Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coyote, Anansi, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox

My life seems to be filled with tricksters this winter. After realizing that Bury Me Standing is overdue at the library, I decided to just return it and read something else. I chose Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, because it's one of few stand-alone audiobooks I have on my iPod, and I can't exactly be taking good hardcovers outside in this snow.

I think, before I started listening, I wasn't really paying attention to the title. Anansi. The trickster of African stories. Winter is the season of the trickster, you know. It's the time of the year when you can tell and hear trickster stories without getting the often unwelcome attention of the trickster. And this winter, intentionally or not, I've been doing just that. It started with Coyote Road, which is a collection of original trickster stories prefaced by a long history of the trickster and the history of the trickster throughout the world. That was followed by going to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which, by the way, was absolutely fantastic. :) Charles de Lint's books feature Raven as well as Coyote (who's called Cody and is a background character). And now Anansi Boys, which I chose simply because I love Neil Gaiman, not remembering that Anansi is another trickster. I never even read the description of the story, but after listening to the first couple chapters, I'm pretty sure it's about the sons of Anansi.

Trickster's stories show up all around the world: Kitsune in Japanese tales, Raven and Coyote in Native American stories, Anansi in African and Carribean stories, Puck in Celtic tales, Hermes in Greek, etc., etc. One thing I've always been fascinated by is fairy and folk tales, and the ways in which they are adapted and used in cultures as time goes by. If I went back to school, I'm pretty sure that's what I'd study.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Widdershins, Bury Me Standing, and a dog in the snow

I finished Widdershins yesterday. It was a good book, but I find myself disenchanted with the ending. I know that the stories are kind of fairy-tale-esque, but it's such a clean ending: all the bad guys die, all the good guys live and get together; even the two who were killed end up coming back to life. I'm starting a non-fiction book called Bury Me Standing: the gypsies and their journey. I don't read much non-fiction, but I was curious about this one.

The snow we've gotten is incredible, and I've decided that I can't decide if Onyx is part snow ostrich or part dolphin. I couldn't get a picture of him diving through the snow, but here's him burying his head in it:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hand-sewn Headbands

This is a book I showed in a post in my old blog, but it's worth showing here. If you click on the photo, you can see the headband more clearly in the large version.

I bound this journal for an old friend of mine, and it was the second hollowback hardcover I made. The first was in my first bookbinding class, and that class taught me a lot but inspired more questions than it answered. One of the big questions was, If you're binding books by hand, why not take the extra time to sew in a functional headband instead of just gluing on a non-functional decorative one? And how do you do that, anyway?

After looking through tutorial after tutorial online, I found one on a blog called Pied Crow Press. The photos are great and show each step clearly, the instructions are detailed and understandable, and my first headbands turned out beautifully. The beads on the headband on the bottom are a little rougher, but not by much, and the top one was wonderful. Definitely gift-worthy. Anyway, if you're curious about hand-sewn headbands, here's a link to the tutorial. Happy binding!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Charles de Lint

Why, oh why have I never read Charles de Lint before now? I'm already in my mid-twenties, which means that a decade and a half of pure literary enjoyment has been lost! I guess I'll have to make up for lost time.

A couple days ago, I finished the first book I've read by de Lint: The Onion Girl (by the way, I want the dress Jilly's wearing on the cover). He's a spectacular writer, getting into the gritty of things, bringing his readers the magic that lives in the places that are too dark to see into. I got the feeling, reading Jilly's story, that she is the center of an entire web of stories. Sometimes, she might be on the sidelines when you're looking at someone else's story, but everything connects to her and through her. I could be wrong. I suppose I'll find out as I read more of de Lint. I've started Widdershins, which is a continuation of Jilly's story, and then I'll go back and read other stuff by de Lint.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making a Box with a Tray: Green with Gold

My first box was fairly simple in comarison to the box I'm working on now. There were certainly fewer parts to cut out. This box will be basically the same, but it will be about 2 1/2" longer and the sides will be taller to accomodate a second tray. Most boxes made with a removable tray are jewelry boxes and don't have the dividers in the bottom, but mine will not be for jewelry, and there will be dividers in the bottom as well as the top tray.

The two most important things about box making and bookbinding that I would not have expected: math/formulas and labeling the pieces. But the paper and the process are the most fun parts. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exposed-spine Sewings

I've been spending some time on Flickr, looking at other people's work, finding inspiration and just admiring it. One of the things I really want to learn to do is different types of stitching, like Coptic. One of the great things about living in Ann Arbor is that Hollander's is right downtown, so I can go there any time for decorative paper, bookboard, or pretty much anything else I want. I can also take the workshops they offer. Next month, they're offering a workshop on two exposed-spine sewings: one is coptic, and the other is button-hole stitch.

I've really loved the other classes I've taken, but I'm not sure if I should spend $110 on a class or if I should just teach myself. I think I'll see how easy it is to learn from tutorials (that's now I learned to do hand-sewn headbands), and then take the workshop if I need more. If they ever offer a class that teaches several different kinds of stitching, I'll be signed up in a heartbeat!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Awesome Find: Up-cycling Old Magazines

Yesterday on my way out of the office, I discovered an entire cart overflowing with old science magazines and journals. Now, if you've never seen a copy of Kidney International, you're missing out, but if you have, you know why I took as many as I could carry home with me. The microscopic photos on the covers vacillate between uber-cool and awe-inspiringly beautiful. I took a photo of a small sample last night, and even though the lighting's not that great, you can still see just how sweet these covers are. They're going to become the new covers of books and boxes, and I'm so excited to tear them apart and make them into something new and beautiful!

My favorite two:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

100+ Reading Challenge

I haven't been reading as much lately as I usually do. Maybe because I spend so much time thinking about creating. I found the 2010 Reading Challenge, and even though we're already well into February, I figured I might as well see if I can do this. I usually read about 60 books a year. Another 40 is a lot, especially since much of what I read is quite hefty reading, like Robert Jordan and Alexandre Dumas. But we'll see how I do. :) I also joined a book club that reads two books a month, and while I probably won't be able to make both meetings, why not read both books?

The next book is Atonement, by Ian McEwan, which means that I have to pay off my exhorbitant library fines so I can borrow it from the AADL. It's gotten to the point where I honestly wonder if it wouldn't be cheaper to buy a book than pay the old fines and borrow it from the library. Does anyone else rack up the library fines, or is it just me?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finds at The Dawn Treader (Incarceron)

In Ann Arbor, there is a used bookstore called The Dawn Treader, and while I love used bookstores, I love Dawn Treader the most because of their absolutely ginormous collection of fantasy and sci-fi. Also, they obviously accept trade-ins, and one of my friends who's leaving the country gave me her little trade-in certificate, so she essentially handed me $7.50 to spend on books.

Over the weekend, I got an Advance Reading Copy of Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher. The book was $5.50, so I should have gotten a new trade-in certificate for $2, but the woman at the register wrote $2.50 instead. I know it's only 50 cents, but I feel like I should tell them next time I go in.

Anyway, I'm going to finish the book today. It's delicious. This is one of those books that keeps you up at night and makes you forget to feed the dog. The characters are compelling and well-developed, and the story is fast-paced and set in a world where darkness has seeped into the light of idealism. I think I've read too many books in my life, because the general story line so far has been predictable, but reviews say the ending has quite the twist, so I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Boxes, paper, and USB drives

I never seem to do everything I intend to do over the weekend. Time just doesn't move the way I think it's going to. :) I did finish the first box I started, and it turned out beautifully. I'll post pictures later. I don't have them with me right now because of what happened yesterday. Yesterday, I thought my entire creative life was ending; my little USB flash drive stopped working, and silly woman that I am, I haven't backed it up in a loooonng time. My partner saved me by jiggling it around a little in the USB port of my laptop and bending it so it tipped up long enough for me to drag everything from it and drop it onto my desktop. So... Everything is still there, it's just no longer portable. Guess I need a new flash drive. :(

The formulas for the second box are finished, so I'll be able to start cutting boards and papers tonight. I'm excited, because this box is the one I'm making for me, and I'll be thrilled to get my cards into a proper box. I'm making it with a gorgeous green paper with gold vines, and the inside will be a gold Lakta paper. Again, pictures to follow.

Edit: Here are a couple pictures of the box (the ribbons are to pull out the contents without dumping everything out):

And here's a picture of the paper I'm going to use for my box. :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Box Making

I took a couple of basic bookbinding classes last year, and from what I learned there, I’m teaching myself how to make boxes. I’m pretty excited about all the ideas I have banging around in my skull.

The inspiration for box-making is actually uber nerdy, but I’m okay with that. I recently picked up some Magic: the Gathering cards and started to play. Now, if you play, you already know, but if you don’t, then one of the things you should know about these cards is that, unlike regular old playing cards, Magic cards come in packaging that really isn't meant to hold them for any longer than it takes for someone to buy them and take them out. No neat little box to slip them back into. They come with all kinds of packaging (I know, it makes my eco-self cringe too) that’s not meant to hold your cards after you take them out. So…What to do with those cards?

Option 1: Keep some in the flimsy, open plastic packaging they come in and figure out what to do with the ones that won't fit.
Option 2: Purchase a rather tacky deck box for each set of 60 cards.
Option 3: Keep them in a used box.
Option 4: Rubber-band them all together.
Option 5: Forget about it altogether and just leave them spread across the coffee table where they’re free game for the dog.
Option 6: Make my own box, customized with my own design, details, size, number of cards it holds, etc.

Needless to say, my crafty self immediately started fantasizing about glue and decorative papers, and I was sold. This is the tray just after it was glued together (this particular box is going to hold 1200 cards):