Friday, 30 July 2010

Blog Interview: BlueRoofDesigns

Welcome back to another BEST interview. Today I have the pleasure to be interviewing our team member Elissa of Blue Roof Designs.

Hi Elissa! While looking for new potential interviewees I noticed with surprise that you have not been interviewed before. Somehow, maybe because I knew you all the time I was on Etsy, I thought someone who has been here for so long would have been interviewed.
Thanks so much for thinking of me! While I've been an Etsy member for over 4 years, I've only recently started listing items and being more active. I think it was on Flickr where we met, actually.

Ah yes, I remember that I loved your Flamingo Grabby Journal! Is that a usual, or a rather unusual example of your work?
The Grabby Journals come in different colors and this one is part of a series that I offer - each color is named after a bird. Those journals evolved out of my love for texture and weren't really intended for any particular audience. But the majority of my work is geared towards the bridal and baby markets. As people tend to take the most pictures during these times, it makes sense. Most of my photo albums are pretty formal and are a good match for a wedding or anniversary gift. Many grandparents use my accordion books as “brag books” to show off their new grandchildren. I would love to live in a world where people felt comfortable in celebrating everyday life - day trips to the park are just as valuable as bridal showers.
I must admit that I am jealous of your business name. Blue Roof Designs sounds immediately comfortable, friendly, and positive to me! How did you come up with it?
The first house I owned had a metal roof on it that needed to be repainted. A roof guy came over and showed us some small paint samples and we chose blue for the color. After the roof was painted, we were shocked at just how blue it was – I’m talking serious Smurf blue. When I started selling my work and had consultations in my home studio, I would tell people that they could identify my house by its bright blue roof. I eventually decided to name my business Blue Roof Designs because my house had become such a part of my professional identity. I’m now living in my second house with a blue roof – this time with asphalt shingle.

How did bookmaking come to your life?
In the early 90’s I went to graduate school for Art Therapy in Cambridge, MA. Every day, I passed by a Paper Source that was located between my apartment and my classes. As soon as I saw the “help wanted” sign in the window, I ran right in. I didn’t know anything about paper or bookbinding until I worked there (they sold more paper back then). Part of my job was to assist with store workshops and that’s when I picked up my basic bookbinding skills. I ending up writing my graduate thesis on using bookbinding in the Expressive Therapies and even bound a few copies. I think that books have stayed with me for so long because I am passionate about the idea of being the facilitator of someone’s story.

Do you have another job in addition to making books?
I primarily identify myself as a professional bookbinder, although part-time. For the past few months, I’ve been focused on custom work and teaching workshops, which I love. In the fall, I’ll start production for the holiday season. Aside from my on-the-job training at Paper Source, I try to take at least one book arts class/workshop a year. I’ve been fortunate to take classes with Julie Chen, Hedi Kyle, and Carol Barton. I hope to continue making education a priority – the more I explore the book arts, the more I want to learn.

In addition to the creative work, I’m also a computer geek. Lately I have been consulting with people on a variety of technical projects, including Email newsletters, social media marketing, and website maintenance. There seems to be a need for computer assistance with a gentle touch - I think that my training as a therapist has helped me fill this local niche. I fell into this kind of work and haven’t yet sorted out where it will go as a business, but I really enjoy it.

Most recently, I worked as the Artist Liaison for the Stowe Street Arts Festival, an annual community arts event in Vermont. I worked with the visual art exhibitors, doing everything from registration to booth layout. Now that the festival has passed, I’m looking forward to spending more time on my own work.

Oh, and did I mention my occasional work as a mystery shopper? Yeah, I’m busy.
Is there a crafter or bookbinder you especially admire?
I am beyond in awe of book artist Julie Chen – it’s total fandom. I think I most respect (and envy) her ability to create a full experience with her work. Her ability to integrate form, function, and content is just mind-blowing. I could call her an idol of mine, but she’s really more of a rock stArtist. I took a class with her a few years ago and consider it one of the top ten experiences of my life. Am I gushing enough?

Is there a book that you made, that is special to you?
My favorite book is “Philadelphia Freedom” and I’ll never ever sell it – that one’s for me.

A few years ago, I discovered my collection of SEPTA passes (dating back to 1992) while going through an old box (SEPTA is the public transportation system in Philadelphia). I’ve always believed that one of the major steps I took in becoming an adult was mastering SEPTA when I was in college. I gained a strong sense of independence as I negotiated the different subway and trolley lines.

I was thrilled that I hadn’t thrown the passes away and felt that they needed a home – a place of honor. The tunnel book format seemed ideal for both housing my passes and preserving the personal journey that I took during my college years. Of all the books I’ve made, I feel that this book best represents who I am as both a person and as an artist.
Do you have special plans for your shop and your crafting in the next time?
I recently bought some reptile embossed papers while on my summer vacation and I’m planning on using them in a line of monochromatic journals. I hope to have them available for sale on Etsy this fall.
Thank you Elissa, for this interview!

If you now want to see more Blue Roof Designs books, there is for course the Etsy Shop to look at, and there is also a website, where you can see a lot of her works in a beautiful gallery, and stroll on to her blog, or to twitter, facebook, or Flickr.


Friday, 23 July 2010

Blog Interview: Kurberry

Welcome to today's interview with Alison from the shop kurberry. Of course you can find her on Etsy, and also on Flickr - click here to browse her Books.

Hi Alison, thank you for sharing some of your time with us! Let us start with your location: Where do you live and work?
I live in Civita Castellana which is a town of about 18,000 north of Rome in the province of Viterbo in Italy. I'm originally from Pelham, NY and we bought here in 2002 to escape George Bush's presidency. Let's say it was voluntary exile due to politics.

Is there a story behind your Etsy-Name?
It's fusion of my last name and my husband's. Nothing book-related, I'm afraid.

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
About 10 years ago as an off-shoot of print-making after a very inspiring class with Bonnie Thompson Norman in Seattle through the Experimental College in Seattle and attendance at ArtFest one year. When I was in college I only took art history courses, no studio, and at that time bookmaking courses were not on offer either. In Seattle I took a certificate in painting and drawing but I'm crap at both of those!
I enjoy monoprint especially and I started to incorporate prints into my books.

Do you have a day job different from being an Etsy seller?
I'm sort of retired after working for many years in high-stress jobs. My formal training was in the history of art, and I got my masters in London in that field before deciding I was not cut out for the life of the academic. For twelve years I worked in Sotheby's Collectibles department dealing with vintage toys, dolls, textiles, scientific instruments etc in Chester, London and then New York. While I was working in the UK I began buying Victorian ephemera and I'm starting to try to sell some of it through my Etsy store and to incorporate it into my books. Other than book stuff I also teach English here and am involved in some local tourism efforts too.

Is there something you miss about your former job?
Being in Italy I miss the efficiencies of American business and good old American ingenuity and the availability of courses in book related fields, but the good food and wine and beautiful surroundings go a long way toward making up for all that. The landscape and architecture are a constant inspiration and the setting is overwhelmingly wonderful but also a constant distraction from being a full-time maker and seller!

Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
I adore paper. I've been amassing it for about 20 years and working with it is very gratifying. I still make and try to sell some prints and collages, and I've lately been experimenting with making paper beads too. I also make some shadow boxes with printed elements but those would be impossible to ship so I would not sell them through Etsy. I am not a fan of Coptic binding, or of leather, in general for my books though I can appreciate their appeal for other bookmakers. I like simple, blank books and I love the split cover format because it allows me to use two different papers and not to interrupt the cover with book cloth. No one helps me in my studio or with the shop, but my cat sometimes hinders me. Due to my nature I am overly precise and sometimes obsessive. My favorite techniques are collage and photocopy lithography both of which cover up my inability to draw.
If you have a specific group of customers in mind when creating your books?
I most emphatically do not work with a specific market in mind and I almost never work on commission. Because it's play for me I just follow my own path and experiment and play. I like vintage themes and certain types of subject matter. I don't make address books or diaries. I make what I make. If people like my books and prints they can buy them, if they don't, they won't. If they speak to you, great, if not, go elsewhere!

Please introduce us to one special piece of your work.
I love this print/collage that I did about ten years ago. I found a book by chance on eBay called "The New Calisthenics" that was illustrated with these figures of blank-faced children doing the exercises. I did a series of prints from them for a show in Seattle and this one remains a favorite.

What do you call yourself: Book Artist, Book Maker, Book Binder - or something else?
I resist calling myself anything maybe because I never felt that I was an artist but an art historian. My training meant that I had trouble seeing myself as a "creative". I'm getting a bit better at that now but still resist labels. It's more play than work for me. If I had to rely on sales I'd have starved years ago. For now I refer to myself as a book maker.
Thank you for this interview, Alison!

If we managed to tickle your appetite for more vintage inspiration, go visit kurberry and browse the shelves, or have a look at Alison's work on Flickr.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Recycled books

The theme for the next team book swap is Recycled, so to get those creative juices flowing, here are a few samples of what our members have made with recycled materials.

Askida has made this notebook from a wooden fruit crate:


 Useful Books has used all scrap materials for this small journal, including tea packaging, chip board, and paper offcuts from other projects:


Angelawehrle recycled an unwanted book into a new journal with a great cover:


KristinCrane uses old out of date atlases and maps for her map journals:


The possibilities are endless! Take a look around you and get started with creatively reusing materials. You might be surprised with what you come up with!

Monday, 12 July 2010

My Favorite Tool

I've decided that this month's posting in my journal keeping series, should be about my most favorite tool in my journal keeping supply kit. I don't really like to play favorites, but if I was forced to pick the one tool that I couldn't live without, it would be my water brush. Last year I did a posting on my supply kit (here), but I just love this water brush so much, I had to devote a whole post to it.
In general, I'm a person who likes to travel light. (I'll confess to getting a little too excited when I see tiny, compact art supplies.) The last thing I want if I'm out and about, it's too feel weighed down. I like to have a few bare essentials that I can break out quickly in a flash of inspiration, or take with me on a day I don't want to carry a lot.
This brush is about 7" long and you unscrew the top and fill it with water. With a gentle push on the sides, water comes out through the tip and you've got water to work with. Using it on some lines you've just draw with water soluble ink instantly adds another dimension to whatever you're sketching.
While I wouldn't recommend this if you were really doing a watercolor and wanted to take your time and do something more exact, for a quick sketch while you're on the go, it's perfect. It also works well with water soluble crayons if I want to add a little color.
I usually don't see these at art supplies stores, but I have seen them at craft stores, and I also found a listing for one on amazon. I hope you might discover a new favorite tool!