Monday, January 24, 2011

Stamped Metal Jewelry by Lisa Niven Kelly

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  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Interweave Press; Pap/DVD edition (July 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596681772
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596681774
My most recent interest has been metal. I love embossing metal foil and, I suppose, stamping metal was a logical progression.  I want to learn some wire wrapping techniques (thanks to a necklace that I fell in love with on a jaunt to Roslyn, Washington last Fall). I am fighting to restrain myself from becoming enamored with jewelry making, but I wanted a book that would teach me a bit about the ins and outs of stamping metal to use in my mixed media work. I happened upon the most excellent website called Beaducation. Lisa Niven Kelly is the owner of the site and I found that she had recently published this little treasure of a book called "Stamped Metal Jewelry". You know I had to have it!


This book is exactly what I needed. It comes completed with a nifty instructional DVD. The book covers all of the basics about tools, gauges of metal and metal wire, dapping, riveting, applying patinas, hole punching and drilling, oxidizing, annealing and polishing metals. That's just the beginning! The projects in the book follow a logical progression - an easy introduction to the basics and then moving on to more involved concepts. The book is very well illustrated with clear, concise photographs and written instruction that follows along with the photos. I dislike books that have photo instruction separated from the written instructions - making you flip back and forth to correlate the written instructions with the photographs. This book is really well done in that area. The projects are not only instructive but they are also things that you will enjoy making and wearing. The author does suggest that your first attempts at stamping be done on less expensive metals like copper before moving on to precious metal work. That is good advice because there is, most definitely, a bit of "stamping" curve to learn - since things like pressure, tilt (no!)  and hammer weight can all affect the quality of your finished impression.
Below: One the first projects in the book
This is one of those ah-ha! kind of books that would be a really good addition to the library of any artistically minded person - because who knows where this path could lead you! I love this book - and Lisa's website is one of the best I have ever been on. No matter what your artistic medium is you should do yourself a favor and check it out ! 
What an amazing bracelet!
This is one of the last projects in the book - and it is exactly where I want to go!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Water Paper Paint by Heather Smith Jones

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  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Quarry Books (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592536557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592536559

I have found myself wanting to use watercolors in my work but have little to no experience in how to use them. Anybody can put paint and water to paper but to make it interesting can be another whole thing. I wanted a basic book - I have no aims to become a professional watercolor artist - something that would tell me more than I already knew - but not so so much that I would be overwhelmed by the
information.  I chose this book to try and I glad that I did because it fits the bill perfectly for me!

I love the feel and the smell of books - and have been known, on occasion, to not by a book it if the paper feels off. The paper binding this book s feels like watercolor paper.  In the book  Heather Smith Jones does cover the basics of watercolor paper - how to 'stretch' it (affix it to a surface so that it will not buckle when you paint) and what the surfaces of various papers are like. The books also has an excellent, short version, of how watercolor paints are created and how to branch out and make your own paints should you want to. There is an explanation of what all of those little numbers and letters on the paint tubes mean as well, what mediums to use and why.

The projects include the fare you might expect in a beginner book : 
  • how to work wet into wet and wet onto dry.
  • developing a palette and using one of a variety of different pallets for your work
  • using color
  • adding textures with things like salt, sprays (with a straw),lines, bubble wrap, paper towels etc
  • painting with watercolors around a drawing as well as using backgrounds before a drawing
  • working from a photograph
  • art cards
  • assembalges
  • creating negative shapes
  • collage
You get the idea. Yes, it's basic but it also contains a wealth of usable information for folks like me who want the basics presented in an intelligible manner and suitable for a wide variety of mixed media work and textile art. I am very pleased with my purchase of this book - and think it would make a great addition to your artist's library as a mixed media or textile artist. I am sure that conditioned watercolor artists might be bored - but for me this was the perfect book. Just what I had hoped for !

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Real Life Journals. Designing and Using Handmade Books" by Gwen Diehn Published by Lark Books

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  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Books;  (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600594921
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600594922
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 9.3 x 0.9 inches

Gwen Diehn is one of my favorite journal artists. She is the author if the "Decorated Page", among others,  which is one of my all time favorite books about journaling.

Real Life Journals is mostly about the business of making and designing journals for your artwork. I have to confess that I am not that tempted to make my journals - but this is probably one of the most creative, well written and illustrated, book son the subject that you will find. That being said, aside from the construction of the journals the book  includes a  lot of creative, useful tid-bits about the art of journaling itself. 

The inside front flap includes a mini-book-in-a-pocket-titled "Choose Your Own Bookbinding Adventure. The enclosed booklet is a very handy that leads you through the basics by asking questions and then a "if yes turn to page____, if no, turn to page___" formula that I like a lot. The back flap provides an excellent foldout chart entitled "Book Binding Essentials" - and it explains, just as it says, the basics to get you going on your journal". This is an extremely well presented, well thought out volume. I am always particularly pleased with the format and high quality of Lark Books. When they publish a book - they make everything pretty special.

The table of contents pretty well spells it out:
Design Inventory
Personal Journals
The Basics
Bookbinding Instruction (16 different methods)
Cover Instructions
Journals Past and Present

What the Tale Of Contents does not tell you about, however, is the wealth of ideas for journaling that the book includes. Watercolor, pencil, writing paired with sketches - so many great ideas on how to fill the pages of the journal that you make. I love this book - as I do all of Gwen Diehn's work. If you want to start your own journaling adventure this is the book to get. It's chock full of information and ideas that are beautifully presented. Just paging through the book can make you happy - and motivated.

For me journaling is a way to to gauge where I am by being able to see, and read about, where I've been. Journaling gives a perspective on my life that I find invaluable. I bet it would be for you to! Check out the price too - it's a real bargain now!


I am honestly not sure if this book was provided to me by the publisher  (since I do review books for Lark from time to time)for the purpose of an honest review - or if I purchased the book myself (which is what I think I did). Either way, my review is honest - I loved the book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FOCUS: PASSAGES Your World, Your Images from LARK BOOKS

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Series: FOCUS
Publisher: Lark
Published: October 2010
180 pages
ISBN: 1-60059-680-0
ISBN13: 9781600596803
$14.95 US
$17.95 Canadian
7 X 7

It has taken me too long to get to this review because I get the lost in the pages of this little gem every time I open it. I've always "had a thing" about portals and doorways. They have such an allegorical place in my heart...sort of like circles which I have adopted as my personal 'signature'.

This is a particularly lovely small book of photographs - a collection of the most wonderful portals and doorways in all of their mysterious and fanciful guises.  The weather is too wet and dark to facilitate great photos but I have added a few that may give you an idea of what's on the pages of this delightful little tome. 

As always Lark Books does an exceptional job with photography and design. From the 'carved' portal on the cover to the last page of photographs - this book is a great diversion for a gray, cold day. If pathways, portals & doorways intrigue you,  as they do me, this book is most definitely for you!

this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received

Monday, January 10, 2011

Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker by Camille DeAngelis

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This book was a departure for me because I seldom read general fiction anymore, despite having been previously smitten with suspense novels and thrillers, I have become very comfortably ensconced in the historical fiction genre and the informative pages of arts & crafts books. That being said the description of this book was intriguing and I had to give it a try.

I also have to be honest. I didn't think I was going to like this book when I first got my hands on it - despite the tantalizing description. Initially, I thought it might be a bit too glib for my taste but within a few pages I was hooked. This is a magical tale of white witches, espionage (during WW11, love, liaisons & family- an utterly delightful fantasy. Ms. DeAngelis has such a pure, quirky imagination! I ended up not being able to put the book down, but devoured the story page by delightful page. I loved it and it was, indeed, a magical mystery tour through the author's eyes.

Imagine: a earthy witch named, appropriately enough, Eve. Eve falls in love with a mortal man during WW11 when they worked together against the Nazis. Her love is lost in a mere mortal sort of way, leaving Eve to carry on. The reader is introduced to Eve at the ripe, but not necessarily old, age of 149. The catch is that, with enough "oomph", Eve is able shed her older skin - allowing her to become youthful once again. Seducing young mortal men works fine as a diversion to her 'golden' years until one day she meets a young man who reminds her of departed love. Could it be that he has "come back" for her?

This is one of the most imaginative, rollicking fun books that I have read in some time. A delightful departure from the mundane world of every day. Richly whimsical and off beat - this book is a little gem.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"The Tudor Secret : The Elizabeth 1 Spymaster Chronicles" by C.W. Gortner

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I am a real fan of C.W. Gortner's work and was thrilled to be given an opportunity to read and review this latest book. This volume, the first of a chronicle series, introduces us to the character of  Brandon Prescott. Brandon was found as a newborn and was taken into the Dudley household by their herbalist and nurse, Alice. The Dudley family is wealthy, powerful& avaricious. Close to the boy King - Edward VI - the Dudleys have wielded their power over the throne and are poised to keep Henry VIII's daughters Mary and Elizabeth from ever reaching the throne by marrying their youngest son, Guilford, son to Lady Jane Grey (daughter of Henry VIII's sister, Mary). Jane was, of course, later called the 9 days queen - which tells you what happened to the grand Dudley scheme.

Brandon is brought up in the midst of the Dudley family; treated as an orphan and scape goat of the Dudley boys, but, when the family is away at Court, Brandon  has access to the many books owned by the Dudleys and schools himself in languages and history. Suddenly Brandon finds himself packed up and on the way to Court to serve as Robert Dudley's squire as payment for his upbringing. As soon as he is presented at Court he quickly becomes embroiled in a game of power and politics. An overheard comment that he "bears the mark of the Rose" brings back the pain of not knowing who his mother. Brandon wonders what the comment - and the hidden birthmark on his thigh- mean. Does someone know who his family is? Brandon begins to search for answers to his lineage. He learns to live by his quick wits. When he is introduced to the Lady Elizabeth he quickly becomes aligned with her & aids her as she seeks to gain access to her dying brother, Edward, in order to say good-bye. Access to the dying boy king was rigorously controlled by the Dudley clan, but Brandon plots a scheme to allow Elizabeth to see her brother. Along the way, Brandon is kidnapped, and ultimately brought to the home of William Cecil who sets him a task and enmeshes him in the world of spycraft. Sir Fracis Walsingham is portrayed as a shadowy figure whose presence adds to the winding turns of the plot. The true heir to the throne of England after Edward is Mary, and she finally discovers that her brother has died - the Dudleys did not make that information public for some time after his death - and gathers her forces to march on London to reclaim her crown from Guilford Dudley and Jane Grey.

This book is not as large a book as C.W. Gortner's earlier historical novels about Juana of Castile (The Last Queen) and Catherine de Medici (The Confessions of Catherine De Medici), nor is it, perhaps, as historically based. That being said, it does, indeed, carry the true flavor of the time,speaks of real persons, events and history and you don't have to reach reach too far to see how the plot could have been plausible.  Who is Brandon Prescott (answered in the book)? How does he come to work for William Cecil and what will his next assignments be? This book really sets up the series and I can't wait for the next volume!

This is another winner for Mr.Gortner and I am now eagerly awaiting the next book in this chronicle series! Any C.W. Gortner fan, historical fiction fan or Tudor fan will be thrilled with this excellent read!

PS: If you have not yet read C.W. Gortner's other books - give yourself a present and read them. They are both 5 star'ers in my book ! Historically accurate, incredibly well written - just great reads!


note: this book was provided to me by Amazon for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Drawn To Stitch" by Gwen Hedley

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  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Interweave Press (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596682337

This book was a holiday gift from DH - it had been on my "wish list" for some time but it was worth the wait! Gwen Hedley is a well known surface designer and embroiderer. Her previous book was called "Surfaces For Stitch" -is now also on my "wish list"!

This is a book about creative vision. How to interpret the world around you as being ripe with  possibilities for stitching. From photo, to drawing to stitching by both machine and by hand Ms. Hedley's vision takes you on a visual journey. You will begin to see so many every day surfaces as possibilities for translation into stitch. The book is visually powerful, beautifully photographed and well thought out. Each chapter takes from the progression of thought, photograph, drawing and stitching.You will discover new ways to interpret your environment and discover new opportunities for creative challenges.

This book will, I believe, appeal to a wide variety of artists :quilters, embroiderers  (machine and hand), visual journalers, mixed media artists, photographers, as well as color and textural artisans will find the techniques pertinent. There is much to delight and explore in this book and I think most creative minds will find something of interest among the pages.

Yep - it's a 5 star for me - and I think it would be for you too.