Monday, March 28, 2011

"Vintage Jewelry Design Classics To Collect and Wear" by Caroline Cox

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I am delightfully book boggled right now. 
What a delight to have piles of brain candy right before my eyes! 

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600597145
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.9 x 0.9 inches

I was thoroughly surprised when I opened this book. For some reason the title made me think it was more about designing jewelry - but as I paid more attention I became captivated by this gem of a book.It is, in fact, about jewelry design - the history of jewelry design! Most of you who have read my blog for awhile know that I am a history junkie - so this book was actually really up my alley! Although I don't wear a lot of jewelry myself I sure do appreciate it. Thanks to this book I can now identify the period style that most appeals to me. Who knows - when I win the lottery I may go in search of Belle Epoch jewels!
As you can tell from the contents page the book breaks down jewelry design into decades. What was fashionable during this time - and why was it fashionable? How the particular period of history influenced the design and appeal of fashionable jewelry. Fascinating!
As always Lark books are visually appealing. The layout and photography is always spot on. The author, Caroline Cox is a visiting professor at the London College of Fashion and the focus of her work "explores the relationship between fashion, beauty and culture". Ms. Cox is  a lecturer and a cultural trends advisor. I can't think of much more interesting work
 Lark layouts often seem to employ a grid such as in the photo above. I think this approach works very well -it gives the reader a glimpse of what the pages in the next chapter will cover. Here you can that the period covered is 1910- 1919, there is an example of the fashion, jewelry designs and art that was in vogue at the time
The books covers baubles, bangles, beads, gemstones of incredible value and beauty as well as examples of the fashions and art. Historical notes about well know jewelry designers are included - Faberge, Tiffany, Schlumberger, and Schiaparelli just to name a few. Want to know the history of Bakelite and celluloid? This is the book to grab and read. I love the photos in the book - of famous models, celebrities, high society folks and the titillating world of high fashion
I love the way the book ties everything together. Historical references refer to why certain styles, trends and materials came in to fashion when they did. That information is rounded out with a perfect collection of corresponding fashions, make-up styles and artistic works that defined the decade.
Am I little 'gushy' about this book? Yes! Why? Because it was such a delightful surprise and because it fits right in with my enjoyment of all things fashion, costume, and historical. This book will have a wide appeal I think because it does cover so much. It's perfect, of course, for jewelry designers and all of us who love gems and jewels, but it also will appeal to artists, designers, fashionistas and history buffs . I love this book and it does - for certain - have a spot in my permanent library!

note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Twelve By Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge

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  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600596667
  • Dimensions: 10.9 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches 
In my heart of hearts this is the sort of challenge I would love to be a part of! I was truly grateful when  offered the opportunity to review this book. I know several of the artists whose work is beautifully portrayed and I applaud the wonderful job they have all done in the creation of their art and the design of this simply "must have" book.
The Mathematics theme page.
The book, is course, about the artwork, but it is also so much more. The idea was that twelve themes were chosen and each member of this 12 person  group would make a 12 inch X 12 inch interpretation of the theme. All I can say is "WoW"! Themes included things such as chocolate, community, window, passion, shelter etc. The book is arranged so that one page provides small images of all twelve quilts with more in depth information about the quilts on the pages that follow. Each chapter also includes so much more information though - about meeting each other, how they explored the theme, how they approach the design process, their creative spaces and small, significant highlights about the the inspiration for their designs.

Meet the Artist information and so much more
As with all Lark books, the design of this book is a knock-out. The photographing is perfection. I have to give to Lark. When they do a book- they do it right. Yes, I am a tad prejudiced - but that happened long before I was given the opportunity to review some of their books. Lark makes it all happen.
A page that gives you information about tools and process. Potato Masher?!
The book also includes wonderful tutorials,inspirational glimpses, method/process information as well as tips and tricks about the artist's creative tools, paints, brushes and process.
Instructional and method tutorials are included.
I believe that this book will hold great appeal for art quilters and textile artists of course - but also for artists in general because it really highlights the creative process and will spark your own imagination providing you with creative ideas that will apply to whatever medium you choose to work in. You could follow the themes yourself and see what your interpretation would be. Explore the some of the tools and instructions and make them your own. Feast your eyes on the artwork. Sit back, relax and get your creative mojo going!
The artistic inspiration for their work comes front and center - or right or left!

Creative spaces are highlighted too

note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received. When I give 5 stars to a book I mean it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

"500 Raku: Bold Explorations of a Dynamic Ceramics Technique" by R.Hemachandra & J.Romberg

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  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600592942
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 1.3 inches
This is  the latest in Lark's pith-perfect 500 series. If you love objects the way I do then this is a series that you should investigate - because if you like it - there is "500" book for you - or will be soon!.

When Lark Crafts (a division of Sterling Publishing) provided me with the opportunity to review this book I had to chuckle to myself. There are times when the kind folks I communicate with at Lark seem to know my tastes better than I do! No one at Lark could possible have known what a bowl fetish I have! I collect bowls that I enjoy holding - it's such a satisfying shape. I have never thrown a bowl or vessel before but I know it must be magic - looks at the amazing results!

Raku is an ancient technique originating in 16th century Japan. I have always admired the array of effects that seem to be possible with this unique technique. The juror for this book was Jim Romberg who is the "master ceramist ... of the Eagleheart Center for Arts and Inquiry; Romberg headed the Ceramics Department of Southern Oregon University for two decades. " The editor is Lark's own Ray Hemchandra who has a lot of experience with all things beautiful -  he heads the Beading and Jewelry division of Lark Crafts, among other things.

I wanted to provide you with some glimpses of the pages in this book - but I suddenly found that I could, quite easily, be photographing all of the pages! It's too difficult to select just a few. Who knew - surely not a non-potter like me - that Raku could produce the diversity of styles and beauty that are contained in the pages of this book. 

The photos below are, therefore, a very small sampling of some of the pieces that grabbed my as I first opened the book. You will find delicate beauty, humorous whimsy, bold design and serene simplicity on the these pages. For some reason this "500" book has grabbed me a bit more than some of the titles - perhaps that's because I am not a potter by I admire the medium and covet the results of  the art form. What's a bowl and vessel lover to do but continue to look through the pages of this book - and dream!

Enjoy the preview!

Note: my usual disclosure that this beautiful book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received. I really do love this book!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Sins of The House Of Borgia" by Sarah Bower

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  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402259630
I am always glad for the chance to read a new historical novel about the infamous Borgia clan. For a family that is reviled by history for their poisons,excesses,immorality and greed, there seems to be a dearth of books written about them. Books about the Borgias are certainly nowhere near as popular as the Tudors for instance.

"...I was so young then and confused lust with love as the young do ...."

"Sins Of The House of Borgia" follows the life of young Jewish woman, Esther Safarti. Her story begins in 1492. Young Esther and her Mother escape Toledo and the early years of the Spanish Inquisition by traveling to Rome to join her father (who, for some reason had all but abandoned Esther and her mother in Spain). When they reach the shores of Italy, Esther's mother dies on the beach. that they land on. The tale really begins on the beach that day. As a very fair skinned Jewess, Esther's fathers believes that she can 'pass' as a Christian. In his absence, her father has become an important banker in Rome and works for the rising star of the Catholic Church - Rodrigo Borgia. Rodrigo becomes the Pope Alexander VI and Esther's father arranges for her to become a lady-in-waiting to Rodrigo's illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia - the Duchess of Ferrara. - who will soon be married to her third husband - at twenty-one years of age.  Esther is made to believe that this is what her mother would have wanted her to do. In this position Ether will be better able to attract a husband of good standing. The caveat will be that Esther is forced to convert to Christianity and assume the role of a 'converso'.

As a lady-in-waiting Esther must become another person. Her name is changed - first at Lucrezia's insistence to Donata. Soon afterward, Lucrezia's sadistic brother, Cesare, dubs her Violante. Unable to resist his allure, the newly re-named Violante surrenders herself to the violent, immoral charms of Cesare and, ultimately bears him a son. Cesare is a power hungry man who cares little for Violante and abandons (his real love lies elsewhere) her and his family in search of lands to conquer and power to wield. Through the course of of the book (the years of her service to the Borgia family from 1492 to 1507) and at the time of Cesare's death, the truth to the 'secret' of the Borgia sin unfolds.  Esther, Donata,Violante realizes that she has been nothing more than a puppet - that her entire life in their household has been one lie after another.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the Epilogue of this book. It's short but exceptional and continues the story of Esther's life after she leaves Italy. The Epilogue in itself could well become another story - and it would be a fascinating one at that.  I think I won;t say more about this part of the book because it really is the heart of the character - and you should read it for yourself!

This is a well crafted book that gives the true flavor of this hedonistic family. The politics, rivalries, sadism, and excesses of the Italian Renaissance are well described and the plot lines moves very smoothly. There a multitude of well fleshed out characters and, for this reason, it's a good book to savor more slowly than same. Ms. Bower has a real talent and I will be looking out for her next work. Ms. Bower has previously written short stories and was the UK editor of Historical Novels Review before turning her talents to writing this book.

this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Painted Papers" and "Making Handmade Books" by Alisa Golden

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When I was offered to review both of these applaudable books I was quite excited. Alisa Golden is a well known maker of beautiful books and tantalizing artwork. Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishers, is the publisher of some of the best art and crafting books on the planet - so when you put the two together you know you will end up with a "wow" item. These two titles prove the point.

"Painted Papers":
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Books (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600595479
This is an utterly delightful book that packs an incredible amount of information into it's 176 pages. 
I had planned to list the contents myself but found the information thoroughly delineated on Ms. Golden's web site - and she, obviously, can say it better than I can! This has become one of my favorite painting techniques books and I find that I refer to it often.

Contents: (I mentioned that this book is brimming with great information right?!)

1. Papers, Colors, and Tools
Papers and Boards
Drying Wet Paper Inks, Paints, and Other Media ( Ms. Golden's website has great information about F&W inks)
Pigments and Dyes
Acrylic Inks
Choosing Colors
Acrylic Paints
Watercolor Crayons
Wheat Paste and Methylcellulose
Texture Paste
Brush care
Other Marking Tools
Painting Supplies
2. Acrylic Inks
Recipes for Acrylic Paint Glaze
Creating "old" pages
Washes and Watercolor Crayons
Markmaking Experiment
Dropper and Dry-Brush Outlines
Multicolored Droppers and Dry-Brush Effects
Brush-handle Painting
Wood Grain
Layered Freehand Forms
Word as Image
3. Gesso and Stencils
Gesso Resist
Gesso and Sgraffito
Basic Stenciling
Stencil-Making Supplies
Handmade Stencils
Multiple Stencils: Pochoir
4. Masking
Artist's Tape
Masking Film
Liquid Mask
Masked Borders
5. Paints and Paste
Paste Recipes
Paste Paper
Paste Paper Frottage
Surface Finishes for Painted Paper: Sanded, Waxed, Varnish, Gel Medium
6. Books and Projects (I think of this section as an entree to her next book reviewed below)
Diagram key
Bookmaking Tools
Origami Envelope
Circle Accordion Book
Album Accordion Book
Shikishi and Holder
Venetian Blind Book
Woven Accordion Book
Paper Slipcase
Two-As-One Book
Decorative Box

* * * * *
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600595875
As a nearly lifelong journal-er I have always appreciated papers and handmade books for both written and art journaling, but I can't say that I was ever tempted to make a book myself - before I saw this book that is! There are a lot books that claim to be 'complete' or 'compendiums' of techniques. To my way of thinking there are few books that actually live up to those merits. "Making Handmade Books" is one of those few titles that does not claim to be complete, replete or a compendium but succeeds in being all of that and more. No kidding! If you have ever been tempted ( or are even like me and didn't think that you were interested) to learn what making  a handmade book would entail - this is the book to read. Ms. Golden once again manages to fill the pages of this book with so much, very complete, information that if you could only have one book about making books - this would be the one to choose. Once again the contents as written by Ms. Golden on her website tell the story of how much is included in this book far better than I could write.

Chapter 1: Materials and Methods
Tool Box
Tearing & Cutting Paper
Folding & Scoring Paper
Paper Selection
Handling Content
Basic Terms
Traditional Order
About the Diagrams
Chapter 2: Folded Books
X Book
X Book with Pockets
Shorts Book / Ox-Plow Pamphlet
Pants Book Simple Accordion
Pants Book Simple Accordion with Tunnel
Snake Book
Storybook Theatre
Twist Card
Brush Book
Venetian Blind Book
T-Cut Book
House Card
Little Room Book
Guest Book
Crown Binding
Slot & Tab Book
Pocket Triangle & Diamond Book
Piano Hinge with Skewers
Chapter 3: Simply Glued
Perfect Binding
Album Accordion & Flutterbook
Alphabet Star Book
Concertina with Tabs
Miniature Tied Binding
Sewn & Tied Binding
Flower Fold
Accordion Book with Flower Fold Pages
Winged Book
Flag Book
Pocket Frame Book
Flag Book with Envelope Pages
Flag Book with Folded Pages
Flag Book with Fortunes
Tunnel Book
Endless Accordion
Tunnel Book with Continuous Sides
Miniature Tied Stick Binding
Chapter 4: Simply Sewn
Palm Leaf Book
Fan Book
Stick Binding
Sidebound Book
Hard Cover for Side Binding
Single Signature Binding
Paper Bag Book
Tea Bag Book
Chapter 5: Scrolls & Accordions
Hand Scroll
Hanging Scroll
Double Scroll
Accordion-Fold Book
Miniature Tabbed Accordion
Layered Accordion Book
Accordion with Pockets
Accordion with Signatures
Back-to-Back Accordion Book
Back-to-Back Accordion Book with Tunnel
Circle Accordion
Chapter 6: Movable Books
Simple Pop-Up Card
Square Flexagon
Woven Accordion
Magic Wallet
Three-Panel Jacob's Ladder Book
Jacob's Ladder
Chapter 7: The Codex
Western Multiple Signature
Crossed-Structure Binding
French Link Stitch
Multiple Signatures onto a Ribbon
Multiple Signatures with Rounded Spine
Secret Belgian Binding
Chapter 8: Codex Variations
Woven Codex
Exposed Stitch Book
Exposed Stitch Book with Beads
Bundled Stitch Book
Coptic Stitch / Curved Needle
Coptic with Accordion
Coptic with Paired Needles
Coptic with Fold-Out Pages
Altered Books & Hidden Objects
Chapter 9: Envelopes & Portfolios
Origami Pocket Envelope
Folded Envelope
Box of Circles
Window Envelope
Matchbook-Style Box
Paper Slipcase
Origami Wallet
Pocket Folder
Paper Portfolio
Stock Book
Stamp Wallet
Chapter 10: Cover Techniques
Soft Wrap Cover
Open Spine Soft Cover
Open Spine with Ribbon
Wrapped Hard Cover
Covering Separate Boards
Split Board
Hard Cover: Single Signature
Case Binding: Flat Spine
Hard Cover with Ribbon
Attaching the Book Block
Covering a Mistake
Distressed Book Covers
Recesses & Insetting a Title
Chapter 11: Boxes & Slipcases
Folded Slipcase
Covered Slipcase
Hardcover Portfolio with Ribbon Tie
Two-Piece Box or Candy Box
Partitions & Raised Trays
Theater Box
Clamshell Box
Chapter 12: Ideas & Concepts
Physical Layers
Conceptual Layers
Collaborations, Complilations & Exchanges
Wrapping It Up
Artists' Bios
About the Author
It has crossed my mind that I do a lot of reviews here that I give only high marks to and I thought perhaps you might wonder why this is so. I am not paid for my reviews - and so I am free to rank a book in whatever way I feel is the truth as I read it. I feel blessed to be able to receive these books to review and I try my best to do each book justice.

First of all, I am fortunate to work with several publishers that seem to understand what interests me.  Since I love to learn and love to try new things this does allow a lot leeway about what might interest me! However, I seldom accept a book if I don't initially have high expectations. My time is precious to me (and each passing year makes it more and more precious!) and so I try to only accept books for review that I have a pretty good idea I will really enjoy to begin with. This applies to fiction, non-fiction as well as to arts/crafts. I like to accept books to review that I know I will most likely want to add to my permanent library. I am very fortunate to have 'met' the authors and publishers that I work with - they have all enriched my life with the books they allow me to read and review. That's why you will mostly only see 4 and 5 stars here.... I guess you say I am picky - and what a wonderful thing to be able to be! Many years ago I managed books stores and this blog has allowed me to have more fun with books than I have had since moving on to a different career years - and a lifetime- ago!

Post Script: As  for my admiration of all things Lark - that's my honest opinion too. I was a Lark fan long before I was offered the opportunity to review some books for them! They just do it right!

       (I added a link for another great little Lark book from their Studio Series that I reviewed in an earlier post)