Blurb love

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I'm pretty sure that I'm repeating myself but just in case you didn't get the message.... I LOVE BLURB!  So much.  I can't even begin to say. And, no, they aren't paying me to tell you this. 

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Here are the reasons why I love them so:

1. Ease of use.  I am not a computer person.  I can type, click/drag but have never spent any time on Photoshop or any other computer/design program. After you download their software, you take your time on your own computer to create your book, then upload it to them for printing at the end.  There are zillions of layout options and you basically just drag your photos into place.  It is not without glitches (I tend to crash the software when I am cutting and pasting large blocks of text or working with as many photos as I do) but on the whole, I've found it quite handy.

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2. Sheer volume of photos that can fit in a book.  Seriously.  The book I made for my trip to Italy had about 1300 photos in it.  I couldn't print 1300 photos for the price that I paid, let alone wind up with them in a bound book.

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3. They keep making improvements.  I know, in the computer world it seems like people are constantly coming up with changes that are just aggravating, but it seems like each upgraded version has specifically addressed issues that I was having trouble with - just in the time that I've been using Blurb, they have added calendar pages, new layouts, the ability to make your own layout...

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4. Quality.  I've been making 7x7 books with their somewhat glossy paper.  For real durability, a person would probably want to make a hardcover book - their image wrap books are really nice.  The quality of pictures, the color and sharpness, is all great as far as I'm concerned.  There are even options for finer paper if a person should want to go that route.

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5. Variety.  I mentioned the variety of layouts, but they also keep coming out with new shapes and papers.  I just received the 2012 calendar that I made myself and yes, I'm pretty happy.  Their new trade & notebook books are even more reasonably priced and are my new addiction since you can write on the paper.  I have ideas for several journal/notebooks for the shop.

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5. Having paper copies of digital stuff.  I am definitely a fan of the digital camera, but I find that I'm generating more pictures and printing less.  It's great that I can be more selective and less wasteful about what I put to paper, but what to do with all those pixels that are piling up on my computer?  As a librarian's daughter, a part of me feels that we are losing our history to this digital age.  All these little tweets and texts that are traded back and forth - what will remain of them as evidence of how we've spent our time? And perhaps a photo by itself isn't that great or interesting, but as a collective record of a year, it's worth at least 1/16th of a page.  I'm starting in on my fourth book of pictures & projects, which I make every year.  There's so much in the course of a year that I forget; being a visual person, having a book to look back on is perfect.  Recently, I read a blog about making a ta-da list, looking back on the accomplishments of the year; my pictures & projects book functions more or less that way.  I can't wait to have a whole shelf of books to look back on, and I think every artist/writer should have a book for every year to document what they've been up to.  What a great collection that would be!

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Well, I could go on and on but I think that covers the main points.  Like most projects in my life, I am quickly approaching the point where I have more works in progress than works completed...

Completed books: ideas & inspirations creations & celebrations, 2x2: collection of small books made by the Madison Bonefolders' Guild and Milwaukee Book Arts Salon, Year One of Lily (also year two, year three, year four), Pictures & Projects 2008 (also 2009, 2010), 2012 calendar notebook journal, Laura notebook, Here & There travel journal, For the record (travels in France & Italy).

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I am particularly happy about my calendar because it always seems like the pictures on my birthday month are not the ones I would have selected.  This way I could pick whatever I wanted for my birthday month, as is proper.

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in progress: imaginary French travels (art book), French & Italian travel photos for the shop (minus the family souvenir pics), Pictures & Projects 2011, cyanotype notebook / story of blue, and zillions of ideas for project notebooks - everyone would have gotten one as a Christmas present if only I'd gotten my act together sooner.

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I completed one commissioned book of someone's artwork and writings and am working on a commissioned recipe book and a family-history/grandmother-tribute book, as well as my mom's (belated) birthday book.  And I'm helping Mom with her photos and writings from our French/Italian trip, and she's thinking about a book of her personal history.

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Most recently - now, okay, maybe this is a little morbid but you don't have to worry about me, I'm fine  - I've been thinking how cool it would be to have a Blurb book as a funeral "favor."  It seems like it would be great to have a book of a person's thoughts/images/wisdoms/photographs/artworks to take into the rest of the days.  Because doesn't it seem like the speakers at a funeral are never enough?  I mean, how do you convey the entirety of a life?  And fine, maybe a Blurb book still wouldn't do it, but I do think that would be an awesome thing to create. 


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twelve days, part four: for the creative type

Storefri 001It's tradition in our family to give a jigsaw puzzle for a present, so that Mom and I have a project for our Christmas day.  But a crafty present certainly wouldn't go amiss either.

One of our best-sellers are the square photo punches.  We use these for our photo snippet collages.  It's a nice way to use leftover photos, or those pictures that really aren't so great but which have some part that commemorates a trip or event or person.

Storefri 007Other crafty options include collage papers, stickers, ephemera packs, Martha Stewart glitter (so fine and sparkly!), fun rubber stamps including a fabulous Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland which is seriously tempting to put on all of my correspondence from now on.  And don't forget the sparkling watercolors!Storefri 003

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Storefri 004There are also plenty of crafty books to choose from.  My personal favorite is Claudine Hellmuth's Collage Discovery Workshop.  I took a class from Claudine several years ago at Valley Ridge Art Studio and learned so much from her - most of which can be found in this very comprehensive book.  We've got books for bookmaking, collage, art/creative inspiration, sewing, fiber arts, and much more.  Caffeine for the Creative Mind is another popular title.

And finally, we have artist and knitter's pockets made by yours truly.  An assortment of fabrics sewn into several narrow pockets to hold pencils, brushes, knitting needles and other narrow things, which can all be rolled up for the artist on the go.

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is it too early?

Gift tags 003 To talk about the holidays?  I know, it seems a little early perhaps?  But the Craftacular is only 22 days away so it's all coming up rather quickly.  I'm not ready to listen to Christmas music.  Well, I am always ready, but I won't play it during store hours.  I went to a lovely holiday open house at The Century House, and the next several weekends are filled with art and craft fair shopping possibilities.  My work for the Craftacular is wrapping up, or at least not as intense as it was before, so I can focus on making things for our Craftacular booth, as well as for the store for the holidays.  Sachi is done teaching the bookmaking class for UW-Continuing Ed.  Now there's the pile of things that we've been putting off.  This morning I dealt with the file cabinet.  Next on the list is possible consignees, receiving and entering consignee deliveries, cleaning the office, magnet picture frames, button bracelets, cupcake aprons and artist pockets.

We did set up a little Christmas corner in the store.  We'll be getting more things from our artists but there are donut and bottlecap ornaments, scrap paper packs, cards, glitter, rubber stamps, German paper scraps... at least you can start your Christmas card making if you are so inclined.

Gift tags 001The craftivity for November is gift tags so the table is chock full of supplies as usual.  I'm especially fond of the different colors and textures of glitter.  Today a group came in and decorated tags - three tags for $5.


Sachi's bookmaking class

Sachi 001 Sachi 002 So my sister has been teaching a UW-Continuing Ed workshop in bookmaking on Monday nights.  It's a late night for her so it usually means that this is what greets me on Tuesday mornings.  Oh yes, she comes and picks it up before we open, but I just couldn't resist showing you what they must have worked on last night.  Super cool tunnel books.  There are so many aspects of bookmaking that haven't managed to keep my interest, including measuring and being precise, but this structure sure is cool!Sachi 003

ready for altered books

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It's been a strange weather week but that gives us a little time to catch up.  There have been plenty of boxes to unpack and I'm even caught up on paperwork!  Well, not totally, but I'm not as far behind as I used to be.

Tonight Anthology is hosting a UW-continuing ed workshop on altered books.  I was very organized on Sunday and got my syllabus together as well as a packet of goodies that we will work from during the evening.

October is such a busy month - Gallery Night was last Friday.  We were open until 9 so lots of people were happy about that.  It was quiet with bursts of people all night long until about 9:30.  Next weekend is the Madison Open Arts Studios.  Lots of artists around town open up their studios for people to wander through.  My livingroom is still unnavigable (although I have made improvements.  I finally finished some quilts for the walls and rearranged the artwork so it isn't propped up on the floors anymore).  Anyway, the store certainly functions as my studio, and since I'm here, here is where we'll be.  I'll have to bring in more projects so people can see what I'm working on.  And the Wisconsin Book Festival starts tomorrow.  As part of the book guild that I belong to, we've got books on exhibit at the State Street Gallery.  I'm working on the second Alice in Wonderland book, though I've already had more ideas that mean I'll have to make another one.  Why didn't I think of sewing on pages before?

Altered books have been very popular this fall.  I've already had two intros and at least one more scheduled.  It is such a fun project.  I'm still mulling over the options for a house book.  Maybe that will be a January project.  Ha ha.  (WHY do I always make the mistake of making a list of projects for January?  There's never THAT much time...).  Tonight's class will be a little different since its not one-on-one.  There are definitely aspects of teaching that are a challenge (whoever says 'those who can't do, teach" has clearly never been a teacher.  It's much harder to teach than to do, in my opinion).  Presumably, if someone signs up for a class, they are interested in the topic, but sometimes what you've described isn't what they were looking for so it's always a little stressful, not to mention the fact that everyone learns differently and at different rates.  Ah well, hopefully there's enough but not too much information for them.

Sachi is teaching a bookmaking class on Monday nights.  I wasn't so brave and just opted for a one-night event.  So, a little early dinner tonight, work 'til 7, close the store and then students arrive at 7:15.  I checked the bus schedules... gonna be a late one tonight.  But tomorrow is my day off.  Studio day, to be precise.  I've got 12 aprons laid out on the livingroom floor.  It's definitely going to be a day for sewing.  and ironing.  Besides aprons, there are several artist and knitter's pockets that I need to work on.  And then hanging out with the adorable girl in the evening.  She is quite a talker.  We have cassette tapes from our childhood and I remember how fun it was to listen to them.  I wonder what the technology is nowadays?  I'd love to record her singing Ba Ba Black Sheep.  Although, the hands-down, all-time best such song is from Jamie C. all those many years ago.  I have a recording of him singing "hey babe, you wanna boogie."  I think one of the lines is "we can rock it in the house, we can rock it in the yard, c'mon babe we can do it really hard."  Coming out of the mouth of a babe is absolutely hilarious!


a night out and a chance to catch my breath

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This was the sight that greeted me last night, arriving out in Spring Green to see a play at American Player's Theater.  The night was interrupted by a brief but intense storm (including hail -- thank goodness for their new shelters) but ended with stars and moonlight.  It was a lovely way to pause and savor the moment, which doesn't happen too often since my head is usually bent over the sewing/button machine...

And honestly.  It's almost October already?!  I'm not at all prepared and I've been really bad about blogging.  I used to read that in other people's blogs and think, "what's the big deal? just sit down and tell me what you've been up to."  ha ha ha.

September, although it has passed quickly, has been a little bit of a break in the mad rush.  Things were a little quieter at the store (same as last year) - people are going back to school, preparing for the changing seasons...  We have already exceeded the annual sales from 2009 so that feels great.  I've managed to catch up just a tiny tiny bit, although the list of things to make to restock the store is still quite long.  Well, at least I don't feel quite so frazzled as I did in August.  Which is good because there is a lot ahead of us. 

The Craftacular is the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We are co-hosting the event so right now there's lots of paperwork and planning to be done.  Not to mention making stuff for our own booth.  We will have over 60 artists there and it promises to be a fun event.  Already a lot of our customers are marking their calendars.  It's exciting to be a part of a local & craft holiday event.

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And even though it seems early, it is time to start thinking about the holidays.  But first I have to decide about a Halloween costume.  Who am I kidding, I always dress up as a fairy.  But I don't know if I should make something else for the adorable girl.  Speaking of, I have been working on her Blurb book for year two, reviewing the pictures and thinking about how much she's grown.  It's all good, but poignant too.  Here she is this morning in my parents' backyard.  I love hoodies with ears.

And, oh yeah, my parents are moving.  Only a few miles away but it means packing, making room for art supplies and furniture at my home...  I need to take pictures of the old house for a book project that I have in mind.  I need to clear room in my livingroom and make new cushions for the couch.  Brown zig-zag does NOT go with lime green and red flowers!  But I have been making progress and I feel like maybe it will only be a year before people can come over to my place, instead of two years that I initially thought.  There's still a lot going on; which will always be the case since the living room is also a studio.

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We have had some craftivities going on at the store.  Last weekend we hosted a birthday party for a group of girls to make the mini coil-bound notebooks/journals. 

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The craftivity for the month is the decoupage paper bracelet.  Because of the curved surface, the paper has to be cut into thin strips but it is fun to see the different colors that people come up with.

And a few of our other favorite things? 

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New headbands from Oshkosh and from Chicago, German paper scraps, new cards from Appleton and Milwaukee, mosaic picture frames from Illinois.  The store is chock full right now as we gear up for Christmas and also unpack new arrivals that we found at Renegade in Chicago. 


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a case for connection

OR, another reason why I love Facebook.  Seriously.  I know, I know, it's silly, but here's the story. 

Our parents are in the process of selling the house they've been living in since... hmm.... 1980?  I think I was in 5th grade.  They are wanting to move to a single-story house and down-size a bit.  I certainly don't want a house and wasn't feeling that emotional about the whole thing until a couple weeks ago.  I was at their house with Lily while the realtor was walking around measuring and assessing and I was starting to feel like a two-year old (apparently when I was around that age, when meeting a new neighbor, I hauled out all my toys, put them in the baby buggy and threw my body across the buggy.  "MINE!").  All of a sudden, it was all rather bittersweet, thoughts of no longer playing with Lily in the yard, not being in that place.  I know, I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is NOTHING.  My parents are not moving far away, everyone is still alive.  Nonetheless, combined with the list of things to do to prepare for the holidays here at the store,  the tiredness resulting from an amazingly busy summer at the store, having to pack and make room for stuff and studio at my house and leaving my childhood home - it was all leaving me feeling a little fragile.  And then, so fast, I've barely had time to catch my breath, an offer was made and accepted (on the house my parents want) and offer/counter offers were made and accepted (on my childhood house).  And just like that, it's done.  Another month maybe and that will be that. 

Ok, that was a long story, but there was a point. Mom came today and told me that they accepted the counter-offer and I was feeling a little teary.  Not that I have anything to do with it at all, but of course I don't think the buyer is the right fit for the house, I think the price was too low.... did I think I was ready to let go of this house?  Too late.  Anyway, I mentioned as such on Facebook and a Facebook friend (let's see, I think she was in Latin with me in high school but we haven't really been in touch in the meantime), mentions that a friend of hers was in a similar position and made a photo book about the house and all their memories.  Everything that was precious, they could take with them. And another Facebook friend reminds me that the location, the place, isn't really as critical as the people who are in it. Others who have been through this ahead of me and still others who have been through much worse give me comfort.

So, I'm still feeling a little emotional about the whole thing.  But my mind is also racing with ideas about a house book.  A blurb book?  Hmm... but an altered book would be totally awesome.  The advntage of the blurb book is that I could make a copy for other people, but there are so many cool altered book options that I can tell that is the way to go.  Nothing like a new project to make me feel better!  And now that I have my sewing machine at my house, I can work on it until late in the night (sorry downstairs neighbors) and include some sewn pages.  So now, besides packing, I get to take photos of the house, and also gather old photos, think about text, paper, paint.  This is going to be a good project.  And maybe I would have thought of it eventually but I'm really glad to have something positive to be thinking about instead of wallowing in what cannot be changed.  So, where was I?  Are you on Facebook yet?  I have friends who say, oh, I don't have anything to say, I don't have any time, I can't even keep in touch with the people I WANT to keep in touch with, let alone those random people from high school who will track me down.  And sure, being open to possibility means that you might run into some people who are boring or annoying or who post political views that make you really aggravated, but who knows where the next big idea for your art or mental health is going to come from.  It seems like such a little thing but then there are so many ways that you can give and receive little gifts.  It's worth it to be daring!


thoughts on altered books

I wonder what the guys at the used book store would think if they knew what I was doing with their books?  Would they be so friendly?  AND I am the daughter of a librarian!  In fact both of my parents always valued books highly; despite that, it took me very little effort to overcome my hesitancy of ripping pages out of books.  First of all, I do so out of love of the book and the form and I do feel as if I am doing this in a creative and respectful manner.  Plus, most of these books are ending up in a nice home that loves them rather than being sent to the shredder or wherever it is unwanted books go nowadays.  I love the idea of taking something and using it for another purpose.

I'm totally addicted!  Altered books are so much fun; and it is so satisfying to find a new art form that really resonates with me.  I think it was last year that I started making an altered book for the Custer cabin.  I had no idea what I was doing, just some vague impressions from pictures in books.  I'm not much for reading, I just like to look at the pictures and get inspired.  That wasn't a helpful approach though.  Luckily, Carol Owen was coming to Valley Ridge Arts Studio to teach an altered book class.  What a phenomenal experience!  Valley Ridge, as always, is an inspiring and relaxing and invigorating retreat -- I highly recommend it.  Carol Owen was a fabulous teacher -- very patient and calm, even quiet, and yet, at the end of each day, I realized that she had really taught us a lot.  Willing to share and answer any questions, she walked us through a number of altered book techniques.  Most important thing I learned?  According to Carol, "in altered books, there are no rules."  Wow -- that was kind of liberating.  I'm not really one for following rules in art-making so that was a good thing.  I like altered books because I'm not interested in book structure or in sewing and measuring.  This way, I pick up a book from the thrift store, rip the pages out, paint, fold, rip some more, glue, insert... 

After class, my first project was the butterfly book, pictured in the projects&creations album.  Next, a series of travel journals.  I've never really been much for journals.  Every good intention never lasts very long and the blank page doesn't really do much for me.  Seeing the inspiring work that other people are doing in journals made me want to keep trying.  I was taking a trip to San Francisco to visit my uncle and people were giving me all sorts of recommendations, plus I wanted to write down my notes of places to visit (and shop).  I realized I would be walking around a lot, and wanted a map, so I found a guidebook with a fold-out map.  I ripped out all the pages (leaving about a half-inch still attached) and instead replaced the pages with assorted scrapbook papers that I took my notes on - before, during and after the trip.  When I got home, I took all the stubs and other scraps and added pockets and clips so that everything is contained in the book.  It's a great souvenir of a great trip (it was on that trip that my uncle sat me down and said it was time to open a store of my own -- just a little kick in the pants) and it is a pleasure to look back on it. 

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Next was a spring trip to France with my dad.  At work there was an address book that I really liked, except I already HAD an address book.  It occurred to me that I could alter that and keep it as a travel journal.  The theory was that the tabbed alphabet pages would give rise to journaling in alphabetical order but that was too much to expect.  For the most part, I didn't pay attention to the tabs, and filled in pages in chronological order, even though my notes from before the trip were in alphabetical order.  Anyway, I absolutely love the finished product.  I'm so pleased with myself for actually finishing a travel journal, instead of adding to the pile of travel ephemera that I have to deal with from past trips (more altered address books are in the works).  The San Francisco and France altered journals are at the store for people to view and get inspiration from.  Workshops and demonstrations in altered books in general, and address books specifically are available.  It would be great sometime to have a workshop where people came in and brought all their travel mementos and created an altered address book to hold it all.

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These two pictures are from my France journal -- a picture of the book standing up on its side, with a little glimpse at all the pages.  There is writing from before the trip (everyone' recommendations and my grand plans) and during the trip (short journaling focused mostly on the food we ate -- it was a trip with my dad after all), pockets, pamphlets, ticket stubs, photographs... oh, and illustrations from a children's book I discovered called Princesses -- amazing illustrations!  The second picture is from the inside of the journal.  The photograph is from somewhere near Carnac on the Atlantic coast.  The tide was out and people were out on the flats-- looking for clams I presume.  It makes a really cool black and white photograph and one of these days I want to try a photo transfer.

After France and the altered book, came the 2 x 2 book exchange of the Bone Folders' Guild of which I am a member.  Susie, a fellow member, had been sharing with me her altered books made from those tiny little gift books that are usually near the check-out counter at the book store.  Her books were so inspiring that they gave me the idea to make a similar book.  Normally this 2 x 2 exchange is a little stressful for me because many of my fellow members create such amazing books with intricate structures, and yet I really have no interest and little skill when it comes to that.  This was perfect -- I'd use the structure that already existed, and just alter the pages.  I wrote a story about a girl who lived in a castle of stone, based on photographs that I took at the Kohler Art Museum (see projects&creations).  I ripped out the old pages from a mini book and inserted pages of my story (painted with twinkling H20s) and color photocopies of the photographs.  I was so pleased with the finished product that I am now working on an edition of four.  The approach is similar, though I learned a few things NOT to do the first time around and have made the necessary changes.  I painted and sewed all the pages (before inserting them in the book); there's still some touch-up painting to do, as well as decorating the covers, but they will be nice examples of altered books to have at the store.  I'm impatient for show and tell; to share these books with people and give them ideas for projects to work on.  I've collected some books (from the "free" table at the used book store) so people can stop in for a little workshop or demonstration.  We already had one altered book demonstration which allowed me to introduce some of the techniques and materials (like the twinkling H20s -- yes, I love them, I think everyone should use them and I'm totally addicted in case you haven't noticed).

Dsc01593Meanwhile, now that I now what I am doing, I need to get back to the book for the Custer cabin.  I have a great assortment of photographs and other images and text -- it's going to be really cool.  Then there's the book that I worked on during Carol Owen's workshop.  It's only about half done, which is par for the course from a Valley Ridge workshop.  I'm not complaining, mind you, it's just that it is easy to get distracted when one gets home from a workshop; there are several unfinished projects if you caught that in my list of things to do.  Other altered books?  I've started one big altered address book for all the other trips to France, and then there are a few other trips as well.  Those have photo albums but all that paper ephemera is just sitting around and it would be so nice to have a journal or something from that.  And I am enchanted with the mini book altering and would like more of that.  Ahead there is the Wisconsin Book Festival in October and the Madison Area Open Arts Studios (also October) and the Bone Folders' Guild holiday 2 x 2 exchange.  Right now, if I could swing it, I would be making altered books for all those events.  So I guess I'd better get to work.