Many of us find inspiration for our next craft or art project online, but image-centric sites like Pinterest, where the image source is often lost in a trail of missed links, can feel more like a closed loop than an open field. Transfer those retrieval skills to a library catalog, and suddenly the field is endless. Libraries are full of inspiration and solid sources, and there’s a new book that tells us exactly how to mine them: BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects, by librarian and DIY-er Jessica Pigza. The first half of the book shows some of what library collections can offer, old and new, and where to find it all (with digital collections open 24/7). It also reminds us about local library events, where we can meet authors, join a craft circle, take a workshop. The second half documents 20 lovely paper and fabric projects by artists, paired with the objects that sparked the artworks, such as coasters that pay tribute to Japanese heraldry, a table runner that mimics 19th-century illustrations of meat cuts and a marbled fabric pouch from a collection of book endpapers.
DECORATE WITH PLANTS
Baylor Chapman’s The Plant Recipe Book is not a cookbook. Rather than a how-to for meals, the step-by-step instructions show how to assemble “100 living arrangements for any home in any season.” The A-to-Z plant list includes about 40 species that can typically be found in local shops, grocery stores and discount chains, along with straightforward maintenance instructions—the easiest being for bromeliads, aka air plants, which don’t even need soil. Four hundred delicious color photos convince readers of the book’s big idea: that plants are cheaper than flowers, last longer and can be endlessly reconfigured to suit a mood, room or event. Each species is shown “On Its Own,” “With Company” and decked out for a “Special Occasion.” Here is the trio of presentation options for an ordinary Kalanchoe: singly in a length of copper pipe; poised with air plants and a begonia in a vintage pedestal bowl; and fluffed with pink cyclamen, elephant ears and other succulents in an upside-down bronze light fixture.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
In The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects, master carpenter Spike Carlsen shares 76 plans “for making a self-sufficient life easier and better organized.” Some prior experience with construction is useful, but Carlsen urges beginners to start small and get to know the tools, materials and techniques before tackling, say, the Modular Shed or the Animal Shelter.
Not everything involves wood: Anyone can create the Flowerpot Smoker, Concrete Planters (from 5-gallon buckets) or the Lawn Bag Stand (out of PVC pipe). Many projects are possible for even city dwellers without a backyard, but most assume space and need for things like produce racks, raised-bed gardens, compost bins and rain barrels. I’m particularly pleased to see projects that help two threatened critters: bees and bats. The basic Top Bar Beehive will help beginning beekeepers get started, and the large Bat House (better than the ones sold at garden centers) might encourage insect-eating—and endangered—bats to hang around. Includes good lists for recommended reading and resources.