Thursday, January 29, 2009

BLURB Book in the Making

I've been stuck about how to create our honeymoon photo album. I know I'm going to do it through Blurb, of course, (like our wedding album here) but I don't want it to look just like every other vacation book--at least not on the cover. Inside the book I want the pictures to be big and plentiful. Just like I like my women..uh, wait.

I think I've mentioned before that I would LOVE to do book design, and how do you get good samples of how great you would be if you don't make books? I'm taking this honeymoon book as a challenge and a chance to create a great sample of my design work potential.

So last night I googled "best book cover design" And I found this website, which isn't plentiful in posts, but had a plethora of good ideas. I was actually to the point of thinking: Okay, so I just need to create a frame of some sort around one of the photos from the book and put some type on there. But after looking at that website, I felt challenged.

So all of these photos are the pieces leftover from my scissors and xacto knife frenzy for the front cover. Here below is the rough draft. I didn't plan it this way, but the colors are actually my wedding colors!

Here are questions I'm asking myself about where to go next:

1) Should I go through and change the colors of the individual letters and objects like I planned originally or leave them?

2) Should I make it look more graphic, and less photographic? (As it is, I put these on the scanner bed without the top closed so I could get a nice shadow)

3) Does it look too childlike? If so how to tweak it?

4) What kind of design parameters does this set out for the inside of the book?

5) Do I need more elements or more negative space?

6) Is there anything I'm missing, and will it look dated in 5 years? (With everything with the wedding, I obsessed about looking dated--you know, like those 70's weddings we all laugh at. It's probably inevitable at some point, I suppose)
Feel free to weigh in!

Here is one of my inspirational images--I love that pinwheel, and all the colors, so that's why I'm torn about changing colors on the cover page.
(From this AT post)

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Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:24 AM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let's try again

I scheduled this post yesterday, but forgot to get around to writing anything in the text. How lame!

So last weekend I got itchy quilting fingers. I still have tons of scraps left over from this quilt, so I thought I'd make a little wall hanging to put up for sale on Etsy. (Not to shamelessly promote, but you can go see it on Etsy if you wanna...)

It was so nice to just sit in the studio and run my little sewing machine and piece things together. I'm not sure what is so alluring about the putting together of little pieces of fabric, but I love it!

I freehand quilted it, then handstitched the binding. I also love the feel of needle and thread in my hand, so I really satisfied all kinds of cravings.

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Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:41 AM :: (4) comments

Sunday, January 25, 2009

photos from my weekend

I used to take piano lessons in that farmhouse off in the distance.

This is my drive to and from work on a pretty much deserted 4 lane highway. I remember when this road was being built about 18 or so years ago (sheesh) and my friend Joy and I would go ride our bikes on it after school. All the concrete had been poured, but the road hadn't opened yet. I guess that's about as much trouble as a couple of 5th graders could get into in such a small town. I remember thinking that we could rollerblade for, like, EVER, which was different than trying to rollerblade on our little driveway. Oh, the freedom! Turned out, the road was too bumpy for rollerblade wheels, but girls can dream!

I have 2 crafty posts scheduled after this one, so don't think I've gone off my art/crafting rocker.

I took a walk in the COLD COLD air yesterday, and today it snowed!

I've been trying to get shots of cows for quite a while now. Usually, I panic a little and once they start running, I back away. My boss told me to be patient, because cows are very curious. Hey, she's the editor of a farm magazine! And she was right! There were about 50 head of cattle, all watching my every move. I moved up one step, they moved back, and vice versa. I felt like I had a cow choir and I should have been conducting.

Ah, high drama on the plains. Life is simple and good. I watched all my friends on tv last night for the EMMYs. I miss them and all my friends at Channel5 so much. When I was leaving I thought, oh, of course I'll see those people and talk to them and it won't be that different. People who I spent so much time with and knew so much about their kids, lives, etc., just gone. Not really, but it feels like that. I feel like I threw out a huge batch of my life by leaving them behind. I think that's just the way things go when you move. Problem is, I haven't really filled up my new bucket of life yet. Since we don't have a house or permanent place, since all my friends live 30 minutes away, since I'm working 60 hour weeks every other week, and since we live in a basement with not nearly as much light as I'm used to, I feel isolated and sort of floating.

I guess the grass really is always greener. In this case, I think it's a case of mild cabin fever. I miss you, friends! I'm so sad that I don't get to see you all as much as I want, whether you're here in Missouri or in Nashville, or wherever you are! I'm thinking of you and missing you. And now I'm crying. I think I need a nap.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 3:27 PM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Wedding Album

I found our wedding photographer on Flickr. (Notley Hawkins) I'm of the opinion that no matter what, you should have an excellent photographer for your wedding. Those truly are the images you will be remembering the day through for the rest of your life. Sure, I have little snapshots in my head, but for the most part, I was concentrating on the task at hand.

Having said that, I did not have room in the budget for a $2000 photographer, and quite frankly, I didn't even think that the $2k photographers were worth it--I was looking at much more expensive people.

So I made a deal with Notley that at the end of the day, I would pay him a flat (well deserved) fee, and he would simply give me the raw dvds. All 3500 photos without editing by him. I work in photoshop all day long, and am perfectly capable of doing that stuff.

I knew all along that I would make a Blurb book for the album. Blurb is SO AWESOME!!! I've evangelized about it to so many people, I can count at least a dozen books that I have talked people into making after showing them some of the books I've made. They have great usable templates for photos, photos and text, or just text.

I, however, do layout design for a living and couldn't be so simple as to use pre-made templates. So I designed a whole photoshop layout and design look, and plugged in each of the hundreds of photos myself, saved them out as full-page jpgs, and plopped them into the book. Here are a couple of the pages (you can click to make bigger)

This 80 page, 13 inch by 11 inch coffee table book cost $80. Are you freaking kidding me? That is the best value for a wedding album I've ever heard of!!

I SOOOO loved designing this book. I would love to be a book designer for a living. I have so many plans for other Blurb books--a family quilt encyclopedia, a family cookbook, a portfolio book for me, and the next one will probably be the honeymoon album. It's so affordable that I couldn't have had 4x6 prints made of all those photos for that price! I'm never messing with printed individual photos again. You can make a 7x7 70 page book with about 300 photos for less than $30. You just can't beat it. And the quality is amazing!

Here's the cover my Mom, a.k.a the Craft Fairy made for me. She took fusible heavy duty (1/8 inch thick) interfacing, ironed it to the wrong side of this fabric, and bound it. Reall, it's just 2 seams up the side, then machine stitched with bias tape binding. It's perfect!


Posted by Beth Howard @ 11:56 PM :: (9) comments

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How can you not love a face like this?

I suppose I was just going through withdrawal from After Effects and the whole moving picture thing. I played around with my new shutter release, jpg sequencing, and the old-school AE program I have. I sort of miss the whole time lapse element of design like I had at my TV design job. And there is NO reason do do anything like this at my new job. Which is fine, it makes me more happy to play around just for the fun of it.

Please leave me a comment if you have problems, or if the video doesn't work. I'm trying out some new things...who knows what I might decide to video!

Posted by Beth Howard @ 11:40 PM :: (2) comments

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Gratitude. There just aren't many words but to say "thank you" to my Aunt Elaine for this quilt. It's unbelievable. She was incredibly worried about her color choices. It's really a sad state of affairs when making something for you stresses out your loved ones.

This is a queen size beauty!
Elaine and several of my other aunts hand quilted this over a period of months.

Of all people to receive a hand made gift like this---I was speechless. I'm afraid I wasn't excited enough when I opened it, but I love it so much!

P.S. I took this on the day when the temperature was a HIGH of 12 degress Farhenheit.

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Posted by Beth Howard @ 11:25 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What I'm reading

I don't read a lot of fiction books. Not that I don't enjoy fiction, but I have a hard time finding quality writing that isn't down-in-the-dumps depressing. Oprah can pick great writers, but her book club books are time after time downers. I get so caught up in the book that I end up feeling depressed. Not my idea of a great read.

So I read a lot of non-fiction. Select biographies, obviously tons of craft books, and my favorite genre of all--travel writing. Not actual travel books, but any book about the culture of a place I've never been. Or a few spectacular places I have been. I love Frances Mayes' books--Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, and mostly, A Year in the World. Cliche as it is, she's a fantastic writer of food, sun, and people.

My sister introduced me to Three Cups of Tea. It's a meaningful, humbling, beautiful book. Greg Mortensen was a poor mountain climber with several of the world's highest summits under his belt when he promised to build a school in the shadow of the most beautiful and dangerous mountains in the world in rural Pakistan. He slept in his car for months while he worked graveyard shifts as an ER nurse to raise a mere $12,000 to build this school. He wasn't rich to begin with. He dedicated his life and gave up his comfortable bed to help people in one of the world's most remote regions.

Now the Central Asia Institute is building schools for girls and therefore educating an entire generation of people. If you've seen Charlie Wilson's War, you'll see why this is important. Obviously I don't have the space here to detail the history of the region's conflicts, and I'm no where near being an expert.

But you should read this book. It really puts your burning desire for a new handbag in perspective.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:59 AM :: (5) comments

Sunday, January 11, 2009

In the Moonlight

Strange shirtless men run amok!

For Christmas, I got a new lens and a camera "clicker" remote cable release (clicker is so much more descriptive, right?) Last night the moon was the biggest it will be in years, so I went out and froze my tookas off. A good start to experimentation, right?

This photo is of the last remaining tree on the farm just 100 feet or so from our front step. The crabby/crappy old farmer bought a huge farm with tons of trees, many of which shielded our home from wind/dust/gravel road noise. He spent a week bulldozing HUNDREDS, maybe thousands of trees into huge piles which he has been burning. As my mom says, that was the source of an extra 5 pounds of stress. It was just absolutely heart-sickening to see it happen. Now we can see the run down houses and trailers on the gravel road, hear the 4 lane highway a mile and a half away, and have all these lovely piles of brush in various stages of pointless burning. Talk about not being green. It makes me sick just to think of it, not to mention the smell of the burning wood. It's all bare now. The farmer told my dad during one of their multiple encounters and unsuccessful negotiations that he thought we would like it better this way. Not so much. Here's what it looked like before:
and after:

Posted by Beth Howard @ 3:21 PM :: (5) comments

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another Christmas Gift

This one was for my mom. I was so very excited about it when I first made it, but had to keep it hushed up because it was a surprise!

This is super heavy Crane Lettra cardstock, which I cut with my trusty XACTO blade. I would be so lost without it. I bought a bamboo wood tray from Walmart--i know, gag, but it's the only major store within 30 minutes of me. It was in the kitchen organizing aisle, and there were several sizes and shapes. I love it because it's really deep so you can get lots of layers going.

I have a little plexiglass cutting blade which cost $12 or something, so I just cut a little piece and popped it in there.

As I write this I think maybe it would be a good tutorial...? It was so easy and the possibilities are endless! Maybe another day, I need to get to work early.

If you're interested, I have a tiny version of this up in my etsy shop.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 11:40 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, January 05, 2009


Hi Friends!
I'm not really starting the new year out right, am I? No posts in a week? What?

Just a quick note: My dad had heart bypass surgery out of the blue last Friday. He has been in the hospital for almost a week now, and I've been spending lots of time there. Thankfully, with the support of so many loving people and their prayers, well-wishes, and good-vibe-sending, he is doing pretty well. It's hard to see your dad be so vulnerable, but he will make a strong recovery, I just know it. He's only 57, and too ornery to let this get him down!

So that's where I've been. I have several great things to post about, but haven't been home in daylight hours to photograph them!

Here's a poster that I painted with my new goauche paints from Christmas. The original is going to hang in our kitchen, and measures 20x30, so it's hefty! I'm experimenting with doing digital prints of my artwork to sell on Etsy. We'll see.

I'm really trying to improve my illustrative skills. Here's hoping 2009 brings me talent in this area! I need all the help I can get!

Posted by Beth Howard @ 11:13 PM :: (4) comments