Friday, 29 March 2013

Getting Yourself a Thesaurus

I’m just after learning something from reading the preface to my own thesaurus; “The word thesaurus comes from the Greek word thesauros meaning ‘storehouse’ or ‘treasure’.” Which in my experience, I have found to be very true. In fact, I would say it is a storehouse of treasure that I get value and joy out of every day.

I own the ‘Oxford Thesaurus of English’ and it was given to me a number of years ago as a Christmas present from my parents. It is a huge hard-backed tome. When I tore off the wrapping paper I let out a shriek of delight and hugged this giant book, much to the bemusement of the rest of my family.

I know they all thought I was a little weird to be so ecstatic over getting a book of words. But I had been writing as part of my art work for some time and I felt that I was sometimes lacking the vocabulary I needed to fully express myself. I’ve been a reader for a long time so my vocabulary isn’t bad but I was finding that I was a little repetitive in my word usage. I have also found that in terms of spelling I don’t have great memory retention so it helps to have an accurate spelling tool in the house.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my thesaurus. I find it genuinely helpful and so I do whole-heartedly recommend getting one. In my edition there is a brilliant Wordfinder section. It gives list of words, like Fascinating Words- e.g. ‘apple-knocker, US informal, an ignorant or unsophisticated person’, or ‘sternutator, something that causes sneezing.’ There are Archaic Words, words that are no longer in everyday use- e.g. ‘fandangle, a useless or purely ornamental thing’ or ‘rapscallion, a mischievous person.’ There are lists of all kind of animals and birds from an Adjutant-Bird to a Yellowhammer. There is a list of art movements from Abstract to Vorticism. There are lists of cakes from Almond cake to Zuppa Inglese. There are lists of insects from an Agrion to a Yellow-Jacket. There are lists of words for most categories you can think of, it is an amazing resource.

I know you are probably all shouting, ‘Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert!’ by this time but I honestly don’t care. Word power gives me great joy and I do think it is a great gift for anyone.

All that’s left for me to say is I wish you a happy, a content, a cheerful, a merry, a joyful, a jovial, a gleeful, a glowing and a rapturous Easter and I hope that you eat, consume, devour, gobble, nosh, put away, tuck into and scoff many, many chocolate eggs!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Collins Wild Guide: Insects

Author: Bob Gibbons

Published by HarperCollins

When working on a new project, you can’t beat putting your hand out and finding your favourite resource book to get you started. In the case of the Threadbare Bug Collection, I have used this guide book over and over again.

I have mentioned it before while discussing my process. My copy is pocket-sized (I suppose for easy transport if you are out on an insect hunt) and has a plastic cover, like a library book. Everything about it is practical, the photographs are not very large inside but there is a broad catalogue of insects. Flicking through the pages instantly gives you access to a whole range of inspiration.

I know in this technical era I could type “insects” into an image search and have a world of insects at my finger tips (I do use this resource sometimes). But I really do love having the book to hand. I like that I can draw straight from the pages, I can mark them and come back later on. I know things will stay the same and won’t be constantly reshuffling.

I have also found that there is helpful written information in these kinds of books. You can give yourself a brief education about your visual interest. You may find out that the female variety of insect has extra stripes or the male has a shorter body. This may inform your design decision-making depending on what you are trying to convey.

Sometimes I will see an image in the book that isn’t quite right for the current project I am working on but on another day it will be perfect. I will scurry upstairs, pull out the book and sigh with satisfaction. There it is, just waiting for me, a helpful hand disguised as paper, print and photograph.

I highly recommend investing in such books if there is a recurring theme or interest that develops in your work. A visit to your local library may also prove incredibly fruitful. I have bought some resource books that, on the surface, have seemed like they would suit my needs but in reality, they just sit on the shelf. By borrowing a book from the library, you can spend some time with it and see if you feel it would be valuable to have a copy of your own.

All photographs supplied by Natural Image
Artwork by Christina Hart-Davies  
Text and photographs copyright Bob Gibbons

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Secret Garden

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden was first published in serial form in 1910 by a publication called The American Magazine. The entire book was first published in 1911 by Fredrick A. Stokes in New York and by Heineman in London.

The Main Players: Mary Lennox, Mrs. Medlock, Mr. Craven, Marta, Dickon, Colin, Ben Weatherstaff, and lets not forget The Robin.

Plot Lines: A terrible illness, a forgotten orphan, a sea voyage, the orphan meets the housekeeper, another journey, this time, across a moor, a distant uncle, a new home with its fair share of secrets, a hidden relation, a forgotten piece of earth, a nosy robin, new friends- of the two and four legged variety, fresh air & magic, some good advice, hard work & miracles and a family reunion.

A Personal Note: As I was showing you my “Ceremonial Passage” reading shawl on Tuesday, I thought I would recommend one of the books I used as inspiration for that piece. I bought a second-hand copy of The Secret Garden when I was a young girl. I still have it now; it is just a fairly regular Classics paperback with a sky blue trim and a picture of the famous garden on the front cover. I think this is one of the first books that made a deep impression on my soul. I loved the imperfect sad protagonist. I loved the old manor house with its mysteries and locked rooms. I loved the cast of characters who slowly got closer and closer to Mary. I think the thing that moved me the most was the story of transformation. A forgotten child discovers a forgotten landscape that mirrors her inner loss. She then lovingly tends to it and so, tends to herself. It develops & grows and she with it. A story of sour and spoiled grief transmuted into beauty and natural healing. I’ve also posted a drawing I made of The Robin with the slogan “Mary Lennox is my Hero”. She really is my hero. She, as a character, was dealt a difficult hand but she does not let it destroy her whole life. She works, she tries and she makes mistakes. With the help of others, she doesn’t close down, she becomes creative and engaged. She transforms her life from a dry and barren desert into a lush and growing garden. 


First book cover image copyright of Puffin Books
Second book cover image copyright of Jillian Tamaki, commissioned by Penguin Classics Deluxe
Third book cover image copyright of Penguin Classics
Fourth book cover image copyright of Puffin Classics  

Friday, 8 March 2013


profiles + projects
from knitting’s
new wave

Author: Sabrina Gschwandtner

Published in 2007 by Steward. Tabori & Chang.
An imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

This excellent resource book is a great mash-up between an exploration of knitting in a current and modern context and interesting projects contributed by all 27 “artist-crafters” profiled in KnitKnits pages.

I am particularly interested in this because Sabrina Gschwandtner initially wanted to create…
“…a zine, a new art project, and a way of exploring the link between knitting and fine art practices like sculpture and performance….”

I like the expansive view she takes of knitting and its involvement in not only the craft world, but in the art world too.

Kiriko Shirobayashi travelled with Gschwandtner to take photographs of the featured women and men in “settings that represent where and how these knitters live and work”.

When I want to start a new project or I am looking for encouragement to keep going, I will often look at books like this. I feel it shows a world not bound by convention, it shows a world full of experimentation, skill and self-expression. I’ll let the author herself have the last word on what KnitKnit is all about.

“This book is not just a presentation of knitters and their projects; it is also a profile of a medium as it exists today. Knitting can be clothing, gift, sculpture, therapy, protest, graffiti or performance… choose.”

*All quotes were taken from the introduction to “KnitKnit” by Sabrina Gschwandtner
Front cover photograph: Debora Small
Jacket design: Kevin O’Neill
“Knitted teacups and saucers” by Debbie New, photographs by Kiriko Shirobayashi.
 KnitKnit #6 zine by Sabrina Gschwandtner

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Sense and Sensibility

Author: Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility was anonymously published in 1811.
It was the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be published.

The Main Players: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood (sisters), Mr. Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, Mr. John Willoughby, Miss. Lucy Steele, Mrs. Jennings.

Plot Lines: A sudden bereavement, a visiting relation, a remove to the country, money matters, suitable and unsuitable affairs of the heart, several disappointments, a trip to town, a teenage pregnancy revealed, some timely manipulation and a final resolution.

A Personal Note: I have mentioned Sense and Sensibility before on Too Folk To Be Cool, so I thought it would be apt for it to be the first up on my new *Recommends* segment. I Love Sense and Sensibility, it is one of my favourite books. I read it or listen to it on audio book fairly regularly and I never stop delighting in its well woven tale.
I am also a huge fan of the 1995 film adaptation by Emma Thompson, which was directed by Ang Lee. To read or watch I don’t think you can get any higher in entertainment value.     

First image copyright Pocket Penguin.
Second image anonymous.
Third image copyright Richard Wilkinson.
Fourth image copyright Coralie Bickford-Smith.