Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Sherry Serafini's Sensational Bead Embroidery" by Sherry Serafini

* * * * *
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600596728
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches
Another 5 start crafting book from Lark. I've been interested in bead weaving - and have thought I would like to try my hand at it. This book is one of the best I've seen. The designs are original and gloriously beady. Bling in all the right places. Clear, well illustrated instructions are a hallmark of the way Lark does books - and this book is no exception to the rule. I can always count on being able to understand the way something is made when the photographs and written instructions are clear enough.

This is 'feast your eyes' book as well and instructional. Exquisite creations that will, I'm sure, make you want to adorn yourself with beaded beauties - and make gifts for your friends as well.

I hope these photos from the book are grist for your creative mill!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Sewn By Hand" by Susan Wasinger

 * * * *
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600596681
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches 
As a real believer in the 'slow cloth' philosophy I was really pleased to see this book. I get tired by all of the advertisements that everything, seemingly, must " fast, fun and fabulous" - or some similar iteration of that sentiment. Going slowly is more meditative and, especially with sewn articles, you can really sew a it of yourself into what you make when you do it by hand

Table of Contents
This little gem of book is venerates both the art of slow cloth - sewing by hand - as well as the eco-friendly philosophy of recycling with aplomb.  The projects are very well illustrated, fairly simple and eminently useful. Hand sewing makes the look. 
Well illustrated dictionary of hand stitches
The table of contents says it all. A well illustrated dictionary of hand stitches is thorough and well done. I really like some of the included projects. A great apron (not some skimpy little thing) made from recycled button down shirts. Salvaged shirts make another appearance as very well thought out "cafe napkins" that make great use of the buttons on the shirt. Another favorite project I found is for a tote bag - that includes simple directions for making your great looking covered buttons.
A great apron made from recycled button down shirts
I think that this book should hold wide appeal to sewers of all persuasions - hand and machine as well as to eco conscious recyclers. The projects are useful, fresh and delightful. I also think this book is a great value. Both in monetary cost but also  for the seriously good feeling that slow, hand sewn, cloth combined with serious re-purposing can bring to you.
Shirts are again highlighted in these wonderful cafe napkins

Perfect use for the buttons that are already on the shirt!

Fashion and function plus recycling - a win/win combination!

Making your own covered buttons tutorial

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Focus Letters Your World Your Images" from Lark Books

* * * * *
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Books (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600597114
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 7.1 x 0.7 inches 
Lark Books ( an imprint of Sterling Publications) does such a great job with both their "Focus" and "500" series. These are, in a way, special interest publications, but I also think of them more like creative fodder for all artists. I love seeing the way different people view the world around them - and nothing really does that better than the "Focus" series. This Focus - Letters plays on one of my favorite things. I love letters in all of their glorious variations. 
This book is a treasure house of letters - viewed any way that people find them. What I really appreciate about this series is that in looking at the photographs your own creativity is sparked. I often think "would I have noticed that?"  or "what a great way to depict that!". Grab a copy of this modestly priced book and get your own creative juices going!




Note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest reivew. No other remuneration was recieved

"Elizabeth and The Prince Of Spain" by Margaret Irwin

* * * *
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402229985
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Originally published in 1953 this was the last book in Margaret Irwin's "Young Bess" series. Because it was written in an earlier era the book is not a racy bodice ripper - something that I appreciate. It's not that I'm a prude  - but I do get a tad tired of  the "sex sells" philosophy- especially in relation to good historical fiction writing. 

This book revolves around Philip of Spain's relationship with Elizabeth. The  staunch Catholic, philanderer (depending on your point of view I guess) and husband of Elizabeth's half sister Queen Mary, lusted for Elizabeth. This aspect of Elizabeth's life provides a fresh point of view which I quite liked.  I think Ms. Irwin did an excellent job of portraying the historical context and  the book is rife with court life details. It's a book that I enjoyed reading and thinking about all of the "what ifs"  made for some interesting "grist for the mill".

I don't believe that I have read the first two books in this series - but would like to. It's a good stand alone book but reading it in series might be worthwhile. Sourcebooks does such a great job of bringing back some of "the best of the best". This is another highly recommended read for all historical history fans - especially those of us who love Elizabeth I .


note: this book was provided to be by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review - no other remuneration was received

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Surface Treatment Workshop" by Darlene O. McElroy and Sandra D. Wilson

* * * * * 
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: North Light Books (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440308246
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 8.2 x 0.4 inches
I love this book! I was hesitant about it because the author's previous book "Image Transfer Workshop" is, in my humble opinion, one of the best books I've invested in (and I invest a lot in books!) and I wasn't sure that a new book could live up to that opinion. I am SO happy to report that this book is another home run, totally out-of-the-ball park winner of a book.

The lay out is very well considered and the instructions are superlative - perfectly illustrated with photos that relate directly to the image. I couldn't wait to begin experimenting! One of the things that intrigued me as I read through the book was a description of Venetian Plaster  - something I had never heard of before - "...Venetian Plaster gives you a unique finish that cannot be replicated with any other medium....". A tall order in my opinion. I got some of this miraculous stuff though and experimented and now have a new favorite mixed media tool. You can see my experiment from using the instructions on my other blog - mzjohansen.blogspot.com.

I can't wait to try more surface treatments from this book. It's a must have for the bookshelf of artists of all sorts - especially for fine arts, mixed media artists and visual journalers. You just can't go wrong by buying this book!

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Ugly "Beauty Helena Rubenstein and the Belmished History Of Looking Good" by Ruth Brandon

 * * * *
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061740404
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.3 inches

This wasn't a book that I had anticipated reviewing here. It doesn't fit my "usual" categories - as quirky as they can sometimes be. I was offered this book to review and became intrigued by it enough that I decided to post my review.

The name Helena Rubenstein struck a chord with me - seems like I remember my grandmother using some of her cosmetics or something. I knew that she had been "the" woman in the beauty industry at one time. Since I have always been intrigued by the world of fashion and cosmetics - despite the fact that I am neither fashionable nor a heavy user of 'product' - I thought this book would be interesting - and it is!

The book is a dual biography of two of the early cosmetic industry's biggest names. Helena Rubenstein whose impoverished roots in Poland drove her to create one of the the largest cosmetics firms in the world. Her life as "Madame" was lived large around the world.'Madame' believed in working women and it was the money that working women made and spent on her cosmetics that made Helena Rubenstein the first female millionaire.

Her nemesis, Eugene Schueller was French and came from an extremely hard-working family of bakers who slaved from dawn to dusk to make the money that allowed for Eugene to attend the best of schools. Eugene was trained as a chemist and was paid 50 francs by a  noted hairdresser of the day to  find " a safe and reliable artificial hair dye" .. the rest, as they say, is history. Eugene became the founder of L'Oreal which ultimately took over the Helena Rubenstein company. Eugene's beliefs countered those of 'Madame' as he believed that women should be in the home - he used the 'beauty business' "as a source of cash to buy economic and political influence".

This is a book, however, not only about these two driven individuals but also about history. Through two World Wars these two complex people made their ways through the sometimes murky business of beauty, fashion and politics. The author, Ruth Brandon, has done an excellent job of presenting the lives of these two protagonists in relation to the historical events that were ripping countries and belief systems apart. It's a fascinating read that flows easily like a novel. 
When I first picked the book up I had not intended to read it right then - I thought I would finish another book first. I became riveted to the story though. It's a fascinating view into the world of 20th century politics and into the lives of two mega humans - equally driven but for differing reasons.

An interesting tid-bit from the book is about the name. Eugene originally named his line of hair dyes L"aureole after a hair style that was popular in 1905. Soon afterwards he changed the name to what we now call L'Oreal.