Biblio Bling · Exploration

Biblio Bling in the Works

My Etsy shop at The Merry Monk is getting some new additions in the category of Biblio Bling.  Biblio Bling features handmade pieces of wearable art inspired by my favorite books and authors.

The Inspiration

I’ve been a book nerd all my life so wanting to create and wear something that reflects my love of books is a natural for me. My first job was working at a public school library for 25 cents an hour, and I hoarded that meager pay to buy books. Back before libraries caught on to the whole library sale idea, they would burn the books that were removed from circulation. I begged to take some home and swore an oath on a stack of dilapidated books that I would never return them accidentally to the library – a sin close to but not quite as bad as the Original.  My favorite copy of The Wind in the Willows comes from that haul. It’s not a valuable book bound as it is in sturdy library cloth and covered with old stickers, but it has the most glorious, thick paper. I don’t want to read any other; just sniffing the pages takes me back to my youth.

Alice in Wonderland is the first book Im using to inspire this line. My previous post, How Alice in Wonderland Saved my Life, provides some background for that choice.

To whet your whistle, here are a few illustrations that I love from Alice:


The Process

To begin, I brainstormed ideas based on images in the books. To organize all my ideas, I created a mood board so that I could have a visual reference to help me stay focused and to which I could  refer as I shopped for findings and other pieces to use in this collection. I created several mood boards with different colors schemes for different characters. Here is Color Scheme 3 from my Alice collection:

Alice Mood Board Scheme 3


Pattern Curator was the source for the color scheme and floral patterns above. If you don’t know about Pattern Curator, head  over to their website and sign up for their emails.  You’ll love their fabulous print and color inspiration.

The Parts

Because I want to incorporate words as well as images into my pieces, my biggest challenge has been to find a way to do that in the best shape and size. I settled on using metals blanks and dominoes to begin. Here are a few I’ve created so far:


Other components have come from B’Sue Boutiques including the  brass charms you see in the mood board above.

The glass pieces at the bottom of the mood board are supplied by my brother who makes the coolest glass components for jewelry making and other crafts.  Here a few of the non book-related pieces I’ve created with them.

And since I have a “thing” about paper, I know I’ll be using some of my handmade papers as well as text from Alice to create unique components.

Stay tuned for the final reveal of my complete line on April 14 when the Build A Line Challenge comes to a close and we reveal our completed line.

Have a suggestion for a book you’d like to see in Biblio Bling? Leave a comment below. I’m always looking for inspiration.  Just keep in mind that I cannot use any images from Disney, Dr. Who, or other copyrighted materials.

All photographs are the property of The Merry Monk Press and may not be re-used or copied without permission.

Exploration · Raw Materials

Raw Materials

Sometimes I wonder if making things is just an excuse to gather things. This is what is on my jewelry work table right now.  Pretty cool, huh?


I can’t stop running my fingers over these glass pieces. Their satin surfaces invite touch, and I hold them up to the light to peer through them with squinted eyes. How can I use these? Will I wire wrap them? What color wire will I use? Will I use them as a focal or as something else?  That skinny cobalt blue piece looks more like a closure for a book.  I’ll move it to the book work table.


And then there are these brass stampings. Out comes the magnifying glass to examine them. How will these surfaces catch and hold colors applied to them? What parts should I emphasize? How will I make these uniquely mine?

Do I need to keep that beetle for me? I think so.


And what about these papers – a minuscule part of what I’ve collected. Will these be useful in my project or should I put them aside for others? Do the textures play to what I want to create?


I like these tags; some have been filled with resin. Can I use them for this project? How?

When you buy something handmade, it’s easy to see the raw materials that were used but impossible to know all the decisions that went into making the piece.  And the most difficult decision of any project is saying “This is where I’ll start.”

For today, I’ll choose one of those spotted blue pieces of glass in the top photo.  It’s going to get two holes drilled into it.  Maybe it will be a bracelet; maybe a pendant.  This is where I’ll start.

Exploration · Raw Materials

Permission Granted

Several years ago, I took a collage workshop taught by Jonathan Talbot at Artiscape in Columbus, OH. Talbot began the class by handing around a piece of paper and telling us to tear off a small piece to use in class. He then asked us how old we thought the paper was. It was thick with a beautiful feel like old cotton. It showed some foxing – brown spots – that can form on paper, and it was printed in an old font that had left deep impressions. I knew from my experience as a book dealer that this paper was very old. Guesses for its age ranged from 50 – 250 years old. When Talbot told us that the paper was a page from a book printed in the 1600s, there was an audible gasp from everyone.

How could we dare to tear this up and use it? Wasn’t this something precious? Never be afraid, Talbot told us, to use your best materials in your work. There were knowing nods around the room. Each of us had precious supplies that sat unused. We needed to give ourselves permission, the consensus seemed to say, to use what we’d been hoarding.

I put my little scrap of 400 year-old paper into my work that day. You can see it in part of my collage below. It’s small and unremarkable. It took many months for me to realize, though, that the lesson was not that I was giving myself permission to use my best supplies, but that I was giving myself permission to thoroughly screw them up.

I have to understand and acknowledge that when I take the first cut in a piece of gorgeous, hand-marbled Italian paper I might possibly turn the whole project into a piece of garbage. Not through intent, but because that is the way art and learning work. What we set out to do isn’t always what we end up with. And that’s OK. What ends up in the garbage bin is sometimes just as valuable as what ends up on the wall or in the showcase.


Exploration · On The Reading Shelf

Visual Intelligence

During art class in fifth grade, our teacher would repeatedly say “You have to learn how to look.”  without saying anything more.  What was I looking for?  How was I supposed to do this?    I never had the courage to ask; I thought everyone but me knew what they were doing.

Amy E. Herman’s book Visual Intelligence:  Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life instantly intrigued me.   Herman conducts classes in visual perception that have been used by the FBI, Scotland Yard, NYPD, Department of Homeland Security, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine,  and other organizations where visual sharpness is required to perform jobs well.  An art historian and attorney, Herman helps her clients see what others do not, and these skills can translate to saving a life or saving a company.

To begin, Herman has us look at various paintings then look away and write down everything we observed.  What details did we catch and what did we overlook?  She relates the story of how a crime was ultimately solved by someone who noticed on security camera footage that the perpetrator’s pants had been turned inside out – a small detail that escaped the notice of experts for months. Next, Herman has us look at the words we’ve used to describe what we see in a painting.  Are they subjective or objective?  What’s the difference and why does it matter?   What biases are we bringing to our observations?  How do we learn to look objectively so that we can communicate to others what we are seeing?

Some of her suggested exercises are reminiscent of the game played in the novel Kim, and they are still useful today. In an age of constant distractions, learning what can we do to focus our attention is more pertinent than ever.  Her suggestions and methods will help make me more aware of what I observe.

If you would like to test your own visual perception, visit Herman’s website and take a short quiz.  Don’t miss scrolling down the page and reading the article How Distractions are Making Us Dumber.  There’s also a TED talk on How Art Can Help You Visualize.