Book Review: Find & Keep by Beci Orpin

Thursday, 1 November 2012



I was pretty excited when Hardie Grant recently sent me a copy of Beci Orpin’s new book, Find & Keep: 26 Projects to Spark Your Imagination, which is officially released today. As you may well know, Beci is a Melbourne designer and illustrator (some would even say she’s Australian design royalty!), famous for her use of colour and geometric patterns. This is her first foray into the world of book publishing, and I think it’s fair to say that she’s done a stellar job.

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At the heart of it, Find & Keep is an inspirational craft book, but it also offers a unique insight into Beci’s colourful world and her creative processes. The book is neatly organised into three main sections: Studio, Home and Out & About. Each section begins with an overview of Beci’s life and work around these three themes, and this is followed up by relevant crafty projects. In the first chapter Beci takes us on a tour of her studio, a space filled to the brim with books, art supplies, fabrics, paper scraps and numerous other bits and bobs. Beci then shares her home, which houses her treasured items from op shops, flea markets and hard rubbish, and in the final chapter we head out and about with Beci and learn how inspiration can be found virtually everywhere (be it via gardening, a picnic in the park or travelling overseas), and how important it is to leave the house every now and then for a fresh dose of visual stimulation. The tone of Beci’s writing is very conversational and casual, which I really like – it’s almost like reading her blog or hearing her speak.

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There are twenty-six projects included in the book, each graded according to difficulty, although the majority of projects are achievable to crafters at all levels. You can either choose to follow the step-by-step instructions or simply use them as a guide for your own crafty endeavors. Projects range from making pom poms and embroidery to creating paper garlands, a dream catcher, a giant confetti wall, recycled planters, a succulent garden and a bike basket. The book also includes some handy templates, which you can trace and use as the basis for the projects.

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Projects aside, Find & Keep is also a great visual inspiration. Flicking through its pages you are greeted with many images of Beci’s collections and home (Beci admits she’s a born hoarder), as well as snaps from the great outdoors. In fact, there are even some spreads dedicated solely to these special items. This makes for a nice pause every now and then, and it also means you can keep coming back and finding something new to catch your eye. The book’s layout is lovely and clean, with plenty of colour and easy navigation. Designer Michelle Mackintosh has done a great job. I also love the cover – it’s bright, colourful and full of visual interest, and certainly succeeds in piquing interest (I have the book propped up in my office simply because it’s nice to look at). The book is also a good size, big enough to lay open if you want to follow along with the tutorials (something that is often overlooked with craft tutorial books), and there is even a page of adorable stickers included at the end featuring some of Beci’s designs.



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Find & Keep is a fantastic craft book that offers practical tutorials as well as a peek into Beci’s creative methods, but I think what I like best is that, in it, Beci encourages readers to take inspiration from her world and projects and do their own thing. After reading Find & Keep my mind was brimming with ideas for projects that wanted to get started on, and it’s a resource I’ll no doubt be coming back to again and again for new ideas.



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Find & Keep: 26 Projects to Spark Your Imagination (Hardie Grant, RRP $39.95) by Beci Orpin is being released today, 1 November 2012. For more information about the book visit the Hardie Grant website, and for more information about Beci visit her website and blog.

Frankie Celebrates Fifty Issues

Thursday, 25 October 2012



Frankie magazine recently released its fiftieth issue, and have celebrated the milestone with this beautiful cover. The cover was apparently art directed by Frankie's creative director Lara Burke and hand embroidered by her mum, and features a range of household items and things that have been a focus of the magazine over the years. The cover is gorgeous, and the production values are also superb, with embossing on all of the stitched elements. They even went as far as to show the 'back' of the stitching on the inside cover, which is pretty genius. Here are a few photographs of the cover details and internals of issue fifty.

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Frankie has been going strong since 2004, which is a pretty big feat in the uncertain world of publishing. The Frankie team found a niche and developed their publication and brand, which has proved to be very popular and resulted in a strong local – and now international – readership (along with offshoots such as books and stationery). So well done to the Frankie team on fifty issues and let's hope they keep building on their success, as I can't wait to see what they do with issue 100! For more info and to purchase a copy of the new issue, check out the Frankie website. There's also a cute stop-motion video of the magazine's fiftieth issue celebrations here.

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Book Review: Conversations with Creative Women by Tess McCabe

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Writing a book is a big achievement, but writing, editing, designing, publishing and distributing a book is huge. And that’s exactly what designer and coordinator of the Creative Women’s Circle (CWC), Tess McCabe, has done. Conversations with Creative Women is a collection of interviews with fifteen creative Australian women. In putting the book together, Tess wanted to represent the CWC in a different way by offering a resource to those unable to attend events in person. She was also motivated to learn about how others strive to overcome their moments of creative self-doubt, as well as issues relating to creative inspiration and operating a successful business and career.

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The interviewees in Conversations with Creative Women come from a variety of creative industries including textile design, blogging, styling, jewellery making, consulting, fine art, graphic design, architecture, fashion design, millinery, writing, editing, music and retail. Each Q&A in the book offers a unique insight into how the interviewee started out in their particular field and the steps they’ve taken to make a success out of their creative talent. It’s particularly interesting to read about everyone’s varying backgrounds, and how they got to where they are today. There are plenty of other useful tips to be found too – Lucy Feagins’s advice on managing advertisers; Clare Lancaster’s advice on running an independent business; Maryann Talia Pau’s advice about embracing ancestry and culture; Kate Vernon’s advice about balancing motherhood and career; and Tess Lloyd and Maja Rose’s advice on running a successful creative partnership.

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Printed on lovely uncoated stock, the book features a nice, clean layout design and each interview is interspersed with images. Each chapter opener also features the work of talented female illustrators and graphic designers who were given a brief to illustrate their preferred interviewee’s full name in a creative, emotive way that was aesthetically sympathetic to the kind of work the interviewee is involved in. The results are fantastic, and add a lovely flavour to the book. Also included is an awesome letterpress scissor-shaped bookmark, courtesy of The Hungry Workshop.

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Conversations with Creative Women is a truly inspiring read, and has given me plenty of ideas and inspiration to incorporate into my own life. The book has been printed in a limited edition of 600 copies, so if you would like to purchase one, get onto it quick smart by visiting the CWC website.

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Book Review: Design*Sponge at Home

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

To say the release of Design*Sponge at Home has been eagerly anticipated is a bit of an understatement. With a massive global audience, Design*Sponge’s reach goes far and wide, and I certainly wasn’t the only one who was excited to hear that a book was in the works. Transforming a blog to the printed page doesn’t come without its difficulties, and I was interested to see how Grace and the Design*Sponge team would approach the task. There is a need to offer more to readers than what is available online, and thankfully Design*Sponge at Home delivers, with a good mix of the best of the blog combined with brand new content.

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The book brings together two of the biggest features of the blog – home inspiration and do-it-yourself projects. The first half is dedicated to sneak peeks, and the second half to DIY tips and projects. Each sneak peek provides a brief overview, accompanied by a series of photographs and captions that offer further detail and description, as well as decorating tips, advice and information on further resources. On occasion, key design pieces – such as the Tolix, Thonet and Butterfly chair – are highlighted and explained. The large majority of homes are from the USA, with the odd home from France, Australia, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands and Singapore included too. Because there is such a wide variety of decorating styles showcased, you’re sure to find something you like and can take inspiration from. Some of my favourites include Jill Robertson and Jason Schulte’s San Francisco home, Genifer Goodman Sohr’s Nashville home, Lyn Gardener’s Melbourne home, Heather Moore’s Cape Town home, Morgan Satterfield’s Hemet home and Shay-Ashley Ometz and Jeff Barfoot’s Dallas home.

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The DIY projects chapter presents twenty-five of Grace’s favourite posts from the Design*Sponge archives as well as twenty-five new projects from readers and contributors. Each project is broken down by time, cost (in US dollars) and difficulty. There are a variety of projects on offer, from wine crate display cases to citronella candles to a terrarium how-to (I’d like to give this one a go!). The following chapter walks readers through DIY basics, offering tips, tricks and techniques for improving furniture and parts of your home. An overview of basic tools and other essentials demonstrates what to include in your kit (it’s comforting to know I at least own a few of these items!), and the rest of the chapter offers advice on things like how to strip and paint wood furniture, hang wallpaper, sew a basic curtain and upholster furniture. This section of the book features cute illustrations by Brooklyn-based illustrator Julia Rothman. A flower workshop also walks readers through basic terms, tools, ideas and guidelines for arranging flowers. There are ten basic arrangements illustrating key lessons in floral design, as well as a series of arrangements that have been inspired by homes featured in the sneak peeks.

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Finally, a before and after chapter showcases fifty projects broken down by cost, time and difficulty. The majority of projects have been created within the constraints of time, budget and an average construction skill set, making them suitable for a wide variety of readers. The before and afters range from pieces of furniture through to room renovations and overhauls. The book ends with a resource guide, although the listings are generally US-centric.

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The book was designed by the team at ALSO, who have also been involved with the Design*Sponge blog design. The layouts are clean and easy to navigate, and each chapter features a pink ‘handmade’ opener incorporating pink ribbon (you can read about process here). On a total book nerd level, I’m a little unsure about the sturdiness of the uncoated stock that has been used on the cover, especially as this is such a large hardcover book of 400 pages (my copy was already a little battered after its journey in the post), but I do like the gold foiling effect. If you’re interested in reading about the cover design process, check out Grace’s post here. It offers a good insight into the steps that can sometimes goes into getting a book cover right finalised.

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I was brimming with ideas after reading this book, and can’t wait to try out a few things in my own home. I can also see myself picking it up and flicking through whenever I’m after a bit of decorating inspiration. I leant my copy to my dad (who considers himself to be a bit of a DIY enthusiast, although he doesn’t always finish the projects he starts!) to read when he was visiting the other week, and he enjoyed looking through the sneak peeks and project ideas too.

Even though Design*Sponge is a massive team effort, it’s also clear that this is a personal book, and Grace’s enthusiasm and love for design clearly shines through every page. And the biggest thing to take away from this book is one of Grace’s main objectives: that design – good design – should be accessible to all.

Design*Sponge at Home is out now in Australia through Hardie Grant Books. Grace and the Design*Sponge team will be coming to Sydney and Melbourne on their book tour in 2012. Exciting! Stay tuned to Design*Sponge for the announcement.

Book Review: The Stylist's Guide to NYC by Sibella Court

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

While I don’t have any immediate plans to visit, New York City is pretty high up on my travel wish list (all that’s really stopping me is time and lots of spending money...). But when I do finally get to visit, I’ll at least be in-the-know when it comes to all of the cool places to shop and visit thanks to Sibella Court’s new book, The Stylist’s Guide to NYC.

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The Stylist’s Guide to NYC is a travel guide with a difference. Sibella, a well-known Sydney-based interior stylist and owner of The Society Inc, previously worked in New York City for ten years, and here she shares her favourite places, shops, cafes, services, galleries and markets to visit. The book is organised into nine themed chapters — Scents & Flower Merchants, Oddities & Curiosities, Jewellery & Hardware, Haberdashery & Handmade, Drapers & Upholstery, Art & Objects, Paper & Art Supplies, Kitchen & Table Paraphernalia and Furniture & Interiors. Each chapter is then organised by ‘loops of interest’, which means you can start at point A and work your way around a certain part of NYC until you reach point Z. This is a really great way of organising all of the information this book contains, and it also means that as the end-user, you can pick and choose where you want to go when visiting NYC and not have to back-track or go around in circles.

Each chapter starts with a map, with key destinations numbered on the map, and this number then corresponds with the entries in the chapter. Each entry has a description with contact details, useful information on what you might find in stock and often details about the owner/s. Sibella also offers her suggestions on where to refuel and grab a bite to eat when in the area, and there are often break-out spreads that focus on a particular shop in more detail. The book ends with a useful resources section that includes two indexes — one with shops (and their contact details) organised alphabetically, and one with shops organised by zipcode.

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The content of the book aside, what I find really exciting about The Stylist’s Guide to NYC is the design concept. There’s a tactile, embossed hard cover (with a red elastic bellyband to keep it all together), and when you open the book up you’re greeted with brown endpapers, something I’ve never come across before and absolutely love, and a pocket on the front inside cover that houses a lovely fold-out map of NYC, also printed on brown paper. The book is packed full of Sibella’s own photographs, and the internal design really translates the idea that this book is a personal journal, via layered paper tears and lined notepapers (and the elastic band keeping it all together). The design was developed by Murdoch Books in-house designer Rueben Crossman, winner of the 2008 Best Young Designer of the Year at the APA Book Design Awards, and designer of Sibella’s previous title, Etcetera (which won Best Designed Book of the Year in 2010). With accolades like, it’s really no surprise that The Stylist’s Guide to NYC, aside from being a lovely book to read, is also a really lovely object to own and admire.

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The Stylist’s Guide to NYC is out now, published Murdoch Books (288pp, hardcover, 210 x 140mm, ISBN: 9781742661087).

Book Review: Decorate

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ok, so unless you’ve been living under a rock you most probably will have heard about this book. It has to be one of the most anticipated interiors books in like... well, forever. UK publisher Jacqui Small was definitely onto a good thing when they signed this book up, and while they probably knew it would do well, it's unlikely they thought it would receive such a massive response. And while there are already hundreds of Deorate reviews out there, I thought I'd offer my two cents today too...

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Decorate is written by design blogger extraordinaire Holly Becker of decor8, along with writer and editor Joanna Copestick and photographer Debi Treloar. It’s a lovely, big, hardcover book filled to the brim with over a thousand decor ideas. The book is split into four sections. Section 1 concentrates on space, and how to use it; Section 2 is all about different decorating styles (such as natural style, modern style, floral style, etc.); Section 3 concentrates on different rooms (kitchens, living spaces, bedrooms, etc.); and Section 4 is about home details (mirrors, lighting, flowers, etc.). There are numerous design tips for working with what you have rather than starting from scratch, which as as as a renter is something I appreciate. Sketched floorplans help to put rooms into context, and there are plenty of bullet point lists, which offer bite-size, easy-to-digest advice. This sort of feature is so useful in a big book like this, as it means you can dip in and out rather than having to read from cover to cover. There are also numerous quotes from designers, homeowners and bloggers spread throughout that offer tidbits of advice.

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Aside from offering practical, how-to information, with over 400 colour photographs, Decorate also offers plenty of visual inspiration. Some of the homes showcased are used as case-studies to demonstrate or explain a point, while other images offer different examples. There is a diverse range of homes on display, and while not every one may appeal, there will no doubt be something included that fits with your own personal aesthetic or style. My favourites would have to be Virginia Armstrong of Roddy & Ginger’s gorgeous mid-century London home and Yvonne Eijkenduijn of Yvestown’s white and floral Belgium home, but there are plenty of others to choose from.

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Putting together a 288-page fully-illustrated book is no easy feat, and it’s clear to see that a lot of work has gone into this book. It’s an extremely useful resource, and one that I will no doubt turn to time and again for reference as I undertake my own decorating adventures.

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Decorate is out now via Murdoch Books in Australia, Jacqui Small in the UK and Chronicle Books in the USA.

Book Review: Toy Cameras, Creative Photos

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Ok, so this book review is admittedly biased from the outset. Not only did I use to work for the publisher, but a few of my photographs are included in the book (yeah, look at me tootin’ my own horn!). But hey, this is a good book and I make the rules around here, so I thought I'd post a review!

Toy Cameras, Creative Photos: Unique Stylistic Results from 40 Plastic Cameras (176pp, flexibind, 203 x 203cm) does exactly what it says on the tin. It walks readers through 40 different plastic cameras, listing specifications and details and featuring a gallery of images for each. The book is written by Kevin Meredith (aka Lomokev), a photographer, teacher, Flickr celebrity, all-round lomography expert and author of Hot Shots and 52 Photographic Projects. In writing the book, Kevin got his hands on all 40 cameras and road tested them to see what they could do. As a result, the book is filled with Kevin’s fantastic photographs, but there is also a healthy mix of contributor photos in there to balance things out.

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In terms of structure, each camera is shown along with its specifications (medium, ISO range, lens, focus, flash, aperture, shutter speed, similar cameras and variant models), and a description of the camera and what it can do (as well as some useful tips). This is then followed by the gallery of images. There are a lot of images on show, so it’s the type of book that you could pick up and flick through when you’re after some inspiration for your own photography adventures.

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If you’re a toy camera/lomography enthusiast, then be warned that after looking through this book you will probably want to own at least half a dozen new cameras. I have a very small camera collection, but now I want to own even more! Must resist...

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With all of the lovely photography on show, it’s probably a little sad (and definitely very book nerdy of me) to admit that my favourite thing in the book are the endpapers, which show the whole camera collection in all its glory. Very nice!

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Toy Cameras is published in the UK and Australia by RotoVision and in the USA by Chronicle Books (titled Fantastic Plastic Cameras: Tips and Tricks for 40 Toy Cameras).

Book Review: Spaces

Monday, 21 March 2011

Apologies for the lack of post on Friday. I had one of those mornings from hell, and then the Mr and I popped over to visit some dear friends of ours in Hobart for the weekend, which was a nice distraction from the aforementioned hellish morning! Hobart was lovely, so stay tuned for my little trip round-up later this week. How are you though? I hope that you had a relaxing weekend.

I wanted to start this week off by making a little confession... For someone who works in book publishing, I really don’t read as many books as I should, or would like to. I know, the shock and controversy. It’s just that sometimes, after a day of trying to make sense of a messy manuscript, the last thing I want to do when I get home in the evening is open up a book. Sometimes it’s hard for me to turn off that little switch in my brain; to remember that reading can be a form of pleasure, joy and escapism.

Having said all of this, I do love books and there is a reason that I do what I do. Over the past couple of years I’ve come to understand books and how they function and work in ways I never knew existed, so I’d like to start injecting a little bit of that knowledge into this here blog by talking about books—specifically design and decorating books—every now and then. There are a few books that have been slowly gathering dust on my bookshelf that I’ve meaning to share with you for a while, so I figure now’s as good a time as any to do just that. I hope you’re still with me and haven’t wandered off in boredom by now...

I wanted to kick things off with a book that I requested for Christmas, and which my dutiful family kindly obliged—Spaces: Where Creative People Live, Work and Play by frankie magazine. If you’ve not heard of it before, frankie is a unique and lovely Australian magazine that covers all sorts of topics, from affordable fashion to design, photography and crafts. After successfully publishing a photography book (The Photo Album) and couple of cute little cookbooks (Afternoon Tea and Sweet Treats), frankie decided to try their hand at an interiors-specific publication. The book is a collection of eclectic interiors from around the world, all presented in an oversized magazine-style format. The large size (245 x 320mm, portrait) might seem a little unwieldy at first, but the bonus of the large format means that there is plenty of room for the lovely photographs to shine. And there are plenty of lovely photographs on offer here—it’s a real visual feast.

The book is organised into different chapters, including the home and work space, the wall space, the studio space, the tea and coffee space and the living space. Each entry runs across a few spreads, which gives you a really good insight into that particular person’s world. It’s the images that really drive this book, but the text, which includes individual interviews written in a feature article or Q&A style, is consistent and well written and edited. The typography is lovely, and the design is clean and simple—just how I like it. The book is easy to navigate, and the way the content has been arranged means you don’t have to read from start to finish—you can dip in and out whenever you like, which is great for when you want a quick fix of visual inspiration.

In terms of content, there is a really good international mix here, with profiles from all around the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, the UK and the USA. Some of my favourite profiles include Allison Jones from Lark, Tonje Holand from Darling Clementine, Tif Fussell from Dottie Angel and Lizzie Evans from Smug, and I also enjoyed taking a tour of Rob Ryan’s studio and the Etsy headquarters. I generally just love having a peek into other people’s homes and workspaces, and Spaces is jam-packed with 256 pages of just that. And at $22.95, it’s an affordable sticky beak too. Overall, Spaces is a truly great read full of lovely and inspiring photographs. Even my Dad loved it!

Spaces is available for purchase in Australia through Morrison Online and via a bunch of bookshops and stockists (click here for details). frankie and it’s publications are also distributed in a variety of countries (visit the frankie site for stockist details), and if you’re an international customer you can also email Morrison Media and they will advise you of the shipping cost.

Spaces by frankie magazine

ISBN: 978-0-9805354-6-4

245 x 320mm

256pp

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