We head to Darwin in Australia this week to meet Smallest Forest and be in envy of her amazing craft space.
I'm not too sure how I found CO+K anymore, I think it was about 3 years ago...though I'm pretty sure I came across a link to the site via some other high-profile craft blog. Once there, the enormous community of people sharing their own DIY projects, for everything from fingerless gloves to cake pops, was just too good to NOT join. I had just started my own blog, and one of my early posts was a little Book Bead DIY that I was rather proud of, so I thought I'd do more than stalk the great ideas, I wanted to start contributing as well. It drove some visitors to my blog (greatly appreciated, thank you!) and it also fired up a passion for creating DIYs that others would be interested in, understand, do easily, and love. The first time a project of mine got featured it blew me away...I had never created anything with en eye to being featured, but I had to admit that it really stroked the ego to see my stuff up there on your sliding bar!
I'm doing a free online design course via the Coursera.org website at the moment, and it's just like going to uni in that it is very intense, and leaves me almost no time to work on anything else. For my final design project I decided to tackle a kind of "ultimate travel journal" for creative travellers. It's been super-challenging and has shown me so many new ways of approaching and thinking about design, but it still incorporates my stock-in-trade crafts of bookbinding, sewing, and the final alpha prototype will have embroidery, too, so it's a good mix of the new and the familiar. His standards have really raised my own, I work with an eye to detail and finish that I never have before.
I can't praise this class, or Professor Karl Ulrich (Wharton, University of Pennsylvania), enough. Also, after 7 weeks of viewing countless video lectures by the engaging and rather handsome Prof. Ulrich, I think I have a swoony student crush on my teacher...I find myself doing my best in the hopes that I will somehow get his attention (even though I will never see him in person! Ridiculous, I know.)
Small and extremely cluttered! I live out on the water on a converted fishing trawler in Darwin Harbour. A trawler is pretty big as far as houseboats go, though it's not the same as a four-room house or having a proper studio. The perks are being surrounded by mangroves, the peace and solitude of being on the water, the frequent dolphin, turtle, and crocodile sightings, and an uninterrupted view of the most incredible skies!
The needle and all kinds of threads, for both bookbinding and embroidery. Also, I buy and use up industrial quantities of paper...I buy my paper from wholesalers in A0 sheets, by the mill pack (500 sheets a pack). The packs get loaded onto the back of a friend's pick-up with a forklift, that's how much paper I use. I have serious paper-hoarding issues.
My music tastes are eclectic to the point of absurdity: so much that if I name something, you'll pigeon-hole me as the sort of person who likes such-and-such, when in reality I'll like that genre's complete antithesis, as well. I love big sound, and when my partner's not at home I'll turn the music up so that the houses on the other side of the harbour can probably hear it. But when there are people nearby to be considerate of, the i-Pod will do the job. I also love listening to audio books on this...recently, China Miéville's Railsea (it's for young adults, but it was fun) and a bunch of non-fiction works about Buddhism, mindlessness, meditations.
It's a toss-up between bookbinding and embroidery, I don't think i could live without either of them. I love making beautiful, OOAK hand-bound journals as well as more unusual kinds of artist's books; and I love doing big, complicated pieces of embroidery (though I must confess I haven't figured out what to make of them, yet...most get slapped onto the cover of a hand-bound journal, but only because I have to use them up before they drown me in my little room! I'd really like to find a better finished product for my embroideries. I will, one of these days.)
My crafts are all "cold" crafts...working with paper and fabric and thread or paints doesn't involve any powerful forces or produce any monumental works. I think that if I could learn anything, I'd want to work with the more 'noble' materials, the ones that require the huge, transformative powers of the furnace, blow torch, welder or kiln to manipulate: gold and silversmithing? Glass? Fine porcelain (or any ceramics)? These crafts are completely alien to me...they require specialised equipment, cost more to produce, they are harder to learn, but they also create objects of incredible value and timelessness.
Hedi Kyle, Peter Verheyen, and Keith Smith, all amazing and influential bookbinders and teachers who have carried the old craft of bookbinding into the modern age.
Tilleke Schwarz, a maverick embroiderer from the Netherlands, and Mr. X-Stitch, Jamie Chalmers
And all the anonymous traditional embroiderers of different cultures—men and women in India, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, everywhere—who continue to ply needle and thread for humble domestic and personal uses, who lovingly and skilfully devote their attention to—without counting the hours, abandoning the traditions, or cutting corners—creating objects that are not only beautiful, but functional, unpretentious, and that keep the stories of their cultures alive.