September 2019

Illustration

In July and August I showed you the technique for physically making a couple of very simple books. This month, I’m looking at the process I go through when designing the content of a book.

For me, it all starts with the storyboard. I map out the number of pages in the book and draw them as double page spreads as it’s important that the pages seen together work together. This is a very rough process with little more than simple sketches at this stage. I may work through several versions of the layout before I refine the drawings in the storyboard, as in the image at the top.

This may involve working on individual pages within the overall storyboard.

Although the book might work within the storyboard, it isn’t until you produce a mock-up of the book that you can see how it will work on the actual page and if the design works as a whole.

Looking at these two pages, I didn’t feel the text was sitting comfortable with the images and so changed it for the next version of the book. It was quite a simple change, but it brought the images together within the design.

The mock-up also revealed that the text dominated the images in the final double-page spread and so I was able to adjust the relationship between the two to bring about a better balance between image and text.

These are pages from another book where the design initially focussed on the composition within each double-page spread, but then looked at how the layout and design worked as a whole.

Although much of the design is confined within the format of the double-page spread, it is a useful technique to have an element within the design spread over to the next page as the eye then leads the reader on to the next page.

This simple technique for planning the layout of an artist’s book is fundamental to the design process and can be as simple or as complicated as the final book you wish to produce.

Gardening

I’m a keen wildlife gardener and 2019 has been a fantastic year for butterflies. I took part in the Big Butterfly Count that was organised by Butterfly Conservation. The results of this citizens’ survey are now available on their website – which is a fantastic resource for lovers of butterflies and moths.

I also took the step of signing up to become a member. My membership pack arrived a couple of days ago and I was delighted to received a magazine full of outstanding photographs, plus lots of other guides on how to improve my garden for even more butterflies and moths.

I’m already looking forward to next year when I can take part in butterfly and moth related activities with my local branch here in Norfolk.

In the meantime, my annual order of bulbs have arrived from Clare Bulbs. I’ve already planted the snowdrops and the snakeshead fritillary – I’ll provide more details on my bulb planting in October’s blog.

Recipes

Courgette Cake is my favourite cake of all time – so don’t be put off by the thought of using vegetables in a cake. Instead, think ‘carrot cake’ but even more delicious! It’s super easy to make, dairy free (always useful to have in your repertoire) and probably one of the healthiest cakes going – plus it’s absolutely delicious.

This cake couldn’t be easier to make. Just put the ingredients into a bowl and stir well to mix.

Pour the contents into a lined 2lb loaf tin.

And bake in the oven.

Courgette Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients
175g plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g caster sugar
175g coarsely grated courgettes
75g walnut pieces, chopped
75g sultanas
175ml sunflower oil
2 medium eggs

You will need
a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper
a wooden or metal skewer

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly grease and line the loaf tin, or pop in a liner.
  3. Measure all the ingredients into a bowl, sifting the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in together.  Tip the bran remaining in the sieve into the bowl.  Stir with a large spoon until well mixed.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  Bake for 60-70 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.
  6. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Like many cakes, this is best made the day before you plan to eat it. It also freezes beautifully. Indeed, I often cut it into slices and, carefully wrapped, freeze the individual slices so that I’ve got a couple of slices for afternoon tea whenever I want.

Until October….

August 2019

Illustration

Concertina (or accordion) books are incredibly simple to make, require little in the way of equipment, yet provide for endless creative possibilities. Take a look in my online shop The Museum Shelves to see the many books I’ve made using this format.

Apart from paper, you only need a pair of scissors and some glue. For extra precision I like to use a scalpel and a ruler to cut out paper and also a bone folder to score and crease the paper. A good alternative to a bone folder is a knife from the cutlery drawer – just use the back (ie, blunt side) of the blade to score the paper and the handle to firm up the creases.

To make the pages of the book (known as the ‘book block’) simply fold/crease the paper to create alternating ‘valley’ and ‘mountain’ folds. You can make the pages any shape or size you want – the only restriction is the length of the piece of paper you are working with. This can easily be overcome by joining sections.

I prefer to join pages in a ‘valley’ fold as I find it is easier to hide the join at this point. You need to leave a tab at the end of the first strip of pages – about 1-2cm depending on the size of the pages.

Add glue to the tab on the left hand side and then align the pages on the new section and press firmly. Wipe away any excess glue.

The pages for my concertina books arrive from the printers on the roll. I first of all cut out the pages for an individual book.

I like to score the paper so that you get a good, crisp crease. To ensure the fold is at right angles to the edge of the paper I use the grid on a cutting book for guidance.

In theory, you should be able to go along the strip of paper scoring valley and mountain folds for creasing and end up with even pages . Inevitably, however, this results in pages that do not stack up exactly one on top of the other but have a tendency to creep in one direction or another. I get round this by only scoring and creasing the mountain folds. I then align the first mountain fold with the front edge of the paper which folds that section of paper exactly in half. I then place my fingers on the edge where the mountain fold is align and slip my bone folder under the top layer of paper so that I can crease the fold that is forming underneath.

I am somewhat of a perfectionist and, as I also sell my books, I need to make them to as high a standard as possible. Feel free to omit this refinement, or only adopt it once you have a made a few books and feel comfortable with the process.

You can just use the reverse of the front page to make a cover. I often do this when I’m making a mock-up of the books I design.

However, it is very easy to make a cover – and it does make it more book-like. To calculate the measurements for the cover you first need to decide by how much you want the cover to overlap the ‘book block’. I tend to allow about 0.25cm for the small books I make.

The width of the cover with will therefore be 2 x width of page plus 2 x width of overlap plus the width of the ‘spine’ (the middle part of the cover, which is determined by the depth of the book block). The height of the cover is 1 x height of page plus 2 x overlap. Note: there is no overlap allowed the side where the book block meets the spine of the cover.

I keep a record in my ‘Editions’ book of the size of the covers for each of my books.

While I often use PVA glue to join sections of a book together, I prefer to use double-sided tape to attach the book block to the cover. Alternatively, you can use something like Pritt. I prefer these options as there is no danger that ‘wet’ glue will make the paper in the front cover crinkle.

Attach a strip of double-sided tape (or used glue) on the reverse of the front page of your book on the side closest to the spine. Place the book block so that is aligned along the right hand side of the spine and has an equal overlap around the other three sides of the book block. Carefully close the cover so that the front and back cover edges are aligned.

The front page of the book will now be attached to the inside front of the cover. And that’s it!

Pages from my ‘Tulips’ concertina book

Next month I’ll look at how to plan the layout of a book by using storyboards and making mock-ups of your designs.

Gardening

Red Admiral butterfly

It’s been a fantastic Summer for butteries so I thought I’d take a moment to consider the best plants for attracting wildlife into your garden.

Painted Lady butterfly

Top of the list is the buddleja which is not called the butterfly bush for nothing! It will go on attracting Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies well into Autumn.

It’s also useful for providing food for bees too…

Meadow Brown butterfly

…as is Echinops, or globe thistle and…

Painted Lady

…of course, lavender.

Recipes

This month’s recipe is, appropriately enough in all this heat, from Morocco. This is a slight adaptation of the recipe I was kindly given by Fatima, the lovely chef at the fantastic Riad Le Calife in Fez.

Simple to make, these deliciously moist biscuits are perfect to eat sitting in the garden with some mint tea and memories of the fantastic holidays we’ve had in Marrakesh and Fez.

Coconut Ghriba

Makes 12 biscuits

1 large egg
50g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g desiccated coconut
50g semolina
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)
icing sugar 

You will need

1 baking sheet
non-stick liner or baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark four and line the baking sheet.

Place the egg, sugar, oil and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the desiccated coconut, semolina and baking powder and mix well.  Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to stand for 10 minutes (this gives the finished biscuits a lovely texture and makes it much easier to shape them). 

Put the orange blossom water (or just plain water) into a small dish and use to moisten your hands before picking up a walnut-sized piece of the dough and firming it into a ball shape. Flatten this slightly between your palms and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat until you have 12 equal sized biscuits

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes until pale golden around the edges and slightly soft in the middle – the biscuits will be tough if they are overcooked.  

Leave the biscuits on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes to firm up and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Lightly dust with icing sugar.

These biscuits keep well stored in an airtight container.

Until September…

July 2019

Illustration

The paper folding in my Turkish map fold book is not as hard as it looks. But today I thought I’d post the first of a series of ‘how to’ guides to book making with something a bit simpler.

I like this simple structure because it requires nothing more than a piece of paper and a pair of scissor.

Start by folding the paper in half lengthwise. Open the paper.

Now fold the paper widthwise and again open up the paper.

Take the outside edges and fold to the centre fold on both sides. Open up the paper. It’s a good idea to now go over these vertical creases and fold them in the opposite direction, before opening up the sheet of paper again.

Make a cut along across the two central sections of the horizontal crease. It is neatest to do this with al and ruler but it can also be done with a pair of pointed scissors.

Fold the paper closed with the cut edge along the top.

Stand the paper up so that the folded and cut edge are at the top. Gentle push the two side sections together and the central section will ‘open’ as shown above.

Start pulling the two side sections towards you…

…until they closed up and only a ‘spare’ section is left.

Finally, pull the ‘spare section’ around to the right hand side of your book. And that’s it, a simple eight-page booklet.

I find it useful to number the pages so that I still know the order of the pages when I open the book up to work on it.

What is particularly good about this format is that you can print the pages off on a standard printer because all the design is on one side of the paper. This allows for multiple editions. I often use this format to make small cookery books and even special birthday cards.

SUMMER SALE: I’m currently offering a 20% discount on ‘My Garden and Other Animals” – details are available in my online shop: The Museum Shelves on Etsy.

Gardening

I’m a huge fan of day lilies – or hemerocallis. They are wonderfully reliable plants that thrive on my heavy clay soil. When not in flower they produce mounds of healthy leaves that contrast with the other herbaceous perennials such as hardy geraniums. At this time of the year they put on a gloriously colourful display.

I’ve bought many of my plants from an extremely knowledgeable local plant nursery The Plantsman’s Preference who offer a lovely, friendly service if you’re able to visit the nursery in south Norfolk in person, as well as an online service.

Recipes

This is the recipe that convinced me that it’s worth making home-made biscuits! These biscuits are truly delicious – and very quick and easy to make. The name says it all – they contain satisfying chunks of chocolate, glacé cherries and a delightfully crumbly texture.

Chocolate Cherry Crumbles

Makes 9

125g softened butter or baking margarine
50g caster sugar
75g self-raising flour, sifted
115g porridge oats (not jumbo)
50g glacé cherries, quartered
25g dark, milk or white chocolate, chopped

You will need
1 baking sheet
butter for greasing or non-stick liner

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4/fan 160°C and lightly grease the baking sheet with butter or line it with non-stick liner.
2 Beat the butter and sugar together, either with a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
3 Stir in the flour, oats, quartered cherries and chopped chocolate with a wooden spoon until it forms a rough dough.
4 Divide the dough into 9 equal portions. Use your fingers to roughly shape the mixture into a ball and place on the baking sheet leaving room for the biscuits to spread. Flatten the biscuits slightly with your fingers.
5 Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are pale golden around the edges but still slightly soft in the centre. Leave on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to firm up and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
6 These will keep for several days if stored in an airtight container.

The uncooked dough will keep for a week in the fridge or for up to three months in the freezer: store in a plastic bag and defrost before using.

Until August…

June 2019

Illustration

The garden has been full of butterflies and bees this year. Having completed my ‘British Butterflies’ pop-up book in time for ‘turn the page’ I’m delighted to find that I can now identify the butterflies that visit the garden.

For the first time, I’ve made a simple concertina-fold version of the book. This has all the artwork and calligraphy of the pop-up version but is encased in a soft cover.

Both versions are available in my Etsy online shop The Museum Shelves The pop-up version at £40 and the concertina version, which comes in a pack with a postcard, at £15. There is free P&P in the UK.

I’ve also adapted the illustrations to make some rather fine greetings cards which are printed locally in Norwich. These are £3 each or 3 for £7.50 – again available from my Etsy shop and with free P&P in the UK.

Finally, I remembered to take a quick snap of some of my Etsy orders before taking them to the post office. It’s always really lovely to receive an order and I do enjoy wrapping them up beautifully so that they are a delight to to receive.

Gardening

The garden is full of the most delightful scents at the moment. A couple of star performers are the David Austin rose ‘Gentle Hermoine’ which has the most delicious fragrance, repeat flowering and a lovely old rose appearance of a wonderful shell pink.

Climbing over the arch and bathing the seating area with it’s delightful fragrance is this rambling rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’. This rose erupts at the start of June and puts on a wonderful display throughout the entire month.

And finally, it’s so pleasing when a design idea comes to fruition. I planted this grey-leaved crataegus so that it would catch the morning sun while the plants behind it would still be in shade, so throwing it into sharp relief. This ploy of having items of interest that pull the eye to different plants or structures within the garden is a technique for making a small garden look larger. While only quite spindly at the moment, this hawthorn tree is already attracting bees and will soon start producing berries for the birds.

Recipes

Still on a gardening theme this month as the recipe is for a loaf cake flavoured with the herb rosemary. No-one ever guesses what gives this delicious cake it’s lovely flavour – the addition of the rosemary just adds a subtle taste of Summer. Make it in two ways: either with a layer of icing – or add a bit more orange juice for a lovely drizzle topping. Either way, this is definitely a cake to eat with a pot of tea and a splash of sunshine.

Orange and Rosemary Loaf Cake

Makes 8-10 slices

Ingredients
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
175 unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
225g self-raising white flour, sifted  
For the icing
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
finely grated zest of half an orange
1 tbsp orange juice
150g icing sugar, sifted 
You will need
A 2lb / 900g loaf tinButter and greaseproof paper
Wooden or metal skewer
Cocktail stick
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark four.  
  2. Lightly grease and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper, extending it by 2cm beyond the sides of the tin.
  3. Put the rosemary in a bowl with the butter and caster sugar and, using an electric hand mixer, beat until pale and light in consistency.
  4. Continuing to use the electric hand mixer, add the eggs a little at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  If the mixture threatens to curdle add a small amount of the flour.  Fold in the vanilla extract, milk and flour.
  5. Spoon into the tin and level the surface.  Bake for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Make the icing while the cake is baking.  Place the rosemary into a small bowl and pour over 2 tbsp of boiling water.  Leave to infuse and when cool strain and add to the icing sugar with the orange zest and juice.  Mix to the consistency of single cream, adding a little water if necessary.
  7. When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce the top with the cocktail stick and then brush over the icing ensuring it is spread evenly over the top of the cake.  Leave to cool in the tin.

To convert this into a drizzle cake, when making the icing increase the amount of orange juice from 1 tablespoon to the juice of half an orange. The icing will then sink through the cake rather than remaining on the top as a layer of icing.

Until July….

A little addition to my May newsletter…

The 29th May is National Biscuit Day – yes, really! To celebrate, I’m offering a 10% discount on all the biscuit themed items in my online shop – see the link in the index above. Valid from today for seven days, the discount code is BISCUITS2019. Happy National Biscuit Day!