Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Inspired by Reading" Book Club, January - April 2017

"Inspired by Reading" is a book club established by artist Andrew Thornton. Members read the month's selection, chosen by Andrew, then create something inspired by the book. 

January's selection: A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Polla review:

"Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own might be suspiciously viewed by some readers as a text begging for interpretation. What is it that causes this man at midlife to attempt to put up a structure, an actual wood and concrete dwelling, where he can work on his own craft away from his domestic life? Arguably, Pollan's intentions are more transparent than a too clever postmodern audience can easily appreciate. The author of this fine, well-crafted book offers an explanation that seems honest and understandable: 'Whenever I heard myself described as an 'information service worker' or a 'symbolic analyst,' I wanted to reach for a hammer, or a hoe, and with it make something less virtual than a sentence.'

In Pollan's bestselling book Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, he illustrated his facility with both hoe and pen. In A Place of My Own he hefts the hammer and again records with great intelligence how thoroughly thought and reflection can be woven into our common lives and the patterns of a day's work. His book's subtitle, "An Education of an Amateur Builder," captures much of what this book contains: the lessons learned by a diligent student of architecture, design, and construction. The writing contains no gaps or unsightly seams, and it's full of clues to readers who share a similar desire to build something tangible in a world that prizes the evanescent."

It took me a long time to read this book; I finally finished it in mid-February. Pollan includes lots of detailed, well-researched musings on the history and philosophy of architecture. Interesting, but I could only digest a small amount at a time. I did enjoy his musings about the conflict between shelter and prospect; and his descriptions of architect Charlie and contractor Joe.

Before making the plan, Charlie sent the author a booklet of inspirational sketches. On the cover was this design, which represented "two thick walls, opened to the landscape on either end":

This drawing reminded me of a ladder necklace, so that is what I made. Like Charlie, I used the golden ratio to determine the dimensions of the "ladder" section. I chose beads and findings in shades of green and antique copper to reflect the natural setting. The necklace is long enough to fit easily over my head, so I did not use a clasp.
I made a pair of earrings in coordinating colors:

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook to see more creations, and check out the links below:

February's selection: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clark notes:"From the author of the award-winning, internationally bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an enchanting collection of stories. Set in versions of England that bear an uncanny resemblance to the world of Strange and Norrell, these stories are brimming with all the ingredients of good fairy tales: petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time in embroidering terrible fates, endless paths in deep, dark woods, and houses that never appear the same way twice. Their heroines and heroes include the Duke of Wellington, a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor, Mary, Queen of Scots, Jonathan Strange, and the Raven King himself. The Ladies of Grace Adieu is the perfect introduction to a world where charm is always tempered by eeriness, and picaresque comedy is always darkened by the disturbing shadow of Faerie."

I enjoyed this collection for the author's inventiveness, sly humor, and linguistic flair. My favorite stories were the title story and "Antickes and Frets", a fictional account of the attempts of Mary, Queen of Scots, to harm Elizabeth I through magically malicious embroidered gifts. I decided to base my pieces on the title story, in which ladies of a small nineteenth-century English village use their skill in magic to protect two small children who are being targeted by their evil, gold-digging guardian and his unpleasant friend. They accomplish this by changing themselves into owls, and the would-be attackers into mice. I made a necklace, using a beautiful pendant (made by Andrew) depicting an owl with outspread wings. I incorporated a silver twig toggle clasp, delicately tinted Czech bell flowers, leaves, and roundels, silver leafy bead caps, a silver moon, stars, and a rose, some fluorite melons, and a few sparkly crystals.

Coordinating earrings
A close-up of the pendant


Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook to see more creations, and check out the links below:

March's selection: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple notes:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world."
What a delightful novel! I adored the eccentric characters, distinctive structure, and improbable-but-very-satisfying happy ending. I was really glad I'd stuck with A Place of My Own, because Bernadette is an architect, and I was able to understand some of the references.

For inspiration, I chose the notorious blackberry vines:
1. because they were such a catalyst for the plot, and
2. because of this quote of Bee's: "When I was little, Mom brought me to see The Sleeping Beauty at the Pacific Northwest Ballet... A gentle fairy protects the sleeping princess by enveloping her in a forest of briars. During the ballet, the princess is sleeping as thorny branches grow thicker around her. That's what I felt like in my bedroom. I knew our blackberry vines were buckling the library floor and causing weird lumps in the carpet and shattering basement windows. But I had a smile on my face because while I slept, there was a force protecting me."
Here is my blackberry vine bracelet. I adapted a pattern by Lorelei Eurto:

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook to see more creations, and check out the links below:

April's Selection: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin notes:

"For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live."

This is an engaging, fast read  with a soap opera feel, probably because it was originally published as a serial. A few of the large cast of characters seemed to change direction, becoming more sympathetic as the story progressed. The most steadfast characters (and my favorites) are quirky/wise landlady Anna Madrigal and gentle-spirited tenant Michael (Mouse) Tolliver. 

My inspiration for this month's pieces is drawn from Anna's declarations about San Francisco.

In her first conversation with new tenant Mary Ann she quotes the Tennyson poem "The Lotus Eaters", and compares San Francisco to that addictive fruit: "You just can't wait to bite into that lotus".

 I made a pair of earrings using lotus flower charms, leafy bead caps, pink and white Czech glass beads, and tiny green faceted tourmaline beads.

Later, when Anna is talking to Edgar, she tells him that some people believe that San Franciscans are all former citizens of Atlantis. He asks her what San Francisco has to do with Atlantis:

'''The Transamerica Pyramid, for one thing.'
'Don't you know what dominated the skyline of Atlantis, Edgar... the thing that loomed over everything?'
He shook his head.
'A pyramid! An enormous pyramid with a beacon burning at the top!'"

I found some ab-treated pale amethyst tetrahedron beads in my stash and thought, close enough; I made a second pair of earrings with those stones and some tiny-linked sterling chain. I 'm pleased with these earrings because they're simple, yet have a lot of sparkle and movement.

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook to see more creations, and check out the links below:

Ann Schroeder
Sarajo Wentling

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Inspired by Reading" Book Club, September, October, and November 2016

"Inspired by Reading" is a book club established by artist Andrew Thornton. Members read the month's selection, chosen by Andrew, then create something inspired by the book. 

Once again, I find myself in catch-up mode.

September's Selection: This Census Taker, by China MiĆ©ville

From the inside flap (paperback edition): "A boy ran down a hill path screaming. This running, screaming boy has witnessed something terrible, something so awful that he cannot even properly articulate it. All he can do is run. His story is investigated, but no evidence is found to support it, and so in the end, he is sent back. Back up that hill path to the site of his terror, to live with the parent who caused it. The boy tries to escape. He flees to a gang of local children but they can't help him. The town refuses to see his danger. He is alone. Then a stranger arrives. A stranger who claims his job is to ask questions, seek truth. Who can, perhaps, offer safety. Or whose offer may be something altogether different, something safety is no part of. In This Census-Taker, multiple award-winning writer China Miville offers a story made of secrets and subtle reveals, of tragedy and bravery, of mysteries that shift when they appear to be known. It is a stunning work, full of strangeness and power."

My favorite review of this novella was written by Jason Sheehan and published on NPR:  
"[MiĆ©ville] can both blow your mind with ideas as big as the universe and break your heart with language so precise and polished, it's like he's writing with diamonds."

The story is told through the now-grown boy's memories (we never learn his name), and seems distorted due to the mists of time and of the child's incomplete understanding of the events around him. I found a few odd passages conspicuous by their inexplicability: one, when the boy finds "two large unfamiliar flowers in the dust, bright petals right for a stronger sun" which he picked up, and later "I planted the petals and their thorns where she'd (his mother) been digging" and two, when a young man arrives to demand that the boy's father make one of his magical (?) talisman keys for him, and asks the father "You want a silver flower? Want me to give you a flower, councilman?" Later the mother tells the boy that a silver flower is "something you give someone for running away".  I fashioned a necklace, incorporating the large bright thorned flowers (roses?), the "silver flower", a key, a book, and the red of the blood that the boy is certain must have stained the walls of the attic and the gray rocks of the cave and the hillside:

I used an antique key that I wrapped with bronze wire and deep red crystals, labradorite nuggets, a spectacular red/gold Basha bead, a silvery Czech glass flower, a polymer clay book by Gabriel on Etsy, a deep red clay bead by "Clay for a Cure", and red stone roses from Michael's, wired to Vintaj filigree and treated with an iridescent finish.

See other creations based on this book:

October's selection: Vampires in the Lemon Grove 
by Karen Russell description:

"From the author of the novel Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—comes a magical and uniquely daring collection of stories that showcases the author’s gifts at their inimitable best. 

Within these pages, a community of girls held captive in a Japanese silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms and plot revolution; a group of boys stumble upon a mutilated scarecrow that bears an uncanny resemblance to a missing classmate that they used to torment; a family’s disastrous quest for land in the American West has grave consequences; and in the marvelous title story, two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try to slake their thirst for blood and come to terms with their immortal relationship."

I loved reading this collection for the incandescent writing, the creativity, and the moments of sly humor. My jewelry inspiration is the story, "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating", which struck me as a grim but hilarious parody of sport fans' behavior, where the ultimate underdog-- krill-- go up against their opponents, the whales, in a struggle that is truly life-or-death, for the fan as well as the competitor.
Single Krill

I made bracelets for Team Krill and Team Whale, using a selection of Czech glass and seed beads:

They could be worn together -- if you want to start a riot!

Team Krill Bracelet
Team Whale Bracelet

See other creations based on this book:

November's Selection: Sabriel by Garth Nix description:
"Game of Thrones fans will love the New York Times bestselling Abhorsen series. Sabriel, the first installment in the trilogy, launched critically acclaimed author Garth Nix onto the fantasy scene as a rising star.
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny. . . ."

I found this to be a well-written, original YA fantasy/zombie novel. I was interested in the author's description of the Book of the Dead: "Its binding was of pale green leather and 
Charter marks burned in the silver clasps that held it closed." How interesting that the author would choose a color that is associated with Spring-- and life -- for this tome.  Later, "beads of dark, thick blood were welling up out of the cover" when it "react(s) to the presence of many deaths".  I made a bracelet to depict this, using pale green metallic licorice leather, a silver-toned clasp and slider to which I wire-wrapped small garnet, ruby, and a/b treated carnelian beads:

See other creations based on this book:

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook to see more creations for all three books.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Inspired by Reading Book Club, August 2016

"Inspired by Reading" is a book club established by artist Andrew Thornton. Members read the month's selection, chosen by Andrew, then create something inspired by the book. 

August's selection: The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston description: 

"A year after her husband's sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat's death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she's near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.
On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.
In her own time, Tilda's grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake's ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each other's, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren's prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more. Paula Brackston does it once again with The Silver Witch crafting an enchanting tale as timeless as it is engrossing."

I enjoyed this fantasy /historical fiction /romance novel, as much for the beautiful setting as the story. I think the main character's gradual discovery and control of her paranormal abilities is well- developed, and the overall pacing of the novel is just right.  One of my favorite passages:

 "Brynach sits back on his heels, gazing at her. 'I know she is a child of the moonlight,' he says, the sadness catching in his voice. 'I understand she must live as you do, making friends of shadows and shade, happiest and safest in the soft hours of cool darkness. I know this.' He turns to me. 'But I live my life by day, Seren. And though she is in your image, she has my blood.' He nods at the golden necklace. 'Now I know she will forever have a drop of sunshine with her, however deep the night. Forever.'"  

How lovely.

So, for my project, I decided to represent Seren in her nighttime world. I made a necklace, using a Green Girl Studios pendant, showing a hare in the moonlight (it made me wonder if Cynthia had this book in mind when she created this piece -- so perfect!). I strung moonstone and prehnite briolettes and rondelles to represent the moonlight and the natural green and gold world inhabited by Seren, and finished it with an antique silver toggle clasp:

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook
to see more creations.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Inspired by Reading" Book Club, May, June, and July 2016

"Inspired by Reading" is a book club established by artist Andrew Thornton. Members read the month's selection, chosen by Andrew, then create something inspired by the book. 

It's catch-up time!

 May's selection: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender description:
"On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she's privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father's detachment, her mother's transgression, her brother's increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can't discern."

I found this story to be well-written and inventive, but almost too sad to read. Rose's loneliness cast a pall over my mood. I was relieved toward the end, when she made her peace with her gift by finding a use for it. Resolution at last! 
 As for inspiring imagery, I noticed that both at the very beginning, when Rose's mother bakes the first doomed cake, and at the end, when Rose is explaining to her mother that she no longer likes lemon cake, she mentions the pansies and daffodils in the flower boxes at the windows:
"Sometimes, she said, mostly to herself, I feel I do not know my children... She said it out the window. To the flower boxes, in front of us, full of pansies and daffodils, bowing in at dusk." (p. 280) It was an odd little detail that stuck with me: everyday beauty side-by-side with so much angst. So, I decided to work with that.  I also wanted to bring in wood, as Rose's mother becomes a woodworker. I found a copyright friendly ("OK personal/derivative use) photo of daffodils and pansies at I printed it and decoupaged it on a wooden canning tag, glazed it, and painted the sides and back black.  I then added a couple of gold jump rings, some large seed beads, and a tassel of gold chain, a Czech glass pansy, and Czech glass bell flowers; and hung it from a yellow-green silk ribbon. Voila -- a little brightness in the darkness.

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook
to see more creations, and check out the links below:

June's Selection: Drinking the Rain, by Alix Kates Shulman description:

"At fifty, Alix Kates Shulman, author of the celebrated feminist novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, left a city life dense with political activism, family and literary community, and went to live alone on an island off the coast of Maine. On a windswept beach, in a cabin with no plumbing, power, or telephone, she found that she was learning to live all over again.
In this luminous, spirited book, she charts her subsequent path as she learned not simply the joys of meditative solitude, but to integrate her new awareness into a busy, committed, even hectic mainland life."
I enjoyed this memoir and appreciate the author's motto, "Amor fati" -- love what is. For all of her preoccupation with her fears, she seems extraordinarily strong and resourceful: living off the land in a remote area with no modern amenities -- whew! 
I found plenty of imagery to work with: the water, the sunsets, wild roses around the cabin, berries, shells, starfish, pearls, and the pink piano!  Here is my "beach cottage" bracelet, with freshwater pearls, sterling silver "wild rose" clasp and starfish bead, rose quartz, citrine, aquamarine (blue rondelles and green briolettes), quartz crystals, tiny ruby, and gold vermeil shell.

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook
to see more creations, and check out the links below:
Laurel Ross
Sarajo Spurgeon Wentling
Jessica Beebe

July's Selection: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green description:

"Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our stars is award-winning-author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love."
This is my third time reading this novel (I'm a high-school librarian) and I've been moved each time (I was also pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the film). One of my favorite chapters is that in which Hazel and Augustus are treated to dinner and champagne at a fine restaurant on a canal in Amsterdam, with the spring snow (elm seeds) dropping all around them. I found pictures of the elm seeds online, and thought they resembled keishi (cornflake) pearls, so I made a pair of earrings with peach keishi pearls for the elm seeds, and little quartz crystals, to represent the bubbles in the champagne that Hazel and Gus enjoy.

Go to the Inspired by Reading Book Club on Facebook

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Inspired by Reading" Book Club, February & March 2016

"Inspired by Reading" is a book club established by artist Andrew Thornton. Members read the month's selection, chosen by Andrew, then create something inspired by the book. 

 February's selection: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle review:

"Fifty years ago, Madeleine L'Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe. When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil -- a journey that threatens their lives and our universe. A Newbery Award winner, A Wrinkle in Time is an iconic novel that continues to inspire millions of fans around the world. ..."

I read this for the first time when I was in the seventh grade, and loved it, especially the characters Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, those otherworldly fighters against an indifferent evil. This time around, some aspects of the book struck me as dated, but the battle for Charles Wallace's soul between IT and the children still resonated powerfully: 

" 'Mrs. Whatsit loves me; that's what she told me, that she loves me', suddenly she knew. She knew! Love. That was what she had that IT did not have."

I decided I'd like to represent the love of Mrs. Whatsit, which was so great that she'd given up her former life as a star in order to fight the Dark Thing. When a massive star "explodes", the result of the supernova is often a nebula (full disclosure: I'm married to a former Physics teacher). While browsing NASA's nebulae images, I found this image of the Trifid Nebula...

 ...which brought to mind one of Barbara Metzger's Basha beads that I had tucked away in my stash. I attached it to a bronze bail with some gold wire, and strung it with bronze seed beads, African bronze beads, and rondelles of fire opal, peridot, and amethyst to make this necklace.

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.  I was wondering how to do justice to that Basha bead! It really is spectacular, with shifting tones of green, gold, orange, coral, and purple; it seems to be lit from within. 

Sorta like Mrs. Whatsit --the soul of a star.

Check out others' creations:

Ann Schroeder

Alison Herrington
Sarajo Wentling
Laurel Ross

Melissa Trudinger
Dawn Berkebile

March's selection: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova review:

"Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, has a perfectly ordered life-- solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when the renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes Marlow's patient.
When Oliver refuses to talk or cooperate, Marlow finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this silent genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

Moving from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope."

I enjoyed this story. While at times it seemed overlong, the mystery kept me reading; and I really enjoyed the sections about painting (though I've never picked up a brush, myself). I found the historical aspects painlessly informative; I enjoyed researching the artists mentioned and studying their paintings. I considered the ending a bit mundane. I thought perhaps there would be another reason for Robert's obsession with Beatrice, other than her beauty and her talent -- maybe she was his ancestor, or he'd met her in a stint of time travel... anyway. Perhaps I've read too many paranormal YA novels over the past few years, and it's warped me.

As movement and light are so essential to impressionist painting, I decided to make a pair of earrings from micro-faceted gemstones.  I wire-wrapped onion shaped prasiolite briolettes at the end of gold chain, embellished with wire-wrapped amethyst, pink amethyst, blue topaz, tanzanite, and prasiolite roundelles: voila! Monet water lily earrings!

Check out others' inspired creations:

Ann Schroeder
Sarajo Wentling

Dawn Berkebile
Melissa Trudinger
Laurel Ross

There are more (including Andrew's) on the "Inspired by Reading" Facebook page.