The big day approaches. This gorgeous book will be hitting the shelves, and nestled within its pages are some of my favourite pages from my journal last year. It's available on Amazon for pre-sale (UK/US) at the moment. It was put together by Dawn Sokol, an art journaler herself. What I love about her books is how they celebrate the amazing breadth of page styles out there and even the variety of purposes in keeping a visual journal.
"Measure twice, cut once."
It feels like a drag sometimes, but there are jobs for which you have to put the time in to prepare properly. I don't follow rules, for rules' sake, but if I understand why, then I enjoy putting care and attention into the finer details.
There is definitely time and space for process-based, intuitive work. It's important to just let your hands, the muse and your medium of choice frolic together. It's important to try and fail, to make a lot of art on the road to making the art of your dreams.
For other work, you need to take the time and do the prep. When binding books, "measure twice, cut once" definitely applies. If you take the time, you end up with a book so neat and beautiful that you can hardly believe you made it. I know I feel like that sometimes. In woodworking, every teacher or maker I've ever spoken to, insists on the same. In dress-making, pre-washing, measuring for fit, tweaking the pattern, even making a toile (or muslin, for some of you) sometimes, and cutting with care results in a garment that looks handmade in all the best ways.
Knitting can go either way. For shawls and blankets, you can often dive straight in with yarn that makes your heart sing, knitting until it feels done. Some people can work awe-inspiring free-form knitting and crochet garments.
I'm starting my first sweater ever. We all know horror stories of jumpers, knit by relatives, that fit noone and no body. Tight necks, short bodies and long arms; I have no desire to put my yarn money and knitting time into a disaster like that.
The little piece you see above is a sample piece for my jumper. Knit, just like my sweater will be, in the round, on the same sized needles, with the yarn I want to use. It's even been washed the way I'll wash it when it's done. It allowed me to see if I like the fabric that will make up the finished piece and how it will wash. It also lets me see how many stitches I'm getting to the inch. Turns out, I'm getting an extra quarter stitch per inch compared to the designer. Pshaw! That's nothing, right? Around the hips though, that would give me a jumper two inches tighter than planned, a whole dress size! Plus, just like with shopping for clothes, very few of us are exactly the dimensions of one size and planning ahead allows for a custom fit. Wish me luck!
This piece is a test palette for a little illustrated book I'm working on. It's already bound and stitched, so I wanted to make my colour experiments ahead of time rather than on the page. Which reminds me, I must note down the names of the pencil colours before I forget.
What about you? Do you like to leap right in or work it out as you go along? Does it depend on the project? Or your mood?
Do you love paper? I do, deeply. Whether a new notebook, beautiful gift wrap, handmade paper, or a new ream of cheap drawing paper, it all has the power to get my happy paws going. A couple of weeks ago, by sheer fluke, I happened to see that a course called Paper Love was about to start. Taught by Rachel Hazell, a UK book and paper artist, it looked like the perfect opportunity to get my beloved book-making tools out of their box and get back in touch with my passion for book-making.
Honestly, I'm also hoping it will inspire me to sort out and tidy my paper hoards. There are parts of my tiny studio that are organised and I can reliably find key tools and certain supplies. There are bits that move around the flat, like my favourite pens; some paints and brushes are in constant migration. There are also some black holes of mystery. These frustrate me no end, but they also yield treasure: magazine images, found paper, choice bits of rust, and the occasional lost pen.
I'm a bit behind because of travel and family obligations, but I've been reading the lessons and Rachel is very generous with information and inspiration. I'm caught up with last week's assignments, see below.
Do you play enough? I don't, for sure. It's easy to feel like we have so much else that should come first. I know there is research aplenty and at least one book on my "to read" list on the importance of play to thinking skills, creativity and happiness. Your children certainly won't complain if you play more and tidy less, your love person will appreciate the return to the playfulness of early relationships and your heart and brain will thank you.
This year, I wanted to play more, to keep my hands moving, to spark ideas, to stop over-thinking and to spend some time enjoying all those things that I talk about enjoying!
I'm doing that in three main ways at the moment:
1) Making the choice in each day to play some. I'm not very good at that one. One reason I haven't been blogging as much is that the health & fitness programme I'm doing requires regular blogging and community participation as well as hours of food prep and workouts. On the upside, it also includes jumping rope!
2) Carla Sonheim's "SPARK!" course is based on some of these ideas and includes lessons from her and Lynn Whipple. So far it has been lots of fun, and I'm learning stuff too.
3) Emily Falconbridge's "Year of Soul*Makes" is a subscription kit full of juiciness from her studio and travels locally and abroad. All of the pictures below are from her kits, and the group of amazing women partipating are one of the first things I check in with on Fce book and Instagram each day.
What better way to start the year than beginning a new journal? I've been missing playing in mine; in the last half of the year my practice got quite fragmented. I've been working more in sketchbooks related to specific projects or themes; as they're part of the larger project, it hasn't been as easy to share. Journalling challenges and groups can be fantastic, especially when you are just beginning the art journal habit. The risk is losing your own voice as you try (perhaps unconsciously) to fit the assignment or even the aesthetic of the group. That happened. I've even left a few groups, gasp!
I'm keeping it simple. It's a brand new Dyan Reaveley Dylusions journal. I'm not setting a theme. I'm keeping it handy. If I do any challenges (and I'm still in a couple of groups), I'll do them in here too. I'd like to have it full at year's end, which hasn't happened in a while. Even more though, I would just like to show up at the page, day after day. It's a refuge and a haven.
I love this time of year; even as we pack away the decorations from the celebrations, I am excited for the year ahead. I feel a need to replace the decorations with something else to keep the dark at bay. We love the candles, certainly, and maybe the snowflake lights need to stay up, but I also want to fill the space when the tree's down with light, somehow. Pinterest is my friend.
It's primal, this need to gather in the mid of winter, this need to light the darkness.
I'm always a bit nervous, posting when I travel - like half of you are burglers, just waiting to pounce on my collection of art supplies and old paperbacks the second I leave for the airport. Other people manage it, but I just don't feel comfortable. So I don't blog from location, but I don't have a smokescreen of cleverly pre-planned blog posts either. Next time, maybe I'll get to grips with it. In the meantime, here are some photos from my oh, so inspiring trip to Japan earlier this month.
I started knitting this in the spring, but, as is often the case with me, set it down and didn't pick it up again in earnest until recently. It's my first shawl and I prefer small projects, but this is coming along just fine and I am very excited about starting the lace edging soon. I highly recommend the book Juju's Loops - there're still a bunch of things I want to make!
Do you want a fresh start? You can have one.
I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a fresh start. My big three on the calendar are my birthday, the new year and September. Back-to-school season will always have power for me after years of teaching and study following on my own school days.
That glorious feeling of limitless potential that can be found in a new notebook, a clean house, a new address book is hard to resist. There's a shadow side of course: the lure of starting the diet on Monday, of giving up drinking next month, of trying again in the new year. The wise and funny Sas Petherick sends out a monthly love note (get yours). In June, she wrote about replacing the defeatist phrases "I never" and "I always" with "up until this point, I…" It was such a gentle way to bless a new start and really inspired me to see fresh starts in every day.
Starting the day with some combination of the following helps me to start each day in the best possible frame of mind: tea, candles, soft music, fresh air, tarot or oracle cards, my journal. How do you start your day with a clean slate?
September was a funny month. For me, it held grief and worry, anxiety and ambition, alongside some joy and lots of friendship. I decided not to be tied to the back-to-school tradition.
I am declaring a October a fresh start. I am digging into my sketchbooks and fall cleaning. I am looking forward to an exciting trip. I am pushing forward to finish this year's classes and projects.
Here is your fresh start. What are you going to do with it?