  some art and creativity, some fiction and some non-fiction, some self-help, some childhood favorites, some single books and some series. 
As I checked the Amazon web site to find authors and confirm titles for this list, I enjoyed reading the subtitles and getting a peek at the book covers.  I will be checking my library system's web site, first, though, to see if I can access them there. 
As "they" say, be careful what you wish for!  I asked for all of these book recommendations in spite of the fact that I have hundreds and hundreds (I'm serious) of books on shelves and in basement bins here at home waiting to be read.  (And I continue to go to the library instead of grabbing one of them!)  For me, though, books are a delicious excess.

I have included some peeks into my most recent journal throughout this post.  It is the result of Lisa Sonora Beam's Root:  30 Day Journal Project.  I will share more of my pages in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Illuminated Letters at the Library

One of my local libraries offered a free workshop this afternoon on creating illuminated letters, similar to the kinds you might see in the medieval manuscripts of monks transcribing the Bible.  How could I pass up the opportunity? 
Our teacher was Tracey Massey of the Philadelphia Calligraphers' Society.  She explained that calligraphy enjoyed a resurgence in interest and popularity in the 1970s, but is now "sort of a dying art."  The Society is reaching out to the public to try keep their organization and this beautiful art form thriving in our area. 
Tracy had prepared two letters for each of us who registered for the class--the initials of our first and last names.  She also provided paper, Micron pens, pencils, transparent rulers, colored pencils and pens, and watercolors.  She had everything we could possibly need to create beautiful versal letters
To create our own letters, we placed a small square of carbon paper face-down on plain white paper (which felt basically like Bristol paper in weight and surface smoothness to me).  We then placed the prepared letter (something you could find online or in a calligraphy book) on top of the carbon paper and traced over it with a pencil.  The carbon made an impression of the letter on the white paper. 

(Note:  Tracy told us that Saral Transfer Paper works much better than regular carbon paper, but she didn't have any for us to use today.  It is apparently available at craft stores like Michael's and AC Moore, along with art supply stores.)
We then went over the lines of the letter with black ink.  Next, we created the diapering around the letter.  As funny as the term sounds, it simply means creating a repetitive geometric pattern
For our letters, we created lines that criss-crossed on the diagonal, and then were free to decorate them further as we chose.  I used the simple tangle pattern you can see in the photo above.  Then we were left to decorate the inside as we chose.  I used a pattern of small circles, which I painted with an iridescent blue watercolor, and then painted in the rest of the letter with gold.

You can see my final result here (left column in the middle), along with some of my classmates' work:
Now I have the letter K to work on at home!

I think that anyone who enjoys drawing, lettering, and creating Zentangles and other doodles would have a great time giving this kind of project a try.  If you are looking for new sources of art supplies to purchase (ha!), Tracy recommended the following two sites for calligraphy supplies:  John Neal Bookseller and Paper & Ink Arts.  They look pretty fabulous for those of us involved in painting, doodling, and bookbinding, as well!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mail Love & Learning

I just did a fun swap of ATCs and paper goodies with Steph of Steph D's Art & Stuff (formerly Paper Cuts and Lemonade).  Steph's work is always bright, colorful, and graphically interesting, and I was so happy with the additions she provided for my own collage stash:
We communicated ahead of time to give each other a sense of our styles, likes, and dislikes, and Steph did such a great job including the kinds of things I love, while being sure to include some great new colorful items for my supply.  (In searching for things for Steph, I decided that I am much in need of more COLOR in my collection!)

Looking over Steph's package to me, I thought of all the things I learned in just our one exchange:

1.  It is helpful to share your style ahead of time with your swap partner, but it's equally important to include the things YOU love, too, so your partner isn't just getting more of the same as she already has.

2. I tend to send my swap items in a standard envelope, and then "dress it up" with duct tape, papers, and stamps.  I thought it was very clever and fun of Steph to "think outside the envelope," and use a Trader Joe's grocery bag as her mailer:
I used smooth stones from a recent trip to the beach to cover up our postal details!
3.  I love the way Steph used a regular blue name tag label, and made it more decorative and "air mail" style with a red pen.  I've already used this technique for those of you who will be receiving my bookmarklets at the end of the week!
4.  And a final great lesson I learned from Steph's package is to GO BOLD!  I  love Steph's bold and confident handwriting here, and it suits the bright and graphic nature of the papers, labels, and tags she included in her package.

Here are the two ATCs Steph included for our swap:

Fun timing, as I just started reading the book Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano.
Here are the two ATCs I sent in my package to Steph:
To see the stash of papers and goodies I sent along with them, check out Steph's Tumblr post

I have a trip to make to the PO with my bookmarklets, but I'll have to wait for this "snowpocolypse" to pass us by!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bookmarklets (& a Giveaway!)

At the beginning of the month, I ran across a project printout from Stamphenge that I've been holding onto for years.  Jean's project for bookmarklets caught my eye because I seldom read a book without pen and paper in hand.  I jot down quotations, ideas, web sites, and other information that I don't want to forget once I put down the book or return it to the library.  Bookmarklets are the perfect solution for a reader like me!
Part booklet-part bookmark, bookmarklets are little books where you can jot notes as you read, and then slip into your book to hold your place when you put it down.
Jean gives great directions to carry you through the process.  I thought I'd share some photos from my bookmarklet-creating session:

I used regular computer paper to keep my bookmarklet slim.  (Watercolor paper, for example, would make it much bulkier.)  One sheet of computer paper can be cut into four strips that are 2 inches by 11 inches, with just a little strip leftover.
Using a cutting mat and a razor-type knife freed me from having to use a ruler and a pencil for measuring. 

Then I stacked the four strips and folded them over to make a booklet that measures 2 inches by 5-1/2 inches.  (I used the bone folder to make the crease crisper.)
Next, I chose all the different papers I wanted to use as covers for my bookmarkets.
Those papers then had to be cut into 2 inch x 11 inch strips, and folded over top of the folded white paper booklets.
If I had a long-arm stapler, I could have just stapled on the fold...that would have been an easy way to hold the papers together!  But since I don't have that kind of a stapler, I did a few different kinds of bindings.
One method is to punch a hole in the middle-top of the booklet, and thread fibers or ribbons through. (That's what I did for the top two examples above.)  I also did a pamphlet stitch with bookbinding floss, tying it off with a bow on the outside (bottom left above), and tying it off on the inside and cutting off any excess floss (bottom right above, the "cleanest" look). 

Now I have a place to write down all my notes as I read:
AND, I have a bookmark to keep my spot in between reading sessions:
They are fairly simple to create, so once I got started, I ended up with 20 bookmarklets.
If you would like to receive one my bookmarklets, leave a comment and I will send you one!  Here's the catch:  You MUST include in your comment a book recommendation for me in order to receive a bookmarklet.  What is a good/ fun/ interesting/ creative/ inspiring read for 2014?

Also, if I don't have your address, you will have to email it to me at aleakaskey@yahoo.com if you want me to send you a bookmarklet.  I will send one to everyone I hear from before January 25, 2014!

Happy reading!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Art Journal Peek, Part II

In my last post, I shared the first half of the art journal I created in the beautiful book created for me by Janet Plant in a long-ago swap.  Today, I'll share the rest of its pages.
The journal is filled with positive messages and quotations, many of them from Patti Digh's book Life is a Verb.
I was still stamping "YES" on all the pages through the second half of the book.  It was rather cathartic, I remember, to stamp the word with its energetic exclamation point over and over again!  Almost defiant in the face of what felt like an overwhelming "life NO."  (It was last November, and happily, with the rose-colored glasses I wear when I look at the past, I don't even recall what was weighing down on me at the time.)
Ah, more reflections on that perfectionism that never leads to perfection. 
And more flaps!  This time, the paper lifts to reveal an image from a magazine I enjoyed (along with another quotation and a moo card I taped into place), and I journaled on the back of the flap.
I didn't add any writing to this spread in the journal, but found a number of fresh, green, garden-ish images, along with another moo card taped in and a tiny envelope I received from F.M. in one of our swaps.
I created another flap from a light-weight piece of green fabric, almost like an organza (says this fabric non-expert).
More YESes, more quotations from Patti, more collage pieces from my stash. 
Patti's book gives the reader lots of food for thought, to be sure.
And here we are at the back cover, with images of dance and meditation.
"We are fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance," says the Japanese proverb.
And from Natalie Goldberg:  "Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life."  So appropriate for this journal filled with YES.  I feel like it gave me a solid, positive push into this new year, where I am refusing to fritter away my time, focusing instead on the better things, the real things, the lasting things.


If you are a reader of romance novels, or simply indulge one from time to time as a guilty pleasure, I want to tell you about a newly available book you can download to your Kindle (or the free Kindle app on your iPhone) for only 99 cents (while the sale lasts!).  The book is called Found in You, written under the pen name K. L. Ruse.  The author, Kim Russo, is the parent of a little girl in my daughter's gymnastics class.  As we chatted one day in November, she shared the news that her book would be released in January, the first in the Lost and Found series.  Please consider supporting this emerging author by purchasing Found in You!  [Please note that there is another book available that is also entitled Found in You that is a pretty hard-core erotic read.  If you want, purchase that one too, but make sure you also get the one by author K. L. Ruse!]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Art Journal Peek, Part I

Last November, I spent a long weekend creating journal spreads in a book handmade for me by Janet Plant, and gifted to me during a swap the previous year.  Since I never shared its pages, I thought I would open the book for you now.
Janet created the artwork that I adhered to the journal's cover.  I picked up on the thought from her collage to add my own handwritten touch.
Janet created gorgeous pages from papers that she had painted, inked, and collaged into place.  On those beautiful surfaces, I added my own collaged, handwritten, and stamped elements.
I found myself stamping the word "YES" throughout the book; it was a message of encouragement that I myself needed to hear at that time.
Many of the thoughts on the pages come from Patti Digh's Life Is A Verb, a book I was re-reading at the time, and which I highly recommend.
Patti began her book as a kind of collection of messages to her daughters, imagining what she would want to be able to teach them if she had only a brief number of days left to live.
Reading the book for the second time made me want to create just that kind of book for my own daughters.  I am beginning a notebook with thoughts and ideas that I hope over time will develop into a book for my children.
This journal is a kind of precursor to that book that I hope to develop over the next couple of years.
I had lots of fun with this journal, experimenting with pockets, envelopes, and flaps to make it interactive in a way I've never really tried before.
Many of you will recognize bits and pieces that you have sent to me over the years.  I know I have included papers and ephemera from Mary, F.M., and Pamela, to name just a few.
I also made liberal use of catalogs and magazines for the images and some of the text.
The book is filled with healthy reminders, and carries a completely positive vibe that I love every time I flip through it.
I'll share some peeks at the rest of its pages in my next post!