Thursday 27 October 2016

'Nightfall: Sky Full of Stars' event. Part of the Discover Middlesbrough festival

The other day I shared my photos from the behind-the-scenes torchlight tour of Teesside Archives and today I'll share what happened afterwards. (At this rate you'll feel like you're spending life with me in real time. Any minute now you're going to have to hang on while I go and find my gloves/change my boots/grab a biscuit or I might well try to persuade you to put the kettle on while I just scribble down a vital thought in a notebook or photograph my outfit for Instagram. Welcome to James's world.) Anyway ....

Following the archive tour James and I went for a wander around the the Nightfall: Sky Full of Stars event organised by Stellar Projects in Centre Square where we were met with ... 

... which were accompanied by the soundtrack of local children talking about them. 

Here are several of the constellations looking down from above - an unusual way to view stars - as viewed from high up on the deck of the MIMA gallery:
And here's another peeking out below us as we pose for a ubiquitous 'us in a reflection' shot on the MIMA staircase:
And here's MIMA itself which opened late for the event to serve food and to provide their deck as a viewing point and as a place for an astronomy association to give telescope demonstrations ... 
... albeit into a rather cloudy sky. But not to worry as there were plenty of stars to see elsewhere. 
This stellar lantern hypnotically turned and turned and, through the cut out lettering on the side, it reminded us that "We are made of star stuff".
You can see the lantern in motion by hopping over to my short little video of it on Instagram.

Then there were Stuart Langley's pieces, such as this sea-glass and neon planet:
And this stained-glass and neon half dome which, when viewed in its mirrored base became whole ...
... and which totally reminded me of the dome from the Crystal Maze. (I can just imagine it filled with tiny contestants trying to stuff gold and silver foil squares down the front of their shell suit tops!)

(You might remember a similar stained glass/mirror idea - but with a rainbow - which I blogged about last year. That was another of Langley's pieces which you can catch in my blog post here.)

And finally ... the good old Centre Square fountains looked great in the moody lighting (alongside me trying to get a clever 'me taking a photo of my shadow on you while you take a photo of the fountains' shot).
And finally ... you can get a feel for the night's atmosphere by the sounds captured in this video ... the roar of the water, the mellow music ... and the kids squealing as they get sprinkled by the water jets:
All in all - what with the archive torchlight tour to start, and the arty star gazing to follow then getting home by 9pm to a warm house - it was a lovely way to spend a Friday night. Far more my style than heading into town to go to a pub or club.

This was the second year in a row the town hosted an ' after dark' event (I blogged last year's here) - last time the theme was 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark' and this was all things stellar ... I'll look forward to seeing what 2017's nighttime experience brings.


Before I go thank you thank you for all the support you've been leaving on my previous post and on my Facebook page by letting me know you'd be interested in a copy of my book so I can gauge print numbers. It really does means the world to me.

I'll share more news once I have some!


Tuesday 25 October 2016

Sneak peek of my 'Snipped Tales' book cover

I'm publishing a book!

I mentioned it a few weeks ago.  You might remember. It's called Snipped Tales, is a book of colour photographs of my short-short-short-collaged-stories, is approximately 70 pages long, has a gorgeous cover (scroll down for a sneak peek!) and is out ... soon.  

And - if I'm really honest with you (which I'm rather prone to being) - it feels a bit strange that I haven't shared more of the process with you here. This wasn't a deliberate decision and it's not like I'm coy with you here (I mean ... there's that time I talked about my experiences of depression,  and I annually share the worst photos of myself, and we mustn't forget the time I told you how my period almost got out of hand while in fancy Fortnum & Mason's.)    

But, as much as I'm usually free and easy with the revelations ... there are several reasons why things have been a bit different with the book ... things such as ...
  • I'm not 100% in control of the process, I'm using a local indie imprint to create my cover, copy all my images and format them into a book, and arrange the whole printing process. 
  • I'm not superstitious but ... I've been really wary about sharing everything before I knew it was definitely all going to go as planned!
  • My brain's bursting with book-related decisions and I'm a bit book-blind right now. Have you ever built a house? Or completely redecorated? Or re-designed a garden? Or something like that? Then you'll know how there comes a point where what begins as "Yay! I get to start from scratch, get everything I ever wanted, and make all the decisions myself!! Woo hoo!" .. turns into "Oh my goodness. I have to make all the decisions. On my own. What if I get it wrong??!!!" ... that's where I am right now! 
  • I think I'm a bit too close to the whole thing right now to really be able to say anything useful yet. I haven't fully digested the book-making process which reminds me ... there's a actually a story about someone who eats the dictionary in the book. Naturally. Anyway - I reckon that in a few months/a year I'll have some great content to share to help anyone who fancies doing something similar themselves. Just not this week. 
What I can share right now though ... is a sneaky snippet of my front cover. My. Front. Cover. Mine.  (Still doesn't feel entirely real just yet.)

Are you ready? OK, here it is: 

Pretty much everything the book is about is right there:

  • VINTAGE PAPER!!! (Sorry to shout but vintage books pages are what inspired the idea of my Snipped Tales at the very beginning. It was only right that the cover reflected that vital aspect!)
  • the vintage, battered, well-loved feel.
  • the tag-line ... which must have been re-written at least 20 times - at least - until it said what it needed to say.
  • illustrations by Kirsty Neale - the most talented, patient, and supportive of friends a debut book-creator could hope for!
  • the idea of the book as a bundle of stories held together in a printed book you can hold. 
  • the idea that the book as a gift (to yourself, to someone else .... and one I've given to myself.)
Now that all the design work etc is complete I now need to decided how many copies to print as an initial print run and so ... can I ask a big favour? 

If you think you might consider buying it (once you've seen more of it, and once you know all the details, of course), or if you know of a shop that may consider stocking it, would you let me know? 
  • You can leave a comment here - as some of you have on my earlier post (thank you - you're so lovely!!)
  • you can email me at withjuliekirk (@) (remove the brackets!)
  • or you can get in touch via Instagrammy Facebook page or on Twitter.
I'm only looking for a very general idea of how much interest there is out there; you will not be held to any kind of commitment, and I certainly won't be making a list and checking it twice! Promise. It's purely for my own confidence when I have to make that final numbers commitment. 

Some people have suggested I take pre-orders before deciding but the printing process takes a little while so I need to get a move on to have a chance of having it ready for the Christmas gift-giving season. Anyway ... 

I love my little book and while I'm aware I'm introducing you to one another slowly ... I hope that this tiniest of glimpses might help you feel friendly towards it. 

Thank you for all your support so far ... here's to the final push! 

Julie x

Monday 24 October 2016

Torchlight Tour of Teesside Archives. Me, and old papers, in the dark, together

Before we begin the answer's no

No, I didn't steal any of the old books/files or tear out any pages! I may have a reputation for collecting and re-purposing old paper but - trust me - on this occasion I was a paragon of restraint! (And I reserve my scissor action for books I've paid for or been given thankyouverymuch.)

And now we can begin properly ... 

Earlier this month James and I threw on our 'big' coats and headed out for a night in the dark as part of the 'Nightfall: Sky Full of Stars' event in the town centre as part of the annual Discover Middlesbrough festival. (You can catch up with my post about 2015's festival here). This year's event featured all kinds of outdoor light installations, which I'll share in a post of their own, but it also included various atmospheric torchlight tours of notable buildings and, nosey-vintage-paper-obsessive that I am I booked on to the tour of Teesside Archives

It wasn't entirely dark when we arrived but by the time we'd been greeted, had an introduction, and embarked on the tour the sky had darkened and the atmosphere had begun to build. We were shown upstairs - with the lights on because: health and safety - but soon then the torches we were given began to come in useful as we were led into the rabbit-warren of corridors and rooms in a building that began life as a postal exchange.

Forgive the blurry photos, my camera does usually cope well in the dark but even so, I came away with a lot of photos like this:
While were were brandishing our torches and generally mooching up and down the racks and racks of boxes and files we learned about:

  • what kinds of documents are stored in the archives: eg. local business archives such as British Steel, council proceedings, housing plans, plans for Sydney Harbour Bridge which was designed and built in Middlesbrough
  • and also what's involved in the preservation of the contents: eg. regulating temperature and moisture, checking for pests, having a sprinkler system in case of fire ... and having cardboard boxes that can withstand a few hours of being sprayed with water. Who knew? 

And, when you see some of the amazing old volumes it's home to, you can understand the drive to protect it all.
However, while the whole experience brought out my serious, book-loving, historically-interested side ... it was equally satisfying on the level of making me feel I was inside a mystery drama ...  
How many times have you seen a scene like this in a film or on TV? The protagonist sneaks into the building at night, their torchlight sweeping up and down the shelves seeking the 'files' that will solve everything and then ... what was that?  Someone creeping behind you ... a security guard, a stray cat, an enemy? Don't breathe. Don't make a sound. Don't drop your torch ...
Carried away? Who? Me?

Then from the dark (and our over-active imaginations) we were ushered into the light of the conservation room:
That entire wall of light boxes on the right hand side allows the conservator to repair and restore large maps and plans, while smaller light boxes come in useful for viewing and repairing old slides:
And, smaller still, was this light which is as thin as a couple of sheets of paper - and in fact looks like a rectangle of card until it's switched on. 
It slides easily between book pages and, once illuminated, it shows up any problems with the paper which can then be restored as well as revealing watermarks and ink qualities which can be used to determine the age of the paper.

Continuing the theme of 'light and dark' the curator demonstrated how light had effected a book from the 1800s:
And we heard something about this indenture from the 1580s ... but I can't remember what. Possibly the impressive fact that it was close to 440 years old made me forget everything else!
And she pointed out the glues and the 'fibrous Japanese papers' she uses to restore and reinforce damaged pages ...
... and it took great restraint for me not to shout "Washi! Is it washi paper? It is isn't it? Tell me more about paper!!"

And again ... no ... I didn't squirrel any of it away for myself. So stop thinking of me like that ... I mean it's not like I was the only person there who was taking photos of the piles of paper on her desk ... oh ... hang on ... yeah ... I was. I was the only person taking photos of paper. Oh well ... moving on ... and up ... and up:
When we reached the top floor we were allowed out into the darkness, on to a fire-escape on the roof in order to fully appreciate just how close the road runs to the building:
So close in fact that, in an act of cultural and historical vandalism, they actually knocked down the remainder of the buildings in the row and the archive was the last building to be saved before they drove the A66 right through the old town. Even the building that holds so much of the area's history has its own story to tell.

In fact, it's latest story is that it's almost full. The archivists told us that in several years they'll likely run out of space to hold everything they have coming in and then what? Their hope is that they'll be given - for the first time ever - a purpose built archive, but in this era of local government cut backs, who knows?

Now, why does the idea of a building almost full-to-bursting, shelves groaning under the weight of so many old books and documents sound so very familiar to me? Can't imagine ...


I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes, if you want to share stories of your own experiences of archives, or restoration, or collecting old books then let's continue the papery conversation in the comments here or over at Instagrammy Facebook page or on Twitter.

And I'll whip up another post about the 'Nightfall:Sky Full of Stars' event soon.

Julie :-)

Monday 10 October 2016

Book review: Knickers Model's Own by Caroline Jones

Hi you. 

It's been such a long time since I shared a book review here and - considering that once my own book is published I'm going to be talking about it awkwardly but endlessly - I want to make sure I point you towards someone else's first! 

Please note: this is not a sponsored post.  I heard about, and paid for, this book all by little self. You'll see why I'm happy to recommend it once I start describing it ...  

Book review: Knickers Model's Own: A Year of Frugal Fashion by Caroline Jones

My copy of the book alongside some of my many charity-shop price tags.
Like a panicky under-prepared student taking a multiple-choice exam ... this book really does tick all the boxes.

For example ...

  • It's about personal style, clothes and every-day outfits ... so far so perfect.
  • Better still ... it's about personal style, clothes and every-day outfits ... using items found in charity shops!
  • Even better still ... it's about a woman - Caroline Jones - who set herself a year-long challenge to dress only in charity-shop outfits and then share them on Instagram (Challenges? Outfit photos? Social media? Tick, tick, tick!!!)
  • And the piece de resistance? She did it all in memory of her mother and to raise money for Cancer Research UK and this book continues that fund raising.

In short: there's nothing about this book I don't admire. 

Want to take a look inside?
The main focus of the beautifully presented 144 page hardback is Caroline's daily outfit photographs which are laid out on one side with details of the outfits and tips on how to wear/combine pieces on the other:
I bought my copy back in the Spring and ever since Caroline's brilliantly creative approach to styling second-hand clothing and accessories has reinvigorated my own love of the same. In the last few months I've  been encouraged to look again, to browse with an open mind, to discover a bumper crop of pre-loved treasures (if you're interested you can catch up with my latest finds on Instagram).

For one thing it's her ability to layer her outfits that I find myself drawn to, scrutinising how she did it, which elements I can introduce into my own outfits, seeing how interesting combinations breathe new life into individual pieces.
In amongst all of the fabulous visual inspiration the book also features tips on things including how to buy pre-loved:
... and how to style it:
Plus it takes you through the moving story of why Caroline began her year of fund raising through frugal fashion following the death of her mother, Mary, to cancer in 2014. And we see where Caroline's efforts took her, the people she met along the way, the money she raised (over £50,000 in the first year and ongoing with the book) and even how she sold off her year's worth of outfits.
A beautiful book, a beautiful sentiment, profits to a good cause close to all our hearts ... what's not to recommend?

Knickers Model's Own is for you ...
  • if you're interested in clothes and personal style and enjoy drooling over creatively curated outfits.
  • if you're feeling a bit stuck in a rut with your own wardrobe - these outfits will help you reassess your current clothing and find new ways to put outfits together.
  • if you're interested in charity/thrift shopping - this will only harden your resolve to go forth and find fabulous outfits that no one else can copy.
  • if you want to experiment with clothes but don't want to spend a lot of money - this will wholeheartedly inspire you to get into charity shopping to seek your treasure! 
  • if you love the feel and personal connection created by blogs and social media but sometimes wish you could see that kind of content in 'traditional' book form - you'll love flipping back and forth through this, dipping into the story, poring over the images. 
  • if you like well made glossy coffee table books - in presentation and content this can't be faulted.
OR ... 

Buy Knickers Model's Own as a gift ...  
  • for yourself ... if you fancy a guilt-free way to indulge your fashion-loving instincts then you should know that 100% of the book's profits go towards finding a way to beat cancer sooner. Who's going to argue with that?
  • for anyone you know who fits any of descriptions above; the style-loving / charity-shop addict / fund raising-fan in your life will thank you for it. 
  • for women of all ages. Like me Caroline is in her 40s but her style is pretty ageless, there are so many styles, so many options, so much inspiration here that a woman in her 20s would easily find something to relate to and I for one am determined to keep aiming for this level of stylishness into my 60s, 70s, 80s ... 

Want to know more?
So, what do you think? 

  • Is it going on your own Christmas List? Alongside the usual pyjamas, socks, and knickers will Knickers Model's Own be waiting for you under the tree this year?
  • Or has it ticked off a name on your list? Does this quickly and easily sort out a gift for the fashion-lover / fashion-novice / creative blogger / best friend / stylish sister / charity-shop-trawler on your list? 
I hope that in sharing Caroline's fabulous book I've not only indulged my love of all things styley and charity-shoppy ... but I've also helped out with your gift-planning this season. 

If I have I'll feel like the best dressed and most useful of Santa's Elves in all of Christmastown!

Thanks for dropping by today ... let's continue the conversation in the comments or on Instagram, my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Julie x

Monday 3 October 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: September

Hello hello.

There've been some big work-related milestones ... in numbers ... to record this month, alongside the usual eclectic caboodle. So let's leap straight in before I forget what I was going to say ...

This month marked the 10 year anniversary of my role in supporting disabled students at university. 
  • So that's 10 years of note taking, door opening, bag carrying, book fetching, guiding, reading, writing ... and more. 
  • 10 years of experiencing so very many degree modules; everything from 2D animation to digital forensics. From theories of IT management to sexual deviation. From TV production to Occupational Therapy ... and countless in between.
  • 10 years in both my official capacity of offering practical assistance ... and also my unofficial one as emotional back-up where I've been vented at, cried on, ignored, welcomed and thanked.
  • 10 years of unwitting lecturers trying to get me involved in lessons, or put me in a seminar groups, or asking me to express opinions - none of which is permitted. 
  • 10 years of navigating my way around almost every building on campus, finding the right rooms as well as all the nearest cafes and toilets! 
  • 10 years of witnessing how people with disabilities have so many things to contend with before even getting on campus.
  • 10 years of having my eyes opened and my empathy exercised. 
Then almost 10 years to the day of my first induction I attended a 3 day / 18 hour induction process for the same job.
The view from beneath a staircase on campus last week.
 And during that process, on the last day, in the final 20 minutes I had one of my proudest moments ... I secured for myself and the others in my role the use of the office kitchen and kettle. Which until this summer I didn't even know it existed! So I bided my time, then raised it in a meeting, and voila! we can now boil our own water!  Someone who'd been there longer than me leaned across the table and shook my hand. I felt like a hero!

So, that's one of the jobs that keeps me busy ... how about the other ...

I handed over one original notebook full of stories, and one mocked-up version of how it will look ... once it's professionally printed! 
If you missed the announcement about my book then hop back here for a read. In order to get the stories reproduced for print I had to hand them over ... and for the first time in 6 years the book they are in was has longer been within arm's reach. I keep going to check something in it ... and remembering it's not there. It's been strange. And yet very soon ... not only will the original be back in my hands ... the reproduction will be in the hands of other readers! Which is even stranger.

The day I handed the book over and signed the contract with my indie-publishers I was waiting for James to come and pick me up, and I noticed that not only was the sun was shining and the sky was blue ... but the flags were out too:
20 minutes later, when we arrived home, our neighbour spotted us and handed over some cakes she'd just baked, which has never happened before.

Surprise bunting and cake for an impromptu celebration? Nice touch universe!

In more mundane numbers ...

I took at least 7 morning walks and wrote nearly 2000 words afterwards:
I get up with James, throw on my trainers and something comfy then ride along with him on his way to work. After about a mile and a half he drops me off and I walk back, which I find a little more motivating that just decided to walk somewhere and back again from home.

I take a photo along the way and, once I'm back home, I write down all the observations I made along my journey and share it all on Instagram.
This project isn't about glamorous landscapes or outfits, I'm make-up free and windswept and the view is suburban and full of tarmac and concrete and cars ... but I try to find the treasures within the every day just the same. Because there's always good stuff ... if you look carefully enough.

Now we've had a trip up and down the road ... let's travel back in time ...

We went back to the 19th Century with a visit to Preston Park museum:
In fact, in the Victorian street, we specifically went back to 1893 when PC311 was on duty from 6am to 9pm:
Here I am in what would have been my natural habitat back in the day - the haberdasher's - appropriately wearing a new top (a £5.99 TKMaxx treat):
But if the thought of old fabrics and clothes isn't enough for you ... how about some printer-tray-ogling?
"There's something in there you'll want to photograph" he said after peering behind the screen of the (not in use!) Victorian street toilet. And he wasn't wrong:
Something else that called for a photograph was this playbill from a local production of Hamlet from November 1812:
I love the fact that they followed up one of Shakespeare's tragedies with 'a comic song by Mr Lancaster' and a performance of 'a new farce of the Sleep Walker'. Well that's certainly one way to make up for the stage littered in bodies!

Speaking of which ... when we left the museum the grounds were full to the brim with families with small children ... and dogs. I was already nervous about getting back to the car without being molested by canines before stepping out of the door to be faced with some sort of bull-dog owner's club meeting where they were trying to get a group photo ... there were lots of them, a mere metres away! I snatched this terrible shot on the way past as some sort of proof that I'm not exaggerating, but there was no way I was hanging around for a better photo!
We also attended the 4th year of the 'Festival of Thrift'.
Unlike previous years, which have seen the festival hosted at Lingfield Point, Darlington, this year's event was held closer to home for us, in the buildings and surrounding fields and forests of Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar. All of which meant that it's 35,000 visitors over 2 days got to enjoy this view of what I like to think of as 'my' hills:
There's too much going on at the festival for me to describe here - you can read the official stuff here - I don't entirely buy into all it's upcycling/foraging ethos ... but I do like to peruse the Oxfam stall where this year I bought an 80s bat-wing jumper and some fabulous old books. And, as always, we took full advantage of the street food stalls: 
For the record: that there is a brioche bun; there's no denying now that hipster-life has finally reached the dim dark back-waters of the grim North East. 

Batwings, books and brioche aside ... one of the highlights of the festival for me was the 'Stable' installation (various art installations in the old stable block, organised by Navigator North) and particualr favourites included Janet Rogers's ‘The Glass Curtain’ which swayed and chimed whenever the air took it:
And Becky Nicholson's shadow piece called 'Dark Horse' ... isn't that clever? I love the way it's even 'eating' from the trough!


So that was my September - how was yours? Anything utterly exciting to report? How about something entirely mundane - like my morning strolls through suburbia.

And now here we are in October; in england it's currently all blue skies, leaves on the ground, and complete uncertainty about which coat to wear. And I took my gloves with me on my walk this morning. Says it all really ...


If you want to keep in touch throughout the month you can find me on Instagram, over at my Facebook page and Twitter too.