Almost Lost Arts by Emily Freidenrich


9781452170206This book is a celebration of tactile beauty and a tribute to human ingenuity. In-depth profiles tell the stories of 20 artisans who have devoted their lives to preserving traditional techniques. Gorgeous photographs reveal these crafts people’s studios, from Oaxaca to Kyoto and from Milan to Tennessee. Two essays explore the challenges and rewards of engaging deeply with the past. With an elegant three-piece case and foil stamping, this rich volume will be an inspiration to makers, collectors, and history lovers.

The subtitle of this book is “Traditional Crafts and the Artisans Keeping Them Alive,” which accurately reflects the content, but does not come close to expressing the sheer joy and steadfast commitment these artisans find in their work.

As a librarian, I was pleased to see a chapter devoted to Donald Vass, the “Book Mender” for the King County Library System in Issaquah, Washington. Book mending is truly a lost art in libraries, given the relatively low cost and low quality of the books being published today. It’s cheaper to buy a new one than fix a book with a broken spine. Most library systems, including mine, eliminated the Book Menders years ago. It brings me joy to see Mr. Vass carefully attending to these broken books, and the photo of the “century-old cast-iron board cutter” leaves me envious. It also makes me sad to read “he has worried that the program will dissolve with his retirement.” I’m betting that’s true.

There are lots of “lost arts” books out there right now, but this one features some artisans and skills I did not expect. There’s

  • Peter Bellerby, who makes custom globes that are works of art;
  • Brittany Nicole Cox, the Antiquarian Horologist who repairs vintage and ancient clocks and timekeeping devices;
  • Wet plate photographers who actually create *new* tin types;
  • Steve Stepp & Robert Coverston, who create new cassette tapes;
  • Image colorists Matt Loughrey and Grace Rawson who bring new details to life in vintage photos through exacting coloring techniques.

Almost Lost Arts introduces you to these and so many more people across the globe who are keeping the old crafts and arts alive. There is a good balance of text and color photos which blend together to describe the history and the current application of the particular art. The descriptive text is fascinating and well-researched.

I have only two technical issues: there are some editing issues in the advanced copy I received (page 67 in the wet plate photography chapter has some misspelled words, and sentences that repeat); and something that annoys me in books that rely on photos and words to tell the story – when you have captioned photos on a page, end the text block with a period. Don’t make the reader go to the next page to finish the sentence/paragraph then have to go back to read the photo captions.

Other than those two minor quibbles, this is a fabulous book. Beautiful and informative. Buy it for every maker you know who loves the old ways. They will not be disappointed.

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Chronicle Books for the review copy

Art of Visual Notetaking by Emily Mills


artVisual notetaking is a skill I have coveted for some time, after watching a couple friends do it superbly. I thought this would be an excellent way to learn more about the process and begin to cultivate the skill myself. I was right!

Mills offers a step-by-step introduction to visual notetaking, covering all the whys, hows, whens and whats. This is definitely a book for beginners who need to learn about tools as well as techniques. She is meticulous in detail, which is wonderful for beginners but a little pedantic for anyone who has even a little bit of experience with drawing and sketching.

However, even though Mills exhorts the reader to read each chapter in order, it’s easy enough to skip the stuff you don’t need. The gold here is the advice and instruction Mills gives on *how* to take notes, especially the emphasis on listening and practicing.

This will be popular with people exploring lettering and bullet journaling, but also with people looking for a new way to record and absorb information.

Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Published By: Walter Foster Publishing – Quarto Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

little book of BOOK MAKING by Charlotte Rivers


little bookThere are people who love to read and prize the story above all else. These people will read anything – traditional printed books, e-books, magazines, comic books, and so on. Then there are others who love the form of the book as much as the words. These people love the feel and smell and heft of a book. They appreciate the font used to create the words, the paper used to create the pages, the color used to create beautiful endpapers or illustrations, and the art of the cover. A book is a book is a book.

In the little book of BOOK MAKING by Charlotte Rivers, the art of creating a book is broken down into multiple types of processes that artists and crafters can use to create beautiful handmade books. Rivers begins by offering an “anatomy of a book” that illustrates and describes all the different parts of a book – signatures, endpapers, head- and tailbands, the case, covering, backing material, and spine. This simple illustration and accompanying text is useful for any beginning bookbinder and will be something a budding book artist will refer to again and again.

Rivers then introduces the reader to a number of accomplished book binders and artists from around the world. Their featured work illustrates types of book creation such as folded bindings and includes intricate work from artists like Gabriela Irigoyen, Thereza Rowe, and Becca Hirsbrunner among others. Each page features a different artist, including photos and descriptions of their work. The same descriptive process is followed for chapters on sewn bindings and packaging.

Rivers reserves the final chapter for “Bookmaking in Practice” where she gives the tools and steps needed to begin binding your own books. I nice set of illustrations and descriptions of necessary tools precedes instructions written by individual artists on how to make a variety of books, from an “Instant Book” to accordian, carousel, and dragon books. Also included are step by step instructions on various binding techniques such as pamphlet stitch, coptic stitch, long stitch, and Japanese stab stitch. Finally, instructions for creating a case binding, marbling endpapers, hand-dying paper, and creating cloth-covered boards are also included.

While the drawn, illustrated instructions might put some people off, they work in this little book. The instructions are clear, and using photos of real artist bound books to demonstrate different aspects of book making helps makes this a handy guide for anyone interested in trying book making.

Recommended for library collections and students.

Vision Box Ideas


Vision Box Ideas by Mark Montano – I don’t usually like to review graphic-intense books such as graphic novels or art/crafting books in digital format because my past experiences has included pages that take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to load, and miniscule text rendered as PDF that is nearly impossible to read.

I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I found Vision Box Ideas by Mark Montano very easy to read, with beautifully rendered images and clear text. I was not familiar with Montano when I started this book, but apparently he has some real arts & crafts cred, which shines through in this inspiring offering. Montano offers several examples of vision boxes centered around ideas such as travels and angels. He takes great care to let us know, though, that these are ideas that we should use as jumping off points for our own creative vision boxes.

What is a vision box? Pretty much anything you can imagine. Think about what is special to you, what has meaning in your life right now, or what you envision in your life in the future. Then think about how to represent those visions visually. Finally, arrange all those visual representations into a 2 or 3 dimensional collage created inside a frame or box. I’m making a box right now centered around letter-writing using old letters from friends, beautiful stationery, photos, stamps, and unusual writing utensils.

Montano is very clear and precise in his instructions, all the while reminding us that creating art isn’t done according to a blueprint – that each project has to have some of us injected somewhere. He shows us how to create his boxes exactly, if we want to, but he also pushes us to change a little bit here, or add a little bit there, to create something unique.

Highly recommended.