Dog Eared

I’ll tell you, back in January when I stumbled across Dog Eared Town on Etsy, it made me very very happy (even amidst all the upside-down-ness of an iminent & unwanted or anticipated house-move).  You see, I actually stumbled across Dog Eared magazine (a journal of the book arts) maybe a year or more ago, when I was going through a phase of investigating pretty much anything/everything related to bookbinding and artist’s books.  Problem was, the website I found told me about the magazines, but there was no way to actually buy them… 😦  They seemed to be exactly what I wanted – but I couldn’t have them!

So happily, now that has all changed 🙂 (see, smiley face, now).  I have already bought 4 back issues – although really 7, as one of them is a bumper compilation of the first 4 issues, and who knows how many more will lure me in the coming months…  Each issue covers a different area of the book arts, from journals to zines (as illustrated!) to collage to marketing, to the tools you use, so whatever your own specialism, you’ll more than likely find something of interest.

Without wishing to be rude, they are really just overgrown zines; but they are absolutely brim-packed to the gills with good quality journalism (so I guess that is where the ‘journal’ qualification comes in), lots of well-written and entertaining feature articles, how-tos, and well, just lots of ideas.  And I love ideas.  Not that I don’t already have enough of my own…  Anyway, don’t take my word for it, check out the Dog Eared Etsy Store for yourself.  It’s cool.  And will hopefully make you as happy as it made me :-D.

Good mail starts here!

Good mail dayCatching up on a month’s worth of blogging in one day, I really need to plug the (not-so-new-any-more) book Good Mail Day by Jenny Hinchcliff & Carolee Gilligan Wheeler.  I’m taking my time working my way through it, because it’s packed with ideas and resources for just about every aspect of mail art you could possibly be interested in.

happy mailday travelling kitChapter 3, ‘The Traveling Mail Art Kit’, really captured my imagination & I started to think straight away what would comprise my own essential mail art kit.   I’d love to share, but I’ve set up a mail art kit swap over at Swap-Bot, and I don’t want to ruin any surprises for my partners, should they happen to stop by here.  But I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks of as their mail art essentials (it’s such a personal thing) – I’ll probably be inspired by your ideas, & then still ruin a surprise, anyway ;-).  And you’ll probably hear more about my own kit as time goes by…

Find out more from the authors through their blog – where you can see all the cool mail art they have been receiving – and also at the Pod Pod Post website (which looks great, but I was disappointed by how few of the shop items are actually available).

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Mail Art!

I’ve always loved getting post (mail, to the U.S. readership!).  I was one of those children who always had lots of penfriends, and joined lots of postal clubs, and there was something so exciting about waiting for the postman to arrive each morning!  As an adult, when sometimes all the post seems to bring is junkmail and bills, I still love the potential of finding something interesting there.  I confess, I am the type to order things by mail order, sign up for newsletters, to increase the odds… 😉

At the same time, I do feel kind of bad about it, because print-mail isn’t the eco-friendliest medium, and the internet is the perfect way to disseminate information and newsletters without the need for print.  There’s just something about the anticipation of receiving post, of savouring the quirks of the packaging, and then actually physically touching the contents that is an intangible delight.  And, of course, it’s much easier to put a paper-something in your bag to read during a break at work, than packing up your laptop and finding both power supply & internet access to do the same…

Well, I accept that I am on a losing battle ethically, and I can console myself with the fact that at least the TangleCrafts Mail Art set is printed on recycled paper, and many commercial printers are switching to environmentally-friendly inks and papers, too…

Anyway, I just wanted to share some mail-art related links.  I recently discovered the Olathe Poste, a company that specialises in artistamps.  What are they?  Well, rather than rubber stamps, they are actually gummed and perforated postage stamps (or at least, they look like them; they aren’t actually legal postage currency).  The Olathe Poste will make you your very own artistamps from your very own artwork/photography.  How cool…?  They also sell the gummed or gummed & perforated paper, so that you can make your own!  I can already make stickers by printing directly onto self-adhesive paper, but stamps are just, well, different.  Admittedly, I’ve not found an actual, practical use for them, yet; but if nothing else, it would be kind of cool just to give away special TangleCrafts stamps with a goody bag, or something (I usually have a freebie to give away to the first few customers at craft fairs).  The Olathe Poste also produces a print newsletter, which I suspect is also kind of call, although straying more into the field of philately and stamp artistry than more general crafts.

Another recent discovery is the Aranzi Aronzo Post Club.  They’re the people who do the cutest sewing books, like ‘Cute Stuff’, ‘The Cute Book’, ‘Cute Dolls‘ (…you get the idea).  If you love the kawaii vibe, you’ll love the Post Club.  As a member you receive monthly postcard, not otherwise available, featuring cool Aranzi Aronzo comic strips etc.  The text is in Japanese, but that just adds to their funkiness, for me.  Apparently, free gifts are also included once in a while – you can’t say fairer than that!

If you want to find out more about mail art, my best recommendation is the book ‘Postcard’ by Fl@ss.  It showcases some of the coolest postcard artwork, and the funkiest innovative ideas, that will really motivate you to either get involved with mail art, or at least think about the possibilities adaptable to other forms.  I found it very inspirational.  If you’re not already familiar with her work, you should also check out ‘Envelopes’ by Harriet Russell.  I’ve not bought the book, as I already know the contents, but Harriet Russell sent a series of letters over a period of years, in what can only be seen as a challenge to the postal service.  Although each envelope was addressed, the address took the form of a puzzle, or illusion that needed to be solved before being immediately apparent.  If you’ve not seen her work before, you should definitely take a look.

And last but not least, yet another book mention.  Very recently released, is ‘Junk Mail Origami’ by Duy Nguyen.  This seems to me to be the most awesomely creative way of recycling – rather than discard all that unwanted but colourful rubbish that comes through your letterbox, re-form it into something decorative, instead.  This surely opens up a whole new world of possibilities…!

Browsing my Bookcase

What have I been up to lately?  I’ve been reviewing books, like a crazy person!  Some will be utilised in the newsletter I’ve mentioned previously, but mostly, I’m adding them here as a resource for other stitchers.  They are, of course, just my opinions, not a definitive guide!  But craft books, although amazing resources, are a huge expense, and I’d like to think that my humble opinions might help someone make a decision on what to invest their hard-earned cash in.  It can be difficult to find pre-purchase information, especially for older books that are now out of print.  I have to confess that in the past I have taken a lot of chances, based on a cover illustration or even just a title.  Occasionally, I have been disappointed, but I’ve also made some amazing discoveries this way.  Of course, we are all looking for different things, so I have tried to pinpoint what it is I specifically appreciate about the different books, and what I felt disappointed by – because the exact same things may elicit the opposite response from you.  Please feel free to add comments if you agree or disagree with any of my reviews.

If nothing else, it has been a very pleasant stroll across my bookshelves (by no means anywhere near complete as yet, and, of course, ever-expanding!) .  I have discovered entire books I had forgotten about, not to mention sectons of books I had skimmed over in the past but have discovered anew, as my interests have developed over the years.

The  ‘book review index’ link to the right will give you an A-Z list of all the different reviews, and link you to the page where you will find that review.  You will see the reviews are also listed by category/technique.  If a book could be filed under several categories, I have chosen a main ‘home’ for it, but also included links under other relevant categories.  The number at the side of the category link refers to the number of books currently reviewed (or linked) within it – this way you can see when a new book has been added in your favourite category.

Anything else I should include?  Let me know!  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy browsing my bookcase!

Spreading the Word & Time to Think

My ‘day job’ is working for  the biggest chain book store in the UK, which I’ve done for the last 12 or more (count ’em!) years.  Reading is that thing I do, when I’m not stitching.  One of the perks of the job is that we often get advance copies of new books (although these aren’t available for ALL titles).  I go on the local BBC radio once a month to talk about new fiction titles, I review for the company’s quarterly, national magazine, and I produce a bi-monthly local store newsletter, too.

All of these things focus on fiction, but I thought it would be nice come Autumn to do a special edition newsletter, specificaly on craft books, because there are some great books out there, but it’s not something our stores are generally very big on.  So I decided to be a bit cheeky, and contacted Search Press, asking if they would be able to supply an advance copy of one of their new titles, for review.  Before I knew it, they had contacted our head office & asked if my newsletter could have wider distribution, & head office contacted me to say that was a great idea.

So today I have a long day trip to Brentford, where amongst other things I will be able to discuss the distribution (&, I hope, growth) of the newsletter , which in turn may lead to a nationwide expansion of interesting books available in the craft section of your localbook store!  I had no idea my little email would have quite such a domino effect, but it’s all very exciting!

One of the best parts of today for me, tough, is that (despite the early start!) it means I will have literally hours on the train in which I can just create head-space & think.  What luxury!  Okay, perhaps I will do a little  stitching, too, but to be honest, it’s a luxury to have time to do that, too…

I’m very excited about the newsletter, though.  It may only be a newsletter, but it’s a way to combine my two loves in my paid work.I really can’t complain about that!