Saturday 27 December 2008

Many many mini-books.

There was a time when I just didn't 'get' mini-books...but my-oh-my how times have changed. It was while I was making what has since become one of my favourite projects of 2008 that I began to fall for the charms of the smaller canvas!

I'll share photos of that particular book with you next time, but in the meantime here are some I've made as gifts since contracting mini-book mania!

The first is a gift for James's sister, her husband and their children and contains photos of their first Christmas spent all together as a family.

The starting point was the leather covers [colour swatches from a furniture shop] which I've had in my stash for several years, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to make use of them. As I wanted to make something which co-ordinated with the interior of their living room [which has a brown leather chair] I knew this was the perfect occasion.

I chose papers in shades of pastel pink, plum and blue to fit in with their sort furnishings and to echo the colours of the Christmas decorations in the photos. For the inside I printed 20 or so photos small enough to fit, added some rub-on sentiments and continued the colour theme with a mixture of ribbons and trims to the book ring which was holding it altogether.

Although they knew we took photographs on the day, they don't know that I've turned them into this album and I can't wait to give it to them. I'm hoping that it will bring a little light relief into their lives at the moment and remind them of a happy - if a little hectic - family day.

This next book was a birthday gift for Anna [my extremely talented friend] and marks a different approach to making a mini-book as a gift for non-scrapping friends.

The intention behind creating the leather bound book was to record special memories, for 2 non-scrappers, during a period in which they don't have the time to record them for themselves. For Anna I simply wanted to make her something cute, kitchy and interesting - but something unfinished enough for her to be able to make it her own.
I was inspired by some very simple, yet charming, felt covered envelope books which Elsie Flannagan made in a recent online class. I adapted the idea here using the bright Jack and the Beanstalk fabric [which came with a QTea kit this Summer]as my cover - which I held closed with some tiny bulldog clips.

The pages were simply a mixture of coin envelopes, journaling blocks and tags, all hole-punched and threaded onto a velvet ribbon which was fastened on the outside of the book covers.

I slipped tags inside several of the envelopes using colourful paperclips to keep them closed, and added a hint of woodgrain sticky-back plastic here and there [I'm in love with woodgrain at the moment!].

One of the most fun parts of this for me was embellishing some of the envelopes with some of the cool things she'd sent to me in one of our frequent stash-swaps. Things such as a pink sticking plaster decorated with yellow chipmunks!

Although I used many different elements and oddments in this project, repeating the colours of orange, blue and green throughout, helped me maintain a cohesive feel within a more free, higgledy piggledy style. [Ha! There's a trend for you to watch in 09 'higgledy piggledy' here we come!!]

I was aiming to create a bright, jumbled up but ultimately blank slate for her to personalise in her wonderfully inventive style. So far she has suggested she may either keep precious pieces of paper ephemera in the envelopes ... or use it to store print-outs of the hundreds of [generally nonsensical] messages we've sent one another via UKScrappers!

And finally .... we have the mini-book which I included in my parcel as part of the 'Secret Santa' swap we ran in my 'Ordinary Treasures' social group on UKScrappers.

I knew that my recipient was spending Christmas with her brand new, first, grandchild and I thought it would be nice to put together a 'Baby's First Christmas' book kit for her to record the occasion.

Aware that her scrapping style is very much more elegant, graphic and minimal than my own, I tried to choose cardstock which would suit her rather than impose my own penchant for the 'higgledly piggledy' upon her!!!

I experimented with folding the cardstock to create pouches and flaps, inspired by ideas from a mini-book workshop given by Bev of Banana Frog, as I didn't want to get stuck in a pattern of creating basic tag shaped books. I couldn't resist adding in matching ribbons embellishments and extra papers, so that my recipient could put together a co-ordinating album without the need for any further materials.

So there you have it - a glimpse into my recent mini-book mania. Three gifts which will hopefully bring as much enjoyment to their new owners as they did to me as I was creating them.

Ultimately I'm pretty much convinced that their appeal is one of scale.

They're just so entirely cute and portable; can be easily scooped up from my desk in one hand; carried downstairs and positioned and tended to whilst on my lap while I'm watching TV on a night and ... and.... and by saying that all out loud I realise it sounds more like I'm describing what it must be like to have a cat rather than simply an increasing fondness for small, satisfyingly manageable, scrapping projects!

OK then ... how does: 'My Pet Mini-books' sound as the topic for my next mini-book???? Mmmmm?

Wednesday 24 December 2008

I'll show you mine ...[RAK Draw]

From notes on paper
Hello and a very Merry Christmas to you.

These brown paper packages tied up with string are my presents for tomorrow from James.

Under the influence of my use of kraft paper to wrap many of my gifts this year, he spotted some brown paper [which had actually been the packing material inside a box of my BoB prizes which where delivered this week] and claimed it for his gift-wrap-of choice.

Then, in his search for a ribbon substitute he found some green garden string in the greenhouse and voila the 'rustic Sound of Music' [as he's named his creation] was born!!!

So, now I've shown you mine...I'll give you yours... Seeing as how he's already in 'Santa' mode I got James to draw the winner of my mini-book RAK. As promised all the names went into my hat and as you can see above he drew out {Emma} as the winner.

ETA: James put it in the post to you on Saturday Emma. I hope you enjoy filling it and you know you MUST show me what you do, when you do. :)

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Now we are one.

I've realised this week that it's just over a year [one year and twelve days to be precise] since I was approached by Shimelle Laine with the question 'Would you contribute a layout to Scrapbook Inspirations Magazine?'.

To which, half a second later, I replied 'Like, err totally, that's like a no brainer ... like, yeah I'll do it'.

[Well actually no - that may well be how Shimelle and I sometimes exchange ideas now - but not back then!] Rather, my exact reply was:'Yes please! I would love to give it a go .I'm actually lost for words and will leave it here before I get gushy and over-excited, and terrified and......thanks for making my week!'.

I know that this was my reply, verbatim, because I'm an obsessive correspondence hoarder or, as I prefer to think of it: I'm my own personal archivist! If we've ever had an interesting email / messaging conversation then chances are I've got it on record somewhere. For example, I have a total of 263 MS Word pages purely holding this year's email exchanges between myself and Brass and I haven't even finished copying over November and December's yet... and I've digressed haven't I? Where was I?

Oh yes ... I was courteously accepting Shimelle's invitation to take part in the £5 Challenge feature in Issue 38 of Scrapbook Inspirations magazine [pictured here].

I was ridiculously satisfied to have been asked, out of the blue, after being spotted in the gallery over on the UKScrappers forum. But as there was only a seven day turnaround on the project there then followed a manic weekend of shopping for new stash and a full blown photo session especially for the layout. This involved the no small undertaking of me emptying out every T-Shirt I own and arranging all of them alongside myself on the bed with James climbing up a ladder to get the best shot!

Anyway, I put a lot of effort into my layout and my 100 words for this first piece and SI must have recognised something they liked as I've worked for them regularly ever since. I've had numerous layouts published and am nowpart of the 'Ask the Experts' Q&A team. The layout 'Today I' [one of my BoB entries] captured my feelings after sending in the first item which was really 'mine'. It was the article 'Have You Tried Ribbon Effects' where I provided all of the text and visuals.

It's a timely coincidence that published in this month's issue - my 1st Anniversay month - is the first article I've been commissioned to do which is based entirely on an original idea I put forward, one which Shimelle and Rosie [Waddicor] took a sizeable leap of faith in allowing me to carry out. I am hugely grateful for their support :) and LOVE how it all looks in print, despite it never feeling quite 'real' that that's me and my work, right there, out there!

There's also a glimpse of my favourite mini-book in there [in the Q&A section] which I intend to share with you properly, in more detail, very soon, for several reasons:
(a) because it contains some of the most wonderful quotations ever.
(b) it's made from clothes tags for goodness sake - what's not to like?
(c) it makes my heart sing every time I look at it! and
(d) it's evidence that despite my previous form ... I CAN actually complete mini-book projects!!!! :D

And, as it's our first year anniversary I think that it's only right and proper that there's some sort of gift buying to commemorate such a momentous occasion. And you know what the traditional 1st Anniversary gift is don't you?

Believe it or not it's .... PAPER!!!!!!!!!! Yes, PAPER!!!! PAPER!!!!! How stupendously appropriate!!! Now whatever should I treat myself to .... mmm let me see .....

Thanks for a great 1st year Scrapbook Inspirations. Here's to our 'cotton' anniversary in December 2009!

Friday 28 November 2008

Everything has young 'uns [and that could include you]

My Grandma, after seeing anything at all in miniature, anything which was small but perfectly formed, would always say 'Everything has young 'uns" and it's a phrase I caught myself using in reference to this little lovely.
It's is my latest young 'un which can hold it's tiny head high and declare, without compunction that: "I AM a 100% pure, genuinely 'mini' mini-book!!". Or at least it is in relation to its parent: the not-so-mini-mini-book featured in my previous post.
It's made with the offcuts from the bigger book so it's similar in all other respects except there's none of the quotes in there. No, this baby's a clean slate, ready and waiting obediently for you to add in your own quotes, journaling, photos ... whatever you wish!
Oh, I haven't said have I? You can have it if you want it. Do you want it?

If you do just let me know. You can so this by either leaving me a comment here; or by email; my Facebook page; MySpace profile; my Flickr mail account; smoke signal; semaphore; hieroglyphics; or even by opening the window and yelling to me. You know ... just say the word.

I'll put the names of everyone who shows an interest into this hat:
and draw out a name on Christmas Eve. I'll let you know who I draw out via this blog and then by email; my Facebook page; MySpace profile; my Flickr account, semaphore ........

I look forward to hearing from you :)

Q: When is a mini-book NOT a mini-book?

A: When it's 5" X 9.5" - has taken you weeks to make already - including accompanying you to work several times for some manic break-time scrapping sessions - and yet still remains at the 'nearly complete'-perhaps-I'll-call-it-an-ongoing-project-stage!

There you go, that's me and my crafty equipment during a break at work and I'd colonised one of the tiny, one-person, cells / study rooms in the campus library in the name of scrapping-on-the-go.
I'd intended to wait until it was fully completed before I showed you any photos ... but it doesn't seem in any danger of overflowing anytime soon, so now seemed a good a time as any to share.
Perhaps the greatest irony of this whole project dragging on and on [and what a feat of endurance it's become] is the fact that it's actually a book of quotations about: persistence, perseverance, motivation and hard work.
At least this way my little labour of love knows of what it speaks!

The page on the left shows the reason why the mini-book was not so mini. I really wanted to use the old clocking-in card in its entirety, without folding or cutting it, so I built the rest of the book around it.
Except now, because I like it so much, I'm still debating about whether to write on it!
I've taken the quotes in the book from a variety of sources. I've collected them from films; song lyrics; family members etc. Others are either from internet quote sites or some great little cards [from a K&Co kit I think - which Anna sent me in one of her magnificent 'tat-packets' - as we refer to our little stash swaps!].

Those quotes which weren't already printed out, I've decided to write out myself. And I'm lettering it all by hand using various gel pens. This, I think, is one of the main reasons it's all turned into such a slow process.
Hand drawing and lettering directly onto my work is one of my favourite things at the moment. No doubt this fondness was recently re-ignited by the work of Keri Smith and the folk over on The Creative Type challenge blog. Prior to this though, I'd spent many idle hour doodling while growing up.
Whether it's a case of convincing myself that it's OK not to have gotten it finished yet, or a genuine artistic decision, I've decided that it's probably a good thing to leave room for quotes that may catch my ear in the future. [Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!]

The front cover is actually where I've used the cardboard from an egg-box which I referred to in my 'Most positively certainly not an interview' post. But, as this photo shows, I've not even given the book a title yet.
The front runner for a suitable title is "They Can Who Think They Can", a phrase from the Roman poet Virgil, as it just sounds so positive and constructive ... and intellectual and that's never a bad combination! :)
And if this project has taught me nothing else it's that from now on, if it doesn't fit comfortably into my work bag alongside my [oh so many] essentials .... then it has no right calling itself a 'mini' book!

Julie :-)

Monday 24 November 2008

Bobbing along.

Did I ever tell you that I won a 'thing' and some 'stuff'? [You'd never guess I had an English Degree would you?!!!] Yeah, I found out that I'd won the 'thing' in September, but had to wait until this month for its official announcement before I was allowed to talk about it. As for the the 'stuff' [i.e. the prizes] apart from a photo printer which came last week ... I'm still waiting. Which isn't easy for me! It's really rather exciting to be getting things delivered to my door which I haven't had to pay for and which are purely for my pleasure, entirely wonderful guilt-free treats ... which are now no doubt getting consumed into the pre-Christmas parcel mountain at the Royal Mail. Well, patience is a virtue, so they say [but were 'they' having to wait for tons of free stash and a lovely A3 cutting mat?? They weren't were they???? No, that's what I thought!]

I think most of you know what the the competition I won actually was, but allow me to flatter myself for a moment while I imagine that someone other that those of you who already know me is reading this ... thanks. OK so it was the Best of British Scrapbooking 2008 competition - generally referred to as 'BoB' - held by Scrapbook Inspirations magazine and I was one of the 6 winners. [If you'd like a peek into my state of mind as I was sending off my application, which includes the juvenile enjoyment I was getting from referring to entering BoB, you can read
the blog entry I made back in August.] I'll just add, that now I get to say 'I won BoB' I do kind of feel like I've been playing some odd poker game - where the stakes were REALLY high and I managed to come away with someone's husband... but enough of that!

So, despite the fact that I'm about to show you the six pages which secured my win, this isn't really meant to be merely an entry in which I parade my Bobfulness before you. No, it's partly a response to a group discussion I was involved in on UKS last week. One of our group had been contemplating submitting a page for publication and had found some 'advice' on an American site whic basically said that you had to use brand new, on-trend papers and all the latest products and that you have to alter your own style [which she didn't want to do] in order to be deemed print-worthy.

Now, I'm no great expert on other magazines, but I am commissioned fairly often by Scrapbook Inspirations and I have never followed anything like that criteria. When I was choosing my BoB entries I wasn't naive enought to think that everyone would fall in love with my style. I mean, not everyone will appreciate the photographs of my bruised arms and legs or the close-up of my ear lobe. Nor will they covet my use of staples, sticky tape and [literally] some old rope. They quite simply will niether like or 'get' what I'm doing. But that's OK as not everyone needs to like or get me.

That's my job.

You simply don't need all the new everythings from a pre-prepared kit. You don't need to second guess what everyone else will think about it - even a competition judge. You do however need self-belief. You do need to be happy with it yourself. You do need to like it. Then there's every chance that someone else will feel the same. Or, so went the thinking that got me into the winning six.

Speaking of which ... here are my winning six, complete with the descriptions which we had to include as part of the competition:
"Today I: This demonstrates my love of non-traditional scrapping items: torn cardboard behind the photos, sticky-tapes, fluffy pom-poms, googly eyes! My main feature though is the fantastic wrapping paper – which I first used as a backdrop to my snap-shots before sticking it onto my page, highlighting several of the cutest characters."

"Personality Traits: A completely girly, pink and copper, word explosion emerged out of trawling through my collection of sentiments and phrases for words describing my personality. One digitally altered portrait, some lace and the cutest deer tag later and I’d captured a little of what makes me ‘me’ right now."

"Shell-like: I wanted to capture not only the colours and textures of a recent trip to the beach, but the sounds too. The journaling tells how my shell earrings jangled in the sea-breeze creating as much noise as two small wind-chimes!!"

"Re-Union Tour: The journaling on this is perhaps my most personal yet most cathartic to date. I aimed to present my feelings of doubt and concern with a light, humorous touch – hence the slightly eccentric use of collage papers – like the state of mind indicator!!"

"Me & My h-Elbow: What better way to commemorate my arm recovering enough from my fall, than to scrap about what I’d done to myself! I loved putting together lots of elements from my stash which I’d never expected to find use for. In particular a bandaged dog and a girly skull & crossbones!"

"Mr.Smith: A cross between the heartfelt fan mail and the good old-fashioned scrapbooking I did as a child, where I would stick pictures of my heroes in a book and then write down what I liked about them! It details my fondness for the work of comedy film-maker Kevin Smith."

So there you have it. My winning BoB entries. Six pages I'd already made and that I felt honestly represented 'me' and my style. I didn't tailor anything especially for the competition. After all, there was nothing in the entry criteria asking for pages about the times you've fallen off your bike and ended up in A&E; or how you sometimes feel about once having depression; or how your face looked when you emailed your first commissioned piece of work to a magazine; or how you can make awful puns while writing about a film-maker not many people have heard of. I did however, make sure I stuck firmly to the brief which asked for something which revealed personality, displayed a sense of adventure in design, technique, colour and embellishments and which had some journaling. And it paid off. And I'm soooo pleased. And proud.

Thanks to everyone who made me [I mean persuaded] me to enter, and who offered suggestions on which were the best pages to send in and everyone who generally believed in me. As for the friend who was considering submitting her work to a magazine...

.... lots of us threw in snippets of advice, and encouragement and some even sent links to lists of what Scrapbook Inspirations was looking to publish in the future. And she decided to go for it and submitted something she'd already made and was happy with. And it worked. And she'll be in the Reader's Gallery in a future issue!

In the words of my friend 'Brass': 'Everything is 'do-able' when you put your mind to it' and it seems like she just might be right!

Friday 14 November 2008

Most positively certainly not an interview.

Over the last few weeks I've been working on projects for the Gauche Alchemy blog as part of my spot as their Autumn 'Guest Designer at Large'!! A title which tended to suggest I was going to need a safety rope or flak jacket in order to survive the task. Luckily the only danger was that of me getting a touch over excited at the kit they'd sent me to work on!

Heather, Amy and Yasu the ladies behind Gauche Alchemy asked me to answer some questions [I'm too embarrassed to call it an 'interview' ] as a way to introduce me on their blog. Here's a snippet of the finished interview ... I mean the questions and answers thing ....;)

Heather: Tell us a little about your creative process.
Julie: I either begin with a photo which has the seed of a story which I’ll tell across the page or else I’ll take a photo especially to illustrate an idea, story or feeling that I feel like exploring that day.
After that, the process is usually the same: I sit with the photo in front of me and trawl through my stash matching and combining items to reflect the theme or to highlight the colours or in the photo. The whole colour matching part is a bit of an obsession for me!!!

For example: I got far too excited when making my ‘Littlest Room’ layout with your

‘Fun & Games’ Slurry kit because I realised that one of the game cards in it perfectly matched the colour of the toilet cisterns behind me in the photo!! Is that a little extreme?

I rarely buy anything in especially for a particular page or a project as I find it can be too contrived working that way. I like the element of surprise you get by combining items from different sources, [like magazines, stationary and ephemera] which I’ve collected over time. I also love swapping items with friends as it’s a great way to push yourself using things you may not have bought for yourself.

Heather: What are some of your must-have products right now?
Julie: I’m in love with cardboard at the moment! Clothes tags, shoe boxes, the packaging my Slurry Kit came in … you name it, I’ve been using it. In fact I’m working on a mini-book at the moment which has the top of an egg carton for a front cover – it was such a great shade of blue I couldn’t bear to put it in the recycling box. I’m also loving Diamond Glaze adhesive as it sticks all sorts of things to paper … and considering I like to use all sorts of things on my pages what more could I ask?

Heather: Music is a very essential part of my life; it can create moods and evoke memories. What music is inspiring you these days?

Julie: Right now I’m just in love with the Killer's song ‘Human’. I think Brandon Flowers has such an incredible voice and manages to deliver some pretty strange lyrics with real depth and poignancy. Every time he sings the line ‘My sign is vital, my hands are cold’ I think to myself: ‘now that would make such a cool title for a layout’!!! Watch this space!

For further in depth scrutiny of my personality including my revealing answer to Heather's question "If you were a piece of fruit, what fruit would you be and why?" then have a peek at the full length question-and-answer-chat-session-which-wasn't-in-any-way-an-interview here.

Oh and before I forget, they've just set up their kit subscription packages over on etsy with the suggestion that if your family loved you they'd buy you one as a gift, which I find to be rather thought provoking ..... [do you reckon anyone in my family noticed that that was a hint??]

Saturday 8 November 2008

Yes ... we can.

I won't say I wasn't warned.

Way back at the beginning of 2008, some of the ladies at my local crop had not only told me of the pitfalls of becoming involved in a Circle Journal - they'd actually illustrated their point with examples. I'd seen pages which appeared to have been put together in minutes and which gave off the air of being made by someone who just wanted to rid it from their possession.

Perhaps I should have filmed their warnings, sold it to a cable channel as 'When Circle Journals Go Bad' and then ran for the hills. But I'm afraid I've always had something of a contrary streak ...

So I joined one.
We decided that all 10 of us would choose our own topic and, as I'd been making an effort to think positively and broaden my horizons at the time I chose 'Saying Yes' as mine. [I've written more about the whole 'Yes' thing here].
For my covers and journal entries I used up all of those things that I'd been keeping for a special project. [If indeed I'd ever planned to use them at all - being as they were - soooooo precious to me!!!!].

You know how it is, all those things that you consider 'too good' to actually use? The things you treat like they're rare gems or belong to a protected species? Yeah, those things.
I actually used them: the teeny tiny tags; the gold ribbon; the leopard print ribbon[swoon], the pink foil scrolls, the grungeboard alphas, the much loved rub-ons, the ticket from my (late) Grandma's bingo club .... and so on.
I used them.
And I was so happy that I did.
I loved how it all turned out.
One of my layouts included 2 pockets into which I'd tucked 10 tags. On the back of 5 of them I'd written things I was glad to have said 'Yes' to in 2007. The other 5 I left blank in order to add five new things I'd have said 'Yes' to by the time the CJ was returned to me next month - December 2008...
I think you're ahead of me already, aren't you?
Yes, that's right ... when and if it was returned to me in December 2008.

Which, unless some miracle of the festive season occurs one day soon, it appears it won't be. [Although, to be totally honest an un-announced return of the prodigal CJ, is not an event I'm happy to rule out entirely!] .
But I'm not alone in this. In fact 2 CJs have failed to be sent around the circle by another of our team members [over on UKScrappers]. I did try to remain positive for a long, long time - playing the whole Obama / naive Pollyanna role within the group - consistently repeating that 'Yes we can get it back'.

And boy did we try... but to no avail.
My teammates were so upset by it all and as their completed CJs begun to return home safely to them their pleas for me to let them make me a new journal have increased. An idea which, at first I couldn't entertain.

Initially I felt that 'it just wouldn't be the same', that the only CJ I really truly wanted ... was the one I'd originally started and poured everything I had into .... and then ...
... then something changed. In some ways it was just like how I changed my mind about using up my 'best' stash. Sometimes you have to let go of being so 'precious' about things and just go for it. The end result is so very often worth it!

As the quote I used on this layout says: 'Leap and the net will appear'.
My net appeared in the form of my fellow team members, the wonderful crafty ladies: Karen, Margaret, Tracy, Roo, Sarah, Rebekah, Clare and Audrey who've all promised to make me a new CJ entry based upon my original theme. They are then going to post it to me for me to compile into a brand new 'Saying Yes' journal!
Now that's a safety net if ever there was one!
So, the scope for what I should take as the moral of this story is vast. After all, my crop ladies were right: CJs can and do go 'bad'.

But I think that I was right too - to throw caution to the wind; to try something new; to put my trust in virtual strangers.

I was also right to use up my favourite, much beloved stash as, once you've lost that ... you're a bullet proof crafter!!!
Really, at the end of the day, [and at the risk of being a paper-crafting heretic] it was only a pile of paper - ephemeral in nature from the very start!
What wasn't, isn't, ephemeral is the care, consideration and camerarderie of 8 very special papercrafting ladies. Through whose genuine concern and persistant 'one for all and all for one' attitude I may just have an unexpected, fully completed 'Saying Yes' journal in my sticky, inky little hands by Christmas-time.

Who knows ... maybe I'll be getting that miracle of the festive season after all!!!