Tag Archives: books

Notebooks, notebooks, as far as the eye can see!

A good friend teaches a wonderful writing class. This most recent class had a few more than 20 students, and she wanted to give each of them a notebook they could keep with them at all times.  Three of us got together and made notebooks until our fingers were sore, learning, somewhere around notbook 18, exactly how the notebook assembly line should run.

Here’s a prototype, made with one of my hand carved stamps and some scraps of brown handmade paper. And a wooden sandwich pick:

And here are sons (and daughters) of the prototype notebook (by now some have sandwich picks and some have twigs):

My writer buddy said people just about fell out of their chairs when told they could each pick one. Easy stuff, big payoff.

I’ve been under medical house arrest for nearly 3 weeks waiting for the stitches (see previous posting) to come out.  Last weekend I played hooky and carefully walked through a nearby pick-your-own orchard gathering these with second child and a friend of hers:

At the moment the whole house smells like peach chutney, thanks to the stalwart efforts of my Better Half, who is using his grandmother’s recipe.  Mmmmm . . . peaches, sugar, vinegar . . . okay, I won’t give away his family recipe. Wonder whether I could convince his non-bloggingness to do a guest post about making chutney, though. Stay tuned.


A little down time is a dangerous thing

Whew! Upright again after 10 days on the couch with my foot in the air. Tip: watch out for foot/soccer ball/dog mouth collisions.

The bad news: having a laptop computer takes away any excuse a self-employed writer might have to lay off work during a convalescence.

The good news: 10 days on the couch still gives one lots of time to get into trouble dream about new projects. I started lists of new projects, made notes about ways to complete unfinished projects, and basically ended up with some very exciting to-do lists, enough to fill many weekends when I’m off and many minutes and hours here and there when I should be working instead.

I kept my little idea book and pen by my side (right there with the antibiotics and the bandages and the DVD remote), and filled pages and pages with ideas, inspirations, and notes. And now I have more projects to do than I’ll ever have time for.

Indeed, a little down time is a dangerous thing.

Owing to the goodness and patience of my Better Half and the bounty of our state’s inter-library loan program, I was kept well inspired by the steady stream of books that came to me while I was down.

These are among the books that kept me inspired over the last 10 days (in no particular order):

Gwen Diehn’s wonderful (that’s redundant, of course–all of Gwen Diehn’s books are wonderful) book for kids on making books. Don’t let the “for kids” part put you off–it’s a great introduction to making books that don’t just lie there, and has given me new ideas for my sister’s belated (belateder and belateder by now) birthday present.

This one’s so great I’m going to have to get my own copy after I turn it back in to the library. I already have her other book on journals, so I got it out, too and added it to the stack by the couch:

This one taught me a lot and gives me confidence that I can pull off another project that’s on my list.

This terrific volume from Lark Books (whose whole catalog I would love to own–Lark people, are you listening?) is another one that goes on my to-own list. Even Second Child, who deliberately skirts the edges of much of my making-things drive (don’t worry, she has plenty of wonderful creative outlets of her own), got caught up in this one and spent a long time going through it with me: “Oooh, look at this one!” and “Could you make something like this for me?” (note to self–add more projects to the list).

I checked out a lot of books that began to look the same. But even after looking at a number that I won’t mention here because they began to feel a little same-old-same-old, I’d find a gem–same genre, but with a fresh, original take on the subject. This book by Holly Harrison was one of these–really worth going to get.

Here’s another I almost overlooked–at first glance I was afraid it was another of those “if you stick a paper crown on it, it’s art” books, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong–I loved this one and especially picked up a lot of tips about different techniques and materials from this book by Lynne Perrella:

Finally, this one was still hanging around from when I made the noren a month or so ago.  I checked out several newish books about printing (with an emphasis on printing on fabric), and some were good and some were disappointing. I won’t reveal the name of the hip, hot, newish one that I thought was wayyy too simplistic and not terribly inspiring, but I will say that this book by Lena Corwin is much better–this is one to buy if you’re going to buy a book on hand printing on fabric.

My art and craft book budget is pitiful these days, so my new technique is to look up on Amazon all the books I might want and then try to hunt them down through inter-library loan.  I’m astonished at how often I’m able to get my hands on the ones I want–and for free, too (good news for the poor, the broke, the frugal, and the just-plain cheap). Then, once I’ve vetted them, I like to support these authors/artists whenever I can, so I buy the ones I know I’m really going to want to refer to again and again.

Cheap tip:  open a tab on your browser for your online bookstore of choice, then open one next to it for your local library and bring up your account there. When you see a book you think might be useful, pop over to the library site and put it on your “request” list. I find that these books often become available within a very few days.

What?! you don’t have an account at your local library?! Go and get one immediately–it’s free and it enables you to maintain a list of things you want to have sent to you asap. You can also probably sign up to be notified by email as soon as the library gets the book for you. Between the Better Half* and me, someone from our family is at the library at least 3 days a week.


*Of course, some of us are retired and can read any time we want to. Hrmmph. Lucky man. On the other hand, my little taste of being able to read whenever I like was delightful, but if it means I have to be an invalid in order to do so, I’ll take health any day, thanks.

Tomatoes–hothouse, dirt, and ripe

No, not the kind that you put in your mouth, though we are finally approaching the time when we can renew our acquaintance with them here in the up-until-now rainy and cold northeast.  Last week, on a day when I thought summer might actually be coming because it hardly rained at all and I didn’t have to put on a sweater until after the sun went down, I visited my favorite truck farmer, Jake. When I took my corn and tomatoes to his till to settle up, he was at pains to tell me–apologetically–that those were his tomatoes, but they were hothouse tomatoes. “We won’t have real dirt tomatoes until August,” he sighed.

I can wait. And this will help to tide me over.

My Floating Ink blog has been honored with a Ripe Tomato for Blogging Excellence award.  I was surprised and tickled.  Fellow blogger and comrade in the (increasingly deep) trenches of freelance writing Ron Doyle gave this little honor to 15 blogs he admires and loves to visit, and–whee!–yours truly was in a prime spot on the list. Thanks, Ron!

First, go to Ron’s Blog Salad to check out the other blogs he loves–great ones about bicycling, humor, writing, parenting, food, travel, and all the rest of life.

Then check out the blogs below. Part of Ron’s plan is a sort of “pay it forward” approach–he’s asked each of us on his list to create our own lists of our 15 go-to blogs.

Here are mine:

whipup:  The hub of the crafting blogiverse, inspiring crafters and artists all over the world, showcasing clever and creative people of all stripes, and providing inspiration even on those days when you’re sure you’ve seen it all before and you could never make that yourself–you haven’t, and you can.

Sandi Kahn Shelton: A writing and life blog not just for writers;  this author of wonderful, wonderful, wonderful books (a 4th wonderful is in the pipeline) will make you laugh so hard that tea comes out your nose, and cry over characters that you wish were your best friends.

The Panopticon:  The incomparable Franklin Habit.  Funny, wise, snarky, erudite, and adorable. Ostensibly a knitting blog, but even if you’ve never knitted a stitch, reading Franklin’s posts will make you wish that you, too, were a cute, multi-talented, artistic, Buddhist, creative gay man whose alter-ego is a boozing, politicking, philandering, rabble-rousing sheep named Dolores.

Spirit Cloth: To call Jude a textile artist is like saying e. e. cummings dabbled in poetry. Astonishng, soul-feeding work. I visit there regularly but don’t comment as often as I should because there are only so many ways of saying “oh, my god.”

Whiskey River:  Disseminator of wisdom via an electronic chapbook.  Poets, zen masters, lovers, and fools.

Green Chair Press:  For lovers of books, makers of books, font fans, letterpress and type geeks, and appreciators of all sorts of typographic and literary beauty.

Woolgathering: Artist Elizabeth Perry’s daily sketch journal. She inspires me to see the beauty in the everyday–under her skillful eye a tossed-0ff sketch of a candy wrapper, a lighted lamp, a few cherries, even a pair of flip flops shows us the essence of the thing. And makes me think it’s not silly to subject you fine readers to sketches of staplers and jars of peppercorns.

Nichobella:  Healing through art. Acey’s journals, textile arts, and explorations of what makes us who we are take us beyond the level of “crafting.”

Contemplating the Moon:  Ah, if only. This blog introduced me to encaustics. Which I will never, never master. But I will always, always try.

Joe Pastry:  Want to know how to make your own pasta on your kitchen table?  Why you should make jelly rolls?  What kind of flour makes the best pizza in your back yard bread oven (because we know you have one of those)?  How to make Cornish pasties, an Alsatian onion tart, two kinds of fruitcake and your own homemade caramel? Course you do.

Tea Spot:  My friends and family know me as someone whose blood type is Earl Grey, so I was delighted to find Ana’s tea blog. Besides taking the best food photographs around, Ana gives you the scoop (get it? little matcha joke there) on all kinds of teas and how to brew them. Best of all, she shares info on where to find (and, often, how to make) yummy comestibles to go with them.   Japanese Hiking Donuts, anyone? Or tea-poached pears?  Put the kettle on–I’m on my way!

elsewhere: He takes you there.

3191: That’s the number of miles that separate photo-bloggers Stephanie and Mav in their respective Portlands. Their cameras are our windows on the quotidian beauty in their worlds that let us see the same in ours.

maya*made:  I read many, many, many art and craft blogs and would love to be able to list them all here. But since Ron says that 15 is the magic number, I have to pick one, and this is my pick.  Beautiful, simple, creative things made with love and shared with us.

the worst horse:  Had enough of those boots of Chinese plastic?

Now, each of these bloggers has to think of their list of 15–tag, you’re it.

And thanks again, Ron–hope it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride where you are.

Inspiration from then and now

That last post was a little wordy. I’ll try to lower my word count average with a focus on pictures here. I’ve mentioned that my dad was an artist, so my sister and grew up with plenty of art supplies and books about art. I particularly remember reading this book:

And being read this story:

And this one, which was, for some reason, one of my favorite, favorite books when I was a kid. And which I was thrilled to find recently, still in print in a children’s bookstore. I immediately snapped up a copy.

The Color Kittens also reminds me of a book that was a favorite of my own kids when they were small.

And of course, they also had Harold and the Purple Crayon. And The Boy Who Drew Cats.

Yesterday I bought myself a newer book that makes me feel the same way these children’s books did (do!)–even though it isn’t strictly speaking about art, the drawings and paintings in Kate T. Williamson’s A Year in Japan make me very, very happy. The book has been out a while, and I keep seeing references to it and its wonderfulness, but the fact that it has very little text kept making me pass it up. What do I need with a picture book, right?

I’m telling you, I’m so happy I bought it–I do need this book, and so do you. The color pictures are simple and vibrant and say it all without fussing. Even the black and white line drawings, like this crane

say so much. And for the record, what little text the book contains is equally wonderful. Marvelous descriptions not of temples and Mt. Fuji and kimono (okay, there are some great kimono), but pitch-perfect little pictures of everyday life in Japan–sumo wrestlers listening to music through their headphones, instructions on how to count blocks of tofu, and an annotated illustration of a traditional Japanese lunch. It makes me happier just knowing this book is on my shelf.

If only my mistakes were this wonderful

Typically, I’m way less about the angelic and much more about the mistakes. But I’ve been reading more about art lately, little of which really grabs me. Last week I checked this book, Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton, out of the library, and I know I’m going to have a hard time giving it back. Merton was best known, of course, as a Trappist monk who wrote extensively on the contemplative life. His work has been important to Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and plenty of people like me, who are neither.

Throughout his life, though, he also made art–sketches and political cartoons as a young man, somewhat conventional religious-themed art as a young monk, and, in the last years of his life, prints and paintings strongly influenced by zen brush paintings and calligraphy (towards what turned out to be the end of his too-short life, Merton’s thinking was strongly influenced by zen, which he explored in his travels, his readings, and his discussions with the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, D. T. Suzuki, and others). Art historian and writer Roger Lipsey does a wonderful job of pairing the art with his own lengthy discussion of Merton as artist, liberally quoting from Merton’s essays and letters.

Merton’s paintings and prints, though they take up the lesser part of the book in terms of overall numbers of pages, are powerful and astonishing. 34 of them are collected in this book (along with a number of sketches and studies), and none of the words in the book, save perhaps a few of Merton’s own, do them justice. Each one is complete in itself. Merton’s journals and letters indicate that he was often conflicted about devoting himself to this art (and, at times, about the form it ought to take). At one point he wrote to a friend, “This stuff is very abstract, I warn you.” Abstract, yes. But completely authentic.

Buy it, borrow it, check it out from the library. But if you live in my neck of the woods, you’re going to have to wait a while for me to give it back.