Trying my hand at something different…


As work and life was getting so demanding, I was having difficulty with doing much reading so I turned to other ways to relax. Watched a few movies – the old Roman Holiday movie was a blast to watch. (Really funny in places – much better than I had thought it was going to be!) Still working on The Wire, and started the new Dennis Leary series about an aging rock star. (Good stuff.)

And I wanted to do something with my hands — crafty stuff. I don’t know what came over me, but I signed up for a community evening class to learn how to make wire-wrapped jewelry – earrings in this case.


Way back in my teenaged years, I taught myself how to make earrings using springy wire, some random beads and a round-nosed pliers. They were pretty basic in design, but I enjoyed the process and had fun distributing the end products to friends. Thirty years later, I’m at it again, but this time, I’m learning to do it right from a professional artist.

Our lovely artist teacher...

Our lovely artist teacher…

What fun!


It’s been so long since I’ve done something meditative (such as this) that I’m really interested in integrating this more into my life as balance, and to continue this spate of hand-crafting, I’ve dug out an old cross stitch project and I might even get with some friends to do some coloring.  The world is our oyster. 🙂

Flying to Fort Worth…


Just before my mum left this side of the world for UK, my twin sister and I met up with her in Fort Worth as an easy place to meet between us, geographically speaking. Fort Worth is also well known for its art offerings, and as we all like a bit of culture every now and then, this was a perfect spot.

So, Fort Worth is known to be a cowboy-town as its history revolves around that. It started in the late 1800’s as an Army outpost on a bluff overlooking the river, and then evolved into one of the main stops on the cattle drive trail via train to leave (and enter) Texas. It’s right next to Dallas, so for many people, Fort Worth gets all swallowed up in one vast metroplex, but the two cities seem to have different feels to me.

So, we stayed in Fort Worth, right in the Cultural District, and we all had so many laughs – it was so fun. Culturally speaking, we visited the Kimbell Art Museum  which was FABULOUS. I don’t know why more people don’t talk about this place as it was very very well done plus it was designed by famous American architect Louis I. Kahn (which was also a nice touch especially as I have a slight craze on that field at the moment). I’d done some research before the visit so I could astonish my family with such intriguing nuggets as “look at the vaults – Kahn liked Roman structure” and similar. 🙂

The art collection was fabbo. (Technical term for you.) It’s not a huge collection, but it’s curated extremely well and so they have some excellent pieces there. This was one of my favs:

Sorry - not sure who the artist is here... Any ideas?

Sorry – not sure who the artist is here… Any ideas?

But there were loads of others as well. The descriptions beside each of the pictures got to be pretty funny after a while — once we’d read the 20th over-earnest art statement about it, they started to seem to be a bit ridiculous and stretching to make a point. (It’s a picture for crying out loud.) However, it was fun,  it was culture, and the building was superb to see the art. (All natural light.)

Oh, and in the museum gift shop, I happened to find a book written by my favorite uncle Peter Inskip who is an expert in renovating historical architecture and works with Yale University on some projects. How about that? “I see famous relatives…”

And here's my lovely Uncle Peter on the spine of a book that he co-wrote...

And here’s my lovely Uncle Peter on the spine of a book that he co-wrote…

So once we’d finished there and had a nice lunch, we went driving around and found a Target (as is our family wont) and then really just messed around for the rest of the day. (Loads of laughs too.) The next day was sunny and pretty and we spent the morning walking around the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens which were just plain lovely to see. As it had just rained the day before, everything was very green and lush which was beautiful to see plus my sis, mum and I were just casually chatting about anything and everything. Nice combination of things to do.

So – a lovely weekend with the fam…

Envelopes: A Puzzling Journey through the Royal Mail – Harriet Russell (2005)

Ever contemplated just how a badly-addressed envelope actually makes it to the end of its journey in the right place? Well, author and artist Harriet Russell has, and thus was born an art project involving envelopes addressed in puzzles (or anagrams or…) and it was up to the Royal Post (and US Post) employees to work out just where was its end destination.

An interesting and well designed book of an art project completed by Russell (who was in art school at the time). She had noticed how efficient the Royal Post was (and, as it turns out, also the US Postal system) and decided to do a project sending envelopes to herself but with the mailing address formatted into a puzzle – one that the mail employees would have to solve.

So – Russell designed and mailed 150 envelopes  (75 of which were successfully delivered), and this book was born, consisting of photographs of each of the envelopes (both front and back where relevant).  I thought that the sheer number of individual ideas that the author had was really impressive, and she really stretched the perimeter of the project to challenge postal workers. She employed everything from tricky anagrams to dot-to-dot pictures to a table of chemical elements, and so kudos must go to the good-natured postal employees for joining in the fun. It would have been very easy for them to just dump the various envelopes in the “undeliverable” box, but perhaps they found entertainment and challenge by solving her various puzzles.

What added spice was that Russell didn’t always use the same address – she varied it, and even sent some from NYC so it wasn’t just a case of “weird envelopes always go to this address and that art person”.  I thought this was pretty impressive for both the US and the Royal Post employees.

I had fun browsing through this heavily illustrated book. Every page was a picture (front and back) of an envelope that had been successfully delivered and each clearly showed whatever puzzle the postal workers had to solve. I can imagine that some of the post workers really enjoyed this project as they took the time to carefully work out where each envelope was going.

Overall, a fun project to read about, and probably a fun project to implement. I am not sure that my Texas postman (lovely as he is) would be up for a similar challenge – he sometimes can’t get the address correct in the traditional format, let alone in a puzzle. (Although he could surprise me, as people do.)

The book also had a good introduction by Grammar Guru Lynn Truss. (Always a nice extra touch.) Enjoyed this one and found it to be creatively inspiring.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt – Caroline Preston (2011)

A lovely and very different novel of a young woman growing up on the East Coast with a widowed mother and two brothers during the 1920’s. What’s particularly interesting about this particular book is that it is composed entirely of snippets and various scrapbooking bits and pieces to tell the story of Frankie’s life as she graduates from high school and moves on (thus the “scrapbook” of the title). Scraps such as old event programs, magazine ads that have been snipped out, locks of hair, old photos – all are gathered and arranged to further story very effectively.

Most of Frankie’s friends had traditional dreams of getting married and having children right after high school, and Frankie also would like that, but first, she wants to attend college and be a writer. However, life is not that easy and as the story details the twists and turns that Fate sends her way, the reader is drawn into the various ephemera that Frankie uses to illustrate her life in the scrapbook. Vintage clippings and other odds and ends all add detail to give a complete picture of her as she graduates from  Vassar and moves on to the next stage of her life.

This was really an interesting reading experience: the various bits that were used to describe the events of the story on each page had been carefully chosen and then placed artistically on the page. Lovely old typewriter fonts were used for the labels and I really did feel as though I was going through a vintage scrapbook of someone’s life.

One reviewer of this book added that the vintage scrapbook idea (of using multiple objects to detail a life and its many aspects) was pretty representative of the 1920’s in the US: it was when people started to experiment more, life was more prosperous now that the country had almost recovered from the Great War, and women had had a taste of career freedom which they could not forget.  Preston also does a good job of expressing the excitement and anticipation of a young high school graduate and then a college graduate.

If you have enjoyed the “Griffin and Sabine” books by Nick Bantock, or perhaps “Radioactive” (by Lauren Redniss) that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, then you would like this. The story by itself is not the most entrancing, but the addition of the pictures and other details that raises this book above that.

The author is an archivist for the Peabody/Essex Museum and for Harvard University so she has a good grasp of using the various historical pieces of social history and life back then. She has also had a lifetime hobby of collecting vintage scrapbooks which was put to good use here.

An enjoyable and quick read (or browse) of the early life of a young and interesting woman she navigates her way through her early adult years. This was a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to read.

Other reviews from across the Blogosphere:

* Sophisticated Dorkiness review

A Sky Full of Kindness – Rob Ryan (2011)

This is an absolutely gorgeous book packed to the brim with intricate paper cuttings from English artist Rob Ryan. Each detailed page describes the journey of a tiny bird who is just about to become a first-time mother. Only one problem remains, and that is that she is frightened for her baby of all the horrible-ness in the world. How will she protect her tiny offspring?

Through an epic trip and through the help of loads of different birds, the tiny parent-to-be learns that the world has more good things than bad, and eventually all ends well with the young family. A charming and very sweet story told through magical paper art, this one nearly made me cry as it was so darned sweet.

A really lovely lovely lovely reading experience…

And, as an aside, I have done some paper cutting and it takes a lot of skill and patience to get really professional art at the end of it… Kudos to Rob Ryan because this obviously took forever…