Fun fact: my father is a soil scientist. Which means that I grew up around rocks and dirt. In addition to spending family vacations hiking and camping, a great deal of my childhood involved accompanying my dad (and often his graduate students) on field trips to dig soil pits in order to study the various soil layers. Also included in my childhood were field trips to Christmas tree farms, T-shirts with silly songs about soil on the back (and yes, you can purchase your own T-shirt right here if you’d like to show your support for Wisconsin’s state soil, the Antigo silt loam), greeting my dad at the airport after his annual six-week trips to Antarctica (he brought back the best souvenirs: brilliant opals from Antarctica, penguin and koala toys, exotic storybooks from his layovers in Christ Church, New Zealand, stories about camping out in the field for weeks on end), and visiting my dad’s lab where we would admire the rock samples and count the age of trees from slices of their trunks. When I was in middle school I knew how to measure the height of a tree, how to take a core sample from trees and the soil, and how to dig a latrine in the forest.
So when my friend Jessica Pigza, a rare books librarian at the New York Public Library, asked me to contribute to her fabulous Bibliocraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guilde to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects my very first thoughts jumped to soil profile maps and geological maps. I find the whole national park aesthetic weirdly inspiring. Maybe it’s a little Wes Anderson influence, I don’t know. But I knew I wanted to do something along those lines, so I asked Jessica to pull some materials in that vein.
One of the great things about Jessica is that she always goes the extra mile with enthusiasm. She’s helped me with a lot of projects over the years, and she’s fearless about tackling some pretty odd requests. I asked for Scandinavian children’s books a few years ago when I was working on a fabric collection that hasn’t quite materialized (no pun intended), and she came through in a huge way. (One of these days I’ll find the time to finish that collection.) Jessica has located all sorts of amazing inspiration for me over the years, and for this project she came up with a fantastic array of choices, not just in realm of soil profiles. She also knew that I’d get all excited about some of the other materials she’s unearthed (again, no pun intended–well, maybe a little). One of those items was an old book about teaching sewing to young girls. The samples that were bound into the book were absolutely stunning; the stitches were so tiny I honestly couldn’t distinguish them, even with the magnifying glass Jessica thoughtfully provided.
You might remember Jessica, actually. She hosts the library’s Crafternoon events, and she sews. In fact, she sews for herself (witness: this fabulous Lisette Passport Dress and a very clever rendition of the Oliver + S School Photo Dress for herself.)
Anyway, suffice to say that I love Jessica. And her book is sheer genius. It’s a thorough explanation about finding inspiration materials at the library, and it includes twenty darling projects that were inspired by materials at the library and were designed by all sorts of people you know and love: Heather Ross, Grace Bonney, and others. The first part of the book explains how to use the library to find inspirational materials, and after each project Jessica talks about the inspiration for that particular project.
When Jessica handed me a copy of the finished book I was completely blown away with the design of the book, too. It fits the theme perfectly: card catalog title page, etc. Sheer genius. But what else would you expect from an editor like Melanie Falick?
I’m proud to be part of this gem of a book.