Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Absurd Aspirations

DEBORAH CROMBIE: So I've bought this new super lightweight luggage for my month-long trip to England (departing Wednesday, 6 PM, and I am writing this as of 10 PM on Tuesday night and have not even STARTED packing--so much for my organizational goals...) and how do I want to take up those pounds I've saved??? 

Well, as I have finished the last little bits and pieces of Kincaid/James #17, GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS and it is out of my hands, I am, of course, planning to begin a new book. I've kept odds and ends of book journals the last few years, some more successful than others, but with #18, I want to do better. It deserves its own journal, and I want to make a good start on it in England. 

I've got the journal, custom made for me by the fabulous Mychal Mitchell at Iona Handcrafted Books. (We've had Mychal as a guest on the blog. She does AMAZING work.) 

Isn't it gorgeous????

The paper is bamboo, which is not quite as good for watercolors as proper watercolor paper, but better for fountain pen ink, so it's a compromise. And as you can see from the fountain pen, this journal is about the size of a hardcover book. And probably heavier.

You may be wondering if I can actually paint with watercolors... The answer is "no," although I've done little dabs here and there. (Check out the travel palette, and the portable watercolor brushes!! Aren't they fab?) But I can sketch a little bit, and I thought, why not start now?

I've wanted to make an illustrated journal at least since I was in college and read THE VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE. If you want to see the sort of thing I would really like to do, check out these photos from Benno's Iona journal.

And I'd like to include photos, too, so here's the other thing I want to stick in the suitcase--my little Canon Selphy printer.

It weighs 1.9 pounds (I looked it up.) Hmm. But it is so cool, and prints gorgeous photos from your computer or phone. 

Well, we'll see, when all the necessities are in the suitcase. I'll update you. All in all, this is probably a crazy project, but the journal is going in my carry-on, regardless.

I spent the last stretch of GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS, when I couldn't read fiction, reading and re-reading a book called THE COMPLETE DECORATED JOURNAL, by Gwen Diehn. I adore this book!! But it is NOT going in my suitcase.

REDS and readers, is there something you've always wanted to do that is impractical and for which you have no skill or experience? Tell us your secret project!!

And wish me luck. 

PS: My fountain pens don't use cartridges. If I wrap my bottle of Heart of Darkness black ink in layers of bubble wrap, then put it in a couple of ziplock freezer bags, will it survive in my carry-on? It would not be pretty if it broke...

 And it's waterproof...


Joan Emerson said...

Wishing you luck . . . and a safe trip. Your journal is beautiful.

The ink bottle might be okay, but I’d wrap it in the bubble wrap and put it in a box or container; then I’d seal the box in those freezer bags.

As for something I’ve always wanted to do: I don’t know about impractical, but I’ve definitely no skill or experience, yet I have always wished I could sing Alas, I couldn’t carry a tune even if I had very large basket to put it in!
Stained glass intrigues me, but I have absolutely no artistic skill, either, so I guess I won’t be looking into making any of that . . . .

Elisabeth said...

Deborah, love your aspirations. A small downer: will the TSA pass on your ink? Any possibility that you could buy the same in England?
Bond voyage...sending creative thoughts.

Elisabeth said...

No, no, auto correct! "Bon" not "Bond". No spy thriller here. :-)

Edith Maxwell said...

Love the journal! I agree with Elisabeth - the ink bottle has to be 3 ounces or less. Surely they have ink in England?

And I'm with Joan - I'd love to learn to sing well. I can carry a tune, and I adore singing with others. But I don't have much breath, and I so admire people with lovely voices. Does anybody know if you get vibrato naturally, or do people learn how to do that?

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Maybe she's checking her bag?

Anyway Debs, this is some remarkable packing! It makes me realize how practical I must be LOL. I wish wish wish I could draw, but I can't.

Edith, if you have basic musicality (as my brother-in-law calls it), you can improve. But we probably won't see you on the operatic stage. But who knows? He loves to sing and has been taking lessons for years!

Reine said...

I do wish you the very best of luck, Debs.

I want a beautiful journal. Maybe I will make one with fabric and bits and pieces of this and that and all things collected as little finds. I have a button Krista found in the side yard. It's small and protected by a shiny clear covering is a golfer, in the old fashioned dress of decades ago, swinging his club. I want to use that button with my other bits to decorate my fabric covered journal.

My secret want? I want a small horse to ride and as long as this is fantasy, I would like to keep him up north on the farm in St.-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec. That would be great.

Hallie Ephron said...

That ink bottle is less than 3 ounces, for sure. Wrap it in plastic. I LOVE the journal that you're taking. I have about a half dozen not nearly as beautiful journals, all blank, that I've gotten over the years. You are inspiring me to use one to start the new book as I wait for copy edits.

I've always wanted to garden -- make myself a gorgeous perennial garden. But I'm too lazy to do the digging and schlepping and planting and fertilizing and watering, and even when I do I haven't got the vision to plan one that will actually look good. Besides my yard is mostly shade. Ferns R Us.

Looking forward to updates from abroad, Deb!

I'm heading to Vancouver BC for the Surrey International Writers Conference this weekend. It's a pip of a conference. If you're a writer, you owe it to yourself to go at least once. I will pack one small roller bag.

Aline Lenaz said...

Good for you on taking pen to paper to sketch. We shortcut the process by taking pics of scenes we'd like to sketch when we return opting instead to connect with the locals.Enjoy your sabbatical trip.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Do not take that bottle on the plane! And remember, if it is more than 3 ounces, TSA won't let you.
Drawing and painting has completely eluded me, I hear, sometimes I look at the light on the trees, and imagine Georges Seurat, and Am completely baffled by how anyone could paint that.
Is that your London watercolor Debs? Wow.
I wish I could sing, or plan instrument, but I can't. I have to you're my skills are limited to writing and thinking, and for that I am infinitely grateful.
Gee, absurd aspirations? How about folding fitted sheets? :-)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OK, so much for dictation from my phone. I meant I fear not I hear
And not plan instrument, but play an instrument.
Dictation is teaching me to be more articulate.

FChurch said...

That beautiful suitcase? I'd buy the ink in London (although the little bottle is also beautiful!). Love your idea for an illustrated journal--and it doesn't matter how 'good' you are at drawing or sketching--just do it--it will inspire you. Add colors, add photos, add bits and pieces,too--unless you share, no one will ever need to see the results--and no one will be judging. I think it is Twyla Tharp who keeps a 'project box.' Into the box goes things that inspire her for a particular dance she is creating--objects, photos, writing--same idea, only in a box.

Love your 'found' objects for your journal, Reine! I would like to take a fabulous trip--I love to take photos--and I would keep a poetry journal as I go--and add the poems to the photos. So, a journal to write in, camera for photos, then something--ipad?--to put the two together.

Enjoy London--hope the creative juices overflow for you!

Grace Koshida said...

Deb: Your journal is beautiful...hope you enjoy dabbling in watercolours. And isn't it interesting that you are packing things from one end of technology to another with your fountain pen and the small portable printer?! And yes, definitely double wrap that small ink bottle.

I am pretty rotten at any crafting or sewing activity. But I would love to make a quilt using pieces of fabric from clothes that are no longer good enough to wear so that I could keep it as a fond memory. And I would hope my horrible, uneven stitching would look quaint?

Hallie: Have a great time in of my favourite western Canadian cities! The Surrey conference sounds wonderful for writers.

Karen in Ohio said...

Hallie, I've seen photos of your garden. You DO garden! And beautifully. But I know what you mean. Every year I say I'm going to dig up, divide, and replant everything in a more orderly way, but it never happens. We just need staff, that's all.

I'm a closet dancer. In my mind and heart I am graceful, crisp and musically gifted, but in reality I'm not only a bit of a klutz, but I can never remember steps, including in dances that repeat them, like line dances. My husband does not dance, at all, and has no rhythm (which I do have, at least), so we almost never pair up for a spin around the floor. My favorite part of going out to my friends' in Wyoming is the barn dance. Cowboys, for some reason, are great dancers, and welcome willing partners.

Rhys Bowen, among her jillion other talents (singing, writing, playing the harp, speaking half a dozen languages, and on and on), is also a pretty good watercolor artist. She should share her sketches some time, don't you think?

Karen in Ohio said...

When we went to Tanzania over a birthday, the girls gave me a beautiful, handcrafted journal with handmade paper and a tooled leather cover. I had big ideas for this journal, which included an end result like Benno's. I did make a couple of drawings, but none in color. I hope you do better, Debs.

Safe travels!

Libby Hellmann said...

I've always wanted to be a professional photographer. So I practice when I travel. Alas, I'm not that good. But those photos become my "illustrated" journal. Safe travels, Deb!

Carole said...

Just as a bit of a downer - do you have to show the bottle (in a clear plastic bag) as you go through security??? The journal and journey sound fab!

Mary Sutton said...

The journal is gorgeous. I'm with the others though - can't you buy the ink in England? One, breakage. Two, TSA. But good luck with the drawing/painting.

My aunt used to give me journals all the time. Never used them. Too lazy.

I wish I could draw. My girl is a wonderful artist and I have no idea where that skill came from (because it certainly didn't come from The Hubby or I). I wish I had a beautiful flower/perennial garden. Like Hallie, too lazy.

Used to play more music (piano/violin/viola) and sing. Now, not so much. I'll stick to writing.

Safe travels!

Paula Munier said...

You might want to switch to Waterman pens, which use cartridges but also have a converter so you can use bottled ink.
I love mine:

As for doing something I'm completely untrained for, I'm thinking of walking the Camino de Santiago....
PS: Finally reading my first Gemma and Duncan book and loving it!

Anonymous said...


Your journals look beautiful! Do you use PreTSA check when flying? I am surprised that they will allow you to carry the printer on the plane or is it through checked baggage?

Wish I could dance on pointe. Not worth the pain for me!


Ann in Rochester once more said...

Deb darling, ink is sold in London. Promise. Julie got stopped by TSA for a jar of BBQ seasoning. A pepper bomb. Trust me on this. And bon voyage

Deborah Crombie said...

Paula, I have a friend who walked the Camino de Santiago. I'm hoping to hear all about it when I see her in England.

Thanks all for the ink suggestions. I ordered a bottle from Amazon UK and had it sent to the flat where I'm staying the first couple of weeks.

I do have very nice fountain pens that take cartridges. But I've become addicted to pens made by Noodler which have flexible nibs and are dropper or piston fill only. They are cheap, they leak on planes, but they are so much fun to write with. I am also on a Noodler Ink binge.

Diana, IF I take the printer it will go in the checked bag.

How fun to hear all the things you would like to do, readers! I'd put dancing, singing, and speaking multiple languages on my list, too. And making a quilt.

I also intend to put found things in my journal. Bits of maps and train tickets, etc., etc. For anyone interested in projects like this do check out The Complete Decorated Journal. It's FULL of ideas!

Kristopher said...

Just think Deb, you could auction off a page from your #18 journal at the next convention - fans would love to have a piece of the creative process. Or at least a reproduction of the journal, since it would be a shame to destroy it.

Ann Mettert said...

I used to paint. I've lost the little bit of talent I had. But I keep thinking I'll try it again.

Rhys said...

Debs, I never knew you liked to draw and paint! I do too! Now we must have a sketching retreat sometime.
Don't take the ink. Too much risk and there are good stationers shops all over England that will stock inks.
Is that sketch of the Houses of Parliamint yours? I love it
Keep sending us sketches while you are there. Safe travels xxxxx

Deborah Crombie said...

Rhys, I wish the sketch was mine! I'd like to paint that well someday.

I'm thinking a writing and painting retreat in Italy... xxx

Kaye Barley said...

Debs, it's with thanks to you that I rediscovered the joys of a good fountain pen. It is also with thanks to you that I own one of those beautiful Iona journals which I love way more than is reasonable. And I think your illustrated journal sounds divine!!!!! (I also love Kristopher's idea about auctioning off a page, or a reproduction! I would be a bidder, for sure). I want to hear how your packing goes. I am determined to learn how to pack better, so I'm very interested in hearing how you do. Have fun!!! Work hard!!! In the meantime, I am dying to read "Garden of Lamentations," which has to be one of the very best titles ever.

Pat D said...

Ouch. The artistic gene completely missed me. I wish I could sing, but I can't remember lyrics and it sounds like someone stepped on a cat's tail. I wish I could paint. I have gone to 3 of those paint and drink evenings where you learn how to paint a particular picture step by step. Fun but frustrating. I have sworn those off after studying the results. I would love to rip out what little grass I have out front and put in a beautiful flower and herb garden. Just thinking about trying to plan it stops me cold!

storytellermary said...

Revel in the journal and the watercolors! (but perhaps leave the pretty glass bottle at home -- the potential for disaster might create too much worry). It's splendid to try new outlets for creative thought, and the melding of different approaches has so much potential, feeding the muse.
Once, a student, a dancer recovering from an injury, had written a particularly touching and insightful essay. She said I had shown her that she could express herself in writing just as she did in dance. My heart danced!

Julia said...

I'm a great believer in taking the things you love/that make you comfortable/that inspire you, and THEN worry about fitting in the clothing and toiletries. After all, unless you're traveling well away from civilization, you can always buy face wash and socks at your destination.

As for my dream-it doing: I'm with Paula. I'd love to make the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Unfortunately, I've got torn meniscuses (meniscii?) in both knees, and walking any distance is not a happy thing. Maybe after I get them replaced...

Coralee Hicks said...

Glad you are not taking the ink.. I hope not. if you pack it in your luggage, and the luggage compartment is not pressurized the ink will freeze and expand.. bad news. If you do take it in your carry on most likely it will be confiscated. I vote with UK stationer shops (and wish we had some in Tampa.)

I have dreamed of doing stand up comedy. Maybe I should now that I am deaf and cannot hear the hecklers.

Libby Dodd said...

Unless your ink is less than 3oz it is not going to make it in your carry on.

Warehouse Column Protection said...

Deb: Your journal is beautiful...hope you enjoy dabbling in watercolours. And isn't it interesting that you are packing things from one end of technology to another with your fountain pen and the small portable printer?! And yes, definitely double wrap that small ink bottle.

Kait said...

Your journal sounds gorgeous, but I'm still trying to get over the waterproof ink. I have spent my life searching for waterproof ink. Spectacular! So going on a shopping trip. It comes in purple and Caribbean blue too--right? I hope you'll share a vignette of your journal with us when you return. Have a wonderful and safe trip!

Deborah Romano said...

Deb Crombie, good for you for wanting to try something new! If it were me, I'd probably make a mess of that beautiful journal! I gather that it's unlined?

I would like to be graceful.

I would like to be able to whistle.

I would like to be able to draw something that people recognize.

I would like to have the talent to decorate my home on a budget. People walking into my home don't think "oh, pretty!" It's more like "oh, she likes to read. A lot." (I guess that's not bad, after all!)

Deb Romano

Deborah Crombie said...

Kristopher, what a great idea!

I am boarded and turns out I'm flying BA!

I did pack the printer but not the ink-:)

My bag weighed 41 lbs, so yay for the super light luggage.

Will check in from across the Pond!

Deborah Crombie said...

Kristopher, what a great idea!

I am boarded and turns out I'm flying BA!

I did pack the printer but not the ink-:)

My bag weighed 41 lbs, so yay for the super light luggage.

Will check in from across the Pond!

Deborah Crombie said...

Kristopher, what a great idea!

I am boarded and turns out I'm flying BA!

I did pack the printer but not the ink-:)

My bag weighed 41 lbs, so yay for the super light luggage.

Will check in from across the Pond!

Gigi Norwood said...

Now, see? The instant you talked about taking the ink or leaving it, I thought, oh, leave the ink! Then seek out cool little stationer's shops all over London and the Cotswolds. Think of the cool things you might find! Me? I always wanted to be a torch singer. Also an acclaimed novelist. And, maybe, be capable of just the simplest yoga positions. Plus, I'd like obedient, perfectly trained dogs. My quilts turn out beautifully, though, and the garden is going to be most interesting.

Kathy Reel said...

Debs, I think an illustrated journal is such a fabulous idea, and the watercolors will beautifully bring to life your sketches. I have always wished I could draw and paint, and I did take art lessons when I was twelve and turned out a few acceptable pictures, but the artist in our family was my late sister. I'm a doodler instead. Oh, and that journal is so special. Then, the portable printer? I didn't know such a thing existed. You are well prepared for this trip. I do hope to see some posts with pictures on FB.