Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Where do all the unwanted books go? Plundering pages without the guilt.

Hello hello.

My name is Julie ... and I cut up old books. And - better still - I don't feel guilty about it ...
I know some people do, and that's fine, that's what me and my shop is here for. [After all my tag line is 'I cut up the books ... so you don't have to'!!]

There's a few reasons I don't feel bad about it:
  1. I don't take a knife to precious, valuable editions :: I'm thrifty and crafty... not devoid of common sense!
  2. I rescue books from the ignominy of being left on the shelf [or worse still ... the damp cardboard box] and give them a new lease of life in my own art/craft and that of my customers :: just think of me as a fairy Godmother sending the dowdy and dusty Cinderellas of the book world to the ball!
  3. The majority of the time I'm donating to a charity while collecting interesting supplies.
Yesterday, on my 'With Julie Kirk' Facebook page I shared a story from The Guardian all about the world of selling second hand books because this quote had leapt out at me:

"Colin Stephens, founder and director of Sunrise Books in England, was thumbing through a charity shop’s bookshelf when the manager told him how much she’d come to hate used books. Every few days, she complained, she would have to load the trunk of her car with the shop’s excess donations and shuttle them to the landfill, in her own spare time and at her own expense."

I have no idea if this is standard practice and yet I'm equally unaware about what else could happen to all those unwanted books that are sent to charity shops which then remain unwanted!

I do know that Healthy Planet do their part by rescuing books destined for landfill and giving them away for free [if you're in the UK you can check their map to see if there's a Books for Free shop near you].

And surely if you got your hands on a rescued, free, book ... you wouldn't feel bad about using it in whatever creative way you fancied? Would you?

I stand by my argument that I'm doing the books [and the environment] a favour by reusing, re-purposing and re-loving these unwanted items.

Just think for a minute:

If you were an old book wouldn't you rather end up on a collage, a greeting card, a work of art ... rather than ending your days in the big papier-mâché pile underground?

I know I would.

Julie :-)

*Greeting card: hand made by me - using an original vintage advertising image.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: March

Hello hello.

Well March has flounced out of the year with an impressively chilly, windswept, grey and rainy exit so I guess it's time for me to summarise the last 31 days ... in numbers.

[If you're new here and you'd like to join in the number-crunching community then you can read all about it here].

It seems only fitting that we start off with something particularly noteworthy, something that hasn't happened for 16 years ...

9.34am = the time when the 90[ish]%  partial eclipse reached peak coverage:
This was so exciting to me! As I didn't have any of those special glasses I hadn't expected to be able to capture a clear shot like this but, on the morning of the eclipse, the thought came to me that we had a roll of UV filter film somewhere - the kind you put on windows to stop fabric fading - and it was perfect for the job!

So I just sat in my workroom, camera on the tripod, clutching the UV film [folded over several times into a burned-retina-avoiding 10 layers lens] and watched the whole thing; alternating the lens between my eyes and the camera to both enjoy the experience there and then - in the moment - and to capture lots of photos for prosperity!

Now on to a more mundane experience - one which, unlike an eclipse - occurs more often than every 15 or so years.

But only slightly more often ...

41 = the number of items I ironed in my first ironing session since possibly around November 2014!
I had ironed the occasional individual items quickly, on the floor, when I really fancied wearing it ... but I hadn't done a full stand-up-til-it's-all-gone session for ... erm ... a while.

And, as I certainly didn't go naked through the winter, what this goes to show is:
  1. just how many leggings, stretchy jerseys, jeans and chunky jumpers I've been wearing - none of which I ever iron anyway and ...
  2. just how many clothes the pair of us have that we could keep returning to the wardrobe to find other crease free items to wear until either of us could face the ironing pile!  
With all that in mind ... it's a good job there are no fines issued for overdue ironing ... unlike ...

56p = the fine I had to pay on my overdue library books:
It's a rare event but ... I always feel really guilty when it happens! I'm just glad I could use the self-service machines and didn't have to face a librarian ...

After paying for my crimes and taking out 4 more books we went for tea ...

A 9" square take-out cake box ...
We went to a restaurant - '12 Harland Place' - which is appropriately named for a statistical summary like this! And after selecting our deserts we opted for the take-out option [mainly so we could go home and eat them it in our pyjamas in front of The Good Wife]. Here's what we found inside the huuuuuge box ...

... to carry 2 tiny cakes!
They were quite delicious though, and hey, size isn't everything I guess ... which reminds me ...
570 SPAM emails received over just 3.5 days while I was offline. I get lots of SPAM, most of which has absolutely filthy subject lines ... and contains even filthier requests and promises!  And fortunately it's all well caught in my SPAM folder which I tend to check, and delete, regularly.

And because I'm constantly deleting them I hadn't really ever kept track of just how many drop in each day. But when I logged back in after those 3.5 days I was pretty impressed!!

BTW: I check my SPAM folder not because I'm worried about 'real' mail making its way in there [it happens rarely] but rather because in amongst the vile click bait and the Viagra offers there's plenty in there that makes me laugh. Occasionally I'll entertain James by reading out a list of the best/worst/most bizarre to have landed that week [I know what you're thinking .. that it must be a laugh-a-minute round our house ...] when he often has to look at the screen to check I'm not just making them up. But I think that's the start of a post all of its own ...

So, yes, I had those 570 treats awaiting me upon my return ... but where had I been?? Well ... here:
12 = the number of times I've attended a 'Crafting in the Country' weekend with my friends.
  • However, this was only the 3rd time we've stayed here, at the picturesque Grisedale Barn, Threshfield, N.Yorkshire.
  • 7 of us went this time ... there was meant to be 8 but at the very last minute, 1 had to stay home. Which was doubly a shame as there'd been planned a surprise Hen party for the person in question which involved 20 pink balloons, party poppers and several cocktails.
  • Not that we let the lack of the guest of honour stop us enjoying it all any way!
Inexplicably - in amongst all our crafting and eating - we also had a 'click and catch' game to play ...
For reference: yes, that's generally the facial expression I tend towards when faced with sporting activity.
  • That aside - all that clicking and catching of ping pong balls provided some much needed cardio-vascular exercise. Up until that point the most activity we'd seen all weekend was when we spent 15 minutes rummaging for bargains in a sale box of crafting 'bits' at the Harrogate Papercraft Extravaganza!
  • Following the click and catch game we lost several of the ping pong balls and so that night, in pyjamas, and with torch in hand I went on hunt under all the furniture. I found 2 balls and - strangely - another ping pong ball that wasn't even from our game!!!
  • Really ... what are the chances of you going to hunt for a lost ping pong ball, in a rental cottage in the middle of nowhere, and finding one that isn't one of the ones you brought with you?
For the record: while I was ball-hunting I also found: 1 house from a Monopoly game, 1 hazelnut [shell on], 1 pea nut [shell off], 3 beads, lots of fluff and a 2p piece [which I kept, for my trouble].

I also came home with:
  1. 2 belated birthday presents;
  2. and 7 rainbow-themed gifts:
And to complete our rainbow theme Jean [how many's that so far this year Jean?] made cakes that included 4 of the 7 colours with a deep indigo lavender and honey cake [which I forgot to photograph ... I just ate it instead!] plus these 3-colour citrus lovelies:
And finally for my cottage-themed stats:
  • Due to transport logistics 4 of us had to make the journey home together in he same car that only 3 of us travelled there in. So things were a little ... shall we say 'cosy' in there:
Once we, our crafting supplies, our clothes, and our shopping were all squeezed in there was around 2m square* of space left [* I'm purely guessing here ... like I know how to estimate empty space. I'm not a physicist y'know?] ... and that was all at head height ... and we needed that space for the circulation of oxygen ...

On the way home from the cottage, in the cosy car, we held on to the holiday feeling for a little longer by stopping for breakfast at Billy Bob's Parlour ... a brilliant, but utterly unexpected, American diner in the heart of the English countryside! [Seriously, if you're ever nearby the Skipton area you must drop in!]

There I had the 2 best pancakes I've eaten since I holidayed in Florida in 1989! With a side of streaky bacon and lots of maple syrup:
 And how's this for a photo-op for someone who documents their days in numbers? A sign post in their car park making it perfectly clear just how far from the good old US of A we really were:
Yet, while we may have been thousands of miles away from the authentic American diner experience ... we were only 165 miles to somewhere called North Piddle. Which sounds equally as entertaining ...

And lastly for March, while we're on the subject of the US ...

... in March the majority of orders in my Etsy shop were placed by customers in the US which spurred me to start keeping a list of which of the 50 states I've had the pleasure to post to. And so far in 2015 it's ... 

11 out of 50:
Which, for 3 months in, and for a small person running a micro-business, from a tiny work-room, in a small English town ... is not a bad statistic is it?

It would be fun to think I could post out papery inspiration to all 50 states ... I guess I'll have to start researching how I can best market my shop to the remaining 39 now ...


Well, those were my numberly musings ... how about yours?

As ever you're welcome to join me and the statistical summarisers who keep me company while I'm memory-keeping-by-numbers.

And if you just dropped in to catch up - hello!!! It's nice to have got to share the last 31 days with you.

Wishing you a fresh and shimmering April ahead!

Julie :-)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Portable Magic: the *Spanish* books I've been disappearing into.

Thank you for the warm welcome many of extended to this series after the first post last month and thanks for all chiming in with your bookmark confessions in our chat about folding down corners.

My eyes and hands may be occupied by crafty scraps much of the time but writing is what keeps my head and heart satisfied.  So it made sense to recognise that by introducing these new book-loving 'wordy' posts to my blog this year. So let's get on with today's chapter shall we?

Last month I talked about The Infatuations by Javier Marias - a book translated from Spanish and, at that time, I hadn't planned for it to kick-start a veritable Spanish literature festival on my bookshelf ... but, somehow the next two novels I read were also translated from Spanish.

So today I'll share with you the two novels which completed my Spanish literature hat-trick [or should that be my tres tantos de la literatura española? ]

I know some of you are taking part in a reading challenge this year which involves reading one translated book ... so maybe there'll be something for you here to look out for ...

Traveller of the Century :: Andres Neuman
This is a big book. In lots of ways.

For a start it's close to 600 pages. Which is fine by me. I enjoy a big book. I like the immersive feeling you get when you invest in reading something that long. Like I'm moving into another town, another era, another life for the duration.

And then there's the fact that it's so full of everything that it's very hard to describe in a short summary. The topics covered include everything from: European history, politics and the social conventions of the early 19th Century [in which the novel is set] - to love, sex, culture, the art of translating texts [the protagonist Hans is a travelling translator] and there's even a murder mystery plot thrown in for good luck.

So why did I pick it up from the library shelf? What drew me to it?

Well what caught my eye in the 'blurb' was the description of the [fictional, German/Prussian border] town of Wandernburg as having 'shifting geography' and I liked that idea. It sounded like it would, and indeed it does, give the book a slight air of magical realism.

In fact I thought it might remind me of Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves - where the house is creepily larger on the inside [and no, it's not a TARDIS.]

But it turns out that while the layout of the town does indeed keep changing [streets, building and landmarks never quite keep themselves in one fixed spot], baffling those who are unfamiliar with it, it strangely doesn't play a great part in the plot ... it just serves to keep the whole book in a slightly off-kilter, unreal, category, marking it out as being about 19th Century ... but which is happy to use more modern experimental narrative techniques.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes to give you a flavour of the prose.
"An hour later the cold was so severe that the fire no longer warmed them. [...] The wind entered the mouth of the cave and seeped into the cracks, through the gaps in their clothing, and under their nails".

I love the image of the wind being so persistent that it even makes its way under their nails!

And how about another delightfully clever visual:
"For the first time Lamberg let out a long guffaw, then seemed amazed at himself and sucked his laugh up again like a noodle".
Now then - it's time to put your hands over Granny's ears - because I want to talk about sex.

OK, I'm not actually going to talk about it [let alone quote from those scenes. Oh my!] but let me try to talk around it because as one review [from the Telegraph via the Amazon page] describes Traveller of the Century: [it's] "a big, utterly captivating murder mystery and love story, full of history and politics and the hottest sex in contemporary fiction."

To be honest I don't generally stumble across much sex [now there's a image you might not get out of your head for a while] ... I mean in the in the fiction I read so whether it's the hottest .. I don't know. But the relationship between Hans and Sophie - who wants more for her life than the stifling social codes of the day afford her - is both undeniably hot and, for me at least, an entirely unexpected interlude in the middle of this vast book about all kinds of other things!

The blurb said there was a 'love' story so I wasn't exactly prepared for any of the more ... let's call them 'energetic' scenes ...  let alone what Sophie did with those soap suds ...

But for the record, like the rest of the text, all those scenes are very well crafted and not at all cliché or exploitative. But they are graphic - so consider yourself forewarned.

Me? I'm not especially shockable so I didn't mind in the slightest except ... there was just one issue I had with those scenes ... none of which is the fault of author Andres Neuman:

I wandered into the majority of those scenes while at work.

When my student is busy working, and doesn't need any assistance, I can occupy myself with a book. Which is fine and dandy ... until you find yourself in a room full of students learning how to search the library catalogue ... and suddenly you find yourself thrust into a carriage with someone wearing tight breeches ... and then you're in a bedroom when whoops! there go the breeches ...

I was completely paranoid that everyone would know what I was reading. As if there might be a large speech bubble above my head displaying the words as I read them! And, blimey ... did I make doubly sure that no one was reading over my shoulder!

So, how can I round this review up? Well, not wishing to reduce this vast multi-layered intellectual novel down to level of discussion my sister and I tend to have over wine and Pinterest - but ...

... if there's anything that will get you through the story it'll be leading man Hans. You'll love him so much you really won't mind spending 600 pages with him.

He's intelligent, forthright, decent [he looks after an ailing old organ grinder and his dog for goodness sake] and not to mention dashing [wild hair and big white shirts, it's all there]... in fact ...

... if Aiden Turner's got time on his hands after Poldark I could happily see him in the role of our traveller Hans anyone cares to turn this into a mini-series!

Further reading:

Inferno :: Benito Perez Galdos
Like the Traveller of the Century Benito Perez Galdos's Inferno is also set in the 19th Century.
But, unlike the Neuman's novel which was published in 2012 ... this one was written and published in the century it was set [1884 to be exact] and it shows.  
Sophie in Traveller of the Century [the one enjoying herself with Hans] is a woman fighting against the social constraints of her time and making an attempt to live within the patriarchal oppression while trying to push at its boundaries. 
Meanwhile, Amparo, the protagonist in Benito Perez Galdos's Inferno is just as stifled ... but don't expect any forthright speeches on how and why things must change from her. And the relationship she develops with her leading man couldn't be more different to that of Hans and Sophie.
And that's the thing about reading something set when it was written ... it's more closely aligned to the attitudes of the day. Which is not to say that Perez Galdos is entirely unsympathetic to Amparo's plight [whose only options for a stable future are given as marriage or the nunnery!]. It's just that he's reflecting what was. Not what we - in our enlightened vantage point 130 years later - would prefer it to be.
This book contains some achingly frustrating scenes where you just want to shake the characters and tell them to get over it. To just be together. To stop caring what polite society will and won't allow.
And even more disturbingly there's a whole section of the book containing scenes of what we'd now term 'domestic violence' which I found desperately claustrophobic and uncomfortable. But then ... they were no doubt intended to be. That kind of character exploration shouldn't be easy to read. But, in a book I was already struggling to like ... this really asked a lot.
Have you ever read something set in the past but written recently and found yourself  pointing out its anachronistically feisty female characters saying "Oh that would never have happened? She would never really have been so bold, so outspoken, so emancipated" etc etc ... and you roll your eyes at the author for putting 21st Century words into 18th Century mouths? Well ..
... what reading Inferno has taught me is: when you find yourself inside a book which shows how some women really couldn't escape oppressive social conventions ... you'd really give anything for one wonderfully freeing unrealistic moment of defiance!  
Further reading: this was tricky to find, there's not a great deal out there - not that's been translated into English at least. Plus the book seems a little tricky to get hold of - I came across my copy randomly in a charity shop.
So, that's my journey into Spanish fiction over for now. Since then I've visited Nigeria, America and Sweden ... maybe I'll give you a tour of those books another time.
Until then I'll welcome your thoughts on:
  • reading translated fiction
  • reading any of the novels or themes I've mentioned
  • or even ...
  • how you've perfected your poker-face while reading sex scenes in public ... 
 I await your comments ...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cardmaking: with a photographic focal point

Hello hello.

How about something colourful and quick to kick-start your creative week that might also inspire you to dust off your printer to make use of all those photos you've been taking?

OK, then here's the card I made for Mother's Day this year:
The focal point - the photograph of a colourful fruit and vegetable market stall - comes from a very sweet set of mini cards and envelopes I found here at Lemon Cat Shop on Etsy. Here's a closer look:
Once I'd selected that this was the particular mini card I was going to use I drew from it the colour scheme for the whole card: lilac, bright green and orange.

For the record: I think orange is going to be a big colour trend this year. I've been thinking it for a while [I like colours ... it's the kind of thing that occupies my mind from time to time!!] and have recently started seeing it crop up in all kinds of places since. I've even spotted orange fashion displays in Marks & Spencer the other day! And surely it must be a strong trend if it's even reached M&S! So ... I'm predicting it'll be making into craft supplies soon ... *puts crystal ball back in the cupboard*.

Where were we? Oh yes ... a quick crafty card ...
  • so, I picked a pre-printed card and selected my colour-scheme from it;
  • then I gathered together a few scraps of paper in those colours and layered them up on a kraft card base;
  • I then introduced some splashes of white - via the jute mesh strip and mini peg clipped to the top - to pick up the white border in the photo;
  • my final touches came in the form of a 'love' sentiment sticker and one of my favourite ever  embellishments I created: an embossed, painted and die-cut metal heart:
I came up with the idea for these when I created a 'Metal Embossing' masterclass for Papercraft Inspirations magazine in 2014 [Issue 128 if you have any back-issues you want to flip through!] and I've enjoyed using them on my own projects ever since. This particular one was a prototype that I didn't use for my final published samples ... but I rather like its scratchy imperfections.
And that's that; a decorative card full of colour and texture, yet only made from 4 components:
  1. photo focal point
  2. coordinating paper strips
  3. a simple sentiment
  4. and a single eye-catching embellishment ... and you're done!
Here [again] is how it all mixed together:
Feel free to take the merest whiff of inspiration from it ... or else copy the whole thing outright. I don't mind. [Drop in to share your version with me anytime]. 
And if you don't have the mini photo cards that I used ...
  • then why not print one of your own photos on to some white cardstock and use that instead?
  • It'll not only make a wonderfully bespoke focal feature ... it'll also give you the chance to show off snaps of your favourite holidays, scenery, pets or family members!  
And, if you're brave / egotistical enough you could even stick a selfie centre-stage on a card!
Julie ;-)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Portable Magic: Tell me you're not a corner folder: a few thoughts on bookmarks.

Hi, hi.

I know that many of you reading this are book lovers. Me too. Hence this ...
... and yet, although we may share that same 'bibliophile' label ... there are areas where our reading habits no doubt differ.
  • Some of us will enjoy reading big books [hello, that'll be me]; while some might prefer a book they can carry in their handbag without the handbag having to be a suitcase.
  • Some of us will have a shelf bulging beneath the weight of their book collection; while others will save their shelves [and pockets] by draining their local library shelves dry. 
  • And some may use a bookmark; while others, although I can't believe you would do such a thing, some ... mark their place in a book by folding over the corner of the page! 
Oh the horror.

I may very well chop books into tiny scraps for the sake of my collage and mixed media work but that's usually damaged books and books which have been gathering dust for years and which deserve a new lease of life.

You'll never catch me creasing a virgin corner into submission ... not on a book I'm currently reading!

So yes, I'm claiming the moral high ground with this one, but, just because I'm a smug bookmark user it doesn't always mean I have one on hand. And, as I absolutelywillnot fold a corner over ... I do find myself resorting to almost anything else almost to keep my spot.

Despite being a crafter in possession of any amount of paper that could easily be used as a fancy bookmark I tend to just reach for what's nearest; which usually means tearing off straggly corners from newspapers or magazines [unlike books, these corners are fair game when I need a placeholder! In fact, they're such a familiar sight in my house that James even has a pet name for them: he calls them my 'mingy bits of paper' which just about sums it up.]

And recently, in the library at work, I even resorted to using a packet of Monster Munch crisps to keep my place.

Roast Beef flavour, if you're interested.   

But if this glorious illustration by Grant Snider of Incidental Comics is anything to go by ... I guess I'm not alone in my creative bookmark improvisation:
Come on ... admit it ... how many of those have you used to keep your place?

[p.s: if you're new to Grant Snider's work before I urge you to visit his Incidental Comics site as it's an absolute treat.]

I'll admit to 3 of those ... plus the aforementioned 'mingy bits of paper' and beefy flavour corn snacks and yet ... this year all of my library books have been spared the indignity of having any of these things inserted into them because ...

 ... in what may yet turn out to have been some kind of bookmark-'intervention', two of my friends gifted me 'proper' bookmarks for Christmas/ my birthday.

Kirsty made these origami-folded lovelies for me:
Which I've been slotting over my non-folded corners ever since ...
If you'd like to make some for yourself then check out Kirsty's instructions by following the link on her blog.
I'll leave it up to you whether or not you choose to believe the rumour that I select which one to use based on how well it matches the book cover ...
And then, for my birthday, my friend Jean gave me a pad of these: 
And they too have been gracing my pages lately. Although I've yet to make notes directly on to one it would definitely be a fun way to keep track of what I've been reading. Imagine these, with all the details filled out, fixed to a scrapbook page or tucked inside a reading journal ... certainly something to think about and a fun way to combine my love of reading with my fondness for memory keeping.
If you quite fancy the look of these - I'm sorry but I don't know the manufacturer, I threw away the packaging, but if you Google: yes i'm actually reading this bookmark pad you'll find lots of places that stock them. 
So ... that's what's currently keeping my pages ... but what about yours? It's true-bookmarking-confessional time ... 
  • What do you regularly use to keep your page?
  • Are you one of those delinquent corner folders? Dare you admit to it here?
  • What's the strangest things you've used or seen someone else use to mark a place?
Who knows ... maybe one day I'll compile all your responses into a book. And you can use whatever you like to mark your place in it ...

Julie :-)

[p.s: if you enjoyed this post or think it would strike a chord with someone you know ... please do share, save or Pin it. Thankyouinadvanceyoulovelypersonyou.]