It's finally here, the offical date of release for my book, March 11! In honor of the occasion, I thought it might be fun to talk a little bit about how the vision for this book came to be. In between, I have added a few previews from the book.
(Pot handle covers in Spring chapter)
Believe it or not, this book, or at least the idea for it, actually began almost three years ago. I had worked together with photographer EJ Armstrong on a few projects and we'd developed a great working relationship. I proposed to her my idea of wanting to do a craft book of some kind. She was intrigued and interested in persuing it together. So, through continued discussions and small snatches of time, we began working on this book "in our spare time" (ha!). With long spread sheets, inspiration images I've collected over the years, and color palettes, I would work on a set of projects for several weeks, then would take them to the studio to be photographed on the first slow day they had. It was easy to get lazy because there was no one on our backs to keep on track (a few people thought it was just a fun little project that EJ and I were doing for fun.) I still have the original emails from those early days where we were declaring "let's get back on track with this project, let's not let it fall through the cracks!" The delayed "payoff" (both literally and figuratively) of a book can be hard to accept when you're trying to make money, be profitable, and grow your business. But I believed in this project, and luckily EJ did too.
The pieces of my original book idea came together very organically. Early on, EJ and I developed "mission statements" and guidelines that everyone involved closely adhered to throughout the process. This, along with Xiaonan, EJ's in house designer extraordinaire, kept everyone involved up to speed on our chosen aesthetic path, and also kept us from having to explain ourselves each time a new set of projects made their way to the photography studio.
(Hand-loomed placemats from Spring chapter)
The book needed to be-
1. Laid out in a way that closely resembles the way I find inspiration to make things in my own life. I am strongly inspired by the way each season changes the flow of our house... how we use rooms differently in winter versus summer, how and when, throughout the year, it feels good to change things up on surfaces, etc. I wanted the book laid out in four chapters- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Within each of the chapters are projects that are inspired by that season. In Summer, there is a Summer picnic blanket. In Winter, there is both a quilt and a knitted blanket project. There are flower projects in the Spring because I tend to be drawn to make flowery things during that time of year.
(Trinket bowls from Summer chapter)
2. Each season's chapter has a strong color palette. Again, I am (as most of us) strongly inspired by color. I took a close look at my own collection of favorite books, the ones I turn to for inspiration. I love books that convey a clear message of color, and this is a huge part of why I pull these books off the shelf over and over. Sometimes, in fact, its not even the projects within the pages themselves, but more often the color, feel, and mood of the book. This "research" gave me a clear sense of what I wanted the Wise Craft book to be. Each season had to have a very clear color palette, and each season had to be very different from the others.
Spring is the palette-cleansing neutrals of indigo, burlap, cream. (This was always the Spring palettes I used in the apparel design industry and I guess it's stuck with me.)
Summer is full of sundrenched pinks, sherbet oranges, and sunshiney yellows...
Fall is updated harvest shades of deep pea green, golds, and rosy reds...
Winter (my favorite palette) is full of periwinkle blues, reds, whites, woolen grays...
Color cards were created for each section. If a photoshoot was scheduled, these color palettes were always out to remind us of the mood of that chapter.
(Handpainted Notebooks from Summer chapter)
3. I wanted this book to be called Wise Craft. Frankly, I didn't know if any publisher would go for it, but I sure hoped they would. Thankfully Running Press did!
Why Wise Craft? Well, it's pretty simple. Back in 2005, when I was starting this weird, but interesting thing (something just for myself) called a blog, my husband Peter threw out the name Wise Craft as a possible name because he has always had a knack for naming things. And because I don't have that same knack, I went with it. Since those early days, Wise Craft has come to define not only my blog's address, but my creative life. Wise Craft has, I hope, become synonymous with thoughtful, colorful, aesethically pleasing, modern handmade things made by myself and you, my readers.
When it came to a title for a book by me based on these same philosophies, what else made as much sense?
(Summer Sherbet Picnic Blanket illustrated by Lisa Congdon)
(Halloween plates from Fall chapter)
4. The book had to have accessible projects. I have creative women (and men) in my life who don't realize or think they are creative. "I wish I had the patience to do....", "I wish I could do....", "I wish I had the time....." My hopes are that this book shows the reader that a) not all projects are time consuming b) one quick project hopefully gives an inspirational jolt to do another c) the reader doesn't have to have mastered a particular skill to be able to make something they are proud of.
(Sweater lampshade from Fall)
5. As much bang for the buck as possible. Each chapter has 15 projects, so 60 projects in all. I wanted to pack as many projects in there as possible. It was a lot of work, but it was worth every minute! That's what I want from the craft books I buy for myself!
(Faux taxidermy from Fall chapter)
6. It had to have quilts. I adore quilt making. It's at the forefront of what I do. There is a quilt project at the end of each chapter. They are not always conventional quilts, but I think that's what makes them fun.
(Pegboard tree from Winter Chapter)
7. It had to have beautiful photography. Enough said, EJ and her team know their stuff. They are right here in Seattle, so I was lucky enough to be at every photoshoot. I helped style the photos, and am just out of camera range in every one of those photos (sometimes in frame, as in the case of the "Gathering Bunting" project in Fall). That is unusual for many craft authors, and I feel extremely lucky that I was able to be that closely involved in the photography process.
(Knitted swatch blanket from Winter chapter.)
8. It had to have an eye-catching cover. The details of any book's cover are anguished over and this one was no exception. There were several versions tossed around before we settled on the final one we present to you. I have to thank EJ again for making the call on this cover. She suggested an idea, and we set about to create it, at the 9th hour. I created letters from the fabrics and materials used throughout the book, and they were placed on a a vintage sail that EJ had in the studio. Through a series of "move this one up "just a tad", "nope, back down half a tad", this cover was shot in a couple of hours. Getting those letters in the right place was painstaking, funny but true. And yep, I was just out of camera range that day too.
(Whoville trees from Winter chapter)
9. It had to combine all sorts of hand crafts. Again, in my own life, I crochet, paint, knit, quilt, and add glitter. All the time. My hope is that future books can go deeper into each of these hand crafts.
10. It needed illustrations. This one worried me a bit. I didn't want step out shots of the projects. Not for this book, it wouldn't work. Plus I don't like the way they look aesthetically in most cases, and this book is supposed to be visually inspiring, right? Plus, most of the projects are so simple, illustrations are not necessary. (Don't get me wrong, in many books, these sort of shots are necessary to explain technical steps.) There were a few projects where some sort of illustration would be helpful, which is where longtime friend Lisa Congdon came into the picture. She and I have known each other since those very early blogging days and it was a treat to work with her on an "official" basis. Again, as the author, I was lucky to work closely with Lisa to really give her context for what she was drawing. I remember how fun it actually was to get to this point in the process, and I probably typed emails to her with a lot of exclamation points.
I am giving away 3 copies of Wise Craft, just leave me a comment on this post to be eligible to win.
I am thinking of celebrating with ice cream. I say you should too!