Friday, September 24, 2010

Another Reader's Digest Condensed Book Project

Hi everyone... hope you have an arty weekend planned!  If you happen to have some old Reader's Digest Condensed Books (RDCB's) around and have been wondering what "arty" project you could use them for, you might find some inspiration in this week's blog post.  Now before I tell you what it is, let me give you some background.

If you have been following my blog for some time now,  you may remember when I "inherited" about 120 RDCB's and wondered what to do with them.  You can see the post I wrote at the time, with a little brainstorming help from my art friends,  "37+ Things to Do with Reader's Digest Condensed Books" (which, by the way, is one of the more popular past posts searched for on my blog) to refresh your memory or discover all the ways in which you can "re-cycle" these books.

One thing I do before I "donate" the book to an art project is to read the stories that interest me in the book. It's amazing how just reading the stories gives me ideas for projects I can actually do with the book itself. For me, in a sense, it is a way of honouring the book before it is transformed into something else to treasure.

I've found that the RDCB's are great to haul along on a trip to the beach. This past summer, I ploughed through about fifteen books (picking the stories that "called" to me in each one of them) on my daily beach excursions.  Once read, they are placed in the "ready to use" section of my art area bookcase.

This summer, I read a story about a young girl who lived on a farm during the early 1900's.  The story stuck with me and reminded me of my fascination with houses, cottages and villages. 

Ever since I was a child, I have truly enjoyed roaming through old houses.  Places like Pioneer Village in southern Ontario, Williamsburg in Virginia, Craigdarroch Castle and Pointe Ellice House in Victoria or the Duke Homstead in Durham, North Carolina can make my heart flutter just at the thought of an "excursion" into the past.  I can roam all day through the grounds of these historic buildings and places and still not get enough!!

When I was young, I loved to explore the "old" farmhouse on my grandparents farm.  It had the typical "football field" sized kitchen so popular in old farmhouses of the day.  Built in the early 1900's, the tiny parlour in their farmhouse, just off the kitchen was filled with all of gramma's "special" things.  Her china tea cups. The old, wind up grammaphone with a huge horn.  The "davenport" and side chairs with Gramma's hand crocheted doilies on the arms.  The tea table in the corner, shone to perfection with beeswax smelled absolutely delicious each time I passed it for a quick sniff.  Her silver tea service sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the small, lace curtained window at the front of the house.  Oh and I should not forget,  the invisible sign on the closed, locked door that said:  "Kinder Verboten"! (Children absolutely not allowed).  To be invited into the parlour was very special.  Look but don't touch was the rule of the day!
When I was about seven, Grampa built a "new" farmhouse for gramma just down the road from the old one.  It was a lovely little house with all the "mod cons" of the day.  Gramma loved that house with its modern kitchen and little "tearoom" porch.  But for me, it just wasn't the same. 

I missed the old big kitchen with the smell of burning wood in the cast iron kitchen range.  I missed not being able to curl up on my auntie's lap after a hearty supper at the long farmhouse table.  There was something very delicious and soothing about listening to the chatter of voices round the fire, the smell of a hearty meal still lingering in the air, the "creak creak:" sound of the rockers on the rocking chair, going back and forth and the muffled sound of my auntie's voice as I cuddled up, my head against her chest, listening to the beating of her heart.  To this day, I can still vividly recall the peacefulness of those moments.  In my mind's eye, I can see  the layout of the kitchen and where everything was placed.  The back stairs up to the second floor bedrooms and the attic beyond.  I can close my eyes and go from room to room on a "tour" of the farmhouse.

Once my grandparents moved to the new farmhouse, they used the old one for community canning and baking in the fall and as extra storage for discarded furniture, musical instruments, trunks filled with clothes, trinkets and memorabilia.  I swear my love of antiques, old paper and Victorian type dresses began in the attic of that old farmhouse.

This week I was drawn to a project that I have had on my "art list" for awhile now.  I just felt the urge to do something different.  "How about creating a little village of old cottages?" I said to my SELF.   Yep, that felt right.  I could play around with the book covers from RDCB's to create some prototypes for another project I have in mind... some larger houses to go across the wall above the double door closet in my art space.

Past "experiments" with the bookboard in the covers immediately came back to me as I began slicing the covers off the books.  It's much thicker than the heavy bookboard you can purchase at your local art store.  It's even much thicker, depending on the age of the book cover, than the chipboard elements you can purchase today.  I wondered if I would be able to use it for this project. 

But first I needed to create a pattern.  The house patterns I had found on the Internet  weren't quite what I wanted.  After much fiddling around sizing the different elements (there are three different sized cottages) I finally had a pattern I was satisfied with.

The pattern drawn on the chipboard, I picked up my small steel edged ruler and my exacto knife to do the first cut.  And I cut, and cut, and cut!  This stuff was stronger than I thought and very tough to get through.  I finally decided to split the thickness of the bookboard in two to get down to a thickness that wasn't going to keep me cutting until Christmas had come and gone.  I was going to cover the outside with paper anyway so it didn't really matter what it looked like. 

Other than that first glitch, the project went together relatively quickly and before I knew it I had five little cottages.  Just to finish them off, I painted some white bookboard I had made black and cut out some doors and little windows to paste on the outside of the houses (that took longer than putting the cottages together LOL) and inked the edges to give them an old look.  Here are some photos I took this morning, in the rain no less (chuckle) of my little village...

Interested in making some of these little cottages?  Click here to find out how to get the mini house/cottage tutorial and patterns for all three sizes.  I haven't quite finished putting it all together but should have it done by the end of this weekend.  However, strike while the iron is hot...  I'll send it out to you as soon as I have everything packaged up.

BTW, I 'll also include instructions for making your own bookboard from RDCB pages.  Always good to have around,  it's easy to make, recycles paper "material", and you can use it for many types of  arty projects.  The price is definitely right!  How's free?

Till next time, have a fun-filled weekend creating from your heART,