Some mid-week inspiration

I’m working five days a week for the next month and a half, while my manager takes her much-deserved annual leave. That means precious little time to do anything like play or dream…especially as I’ve also had a stall at a craft market every single weekend in a row this May. That means the most I can do to satisfy my creative hunger is to read a few blogs, gaze longingly at the beautiful things others are doing, and pine for the days when I can stay home half the week, again, and explore my own ideas, turn things nimbly over as I work them with my hands, or stroke paints onto a surface and build a world where there never was one.

Dinara Mirtalipova’s website is such a beautiful place to wander…she’s an illustrator,

a pattern designer,

and all-around maker of beautiful things…

whose style carries some of the folk art qualities of her native Uzbekistan, and yet definitely feature both a quirky and sophisticated take on those traditional patterns.

Just the kind of wonderful inspiration I needed this evening, as I enter the long dark tunnel of full-time work…and yet also triggering a deep yearning in me to be free of these everyday responsibilities and back in my own dreaming and playing space.

I discovered Mirdinara via the uppercase magazine blog…always a good place to go for excellent design, beautiful photos, fabulous artists and tons of inspiration.

I’ve timidly joined Society6…

urchin and mermaid print on Society6

Timidly posted my first design on Society6 last night. Sea Urchins & Mermaid is available as an art print (gallery quality Giclée on natural white, matte, ultra smooth, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper using Epson K3 archival inks), a framed print, or as a print on stretched canvas, in various sizes. No other products, yet, as I will have to re-size and crop the image file for it to fit on tote bags and coffee mugs and all those other things.

There are so many people on society6, and a large proportion of them are really, really good—professional designers and so on. I’m intimidated. But it costs nothing to post a design on the site, so I thought I’d give it a try and see if some of the things I make can be “repackaged” this way. As Kris often says to me, “Оно не ест.” (i.e. you don’t have to feed it)

über embroiderers : : Maricor/Maricar

I’m trying to keep up a sort of regular ‘feature’ on über embroiderers on The Smallest Forest: These are the big kids, the crème de la crème, the leet of needle and thread…that runts like me long to play with, but will never even exist in the same universe with…

Not necessarily technical virtuosos or professional embroiderers, but artists who do strange, new and wonderfully unusual things with embroidery…creativity, concept, media, message. Just…different, somehow.

✂ – – – ✂ – – – ✂ – – – ✂

Maricor / Maricar have done it again. Hong Kong Airport commissioned them to do billboard graphics celebrating the food of the world. The word “Delicious” is spelled out in different languages, the letters made up of images of the foods from that particular region.

The über embroiderers designed these whimsical letter forms in various alphabets, and then stitched them up beautifully. The colors and clever play between images of yummy things and letter forms is a real treat for the senses. Impeccable work, as usual, ladies!

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Week 7 of Designing a Creative Travel Journal

This entire post was copied and pasted from my assignment submission page on…just to let you know where I am at with this project. This was the last assignment of the course…supposed to be the ‘Beta’ of my product, though it’s clearly nowhere near the beta stage yet! But this was all I could do in the one day I had to finish it all.
It’s midnight, I’ve work tomorrow, so this has to go up on the course site tonight…hence the hastily chosen “brand name” and the lousy photos taken with camera flash because it was long past sunset when I took most of these.
Travel Journal and JacketREISE is German for “journey”

The journal is bound using Longstitch/linkstitch (aka Limp Binding) The pages are stitched to a spine of strong leather, with plenty of space between them for the gradual inclusion of ephemera, postcards, photos, and other souvenirs of the trip. I cut slits into the leather spine to form “loops” through which the elastic strap of the jacket can be threaded.

This view of the inside of the jacket shows the elastic strap for attaching the journal, as well as three pagemarker ribbons, which are part of the jacket.

The elastic strap weaves in and out of the journal’s leather spine…

and is held down by a snap on the outside of the jacket:

Some features of the journal itself are a 20-page fold-out photo album:

A plastic template for square petal envelopes, to make your own little pockets for small things…

using interesting papers (newspaper pages, magazines, decorative papers) that you collect along the way.

Stick these petal envelopes down wherever you need them.

Also, you can rate your travel experiences and flag your entries using the three stamps that are attached to the ends of the page marker ribbons.

When your journal is full, undo it from the jacket, and strap down a new one.

IWWMW design a travel journal (and case) that conveniently combines an artistic/creative traveler’s tools and materials for collecting/recording during a trip, and the finished works of art and memory?

Primary needs:

  • Journal integrates collected souvenirs, and records (in the form of writing, art, photos)
  • Journal has storage space for art materials and journaling tools.
  • Journal is strong, hard-wearing, long-lasting and keeps contents secure.
  • Journal is customisable to a great degree.
  • Journal is convenient to carry.
  • Journal is easy to use/deploy.
  • Journal is a pleasure to use.
  • Journal is comprised of “artist’s grade” materials.
  • Journal has pages of information that is useful while travelling.

Submit a one paragraph description of what the next steps would be to further refine and develop the artifact:

I had one day in the entire week to do my journal prototype, so there are a lot of things that have been left out as I simply did not have the time. Obviously, the actual printed pages of the journal are missing—sections for foreign words & phrases, packing checklists, To-Do or Must-Visit list pages, shopping info (bought what, where, for how much) as well as cultural and foodie notes, and lots of important travel information (itinerary, time and currency conversion, contacts, and so on) It’s also missing customisable page tabs, for different sections.

I did not get around to putting a closure on the jacket. I hoped to add small D-rings for a removable bag strap. And I would have liked the final journal case to be made of very thin but strong leather, instead of linen. A range of designs for the journal jackets (or at least diferent colours) would have to be considered.

Other ideas I had at the start of this project, and which I think are still good, are:

  • a small pamphlet with 50 fun ideas for fresh, quirky, creative ways to fill your travel journal…exercises and such
  • a website where REISE users can upload pictures of their journal pages, share their drawings, photos, collages, doodles…and engage in forums with a community of other artist-travelers.

I know this isn’t “one paragraph”, but I have learned so much from this course, the journey really has been the destination, and its own reward. I don’t think I’ll even bother to find out what my final score is, now, or download some meaningless certificate of completion! What was of real value here, I have already received.

Thanks and good bye!

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Week 6 of Designing a Creative Travel Journal

Travel Journal alpha

What happened to Week 5? I didn’t do my homework. :( The load was light, anyway, because of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Instead, I started working on my alpha prototype in Week 5, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it all in just the one week of Week 6. I have a new job (tell you about it when I take some photos!), but haven’t managed to slough off the old one, yet…I’m giving my old boss till the Christmas holidays to find a replacement for me. So I worked 6 days last week, will work 6 days every week for the next 3 or so. Not so terrible, I’ll survive, but I haven’t had time to do any groceries or blogging or even laundry…it’s just a big grey block of work and, when I get home at night, The Prototype is waiting. So then I make a coffee and sew pockets until 1 or 2 in the morning, because I am not going to drop out in the last quarter, I’ve done way too much to just let it all go.

Anyway, the idea is still to make both a journal “jacket” and a specially bound travel journal, and for these two to work together. I have run out of time to make the bound book for this week, so I will present that as part of the Beta model, next week. Here are just pictures, and some notes, about the journal jacket part, which was a lot harder to put together than I thought it would be, though I have to say that I am thrilled to have learned SO MUCH about stitching all sorts of pockets, zips, even an expandable three-part pocket that fans out to a 90-degree angle. Go, me! (Hey, I can pat myself on the back…I have been living on rice with soy sauce and an occasional tomato, from the plant on the back deck, for 5 days…)

The photos with annotations were the ones I submitted to the course, but I’m throwing in a few more for this post, to give you all a better idea of what’s been included, changed, etcetera…

By the way, the photo at the very start of this post is shows pages of our old marbling experiments journal. For a few years in the Philippines Kris and I marbled our own papers and fabrics for the journals we made; we weren’t using any of the proper stuff—there was no carrageenan, or special marbling paints, or ox gall. We used rain water, cheap local acrylic house paints, and manioc starch for the size. Still, we managed to get our patterns to a pretty good standard, amazingly. The green marbled fabric on the cover of the journal, in some of the photos below, is one of ours.


I envision a travel journal (book), together with a sturdy “jacket” that I can put the journal into. The jacket has multiple pockets to hold not only the maps and paraphernalia of traveling, but also the art materials he/she might use to create a more personalised and artistic journal. Unlike the journal—which I imagine will become an inactive but cherished receptacle for the traveler’s memories and impressions when it is filled—the jacket is re-usable.

I work 6 days a week, so I didn’t have time to hand bind the travel journal (book) itself…sorry! But I’ve done so much work on this thing, already, that perhaps I should be viewing this “Travel Journal Jacket” as a separate design from the actual “Travel Journal”! Maybe I’ll just finish off the book part for the beta prototype next week.

NOTE: The rubber stamps are a heart, a star, and an unhappy face, representing “Like this” (or “Love this”), “Important” and “Dislike this”. The stamps are meant to be used to flag entries where the traveller wants to rate an experience. I found this solution preferable to Moleskine’s use of symbol stickers which, of course, always get used unevenly, and run out too soon.

NOTE: There are three of these large pockets with zippers that run along the edge of the journal jacket…see first illustration for placement of all three.

Just a final photo showing where everything is, from left to right: a  green journal has been strapped in, some maps and papers are in the expanding pockets, pens and brushes fit snugly into elastic loops, and there is a stamp pad and a glue tape gizmo in the tool pockets at the right. Also, yes, those are my feet, spread very far apart! :)

Travel Journal alpha
Travel Journal alpha

Week 4 of Designing a Creative Travel Journal

10 journal concepts

I quickly revised my problem from last week, and drew 10 new concepts for this week’s homework, submitted yesterday. In them, I’ve re-focused on the journal, with most of the storage space for things like postcards, ephemera, trinkets, pressed flowers, and all the other little bits and pieces that one collects along the way when moving through an unfamiliar place. Some of the books still have a little storage built in for things like a small tin of watercolours or pencils, pens, but I stopped thinking in terms of an entire bag dedicated to rolls of tape, glue sticks, and big fat tubes of acrylic paints or whatever else a person uses to artfully fill his/her journal.

I had to do these concepts the same week that I was actually supposed to be building prototypes. It took forever to make the leap from a concept, on paper, to actually making something. I dawdled ever so much! I think I was scared of finding out that my concepts were impossible to make in the 24 hours I had left before submission deadline. I’d done so well, so far, that I hated the idea of slipping behind, now that things were really getting interesting. My two chosen concepts involved techniques I didn’t have much practice in. Much of what I thought I knew was theoretical…like I figured it couldn’t be too hard to stitch a zipper on a pouch! But I’d never really tried, before. Finally stopped faffing around yesterday and put concept D together in three hours. Amazing how much theory and preparation you can do without once you stop overthinking and just do it.

Concept D: Journal and Jacket

prototype D

It’s VERY ROUGH, but the gist of the idea is there. A flexible wraparound cover jacket, with pockets and pouches on every available surface,
prototype D

and a leather strap that hooks into the book, through the little hollow between cover and text block that all my hand-bound books have, and snaps down on the cover to hold it in place.

prototype D
prototype D

This snap was a serendipitous find. I didn’t have any snaps, nor a snap setter, but as I was rummaging through an old toiletries pouch of buttons and buckles for something else to use, I saw that the pouch itself had a snap. Took a utility knife to that pouch in a flash, and stitched it on with rough and impatient abandon.
prototype D

Concept C is almost identical to Concept D; the only difference is that the book pages are bound to the cover in C. This sort of binding (a limp, or longstitch/linkstitch binding) would allow me to space the signatures out a bit more, accommodating the things to be added in by the user. But the idea of the re-usable jacket and journal refills seemed, on the whole, a more considerate and practical solution. I can work out how to space the pages in the journal itself later, I hope!
 prototype D

Concept I: Dos a Dos book and box


I used two books, bought at the second-hand bookstore years ago, intending to use them in altered book projects I never started. They’re very faux elegant, pretentious things…fancy goldstamping on some horrible ‘leather-look’ textured paper, and only one edge of the pages is gilded: the top edge, which visitors are sure to see when this deep red set of Australia’s Great Books sits on a bookshelf. The other three sides of the text block are left plain.

I took the text block out of Adam Lindsay Gordon, and replaced it with clamshell box ‘jaws’. They’re uncovered, in these pictures, because I had to submit photographs an hour later, but I went and covered them afterwards. Then I simply glued the two books together, back-to-back and topsy-turvy, to resemble the binding format known as dos a dos (two to two).
prototype I

Some letters, photos, and trinkets in the clamshell box, to heighten that feeling of travel treasures…

And the completely indigestible, utterly boring pages of that great Australian classic—that nobody I’ve met seems to have read, but of whom everyone here speaks in hushed and reverent tones—We of The Never-Never on the other side. I read three chapters. I am thinking it’s time to do that altered book project now, and paint or draw on these pages.
prototype I

So, which one do you like better, D or I? And if you had to buy a travel journal, would you consider buying one of these (provided it was made properly, not out of placemats or old books)? I’m only asking to test how successful the designs were, but would love to hear what you think!