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

1 comment:

  1. You have been busy! I think my favorite is the ladder necklace.