26 August 2009

There Goes The Dust Jacket

I found this interesting article at The New York Observer via Richard Minsky's new book cover blog: The New Thing: Books Without Jackets. While I don't totally agree with the idea that dust jackets are completely disposable--for one, they protect the boards (which was their original function, I think)--I find it encouraging that publishers have realized that a dust jacket doesn't have to be the only way to decorate a book.

Of course, as the article points out, this isn't really a new trend. Aside from the fact that way back in the early days of publishing pretty much all books had decorated boards (with dust jackets to protect them while on the shop shelves), some more recent publishers have been experimenting with dust-jacket-less books. McSweeney's is the one the article points out, but I've seen it from time to time from other publishers. The one that comes to mind is The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. In a world of flashy dust jackets, this grey jacketless book with its simple floral design stands out as elegant. Graceful, even.

And something else that's brought to mind: Every time I bring home a new book, one of the first things I do is peek under the dust jacket. Usually, there's nothing much there, except maybe the title stamped in gold on the spine. "We’re used to the jacket covering something that's ugly," as they said in the article. But every once in a while, especially on older books, the dust jacket hides treasure. Take the battered dust jacket off the facsimile of the Kelmscott Chaucer (World Pubilshing Company edition) and you'll find the blind stamping from the original Doves Bindery binding reproduced on the front cover. For a (slightly) more recent example (1986), carefully fold away the jacket from Merlin's Booke by Jane Yolen, the SteelDragon Press edition, and you find Tom Canty's cover design beautifully stamped in gold and blind.

It's a lovely thing that publishers are bringing back books with printed and stamped boards instead of dust jackets, but what I'd really love is to have them bring back that excitement of discovering what lies under a dust jacket. Bring back books with plain jackets hiding a nicely-designed cover underneath. Bring back the anticipation of discovery. That's what I'd like.

24 August 2009

Rockhounding in Scots Bay

Not this past weekend, which was a combination of working Saturday because Friday was a day off and watching Hurricane Bill blow past (with probably a few too many "look, sweetie, you're causing three metre storm surge" type comments directed at the boy), but the weekend before, we continued our Nova Scotia explorations with a rockhounding trip to Scots Bay, and a lazing-on-the-beach trip to Brule.

To get to Scots Bay from Halifax, you have to drive through the lovely Annapolis Valley, where they grow all sorts of crops and make my favorite hot day beverage, Stutz Cider. (Actually, Merridale Cider is better, but it's waaaay expensive and you can't get it here.) From the Valley to Scots Bay, you have to drive over a mountain, or what passes for a mountain in Nova Scotia. Just before you go over the top, there's a fantastic view, appropriately called "The Lookoff":

We hadn't been to this part of NS before, and actually drove right through Scots Bay without seeing the sign for the beach. We did find the start of the Cape Split hiking trail (that's for another day, perhaps), and a really tall pier. As planned, we arrived as the tide was still on its way out, so the boats were waaaay down below.

I'm not sure you can quite get the idea of how high above the ground the pier was, but let's just say that Bill wouldn't get too close to the edge.

At the beach itself, there was one of the tiniest Provincial Parks I've ever seen with a couple of picnic tables and outhouses, then a rickety high-arched wooden bridge over a stream to the beach.

Closer to shore, the beach was all water-smooth rocks varying from tiny pebbles to head-sized cobbles. There was all that's left of the Scots Bay Wharf, from shipbuilding days (for more on the archaeology of Scots Bay, go here).

Farther out to sea, and only revealed at low tide, the beach was an amazing red sand/mud. So before settling down to the serious business of picking up rocks, we headed straight out to sea to dabble our toes. I couldn't tell how far out the mud went, but there were people splashing in the shallows much farther out than we were. Because of the shallow water, it was quite warm, but there was an awful lot of red silt suspended in there. I could only imagine how that would feel seeping into every crevice, so I wasn't too crushed that I hadn't brought my bathing suit.

After wandering back in from the mudflats, Bill settled down to watch the water and take more photos, while I got down to rockhounding. Due to its location in relation to the various sources of rocks and the prevailing tides, Scots Bay Beach has a little bit of just about everything you could hope to find along the Fundy Shore. I didn't find any fossils or amethysts, but I did get some very nice agates (though quite small), and quite a bit of pink and white jasper. And some grey stuff that I haven't identified yet, because I seem to have left all my rock books in BC and the websites I've looked at are mostly focused on the spectacular.

Of course, I also picked up a lot of rather ordinary-looking specimens that had interesting aspects, like some greyish cobbles with little deposits of quartz crystals, and this greenish coarse rock with specks and spots of the loveliest glowing white and green stuff. My favorite piece is a small cobble of ordinary coarse grey with a thin (ca 8mm) band of translucent yellow and grey agate through it.

I'll keep a few of the rocks as-is, but most of them will go in the tumbler. The larger ones will have to be broken up, I think. As for what I'm going to do with them, some will go into a jar of pretty rocks, some will be sent to friends and relatives, and some will be used in my work. I'm thinking of incorporating polished stones into wooden book covers, and maybe wire-wrapping some smaller ones to use with the book jewelry. Maybe.

I did wish I had my rock hammer with me, as I seem to have completely lost the knack of busting open rocks with other rocks. Once upon a time, I knew how to flintknap and, though I was never particularly good at it, I could at least get a rock to break so I could see what it looked like inside. I'll have to work on that, and maybe get Mum to dig though my stuff in BC and send me my rock hammer.

Sunday we headed out to Brule, which is on the North Shore of the province. I didn't take any photos because I didn't want the sand to get into the camera lens. I'll have to charge up the little point-and-shoot for occasions such as this, because when I wandered back away from the shore, there was a really pretty saltmarsh complete with fishing heron. The beach was a little on the crowded side, though much less so than one closer to Halifax would have been. We sat on the sand for a while, then wandered along in the water, carefully stepping over the multitude of hermit crabs scuttling along the sandy bottom.

On Monday we had to run an errand all the way out in Pictou, but it was a quick run and not a siteseeing trip, so no photos or much of anything to talk about.

21 August 2009

Another Curious Contest

I mentioned this on Twitter/Facebook a few days ago, and have been meaning to blog about it. Another blog contest I'm entering is over at TotusMel's Wunderkammer, which is a really good place to find fantastic things for sale on Etsy. I have found a tonne of things I intend to buy once I'm making good money again. Anyway, read about the contest on this post--it's another one that ends today. But even if you read it too late, check out the blog and the Etsy shops of the prize donors (and the shops of people mentioned in other blog posts). This really is some of the very coolest stuff Etsy has to offer.

Prize #1: SteamPunk Key Pendant by Aranel

Prize #2: Absinthe Magnet by WinonaCookie

Prize #3: Leather Circlet Crown by Tom Banwell

Prize #4: $30 Gift Certificate to Adornments For Tarts by Choklit

Prize #5: Scotch Liquor Label Necklace by BellaLili

Prize #6 (I really, really want prize #6): Gear Necklace by Zkitten

Prize #7: Custom Drawstring Bustle Skirt by Crescentwench

Steampunk Rings Contest

I've long admired the rings by Catherinette Rings, and managed to snag a garnet one on sale once, and now they're have a blog contest! It ends today, so if you want to enter , you have to do it quick. But even if you don't enter, go check out the jewelry. It's really cool, and there are a number of pieces on my wishlist.

20 August 2009

Latest Writing: Groucho, Knockoffs and Words

Here are the things I've published in the last week or so:

  • Quotes for Craftspeople: Groucho Marx and His Dog (HandmadeNews.org)

    I often have that Marx quote "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend . . ." stuck in my head, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could turn it into an article for Handmade News. It was fun. I think I'll do more Quotes for Craftspeople articles in the future, and maybe even make some of them more serious.

  • Wost. PSP Knockoff. Ever. (About PSP)

    I found this fantastically awful dollar store toy made to look like a PSP, and of course I had to buy it. I photographed the thing from all angles and made an image gallery / mini review. As terrible as the "Fun Tech Water Toy" was, I had a blast, and am going to keep my eyes open for more PSP knockoffs to review. Anyone seen any they want to send my way?

  • Bookbinding Bonanza Word Find (HandmadeNews.org)

    I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making a word find, and bookbinding seemed a natural topic to start with. Turns out, it's harder to make a word find than I thought. I could buy software to do all the hard work, of course, and if I do very many of these, I might. In the meantime, though, figuring out how to fit the words together is--I think--more fun than doing the actual puzzle.

  • PSP Blue Raspberry Sours and PSP Cherry Sours Review and PSP Sours Novelty Candy Tins Image Gallery (About PSP)

    My fascination with things that look like PSPs but are not PSPs may have started with these PSP novelty candy tins I found at Freak Lunchbox. I also have a Nintendo NES controller tin and Nintendo magic Mario mushroon tin made by the same company. What can I say? I like videogames, and I like candy.

My goal, I've decided, is to get two significant pieces of work done each working day, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. "Significant" is subjective, of course. Some items, like small image galleries, might only take an hour to do. Some articles will take four hours or even more. (Anything that takes more than four hours counts as two things, at least). Any time left in between morning and afternoon jobs will get used for things like promo blogging (like this) and tweets, tweaking my online shops or adding product, business emails, and miscellaneous tasks that don't take very long.

So far today, I've accomplished my morning task (the PSP knockoff toy thing, above), and am currently doing the promo blogging stuff. In a few minutes, I'll get myself a cup of tea and a snack (possibly even lunch, though I'm not that hungry yet). Then I think this afternoon's task will be wrangling some tiny book earrings. I was intending to do some more writing--I have a number of articles to knock out for Suite 101 to get caught up--but my desk seems to be located in the warmest part of the house, and the heat is making me sluggish and headachey. Bleah. Plus, I intend to add some "what I did on the weekend" stuff to this blog later today, so I need a break from the computer.

15 August 2009

I'm a Columnist! About Books!

Yes siree, I am now officially a columnist at Handmade News, in the "Inspiration" department. I'm writing a column about books and paper called Leaf by Leaf. I sort of borrowed the name from Joe's company, Leaf by Leaf Book and Paper Conservation. After spending more than a week trying to come up with a good column title and not being able to come up with anything that didn't sound stupid, and after almost going with "Bookish," I chose Leaf by Leaf partly because the word "leaf" can refer to both a single sheet of paper and a page in a book, partly because it sounds nice, and partly as a tribute to Joe, who has been a fantastic teacher.

My first article is called "Hi, I'm Niko and I'm a Bibliophile," and it introduces me and the ideas I have for the column. Next week I'll have something on how to get started when you really want to make a book but have never done it before.

In other news, the boy and I have continued our exploration of Nova Scotia. Last weekend we drove down the Southern Shore as far as Kejimkujik Park Seaside Annex. Because we meandered along and stopped a few times along the way, we didn't really have time to get out and hike, but we took the highway on the return trip and it's only about an hour and forty-five minutes, so next time we'll drive straight there and spend the day exploring the park.

I took an awful lot of photographs, but didn't really end up with very many I liked. Sometimes it happens that way, I guess, but it was a bit disappointing, considering the fantastic scenery. Maybe I just need to pay more attention to framing pictures, instead of snapping everything that looks pretty.

Interestingly, most of the pictures I end up liking are close-ups. I rarely like the wide-angle landscape shots. Whether that's because I take more time composing the closer-up shots than I do the landscapes, or whether it's because that's just the kind of photograph I happen to like, I don't know.

Anyway. That was Saturday. On Sunday, we went up to Truro to spend some time in Victoria Park, and I didn't end up taking a single photograph, though I carried the camera around. We also wandered around the town (or city--I think it's actually a city) and had lunch. We peered in the windows of a couple of Real Estate places and found some interesting-looking houses. Yesterday we went back up and tried again to find one in particular--a cottage, really, but two bedrooms on four acres--that we had tried to find last week. This time the office was open, so we went in and got directions.

It's definitely a cottage sort of property, but it might work fine as a year-round house, too. It's rural, but about half an hour's drive from supermarkets and such, and actually only forty-five minutes from where we live now in Halifax. Also, the price is very good. Whether we'll take the plunge and make an offer, I don't know. We didn't get to see inside the place, but hope to get back on Monday to do that. We'd have to get my mom to co-sign the mortgage, too. But it sure would be nice to be paying into our own place instead of paying rent every month.

I took a couple of photos, but haven't uploaded them yet, but the listing is here.

12 August 2009

Testing, Testing

One of the people whose work I follow on deviantART posted something today that got me thinking about Livejournal again. I haven't posted on Livejournal in ages. So I've decided to see if I can get both Livejournal and Blogger set up so that my Blogger Blog posts automatically show up on Livejournal. This here's the test to see if I got all the setting right.

Next, I'll see what I can do with MySpace.

11 August 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Well, I'm definitely busy, even though my bank account doesn't show it. I'm expecting an avalanche of cash any day now. Hah hah.

The Democracy 250 project wrapped up last week. The final book (the one that needed some pages re-ordered) was picked up on Thursday, and I was there to get my photo taken for posterity. I'll post that when I get a copy of it. In the meantime, here's the last book (the unnumbered proof copy):

And here's what it looks like on the inside:

I particularly like that page because of the crazy porcupine.

Each book also had a custom-built box lined with soft felt. The boxes are not nearly as "deluxe" as the books, since they're meant to be functional rather than amazingly gorgeous. The design was kept simple--just plain black cloth with the title blocked on the front. Because of their large size, though, they had to be made sturdy.

With thick felt lining, they're quite cushy and should keep the books safe. Note that the lint and bits of white stuff gets masking-taped off before the books actually go inside. I just snapped my photo before they were quite ready to go.

Once I was done being photographed, Bill picked me up and we spent a couple of hours meandering around Point Pleasant Park. Because it was a weekday, the park was quiet and lovely. We got in some nature viewing:

And some exploration of historic sites. There are the remains of something like seven fortifications at Point Pleasant, and pretty much all of them are crumbling into the sea. They put chainlink fences up in a vain attempt to keep people out, but then don't maintain the fences when they fall down. It would be nice if there were at least a few interpretive panels so visitors know what they're looking at. I live here, and I still had to look online to find any information at all.

In some places, water seeping through from above has created cave-like deposits on the walls and especially places with overhangs. There were tiny stalactites which are actually quite lovely, but which can't be good for the integrity of the structures.

And of course, there are many, many rusty things poking out of the ground and lying on the ground and suspended in crumbling structures above the ground. And I do so love to photograph rusty things . . .

09 August 2009

Help the Handmade Artists Forum Etsy Team Spread the Love

Every week, the Handmade Artists Forum Etsy Team (HAF Team for short--to find all of us on Etsy, search "hafteam" in keywords) features one shop each day on the Handmade Artists Forum. This week White Raven Arts is one of the chosen shops. I'm to be featured on Thursday. Here are all of the featured shops this week:

Please do visit these fine shops and support handmade art and craft.

05 August 2009

Oh, Wait . . .

In all my blathering the other day about the terrible state of my finances and the fact that I might not get the Handmade News job after all (oh, poor me), I completely forgot: my editor at Handmade News (or the woman who will be my editor) is in New Zealand. This means me being in Canada shouldn't be any sort of problem at all. I just have to get the right bits of paper to fill out. Yay!

And today's mail brought my paycheque from About PSP, which means I can pay a few bills and things without having to get out the old VISA. The coolest thing about said paycheque is that, because About, Inc. is owned by the New York Times Company, the envelope is New York Times letterhead. So it looks like I write for the NYTimes, which is pretty darn cool.

And also in today's mail, I got the last part of my print order from deviantART. A while back they had a sale where members could order prints of their own stuff for the same price as Premium Print Account members do, which is more-or-less at cost. I was curious to see what the quality was, so I could decide if I want to offer prints of my stuff through dA. They ship different items separately, even though they only charge a single shipping fee, so I've been getting bits and pieces of my order every week or so. The two images I chose are my two digital illustration pieces (the only ones I had enabled as prints at the time).

I ordered postcards, small magnets and a small print of each one. The magnets arrived first, closely followed by the postcards. Then the 8 x 10 photoprint of "After Hokusai" (above). I couldn't get anything much larger, because the resolution of the original isn't high enough.

For "Orpheus and Eurydice" (above), I ordered an art print, matte on paper. It's 12 x 18 inches, which I think is the smallest I could get. That's the one that arrived today, and it looks fantastic. Woo hoo! I have to say, though, my very favourites of the things I ordered are the magnets. Now I have fridge magnets of my art! Just like I was a famous dead person whose work is cannibalized to raise money for art museums. Okay, it's nothing like that, but they are really, really cool. At some point, I'll order copies of the things I've since enabled as prints, to make sure they look good, too, but first I have to sell some stuff.

Oh, and on selling, the buyer for the last book I sold paid after I sent the invoice, so SteamBook 04 is on its way to Norway! I think I might get a world map and stick pins in it for eveywhere I've sold stuff. Or maybe I'll make a virtual one on my website, whenever I eventually get my website together. It would be cool if I could have one where you could click or mouseover a pin and an image of the item sold popped up. Yes, that would be cool. I wonder how I could make such a thing?

Links for prints: "After Hokusai: 37th View of Mt Fuji" here
"Orpheus and Eurydice, After Dulac" here

04 August 2009

Pretty Things

I've just added a new piece of book jewelry to my Etsy shop. I really like this one, and considered keeping it for myself. But I figured I could always make another one.

In not so good news, I discovered this morning that National Student Loans took a $400 payment out of my account that they told me they weren't going to take. I'm supposed to be applying for some new repayment program that doesn't start till this month. Since my repayment started in July, I was told they'd suspend my payments until I could apply for the new thing. But when I talked to CIBC student loans, they informed me I should still have been directed to apply for interest relief for July. So I ended up having to make the July payment on my CIBC loans, too. That's about $600 in payments I had to make because of some telephone lackey's bad information. At least I knew the CIBC payments were going to happen. The other one was a surprise, and one I really couldn't afford. Hence the applying for repayment assistance. I'd really like nothing better than to pay off those loans, but it's not going to happen until I get some more work. Sigh. So I guess my credit cards get wracked up this month. Again.

In better news, though, I applied for a freelance writing gig with Handmade News, a website that does crafting news and articles. I didn't hear anything for ages, and ended up submitting a guest article (unpaid) because I happened to have one already written. Anyway, I just got the contract to sign yesterday! Problem is, all the tax forms are for the States. That's not been a problem for my About.com contract, so I'm hoping it won't be a problem here. I'm kind of worried that it *will* be a problem though. I'd really hate to find out I can't have the job after all. Even if I didn't need the added income, it would suck to lose out on this. I was so excited when I found out I got it yesterday. Keeping my fingers crossed (figuratively), even though it won't do any good.

02 August 2009

'Nother Sale

Sometime yesterday another SteamBook sold on Etsy. The buyer chose PayPal, but didn't pay right away, so it's sitting in my sold list without me actually being paid. Not that I mind waiting, but a note from the buyer saying why would be nice. Anyway, I sent them a PayPal invoice, which will hopefully get them to contact me. Hmm. I sound like I'm complaining, don't I? I'm not really. Just thinking out loud, as it were.

Anyway, my very unscientific Etsy vs ArtFire experiment now stands thusly: Etsy 2, ArtFire 0. I'm curious about why. My initial thoughts were that it's because Etsy has been around longer and people looking for handmade stuff go there first. That could be it, though I've heard from others that they get more views on ArtFire, to the point that they consider it well worth it to pay the $12 or so per month to become verified members, rather than the 20 cents per listing plus selling fee per item on Etsy. If I sold enough stuff on ArtFire to equal the fees I'd pay selling the same things on Etsy, I'd spring for the verified ArtFire membership, but so far I've sold nothing.

I'm wondering if maybe one has to get the verified membership first, if that adds enough buyer confidence to get them to buy when they might not buy from an unverified member. But I really don't know. I might try a verified membership for a couple of months during the holiday buying season. Maybe if I do well enough at the Halifax Crafters Market and Word on the Street in September.