Secret Knowledge

Beleive it or not, I recently attended a lecture on Physics. Normally, I would not do such a thing, but I made a exception in this case, because the subject was the use of the science of optics in the work of the great Renaissance masters. The speaker was physicist Charles Falco, who had got together with the artist David Hockney and hypothesized that mirrors were used in some 14th century paintings to provide the amazing details found in the images. The method that they say was used is that a mirror would provide a reflection of an image onto a wall, which would then be traced, transferred to a canvas and completed in paint. A more indepth explanation/analysis of the technique can be found here. A case in point is the above painting - the Arnolfini Marriage by Van Eyk. Falco supposed that the image of the chandelier was painted with the aid of optics, which he explained with the use of physics (I have to admit, he kind of lost me here) but all in all, I found it an interesting and convincing lecture. I am of the opinion that it's entirely possible that optics were used in the creation of some masterworks, but this opinion is highly controversial. I don't think that using such an aid takes away from the artist's skill, or is in any way "cheating." It's just an aid, the way that photography is used as an aid to artists in creating their works today.Another, less "sciencey" bit of evidence that was presented was that in the 1400's representation suddenly changed from flat two dimensional images (as in the first two pictures above) to fully realized, photo type images (as below). Going to an art exhibit and questioning this change is what led Hockney to propose this hypothesis.

Anyhow, I find this really fascinating, but I don't think that my writing does the subject any justice. Especially this morning - feeling very cranky. I have to note that I have been trying to do this post for a few days, but my crappy computer keeps crashing! I spent most of the day yesterday in mega computer warehouses, debating the merits of a 64 bit system versus dual-core technology with my husband and a series of pushy salesmen (salesboys - is that a word?), who had barely emerged from puberty. Hopefully, this torture wasn't for naught,and by next week double happiness will be brought to you by a shiny new laptop. But for now, I think that a nice hot shower and a second cup of coffee will change my outlook on life.


Paper, paper, paper!

Thanks to my friend Mishka and to the folks over on the Toronto Craft Alert for help with my question on where to find great paper in Toronto. Your comments and hints are already making my three day intinerary very full with great looking places to visit. The Toronto Craft Alert site is so great! I wish we had something like this in Halifax - there are so many artists and craftspeople here, it would be great to have one central source of information. I've found it quite difficult to locate craftmarkets around the region, it seems to be mainly word of mouth, so having a local site like this would really help people - especially when they are starting out. Hmmm...a Halifax Craft blog....interesting idea....

I thought I'd post another picture of some of my work. Pictured above is my most popular book - I call it the Origami Book. It looks quite ordinary from the front but it opens ingeniously... to reveal many pages. This type of book is also sometimes called the Lotus fold, and you can probalby see why.

Anyhow, thanks again to all the friendly Upper Canadians who've help with my paper search. If anyone is coming out East and needs any information, I would be very glad to assist!

Flying across the sea....

As we speak, this little bird is flying across the sea with a paper swap package for Marieke. We - that is myself and the little bird - sincerely hope that she likes it.

You can check out the progress of the Sweetpea Swap on this flikr group set up by the swap's organizer, the lovely Ellia.


Finally, a craft related post!

Back when I started this blog, I intended it to focus on craft related stuff. What I was working on, my thoughts, etc. What it has become over the past few weeks is pretty much a chronicle of the minutae of my everyday life, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Although craft and creating my little books and other works are a huge part of my life right now, that's not all there is. Sometimes I need a break from my craft work, from even writing about it on my blog. Tonight though, I completed a little present for a friend who just had a baby named Lily. There are two books, kind of a companion set, in my favorite Japanese paper, which just so happens to be very baby girl-y. So, I very much hope that they enjoy these books. And I hope that you do too...


Weekend Report

I'm having a relaxing, semi-quiet but quite good weekend. It started off with Martin and I having dinner at our favorite Halifax restaurant, Janes on the Common. The food there is so yummy, and we have been going there since day one, so we feel comfy there. Also, the service and staff are always wonderful, so it makes it a great night out. I had a halibut special, just for the halibut (geddit - halibut, hell of it, that joke never gets tired!) and Martin had a lovely polenta and lentil dish. Yum. Happy from our wine, we decided to try our luck at the casino, which always ends badly. We walked away less our $20 betting money - high rollers we're not - but it was a fun night out. On Saturday, I bummed around the house most of the morning and did a bit of housework. In the afternoon, I went shopping and made an impulse purchase of this desk. I was really cheap, and we
need something better that what we have to put our computer on. Right now, it's on an old stereo cabinet with the guts taken out of it, and it's murder on the shoulders using it for any length of time. The table I bought is actually a darker stain, but you get the idea. I'm not sure about how it's going to fit into the house with our rustic/retro blend, or what type of chair I'm going to get to go with it, but I am sure that my back will thank me for buying it! Another purchase was the new Cat Power CD - The Greatest. My question is - why didn't anyone tell me about Cat Power before? I love the CD, and her melancholy folky, jazzy style is right up my alley, I think it actually even lives on my street! Anyhow, it's a great CD, and I would highly recommend it. I got home a bit later than planned, so the feast that I was thinking of making has been rescheduled for tonight. Last night, we just had a simple pasta and watched a couple of videos "The Weather Man" (review - just ok) and "Rent" (review - I liked it, but I'm a sucker for a musical!) Today, more puttering, included making some books and trying out carving some little stamps from my Japanese book. They didn't turn out exactly as pictured, but I like 'em. I'll post some photos later.
Well, I am off to begin preparing the feast, in case you're wondering, it's Roasted Portobello Mushrooms, Fennel and Ricotta Risotto, Spinach and Avocado Salad and a Butterscotch Banana Pudding for dessert.


Proud to be a canknittyan!

Got great news from my friend Mishka yesterday. Recently, she punned
on the fact that Knitty is a Canadian company, and came up with the slogan "canknittyan" (say it out loud, you'll get it). Knitty picked up on it, and their shop is now filled with loot bearing this clever slogan! Good on ya Mishka!
In other related news, we also found out yesterday that we were able to snag some frequent flyer tickets to visit Mishka and her Boy in Toronto. Woo hooo! She is my oldest friend - we met back in the 80's and instantly bonded over a love of alternative fashion, wacky hairstyles and Robert Smith of the Cure - and it's been about three years since we've seen each other. I am so looking forward to catching up and meeting her boy! Again - woo hoo!


oh happy day!

My Japanese craft books finally arrived from YesAsia! I got three books - one is on making book covers, one is on packaging and one is one hand carved stamps. I have been looking at these books for ages on sites like Crafting Japanese and coveting them, but I was afraid that I would be disappointed with them in the flesh. My fears were unfounded, I love these cute little books, and can't wait to get stuck in to some of the projects. The photos are a little dark and pixely, and don't really do them justice, but here goes -

Although I love them all, my favorite of the three is the one on hand carved stamps.
There are so many great ideas for cards, and things that I would have never thought of stamping, like these tote bags. I especially love the one with the glasses - they're just like mine!
The author of this book seems to like Americana as well, she does loads of designs incorporating American packaging, and this layout would do Homer Simpson proud. Mmmm....doughnuts....
Finally, just in time for Easter, a cute little package...
I'll say it again, I'm absolutely thrilled with my books. I plan to go out tomorrow and get some rubber to make a few carved stamps. Stay tuned for the results!


It's like those French people have a different word for everything...

I think that Steve Martin said that, can't remember what movie it's from though. Anyhow, I found out the French even have a word for people like me - it's "chineur" and it refers to one who likes to frequent flea markets looking for unusual items. So, the next time I get called a scrounger, or a junk hound, I will simply say, "Pardon me, I beleive I am actually a chineur, thank you very much!" I am actually a little bit of a francophile. I love French food and art, but what I love most of all is the way little details seem to matter so much in the everyday life of the French. (That's also what I love about the Japanese, but that particular obsession would take up a whole book!) There are lots of lovely French inspired sites on the internet, but I think that the one the embodies the word "chineur" and wraps it up in a neat little package is "French General." They have all these fantastic little craft kits that incorporate notions, beads and paper, as well as furniture and home accessories. That site is American, but I recently discovered a lovely little French site called Tse-Tse & Associes. They've got loads of interesting things for the home, and even some paper. Also, it's a beautifully designed site that is lots of fun to look around in. One final French site that I love is Chocolate & Zuchini. It's a blog by a food-obsessed Parisian called Clothilde who writes about her daily life and food in France. Although I can't get into some of the food described (tongue blood sausage was a recent entry), Clothilde's love of food is inspiring, and her writing is wonderful! She is currently writing a cookbook, which will be a must buy for me when it comes out. I could keep going on forever and ever about my favorite French things, but my computer is playing up and driving me insane, so I think it's time to sign off...


Dining Room Dilemma

I had a conversation with a friend last night who is furnishing a new apartment and wants to buy this dining room table. We ended up having quite a long conversation, in which the word "juxtaposition" was bandied about with impunity! The reason is, I'm not crazy about the table, but he loves it. I know that it's probably made by some fantastic mid-century modern designer, and I'm showing my ignorance right now, but it just doesn't seem conducive to dining to me. The glass and steel materials seem very cold. I had a look around the internet today though, and did see some cool set-ups with tables that were a bit like this one. One was over on the Crate & Barrel site - I have to admit that the Moda table looked pretty cool with the red leather chairs, and not a bit cold. My fave table and chair set up was over on West Elm though - loved the white Parson's table with those hot green chairs! If anything, this post has probably made a choice harder for my friend, but, I have to say that he has impeccable taste and anything he chooses will end up being perfect. Isn't that the number one rule of design - fill your home with things that you love and you can't go wrong? Failing that, I am available to be flown overseas for an in-home consultation.



I have a confession to make - I love Martha Stewart. I don't mean that I love her, I think that she herself can be really creepy, but I love her magazines, and their styling. Even if you hate her, you have to admit she's got some fantastic craft and cooking ideas. Well, I don't think that she herself comes up with these ideas - I have even heard that she has a couple of NSCAD grads working for her - I think that she hires people who know what they are doing. I also have to say that I don't think that the life being portrayed in these magazines is acheivable - unless you have a staff of 60 servants working full time - and that wanting to "have it all" in the manner of Martha Stewart can be harmful to your sanity. Heck, you could even end up in jail!
But, having said all that, I buy "Living" pretty much every month, and have even been known to buy "Weddings" although I am already married, and not planning on getting married again anytime soon (but all that can change, if a certain someone doesn't play his cards right - hee, hee). So you can imagine my delight when I heard that Martha is launching a new magazine called "Blueprint" aimed at the younger set. It's right up my alley, and I'm very much looking forward to the first issue.
You know what they say, the first step is admitting that you have a problem...


Production Line

I've spent the last couple of nights making a big whack of book covers. They are all now happily pressing under weights, getting ready for pages to be added. Making my books for orders involves a bit of a production line - cut covers, cut paper for covers, glue paper to covers, press, glue in pages, press, and so on. Sometimes, I enjoy the production line, I can really lose myself in all that cutting and gluing. Right now though, I am resenting the production line a little bit. Because I am building up my stock of "regular" books, I have little time to work on new ideas. I am really keen to begin producing more photo albums and cards, but the production line is stopping me from doing so! I need more effecient ways to handle my workload, and I am hoping to buy a big professional type rotary cutter to help speed up things a bit.


These are a few of my favorite things...

It's becoming spring here in Halifax, and at this time of year, a young woman's fancy turns to clothing. Well, actually, my fancy turns to clothing just about all the time, but spring is especially nice. It's the time of
year that you can break free of the winter coat and boots, and begin wearing lighter freer clothes - floaty skirts and tops, denim jacket and the like. I just grabbed all of my favorite clothes from the closet and noticed something interesting - they are all florals. I was kind of surprised - I've never seen myself as a particularly flowery kind of girl, but I do love all these clothes and
patterns, and I use a lot of floral papers in my bookbinding work. I guess another thing that all these floral patterns have in common is that they are either subtly (or completely overtly) Japanese inspired.
Maybe I shouldn't be getting too excited though -they are forecasting snow for overnight. Sigh...

Speaking of Storage...

We went to the bookshop last night, and saw a book by Jo Packham called "Organizing your Craft Space." This book puts all my ideas to shame. There are some great ideas in here for organizing supplies, and if you are working out of a small space (like most of us) you can drool over the amazing rooms pictured in this book!


Found Storage

Ellia made a comment on my post a few days ago about an issue I've thought a lot about - paper storage. As I mentioned in the post, working with paper means that I'm obsessed with it and have a ton of it, and while I'd love to have a fantastic set of paper drawers like those pictured over on Whip-Up by Camilla, I've had to make due with my own "found storage" for the time being. Also, I should probably mention that in some ways, I'm a bit of a cheapskate, but I come by it honestly (thanks mom!) and I love flea markets, antiquing and council clean up days as sources for things for my home. Pictured is an old clothes drying rack from my grandmother's house which provides a nifty hanging place for Japanese paper and ribbon. I can fit quite a lot on there, and I can see everything, which is really important. The suitcases were found at flea markets and garage sales and hold lots of bits and pieces. The smaller ones are the perfect size for A4 cardstocks and papers. They just keep everything looking hidden and tidy, and add give my studio a kind of vintage vibe. My camera's battery went dead before I got to take a photo - but I keep large sheets of paper in clear plastic artist portfolios that I hang up. They keep the paper flat, and I can see what's inside. The system's not perfect, but it does the job, for now and it didn't cost me much. This final photo is completely irrelevant to this post, but I can't resist sharing one of my best bargain finds. This chandelier was on the side of the road on garbage day. I cleaned it up and spraypainted it white. It now hangs proudly in my dining room, and it's mate, also found in the rubbish, hangs in my living room.


Christopher Pratt + Curry Fries = Perfect Saturday

Today, Martin and I decided to take a total break from work. It's been a frenzy of bookmaking and advertising agency stuff around here for the past couple of weeks, so it was most definitely in order! The first thing we did was have a coffee and light breakfast at Uncommon Grounds - latte....yum. Then, we went to the Art Gallery, where I took this photo of the big comb (it's a sculpture in the forecourt, and I'm sure it's not really called the big comb, but that's what I - and it seems everyone else - call it).
The reason we went to the gallery was to see an exhibition by Christopher Pratt, a Newfoundland artist. I wasn't too familiar with his work, but I have to say that I liked it. His paintings are in a hyper-realistic style - lots of straight lines and perfect angles - which isn't something that I've really loved in the past, but something about his paintings made me think about the world, and our place in it. He paints a room with no one in it, or a road with no one on it, so that you can imagine that you are in that room, or looking down that road. When he does paint people, they are doing mundane things, so you could also imagine that you are there with them. It also made me think of our trip to Newfoundland this summer, the beauty of the place, but also the long stretches of barren road and coast. I don't think that I am really conveying the show very well, so I'll just say (in my best Newfoundland accent) that it was "good b'ye, real good." Finally, we did some art supply shopping, then decided to have a beer at the Irish pub, and something called "Ceili Spuds." Turns out that this was a good decision - the spuds were like battered potato wedges, and they had a curry sauce on the side for dipping, so unhealthy, but so yummy. This picture does not do them justice. Boring old people that we are, we are finishing off the day with dinner (not sure what yet) and possibly (I hope)a game of Scrabble.


My very first swap...

When I started reading craft blogs about a year ago, I noticed everyone was swapping or participating in "Illustration Friday" or a "Month of Softies" and I was very jealous! It looked like so much fun that I definitely wanted to join in. So, when I heard about the Paper and Ribbon swap being organized by Ellia over at Green Bean Baby, I was thrilled! It's definitely right up my alley. Anyone who's been to my house would say that it's literally groaning with paper and ribbon (literally groaning, I really mean it). I can't throw any paper related stuff away, magazines, books, ticket stubs, stamps, shopping bags...so this will be a fantastic chance to share some of the wealth, and throw in a few surprises as well. My swap partner Marieke has a great blog, and does some lovely work, so I'm looking forward to learning more about her, and of course, receiving my pack of goodies!


Really, it's uncanny....

Lots of things have happened since my last blog post - worked on tonnes of books, went to the gym for the first time in ages, tried some new belgian beers - but one of the main things is that I've had a new haircut. It's quite a lot shorter, and I'm not sure if I like it. I've been thinking that with my new bobbed hair and black glasses that I remind myself of someone - and then I remembered who - Edna from the Incredibles! I was thinking that this is a bad thing, but when I went online to find this photo, I discovered that she's a bit of an icon for slightly nerdy fashion victims. So, maybe Edna and I have more in common than a haircut...