Category Archives: Inspiration

Home Brew Pocket Notebooks

I intended for this post to come out BEFORE I introduced No Brand Notebooks, but alas I left it in draft form and forgot about it. That said, I’m a huge fan of open sourcing information and  I’ve offered up patterns for a bunch of my products to others for free in the past. I’ve done tutorials on many of the books I’ve sold in the past, and frankly, I think being open about the process of binding brings more people into the hobby than being closed about info. Sharing is caring and all that fun stuff. I’m a maker not a great salesperson.

Also, before anyone asks, no I will not make diagrams or take photos of the process. The images  provided should give you a good idea of where staples should be placed. Experiment and you’ll figure it out.

Any of you who have read this blog for any period of time know that my obsession with stationery started young, but was really pushed to new heights as I attempted to find a sketchbook that worked for me. As a young artist I tried sketchbook after sketchbook, flirted with altered books, used loose paper bound by rivets or contained within handmade binders. In short I used every paper I could get my hands on, destroying bindings, scrapping books with bad paper, until finally I said, “Screw it!” and started to make my own sketchbooks. Simple single signature notebooks made of junk paper from work were bound one after another after another. I acquired book after book after book on binding books. I graduated from simple single signature books with limp covers to complex hardcover tomes sewn onto cords, and intricate coptic stitches. Leather was soon added to my arsenal, and I made thousands of books filled with paper for writing, art journaling, sketching and all kinds of art making. Those were the days.

The thing is, binding books is as much an obsession as any other hobby and I miss it dearly. I miss the gathering of sheets, folding of signatures, punching of stations, the smell of beeswax as I pass linen thread through the block of wax. The feel of the stiff waxed thread as it passes through paper and card. These days I don’t get to feed the sensory bit of binding, but I have started to make my own pocket notebooks and Traveler’s notebook refills. It’s dead simple, and you can do it too. Since I’m a fan of open source, feel free to share this info or just use it yourself.

Materials:

First, start off by loading 12 sheets of your favorite paper into your printer. Head to gridzzly.com and play around with the settings. I like lines and dot grids for my notebooks. I like dot grid at 5mm and lines at 7mm. Why? Dunno, those settings work for me. I also move the slider to about ¾ of the way to the right for darkness. The lines will not come out as a true black but more of shades of gray. Test out the site and see what you like. Start with mine and go from there. For my notebooks I work the printer setting to print without margins on any side. The printer can’t flood print, so I get a .25mm border with no printing no matter what I do. I deal with it. Print the lines/grids you like on both sides of the 12 sheet of paper.

Utility yellow… dot grid interior. #notebooks #maker

A post shared by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

Stack your 12 sheets of paper and add a piece of cardstock as a cover. Use paperclips or binder clips to hold everything in place. If you are making pocket notebooks set the guide on your long arm stapler to 4.25 inches or 11cm. Starting from the center of the paper, place a staple at 4.25 inches, another at 6, another at 8, another at 9.75, now return to the other side and place a staple at 2.5, and one at .5 inches. You will  have a total of 6 staples.

Soon to be made into notebooks. Warm Neons, QUILTBAG, and midnight. #maker #bookmaking #booknerd #dotgrid

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Cut the stack in half at the 5.5 inch mark, now fold the half along the staples, letting them guide your fold. Use a bone folder or butter knife to tighten this fold. Using a straight edge, trim the fore edge of the book at 3.5 inches. I have successfully used a rotary cutter as well as a craft knife so long as I’m slow and careful. Round corners if you so desire. Placing the books under weight for a night or two will help keep the spines creased. Several large textbooks serve the purpose well, while a board with a brick or two will also work.

If you are making a Traveler’s notebook, you will place 3 staples, one in the center of the book and one at each end, .5 inch away from the edge. Fold the notebook along the staples, letting them guide your fold. Use a bone folder or butter knife to tighten this fold. Trim the fore edge at 4.5 inches. Round corners if you’d like, then place under weight for a night. I do not trim the excess off the height of my TN, the proper height is 8.25 inches.

It is ridiculously easy to make your own notebooks with a minimum of investment. A long reach stapler is now only $11 on Amazon, while years ago they cost well over $30. If you keep an eye on thrift stores you can find them for less. Often offices toss them out when the person who did the office booklets quits or retires. I kick myself for turning down an old school cast off of a booklet stapler. Oh how I regret that choice. The investment for making notebooks is minor, but the reward is well worth the effort.

If you make some notebooks I’d love to see them. Hit me up on instagram with pics.

 

Sunday Study: Journal Fodder Junkies Workshop

I’m going to start out by saying this is one of my favorite art journaling books. I enjoy the JFJ philosophy on visual journaling and their approach to art. I have a few criticisms of the book but we’ll save them for the end of the post.

For today’s study I’m looking in depth at Scott and Modler’s page on “Objectives.” It’s page 17 of the book and it details the JFJ philosophy of what a visual journal (VJ) is and can be. At it’s core the philosophy is that the VJ is an everything book. It transcends words and combines words and visual expression into one journal. It’s a place to reflect and explore emotions, ideas, and thoughts. It’s a record of everyday life as well as the inner life of the person who keeps it. It’s this everything goes philosophy that I so very much enjoy in this book about VJ.

As you get further into the book the everything goes attitude is reflected via their suggestions of simple materials that don’t cost a lot and the suggestion to use things you have rather than amassing a trove of fancy overpriced art supplies. They also don’t suggest that pages must be pretty or finished- rather the whole book suggests that the VJ is done “your way.” They encourage the reader to create their own methods and style rather than mimicking or copying theirs.

My issues with the book are minor. First is the use of the term “junkies,” language matters and using a term that is used as a general disparagement for people struggling with addiction is a little… off putting. Obviously, this is a minor objection as I still love the book and highly recommend it. The last objection is the references to weapons and ammunition. Again, minor, and these are occasional and though they make sense as they are used, I tend to like to have my art, stationery, and weaponry stuff kept separated.

Anyway, this book is a must have for anyone interested in art/visual journaling and developing their own style. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

NaNoWriMo

No Secular Sunday Study this week. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year so I’ll type up a few observations which will sadly NOT be included in my word count.

First, while Nano says it’s all about “writing a novel in a month,” it’s really about gaining confidence in your writing ability and committing to writing everyday. If you can gain confidence in writing and start to do it MOST everyday you really Can write a novel, maybe not in a month but certainly over the course of several months. Commitment is key.Casemates

Second, writing a novel at the pace of a minimum of 1667 words by hand a day is brutal, IF you also write that much or more at your DayJob. My DayJob has me filling out 10 plus pages in forms every day i’m there. I had to buy a wrist brace for the first time since I left my previous job. My wrist is killing me. Breaks are key to hand and wrist happiness. (As are pain relievers.)Casemates

Third, picking one pencil and sharpening up a bunch of them is helpful to combat that whole, “Which pencil or pen do I use?” problem. I started out with 13 Casemates cheapo multi colored pencils from Wallyworld. At 1 cent each I wasn’t worried about blowing the bank or having a  lot of them sharpened. I know I like them enough to use- I’ve destroyed 3 of them already in my quest for journal filling. So I know I can use them for long periods of time with happiness. That said, when I take my Nano on the road I use pens, I used a blue Bic Cristal Xtra BOLD for around 10 pages. I also figured this was a good way to test out some new pencils so I sharpened up a Baron Fig Archer and used that for another 10 pages, and then I had the stub of a BWV 24 that I decided to finish up.Casemates

Fourth, it is NOT easy to do Nano. If you are competing, give yourself a nice hot cup of whatever you drink and a pat on the back for however far you’ve gotten. It’s amazing to just sit down and write every day. It is even more so  important in this time in history that we write our stories, and maybe later share our stories.Casemates

Some observations on the pencils that I’ve used thus far. The Wallyworld Casemate’s that have the multicolor paint job and sell for about a dollar for a 20 pack regularly are great pencils. They are NOT the same as the regular yellow Wallyworld caremates that are in a 10-pack for 50 cents or the Casemate’s Premium sold in an 8-pack tube for a buck. Not the multi colors are more like the Neons. It is important to note  I’m writing about the Casemates that are made in INdia, the made in Mexico and other places Casemates are crap. I’m using a rough paper- Roaring Springs and Norcom composition notebooks. More observations on those later. The casemates keep performing well. There is an occasional broken lead as would be expected from department store pencils that have been tossed from case to shelf to clearance rack.. I’ve given them a pretty decent workout and find them quite enjoyable. CasematesI’ve also used the Baron Fig Archer, which I have written a few dozen pages at this point. Though the paper in both my Composition notebooks is rough, the Archer really grips the page. I’d call it almost gritty, but that’s not the right description. My favorite pencils glide, more like an ice skate than a skateboard. The Archer is more like a skateboard. It takes effort to use. Even the Casemate is smoother and more enjoyable to me.Casemates

I also use the Blackwing Volumes 24, a favorite of mine, but it hasn’t been a favorite on this paper but it has been nice.

The notebooks have been great. Thus far I’ve like the Roaring Springs the best, but the Norcom is much much better than I expected. The big downsides of the Norcom is that the lines are a super bright blue, which I’m finding I like more and  more. The other negative is that the covers of the Norcom are super floppy. The the point of being useless for writing in hand, quite the opposite of the Roaring Spring. Interestingly the Norcom paper is smoother than the Roaring Spring not a lot but enough that I’m noticing it with all the pencils I’m using. Another thing, the Norcom is not stiched as tightly as the Roaring Spring, not even close.

I’m about 23500 words (as of this writing) into my novel. I’ve written every day for 13 days. That;s an accomplishment even if I don’t finish 50,000 words.

SSS: Writing as a Way of Healing

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louse  DeSalvo, was required reading in my bibliotherapy class, and it’s well worth the piddly amount I spent to buy it and the amount of time I spent reading. (Seriously the ‘Zon has it for a mere 70 cents right now.) It focuses on writing, and specifically the Pennebaker Paradigm* (PP.) The basic idea with the PP is that you write for a set period of time about something that bothers you. You do the same thing for a day or two, telling a story- with a beginning, middle, and end; and eventually you find some relief from your depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…  There’s a been a great deal of research into the PP, and I won’t bore you with the details but the gist of it is that if you can tell a coherent story about the thing that bothers you (that beginning, middle and end are important) you start to feel better. The PP is used to back up a great deal of the support out there for journaling as a healing tool.writinghealing

The chapter I chose to look closely at for this SSS was Chapter 3, “Writing as a Therapeutic Process.” It’s a good one to look at because it delves quite deeply into the desire to write and how damaging it is to not write if you really feel the need to do so. This, also applies to making art. If someone really feels a great drive to make art but they leave behind “childish things” in favor of work and other adult pursuits, they are leaving their creative self unfulfilled. A journal maybe a tiny drop in the bucket of creativity, but it is a necessary outlet, no matter if it is written or art based. One of the most interesting bits in this chapter is the various accounts from writers who used writing as a way to heal themselves.

Sadly, this chapter also flogs the age old untruth that “creativity comes from pain.” Yes, many people who have experienced some sort of traumatic event or pain in their life are creative people but also there are many people who are creative who have not experienced trauma. It really does a disservice to the community of creatives to portray us all as “broken” people who create out of desperate need. Perhaps this is an unfair critique of a book where the entire premise is based on “writing as healing” but frankly, it’s tiring to read the lame trope that artists are damaged. Yes, pain can bring about wonderful creative works, but pain does not beget creativity. Rather, creativity is a salve for wounds. This, I think, is what DeSalvo is attempting to get at by writing about pain and creativity, but sadly misses the mark with the blanket statements about creativity and pain.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort to read and delve into, though it is about novel writing, much of it’s contents also relate to visual journaling. Telling a story is telling a story regardless of how the story is told- through images or words or some combination of the two.

Next week, I’m going to review an old favorite, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, by Dan Price.

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SSS: Art Heals

Art Heals by Shaun McNiff was my “filler quote” book in graduate school. It is a collection of his writings on art therapy. If you are able to filter through the copious amounts of woo woo and heaps of frou frou* there is a great deal of good stuff within the covers. I chose chapter 7, Aesthetic Meditation for my focus this week. It hinges nicely with a new class I’m developing that uses what McNiff describes as “creating a dialog with the image.”** In the McNiff (and other expressive art therapists who use the studio art approach) approach one looks at their own art, and talks to it, creating a conversation with the image, and allowing themselves to create a story about around and from the image. art healsWhat is aesthetic mediation? In short it is a way of looking at art and more expansively at the world around you in a mindful meditative manner. When engaged in this sort of viewing you are engaging all of your senses and making yourself almost hyper aware of what you are looking at. In addition to really deeply looking you also make yourself aware of all of your senses and focus on what you notice. You are immersed in the object.

This is not an easy state to be in, McNiff likens it to sitting meditation, which is a practice one develops over time. One simply doesn’t sit down and begins meditation for an hour*** they work their way up to it.

Further what McNiff explains in this chapter is that we can use our finished images to contemplate and relax ourselves. How many of us have opened up the pages of our art journals, caressed the lumpy bumpy pages and remembered that sense of release as we created the page? I know I have, over and over and over again. Not only are my art journals a place to release pent up feelings but they are also a place to return and contemplate my day and relax myself.

While many of McNIff’s articles are written with the therapist in mind, many in this book are not. If you are an art therapy student this is a great book for filling out those papers where you need a few extra lines to get  you up to the page requirement. He’s got a quote or thought for every art therapy need.

Next week I’m going to reflect on the book “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren.

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Open Letter to the AJ Ning Community

Hi Everyone,

Change is inevitable but we are a fortunate group. Ning, the company we use to host Art Journaling has raised it’s prices but we are paid for the next year so we are good on Ning until June 2017.  another group I am a member of cannot afford the price hike and is shuttering at the end of October.

This is the second major price hike, where the group went from free to a reasonable price, to expensive (and why we run a yearly fundraiser) to now absolutely outrageous. The price went from $239/year to $588/year, more than doubling for next year. My frustration with this price hike has much to do with the fact that Ning has made little to no improvements in the years since the last price hike, so we are getting double the cost with zero improvements. Ning made plenty of promises after the last price hike, and lost many groups, particularly those like AJ Ning, but we persevered.
While we have a year to decide the fate of Art Journaling, right now I feel that the best choice is to move the site to a new host and using a new software. I’m leaning toward WordPress social media site but I’m open to other ideas, so long as it is less expensive than $588/year. I do not want to make a HUGE change like this without your input, as always because this is a community site, movement matters little if it is not done without YOUR thoughts, ideas, and feelings taken into account.

Please head to the site and join the group “Movement and Change” to discuss the option and feelings around this potential change.  http://artjournaling.ning.com/group/movement-and-change

I have a  little heart ache over the idea of moving from Ning, but I also feel like together we can make AJ Ning continue to be amazing and a resource for all the new and old art journalers alike. Again, even if you decide not to head over to AJ Ning (I really hope you do) I appreciate all the input, ideas, and art we’ve shared over the years. Please join in on the discussion and share your thoughts.

MUCH LOVE,

Leslie aka ComfortableShoes

Just a Pencil

Some of the heat that has been received over these posts has amounted to a minimizing and invalidating shout of, “It’s just a pencil!” Now I detailed my issues with the BWV and BW marketing over here so I’m not going to get into that. Instead i’m going to write about the statement, “It’s just a pencil.”

A Dixon HB #2 is just a pencil, as is the Casemate’s yellow HB #2, as is the Casemate’s Premium HB #2. These  three pencils and so many others are “just” pencils. There is nothing special about them, they don’t even have any remarkable marketing. They are just pencils. Graphite, wood, glue, paint, aluminum, and an eraser. They’ve been given no life beyond their aesthetic appeal, simply pencils.

Just pencils.

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

The Blackwing Volumes  in complete opposition are not just pencils. Each has a story attributing it’s finish to someone. They are given a story. These are commemorative pencils, a tribute to the particular person they are designed around. These pencils are all about the story, not the pencil. The pencil is secondary to the story. The story is what sells the pencil. The pencil is just a pencil without the story. With out the story the 725 is the sunburst, the 211 is unfinished, the 1138 is gray scale, 24 is blackout, and 56 is pinstriped. Without the story these are pretty boring, yet expensive, pencils.

Pencils with stories attached. i.e. NOT just pencils.

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on


See now you can come back at me and tell me that Field Notes are just notebooks, because, let’s face it Draplin divorced the story from specific people and made them about things and the process of making the notebooks- night sky, beer, winter, etc. concepts and process not people or even specific things. That makes the FN just notebooks, whereas it’s much harder to tell me that the BWV are “just” pencils. They aren’t because BW decided to make them about the story.* Because for them, the story is what sells the pencil, never mind some of us have to actively divorce the story from the otherwise cool pencil to enjoy it. 

The other end of the battle cry of, “It’s just a pencil,” is that we’ve pissed in the sandbox because we focused our thinking around women and people of color. We’ve now been told that we’ve “ruined something that was once great.” Apparently suggesting that the party include women and POC ruins everything and holy shit, we brought women and POC to the party, well it’s completely ruined now. Might as well set fire to its corpse.

This “What do you think the next BWV will be? You know what would be cool?” literally occurs before EVERY single release, but for some reason this time it pissed people off. The only reason I can find for this anger, and this is supported by the comments section on Andy, Dee, and Johnny’s blogs is that we wrote about women and POC.

Maybe what we need to set fire to is the fragile little egos of those who complain at the suggestion that maybe some of us would like to see women and POC memorialized, perhaps because we are women or people of color, or maybe our loved ones are women or POC, maybe our families are made up of POC? Maybe I look to heroes that aren’t like yours?
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Tribute Pencils: Buffy Edition

I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I remember when the movie came out but didn’t watch the show until it was no longer on the air. I’ve made up for lost time by watching the entire season when I can’t figure out what I want to watch. Needless to say, with all this talk of commemorative pencils I started to thinking, “What would a BtVS tribute pencil look like?”

Would it be a #2 Faber Castell American, like what she used to slay the vamp while studying? Or would it look like a stake?

For this pencil modification I chose the stake route.

Materials were as follows:

  1. General’s Cedar Pointe #1
  2. L.A. Looks Endless red fingernail polish

I removed the erasers from the pencils and brushed on a generous coating of the polish. At the end I put a large dollop of polish on one facet and allowed it to run down the side of the pencil. Then I stuck it into a box so it stood up and could dry overnight.IMG_0143

I searched for a nail polish called “Harlot” but could not find one, however I think Endlessfits the bill and is the right blood red color.IMG_0144

Why the blood red? “Cause it’s always got to be blood….  blood is life.” IMG_0146

Anyway, this is my BtVS tribute pencil.