Tag Archives: art

The Night Before Christmas Papercut

Merry Christmas! I hope that you had a good one. I wanted to quickly share the final project of my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas that I didn’t get round to posting (birthday, teething baby, preschooler with a raging fever who shared her germs with her baby sister and parents…) a papercut of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

I’d meant to print the whole poem out on A4 in columns so that this would look something like an inverted book on one page image, but the house move had nixed that because (even though it happened in the summer) my printer cable had disappeared and by the time I realised where it was it was Christmas Eve and very much now or never. Maybe next Christmas. Or for another project.

I’ve been playing around with paper cut recently to make shadow puppets for Phoebe. It started with me cutting very basic shapes out with a scissors and some cardboard, but then she started asking for more complex characters (a dragon, a wolf) which really stretched my art skills and meant that my scissors were too crude an instrument, so I bought myself a cheap (under £6) multiheaded craft knife from Amazon which has been really good. I’m sure any would do if you wanted to play around with paper cut, but the one I use can be found here (affiliate link).

I draw the image that I want to cut out on the reverse of the card in a light coloured gel pen so I can see it against the black card. Obviously when the paper is flipped over, the image is flipped as well, so if there particular details that need to be in certain places I keep that in mind as I sketch out the design. I use a second colour to go over any details that I sketched over before I cut so I know what line I want to follow, but it’s all pretty simple.

I’ve drawn my papercut out in silver pen here then drawn the cut line in copper

When I’m happy with it, I cut it out using my craft knife on the chopping board. Because I bought the materials for shadow puppets, I’m using card and keep the details fairly basic, but I might get some paper and try something more complex soon.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist is one of those widely acclaimed debut novels that seems to follow you around, even before you’ve read it you see the cover in bus stops, catch the title in magazines and catch the name standing out in strangers conversations. But is there anything more to the hype than a clever marketing campaign?

At first glance, the story has all the elements of a Gothic pastiche: a young bride turns up at her new husband’s house and finds herself at the mercy of his cold, maiden sister with a servant who openly treats her in a disrespectful way. Alone and isolated (in a room bedecked with grizzly artwork depicting meat and game birds no less), she is insulted when her husband buys her a child’s dollhouse to occupy her but soon finds that there is more to this than meets the eye. In itself, not massively compelling.

To reduce the story to this rough plot overview though, would be to do the novel and the author a massive disservice. I think that part of Jessie Burton’s talent is that she sets up the reader’s expectations for a particular kind of plot then through subtle misdirection surprises the reader with the course of events that follows, keeping you only half a step ahead of Nella as she encounters the wonders and horrors of her new life in Amsterdam and making her one of the most credible naïve brides in literature.

The history of 17th century Amsterdam been well researched and certainly well rendered, and the setting is a masterstroke for anyone who thinks of Amsterdam as a shorthand for liberalism and tolerance. While the miniaturist remains shadowy, the city comes to the fore as a contradictory, cruelly capricious character – the home to a society simultaneously obsessed with trade and piety, where neighbour watches neighbour to exert a pervasive social control, a fearful puppet master in its own right.

Though the novel isn’t perfect, it is very, very good and like all good novels it leaves you with questions. Why does the miniaturist come to the church in the first chapter? Why did they want to leave the miniature-miniature there? And most of all, what has compelled such an astute student of human behaviour to hold a mirror up to their subjects lives when the emotional repercussions of their art seem to shake them too?

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City Ransom RiggsRetaining the high production values of the first book in the series, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is a stylish follow-up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Following on where the first book left off, it sees Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends running for their lives from the wights and hollowgasts that are pursuing them. Their fight for survival becomes a race against time when they realise that their injured headmistress, an ymbryne trapped in bird form, is at risk of losing her humanity for ever unless they can find another ymbryne to save her within two days.

Though it retains the style and charm of the first book in the series, there were times when I became a little frustrated with aspects of the characterisation. Many of the peculiar children have been living the same day since the Second World War, which would easily make them in their 70s, but their emotional responses to many of the situations in the book make them seem like ordinary children. I can appreciate that a lot of the tension derives from this, but at times I felt the children’s emotional vulnerability was played on a little too much. Even if you have grown up in an incredibly sheltered manner, surely you have to some extent grown up?

Either way, it’s a minor criticism and the book should be praised for its originality and flair. There are some brilliant moments where minor characters in the plot of the story like Olive’s friend Jessica, or Sam and Elsa, steal the scene completely. The idea of time travelling within the loops is a great one as well, and the examples of people aging forward are horrible and highly effective. I only wish there’d been a little time to explore the landscapes that the characters travelled to within the loops in a little more detail, as this was a real strength of the first title in the series.

I’ve no idea when the third book is due, but I’m really looking forward to it. I only hope I get to read it before the rumoured Tim Burton film adaptation comes out.

Life in a Fairytale House

In case you haven’t seen it doing the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites, you should definitely check out Being Somewhere, the website of Simon Dale who built a fairytale house (which they call the Hobbit house) for his family in Wales for around £3,000. Simon believes in building “simple shelters that are in harmony with the natural landscape, ecologically sound and are a pleasure to live in.” I think everyone will agree that it looks incredible.

Image courtesy of http://simondale.net/hobbit.htm under the Creative Commons license.

This man is my current hero. I’m having enough trouble to get my boyfriend to agree to me putting in a small wildflower/meadow lawn in our back garden, let alone getting him to build me a Bilbo Baggins’ burrow in the woods…

My Top 5 Bookish Tumblrs

031020103131.jpgThere are so many inspiring book blogs out there, but I find that the Tumblr pages tend to get a little overlooked compared to their wordy companions. Here are my five favourite book related tumblr pages which I like to check for smiles and inspiration.

1. Bookshelf Porn

Bookshelf Porn is not such an overlooked tumblr since anyone who is into books or interior design will be familiar with their page, if not through tumblr itself then through the multitude of shares on Facebook, pinterest, etc. The most famous and the best for a very good reason.

2. Epigraphic

I am a bit of an epigraph obsessive, I really appreciate a well-chosen one but found during my A-levels that others don’t find them as interesting (the epigraph in question was the Sufi proverb in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). I was delighted to come across Epigraphic a really cool tumblr page which collects pictures or quotations of epigraphs from a wide variety of books. I’ve even added a few books to my to read list as a result of their epigraphs being shown on this page.

3. The Art Of Google Books

The Art of Google Books was a recent find after I read a piece about it on the New Yorker. Collecting scanning errors and quirks that have occurred during the mass appropriation of content for the Google Books programme, it also includes marginalia, tea stains and other evidence of previous readers which will be lost if books go entirely digital.

4. Pretty Books

Pretty Books is edited by an individual and I think it’s all the nicer for it, as you really get a sense of Stacey’s individual tastes and style from the consistently gorgeous images she selects. I envy her aesthetic flair.

5. Ideal Bookshelf

I came across Ideal Bookshelf through Bookshelf Porn which just goes to show the lovely stuff you can find while reading other people’s blogs. The artist creates portraits of people which show them as the books that have shaped their lives and personality, rather than the nose and eyes that genetics have assigned them. I think it’s a lovely idea and am so tempted to get my own.

 

Gifts for Sherlock Holmes Fans

Other than reading, one of my favourite things to do at Christmas is to curl up on the sofa watching re-runs of old Sherlock Holmes films and adaptations. You’d be surprised how many you can find and in the past my father and I have managed to fill at least three days of viewings with Sherlock Holmes re-runs with a bit of canny channel surfing, much to the consternation of my little sister. I’ve even managed to hook my boyfriend on the stories to the point that we now have quarrels about which of us is Holmes and which of us is Watson. I am clearly Holmes, as you’ll be able to see from the following exchange:

Me: Elementary, Watson.

Boyfriend: You’re Watson, I’m Shakespeare.

Anyway, I digress. If you have a Holmes fan in your life, or want to introduce a loved one to the Sherlock Holmes stories, the following are great gift ideas:

I am a huge fan of the Penguin Clothbound Classics series. They look amazing and if, like me, the reader in your life is constantly berating themselves for having failed to read a particular classic, they’re a great gift. Even if you’re buying for someone whose favourite book is The Hound of The Baskervilles and has read it a thousand times, they’re sure to love this beautiful edition which will be cherished by Holmes veterans and Sherlock newcomers.

iconIn the unlikely event that, like myself and my boyfriend, you and your loved ones are arguing over which of you is Watson and which of you is Holmes, you can settle things once and for all by treating them to a The Hound of The Baskerville personalised classic which lets you swap the characters’ names for those of your choosing. A word to the wise, my little sister got me an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland personalised classic, and the recipient gets to choose the characters on the internet. If settling disputes like me and the boyfriend, intercept the pack and do this for them then give them the finished book.

steampunk magnifying glass necklace quirky and a little bit sherlock holmes or nancy drew
iconThis working magnifying glass necklace is a great gift for budding detectives or someone who keeps misplacing their reading glasses. Pair it with this cute and quirky knitted deerstalker hat for this season’s take on the consulting detective look.

 

 

Sherlock holmes tea selection, Moriarty, Moriartea, get it?
iconIt might come as a surprise to people who haven’t lurked in the darkest corners of Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle internet fandom but the question of what tea Sherlock Holmes drank is a contentious one and causes heated debate among more special interest fans… Adagio tea has responded to this brewing crisis (couldn’t help myself… sorry) by creating this set of teas with an exclusive blend for each of the main characters in the BBC’s adaptation, Sherlock. Don’t worry, favourite characters are also represented.

 

Sherlock Holmes word art print
iconIf you are decorating your study (in Scarlet) or any other room in your house, or know a Sherlock Holmes fan who is, then these art prints may be just the ticket. Being a lady with expensive tastes, I really like this Sherlock Holmes silhouette print which has been carefully constructed from well-chosen quotations for £55.

 

 

 

If your Holmes fan is, like me, a big fan of the BBC adaptation Sherlock which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson, then they probably can’t wait for the new series to be released. Help them catch up with this box set of series one and two. It is coming soon, it is, it must be. And I still can’t figure out how he did it.

 

 

If your Holmes fan already has the Sherlock box set, firstly congratulate them on their well-maintained DVD collection, then consider leading them in the direction of the Elementary box set which stars Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson. I know what you’re thinking, I expected to hate it as sacrilege too. But I actually really enjoyed it and will buy pre-ordering for my father and hoping that it comes in time for Christmas. This shopping game is afoot.

Alice in Wonderland Statue in Central Park

Central Park Alice in Wonderland Statue with ChildrenI love that the Alice in Wonderland Memorial Statue for Margarita Delacorte in Central Park is intended for children to play on, it’s incredibly charming, having been polished smooth by children’s hands since it arrived in the park in 1959, and you can understand why it’s such a popular landmark to photograph.

 

However, something that you never seem to see is the beautiful quotations around the base of the statue, which were perhaps my favourite thing about it:

Alice Twinkle twinkle Little Bat Alice Speak Roughly to your little boy Alice Twas Brillig Alice Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee Battle

I found the last one really moving, it’s the dedication from the husband of the woman who the statue is dedicated to. I wish I could find out a bit more about her, this is just so beautiful. The kind of memorial you’d want if you could choose.

Alice in Wonderland Central Park Dedication

 

Literature Spotting in Central Park

If you ever drop in on my Twitter account, you’ll know that I was in New York for work last week. Working with jet lag was… interesting, fun but very hard work concentrating. The upshot was that my hotel was very close to Central Park so I went wandering there in the afternoons after work and spent most of Saturday marching around from landmark to landmark, from The Mall to The Conservatory Water (via the zoo…). I loved Central Park and could wax lyrical about how amazing I thought it was for hours (pops up in so many books as well) but I won’t instead I will share with you some of the literary statues I managed to track down using a Central Park Map I printed before I went.

Central Park Alice in Wonderland Statue with Children

Alice in Wonderland Statue- Memorial to Margarita Delacorte

Central Park Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Central Park The Mall Burns

Robert Burns Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Halleck

Fitz-Greene Halleck Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Scott

Walter Scott Statue on The Mall

I tried getting to The Shakespeare Garden and hunting down the Romeo and Juliet statue on the Saturday but unfortunately that whole area was fenced off for an Alicia Keys/Stevie Wonder concert that I didn’t have a ticket for… did I miss anything else?

Gender Bending Covers

Game of Thrones cover re-branded as commercial women’s fiction

I was really interested to see the backlash against mainstream publishers who package fiction by women as commercial, women’s interest fiction in saccharine pink covers while promoting fiction on similar subjects by men as literary fiction, even though the writing is of the same quality covering similar themes.

Maureen Johnson lead the charge, asking her twitter followers to create covers for books by famous male author which flipped the author’s gender and thus rendered the writing “commercial” rather than “literary” in the eyes of many publishers. You can see some of the best results here.

I think Jodi Picoult expressed the stupidity of the double standard perfectly in this tweet:

Jodi Picoult Tweet

 

 

 

 

I came across this story after reading a tweet by Marina Fiorato who wrote The Venetian Contract which had a similar cover positioning issue that I commented on when I reviewed the book. The Guardian picked up the story and discusses some other worrying decisions that publishers have made when designing book covers here.

What’s the worst cover design issue that you’ve come across?

My Grandmother and Beryl Cook’s Fat Ladies

I think she likes it

I think she likes it

A few years ago, my grandmother gave her copy of a book by her favourite artist to her friend while she was in hospital to cheer her up. Sadly, her friend then died. My grandmother always talks about how much she loved the book and how much the pictures used to make her laugh, so for Christmas, despite knowing very little about art, I resolved to track down a copy for her.

It was surprisingly easy. I just did a quick search for “artists who paint fat ladies” and Beryl Cook’s name came up along with some very familiar looking paintings of fat ladies.

It was great to see how much my grandmother enjoyed looking at those paintings again. And an added bonus came when she was looking at the book with my very prudish boyfriend and a picture of a chubby lady in suspenders brandishing a whip turned up. I only wish I’d managed to capture the look on his face when she turned to him, with an innocent smile and asked, “Do you like being whipped, Jon?”

Old ladies, they think they can get away with anything!