BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter's Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects

BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter's Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects

by Jessica Pigza

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617690969
Publisher: STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book
Publication date: 03/18/2014
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jessica Pigza is a rare book librarian at the New York Public Library. The host of the library’s monthly DIY event series, she has been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine, has guest-blogged on Design*Sponge, and has lectured at library conferences on design and craft inspiration. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

FINDING INSPIRATION AT THE LIBRARY

Whether you 're looking for a quiet spot to read or a humming atmosphere among other seekers, a library reading room might offer just the environment you seek. At some libraries, the architectural details themselves can even offer inspiration. The decorative elements shown here — all part of the New York Public Library's historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building — might lead you to create Beaux Arts-inspired stencils, repeating patterns, paper cuts, or other original designs. As you explore BiblioCraft, you'll see occasional glimpses of this landmark building and its books and collections (like those on the rolling cart at left), since the photographs were taken at this library.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIBRARY COLLECTIONS

Do you need the newest issue of a home design magazine, or one from a hundred years ago? Are you on the hunt for vintage maps, or is it historical handwriting samples that you seek? Do you want to attend a craft social, or meet a children's book illustrator? Different kinds of libraries offer different kinds of materials, services, and programs. And when you're on the hunt for design inspiration, you'll find library collections near, far, and at your fingertips, too. From your local neighborhood libraries offering the newest craft books and stitching circles to internationally known research centers that are home to rare early editions, the right library for your next creative project is waiting to give you the inspiration you need.

BRANCH LIBRARIES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

The libraries you are probably most familiar with are those in your own neighborhoods. These are often called branch libraries because they are part of a network of similar neighborhood libraries spread across a town or region. Each branch library focuses its offerings — books, magazines, and events — on what those who live nearby need and want.

Branch libraries work hard to strengthen community connections through programs, and your local branch might offer knitting nights, sewing circles, and other arts and crafts events for adults, children, and families. Through these events you can make new connections, share ideas with fellow enthusiasts, and dedicate a few hours to fostering your creativity by working on your own projects or exploring the books around you. If your branch library doesn't offer any crafting nights and you think there's an audience, ask your librarian about adding one to their calendar to give it a try. A "bring-your-own-craft" night is an easy option to start with, because it requires just a meeting space for attendees who bring along their own works-in-progress.

Branch libraries are set up to encourage browsing, with open shelves of materials organized according to subject categories. And when you've found just the right sources, you can use your library card to borrow them and take them home. A branch library usually offers selections of recent books and magazines on craft, literature, history, and art. Because these libraries have very limited space to shelve and display collections for browsing, branch libraries don't tend to keep older materials that have fallen out of high demand. When it comes to periodicals — magazines, journals, and newspapers — a branch library will often have the most recent issues of these at hand but won't often have decades-old issues on the shelf.

Your local branch library may, however, be able to access many resources beyond its own walls, if it belongs to a network of related libraries that shares collections. If you need a source that's held in a different library, ask a librarian at your local branch if she or he can help you to borrow it through an interlibrary loan program.

RESEARCH LIBRARIES

What if you want to look through cookbooks from a century ago, or see what knitting books in the nineteenth century looked like, or read millinery magazines from the 1940s? In these cases, it's a research library that you need, because that's where you'll find older books and magazines, unique collections, and rare materials. Although some research libraries are not open to the public, many are, so if a library intrigues you, find out about the possibility of visiting. (See Planning Your Library Visit on this page for more tips).

Research libraries may be part of a university. For example, when embroidery artist Mary Corbet began her research into ornamental penmanship designs, she worked with digitized portions of the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection held at the Weinberg Memorial Library at the University of Scranton (Scranton, Pennsylvania). My own interest in turning the geometric patterns of early hand-drawn nautical maps called portolan charts into stitched wall art led me to the digital collections of Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Connecticut.

Research libraries are often tied to museums, historical societies, or other organizations. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, boasts a dozen different libraries and study centers in New York City, including the Thomas J. Watson Library, which is its central research center, as well as the Antonio Ratti Textile Center and Reference Library. And the American Antiquarian Society, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a scholarly center with a major research collection devoted to early Americana, including type specimen books like those artist Julie Schneider turned to in her search for paper cut inspiration.

Some research libraries are associated with federal or state governments or agencies. The Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) is the nation's largest and most complex government-associated research library. Located in Washington, DC, it's also the largest library in the world. It opens its doors to researchers worldwide in its mission to "support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people." It is home to the nation's Copyright Office, which means that it accepts thousands of newly published materials every day, adding to its astounding historical collection. The Library of Congress also offers a robust and ever-growing selection of well-organized sources online, from programs that include the American Folklife Center, which documents vernacular art, folklore, and handmade material culture, and the American Memory Project, which provides free and open access to the publications, archives, and art that document American history and creativity. There are many smaller libraries tied to the government, however, and some contributors to this book used their materials. Digitized holdings of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, Maryland), for example, provided writer Grace Bonney with Conrad Gessner's sixteenth-century animal illustrations for her votive holders.

If you'd like to immerse yourself in the design history of a particular period or uncover vintage handicraft patterns, research libraries can help. CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Peterson's Magazine offered nineteenth-century American women knitting patterns, including this shawl in 1862. This page from Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l'Infini à l'Aide du Miroir reveals the visual riches within original art nouveau design studies. The August 1867 issue of Godey's Lady's Book presented an adaptable design for a deer; this could be used for cross-stitch, mosaics, and more. Textile industry publications like this 1902 volume entitled The Mordant Dyestuffs of the Farbenfabriken vorm often include fabric swatches.

Other countries also have their own government-sponsored libraries. In London, the British Library (www.bl.uk) is a giant research library with collections rooted in the eighteenth-century founding of the British Museum and its unprecedented holdings of early printed books. Their online offerings continue to grow, with digitized books and online exhibitions highlighting their most visually engaging collections as well as a Historic Bindings Database with photographs of early handmade bindings (which quilling artist Ann Martin used when she designed her pendant). And they support working artists and designers with courses in entrepreneurship as well as programs that encourage the creative use of their collections.

There are research libraries tied to big U.S. cities as well. Often these institutions are hybrids of a sort, offering neighborhood coverage with a system of branch libraries while also maintaining unique research collections. From Boston to Seattle, Chicago to New York, and San Francisco to Philadelphia (just to name a few), city libraries might surprise you. At the New York Public Library in New York City (www.nypl.org), the research collections are divided broadly by topic into four separate research libraries: the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the Science, Industry, and Business Library; and the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building with its focus on humanities and social sciences. Many of the projects within this book were inspired by materials found within the research collections of the New York Public Library. There are magazines, sheet music, picture collections, historical children's books, moving images, manuscripts, and more, spanning centuries, held among these locations. Online sources continue to multiply, with digital images, online exhibitions, and other multimedia programs that highlight the collections. If you live in or near a city, get to know your city's library; you might be happy at the unexpected inspiration available there.

Regardless of what organization, institution, or agency is behind them, all of these research libraries collect with both the immediate needs of their users as well as future potential research questions in mind. They also often work to acquire books and magazines that cover subjects over long periods of time, which leads to collections with historical depth as well as broad coverage. For a creative person in search of inspiration, this means that research libraries can be inspirational gold mines.

Research libraries may have systems and rules that can be confounding to a new user, however. For example, some store part or all of their collection in closed stacks, which means you can't browse for books on your own. You might not be permitted to check books out, and you might need to request access in advance. But the fun of paging through century-old arts textbooks, early printed architectural elevations, or millinery industry publications makes it well worth getting to know how your chosen research library works so you can make the most of its treasures in your creative research.

If you're planning to visit a research library — especially if it's not local to you — it's essential to plan ahead, reach out to the library, and find out as much as possible in advance of your trip. For tips on doing so, see Planning Your Library Visit on this page.

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

A sixteenth-century introduction to all the world's animals, filled with hand-colored woodcut illustrations. A scrapbook full of examples of ornamental penmanship, compiled in the nineteenth century by a teacher of the art. The first photographic work by a woman, who used this newly invented process to document her botanical studies. These are just a few of the items that inspired projects in this book, and each is an example of the kind of rare and special materials held in what are known as "special collections" in research libraries. Such materials are indeed special, and when it comes to design inspiration, these materials hold plenty of visual potential.

What else might you find in a special collection? Historical maps, either hand-drawn, like the portolan chart that inspired my stitched wall hanging, or engraved, like those artist Rebecca Ringquist studied when designing her cartouche, are also often found in special collections. And special collections are usually the place where libraries keep their rarest early printed books, their illuminated manuscripts, and other historical examples of handmade and hand-decorated papers (like the marbled paper that Jodi Kahn used on her zippered pouch).

What is kept in any given special collection depends on the particular library and its subject focus, but generally special collections include early prints, handpress-era books, handwritten documents, and other one-of-a-kind or fragile historical materials. Large research libraries might have different special collections for different kinds of materials — for example, a manuscripts collection, a rare books collection, a photography collection — while smaller libraries often keep all these special materials together in a single special collections area.

There's also the possibility that a library might hold quirky items such as printed ephemera in its special collections. Printed ephemera is just what it sounds like — printed materials that were meant to be used and disposed of; in other words, they were meant to be ephemeral. If you think about the bits of printed matter that you encounter every day — receipts, business cards, train tickets, menus, price tags, play programs, and greeting cards — you'll know that printed ephemera is alive and well today. Now, imagine being able to look at materials like this from decades or centuries ago. Advertising cards, menus, and other older printed ephemera have found their way into special collections, and libraries that own them have started sharing images of them online. One of my favorite of the quirkier special collections in the New York Public Library that you can view online are its cigarette cards. Smaller than baseball cards today, these colorfully illustrated cards came tucked inside cigarette packs and were produced in series on any imaginable topic, from exotic birds to famous battles to cacti (all browsable atdigitalgallery.nypl.org).

Because security and conservation are concerns for librarians when they're sharing special collections, these materials are usually made available in a limited-access reading room. Materials may be placed on special desktop cradles or other book support structures to protect the volumes' bindings, and you will likely receive some guidance on how to handle the materials gently. Library staff will monitor the reading room closely, and when you leave, you may be asked to submit your personal belongings to staff for inspection. All of these careful measures make using special collections a little more complicated, but they all serve to protect the materials from thefts, accidents, or mishandling that could jeopardize the future usefulness of these unique works. The good news, though, if you love to uncover inspiration within the kind of stuff held in special collections, is that more and more unique materials are being made available in digitized versions, for easier access. And this means that as a creative maker, you can collect more sources and stories than ever before, whether you visit a special collection in person or online, gathering ideas to use in your own modern designs.

If you plan to make use of a library's special collections, it's important to reach out to the institution, and find out as much as possible in advance of your trip. For tips on doing so, see Planning Your Library Visit on this page.

FINDING THE RIGHT LIBRARY FOR YOU

Just getting started and wondering which library might be the right one for you? If you'd like to start exploring locally, see what you can learn about nearby university library collections on their websites. Look into your local public library system as well, because often these libraries have surprising local history collections or other interesting research materials. And while you're at it, ask your local branch librarian for any tips she might have about local libraries in the area. Don't forget to consider museums or historical societies, because these institutions often have library collections as well. Additionally, try searching online for the word "library" and your ZIP code or town name, and see what you find.

There are also, of course, reference books and sites that can guide you to more information about libraries near and far and what their collections contain. Here are a few useful online sources, followed by several print directories. If you'd like to use one of the print directories, ask your local library if they have them among their reference sources.

Public Libraries.com www.publiclibraries.com

This online directory includes listings and links to public libraries, university libraries, state libraries and archives, and even presidential libraries.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "BiblioCraft"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jessica Pigza.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

FOREWORD,
ANN THORNTON, Andrew W. Mellon Director, New York Public Library,
INTRODUCTION,
PART ONE: FINDING INSPIRATION AT THE LIBRARY,
DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIBRARY COLLECTIONS,
FINDING THE RIGHT LIBRARY FOR YOU,
PLANNING YOUR LIBRARY VISIT,
FINDING WHAT YOU WANT AT THE LIBRARY,
THE WORLD OF DIGITAL LIBRARIES,
RECOMMENDED LIBRARY COLLECTIONS,
A COPYRIGHT PRIMER,
PART TWO: PROJECTS INSPIRED BY THE LIBRARY,
MARBLED FABRIC POUCH:,
WATERMARK PILLOWS:,
ORNAMENTAL PENMANSHIP EMBROIDERY:,
SECRET MESSAGE SNOWFLAKES PATTERNED STATIONERY SET:,
QUILLED WILLOW PENDANT:,
ARTS AND CRAFTS EX LIBRIS SET:,
CROSS-STITCH WALL PANEL:,
KITTEN POCKETS DRESS-AND KITTENS!:,
CYANOTYPE THROW:,
ANTIQUARIAN ANIMAL VOTIVE HOLDERS:,
SOIL PROFILE GROWTH CHART:,
WOOL ROSE FASCINATOR:,
FELT DOGWOOD BLOSSOMS:,
CARTOUCHE EMBROIDERY:,
RHUMB LINES WALL HANGING:,
JAPANESE HERALDRY COASTERS:,
PATCHWORK PYRAMIDS:,
PAPER TOWNS:,
CUTS OF MEAT TABLE RUNNER:,
RADISH LOVE TOTE:,
PART THREE: APPENDIX,
STITCH GUIDE,
SOURCES FOR SUPPLIES,
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS,
CREDITS,
INDEX OF SEARCHABLE TERMS,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,

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BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter's Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Inspires you to go to the library and find new items for creative purposes. There are also good resources mentioned.