Somewhere Beyond the Sea

 


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My friends have birthdays every year, and still I can never seem to get myself together in time to give them a meaningful gift on time. This year the stars aligned to make me think of a journal idea for my friend and remember her birthday was coming up. Technically, more dilly-dallying was done than was allowed for in the original plan, but planning and assembly still wrapped up just in time.

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I feel this is my best journal to date, but even still there were things to learn. Over stuffing is my biggest problem, and I thought I’d gotten the best of myself by using 30 pages—about 1/2 of previous journals. What I failed to account for was how bulky many of my page plans were, and the book ended up quite full. I’ve been sewing together signatures and then creating the pages, but in the future I’ll make all of the pages first, and then see what kind of binding is required.

I was worried working around a central theme would feel limiting, and come out pretentious or cheesy.The theme—a hierarchy of mermaids, followed by kitsch, comics, and surrealism—ended up really helping in keeping me focused. I may try other some other themes if any good ones come to mind. The journal of a vampire hunter always seemed mysterious and enticing, maybe I’ll queue up some Bram Stoker and Vampire Hunter D to get the ideas flowing!

I’ve never really cared for things about the things I like, rather I’d prefer them to be from the things I like. Examp,e: I wouldn’t want a a poster of Hannibal Lecter so much as a mask like the one he wears in Silence of the Lambs. In that same vein, I tried to make this journal less about mermaids, and more like a mermaid’s own journal. I used trinkets that would likely be common pretties for merfolk; sharks teeth, pearls, gold doubloons.

Compasses, locks, scraps of fabric, waterlogged paper and documents; detritus from sunken ships.

I got got to use some great little pieces I’ve been holding onto for a long time. That cutie turtle in the spine was a magnet of my mom’s from before I was born, and has been on my fridge my entire life. I feel like it’s important to include ingredients that are dear to me whenever I make any kind of assemblage project. It helps keep me connected until it’s over.

Vintage seafood recipe cards from a 50’s Betty Crocker collection. What else would mermaids eat?

The sea conjures images of tangled seaweed, vividly colored corals and fishes, and the night sky. What could be more magical than drifting on warm, tropical waters, and looking up into the heavens without a ounce of light pollution to obscure a single glimmering dot in the sky? Pirates and sailors would, no doubt, try to impress any mermaids they encountered with their knowledge of the constellations.

I tried to strike a balance between dressing up the pages, and leaving enough space for photos and embellishments. There are a couple hidden reoccurring themes as well!

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This is my favorite page! Messages in bottles were the first thing to come to mind when thinking of mermaids, and it was a lot of fun translating that to a journal page. The scroll is removable for secrets.

                                            Photo frames galore

Most pages have a tab, and there are lots of journaling tags. Two pages feature baggies for storing treasures.

The chains page is another way to attach and store keepsakes.

The center pages are fabric. I always end up with buttons, pins, and fabrics to include in my scrapbooks and am always challenged as to attaching them. I wrapped several safety pins with thread, and made a little charm for one. The large, lacy circle has a felt back with a brooch pin. The metal disc reminded me of a ship’s wheel, and I oriented it north-northwest (it’s one of my favorite Shakespeare lines) on the lace.

Like every journal so far, a hundred ideas flooded me the moment I finished. Every one should get better and better. I feel like I’m nearly ready to sell a few!

What would you want in a keepsake journal like this?

Prototypin’

I have to admit, after I mailed the When Rome Burns journal to my friend Erin, I was extremely anxious about how it would be received. It was a little bit of how disappointed I was with the errors I’d made, but also there was that anxiety unique of sharing something you “made” that is a lot like standing around naked in front of people who have quite intense stares. There are many reasons that, despite several states worth of difference in proximity, I consider Erin one of my road dogs. One of those reasons is that even if she actually feels like I mailed her a turd, she is being extremely generous about not showing it.

Yeah! Suck on that, bucket of nerves!

In the meantime, I have been prototyping away. Not as much as I’d like to have been because, really, how the hell does anyone get everything done in a day that they need to? The tail of my to-do list keeps wrapping around to the next day and I just feel sleepier and sleepier thinking about it.

I got two slightly different prototypes completed so far. They are full of mistakes, but most of them are completely different mistakes so I take that as a sign of improvement.

I wanted to work on an open binding and just make a very basic book to practice the fundamentals of the process. Mostly basic, at least. I wrapped the cover and signatures in comic book paper just to see how it affected everything. I cut the flaps a little large and left  them unglued to add a little visual interest but next time I think I will glue them down. Plain grey cardstock in a red cover.

The next was an experiment with cover material and envelopes. I cut apart a wooden cigar box and drilled tiny holes, then I just sewed it right onto the signatures. I choose red sulphite paper because I liked how it plays up the colors of the cover art. The envelopes are cut from laminated sheets of an edition of a 1896 New York newspaper. I sewed them into the signatures along the inner seam before assembling them, and punched holes for a ribbon loop to tuck the flaps into. Because the back cover is slightly longer than the front cover I lined it with paper and just fastened a binder clip to the top to make good use of the space. First prototype: no storage. Second prototype: All storage. Sounds about right.

Like the first go at book making/altering/whathaveyou these projects didn’t feel like work, even when I was learning from a particularly infuriating mistake. And learn I did. I feel totally ready to start making “real” altered journals to potentially sell. My Mother-in-Law scored a box of the most perfect ruined old books to use as covers so I have about 12 to make as my first batch. I’m taking them two at a time; making slightly similar ones with every pair to stay efficient with the materials prep and focused on the theme. I even did some planning that translates as a (very) loose blueprint for me to use when designing others!_MG_6490

Because the two prototypes are so flawed I decided to just keep them and use them for Lulah’s scrapbook project. I inadvertently ended up with a theme of red covered journals in her scrapbook series, and using these guys would fit right in, in their own way.

I haven’t began cutting anything, but I have assembled the papers and ephemera for the first two hardcover altered book journals that have been on my mind for weeks now. “Woodland,” is what I’m calling them in my head, but I have no idea if that’s how they’ll actually translate.

Working on getting the old process streamlined. I know one of the next steps will be actually putting together this crap-pile of a studio in a way that it can actually be used. Right now any time Tallulah wants to play with play-doh, I have to clean up my book project stuff from the craft table. Oh all-seeing Pinterest, tell me what is in my future.

End Transmission.

While Rome Burns

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Book binding and journal making always seemed like a mystical entities to me. So enticing, yet obviously too difficult and tedious to learn. I was content to scrapbook away and pine for those awesome, crazy-paper journals more savvy crafters sell on Etsy. Something recently changed, however, and I decided to try making one myself. Not just any old journal though. My heavens, no. I decided to jump right in and make a creepy journal for my friend, Erin, that contains not quite a mystery but more of a narrative to hunt for. I’ll attempt to explain.

Confession: In the movie Red Dragon, Ralph Fiennes’ character has this huge ledger he uses as his looney-toons diary full of cryptic and sinister writing, photographs, drawings, and carefully clipped newspaper bits. When I saw that thing I was in love. It would be like a dream (albeit a creepy one) to happen upon something like that carelessly being sold at an estate auction or laying around in an abandoned house and snatch it home to plumb it’s sinister secrets. Okay, take that and fast forward to just a few years ago when my in-laws brought an old dresser home for us from an auction and we found a trove of discarded ephemera in one of the drawers. The entire life of one Arlene Strickland had been condensed into a handful of papers and documents in a drawer. I’m talking driver’s licenses, senior citizen ID’s, High school diplomas, photographs, wallets, clippings, even a government report involving a terrible incident. Finding these things felt like tripping on a gold mine. Everything together painted such a candid picture of this stranger’s life, and yet left so much to be wondered about. Add to these things my friend Erin, whom you will learn a little more about shortly.

I had to let all of those things float around together for a while before they finally turned into this journal. When I did finally get the idea for it, however, I got it in it’s entirety. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that excitement is what foolishly led me into jumping right into the project and using irreplaceable ephemera before making a prototype to catch all the bugs. This is why I’m a poor scientist. I feel the project was, in it’s own way, a success, but far from my vision of how it should have been. I had so many ideas while I was working on the book, and did so much research that led to new ideas that I could just kick myself for being so impatient.

Fortunately I have so many things of Arlene’s that I knew before I even started that it would need to be two book’s worth (otherwise there wouldn’t be anywhere for Erin to put her own stuff!) and have everything set aside to make a much improved second volume when the time is right.

I used a length of the original strap from my first accordion as the ‘belt’ that holds it closed. The small brass ball is a locket that was left blank.

Something I hadn’t thought of until I was already elbow-deep in the project was adding envelopes. It was too late to add them to the signatures themselves, so I begrudging had to let the three on the front and back covers carry the load. I tucked some photo corner stickers into the little red ones in the front ❤

Some of these papers and ephemera I have been holding onto for quite a long time. It was just too good to use on any old thing, but this was an A class project for me, so I was happy to finally get a chance to destash a little!

Here is where I need to tell you a little about Erin. The blood splatter pages are half part of the narrative, and half an homage to the way we met. The time was 2010 (?) and we were strangers, both peddling our wares on Etsy. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but a search brought me to a photo print in Erin’s shop that had an attached short story in the description. Reading that shit made the hairs on my arms stand up. There were more prints with more stories and I devoured them all. I would describe the quality of her writing as (excuse my french), “holy fuck.” Every story was brutally vivid and wonderful, but it was a story about a lady and her musings in the moments just before she has her skull cleaved in that prompted me to send her a gushing fan letter. Lucky for me she didn’t file a restraining order, and we’ve been homies since. The other page there features some vintage recipe cards turned tags that are a reference to an awesome vintage food party she had not too long ago. When I found out she was having that party I practically (maybe even actually) ran to the file where I had my 50’s Betty Crocker recipe cards to dig up some of the worst offenders to offer as entree ideas. Jellied chicken salad, anyone?

I tried to hide little details in unexpected places with fold outs and scrapbooked pages. that red thing is an emptied photobook from Arlene’s wallet.

Despite the many, sometimes unfixable, mistakes made during construction, I enjoyed making this journal tremendously. I’ve got a bunch of ideas to try out and many more prototypes to make, so hopefully there will be more to see on that front soon. Thanks for coming by!

 

End Transmission