Thursday, February 26, 2015

April Blog will publish April 12th late evening. Looking forward to seeing you then.

                        MARCH 2015 BLOG


           I was watching cable (sort of) as I was entering books into my computer when I heard part of a Biography channel commercial, "Tune into Biography and find your inspiration."  That caught my attention and I wrote a note to myself to delve deeper into the mystery of what turns us onto to something. For the next week I thought about it a lot. What inspires someone to create a movie or a picture or a new design for a needlework project?  What inspires me? I hadn't given it much thought before. Now I was on a quest. I started asking people what inspired them. I asked Pam White, a graphic designer. She said,  "I just finished reading, The Nine Muses: A Mythological Path to Creativity. The author, Angeles Arrien reminded me that the Greeks had nine muses to inspire artists, writers, designers, musicians and the like. That book inspired me. Personally, I use different types of music, depending on mood for inspiration. Or sometimes complete silence opens the door."
         Of course, I ordered the book. (It is now out-of-print). I had forgotten that ancient Greeks thought Mnemosyne (goddess of memory) and Zeus were the parents to the nine muses who inspired all the arts. However, I was surprised to learn that one of them, Melpomene was the muse of tragedy that opens the heart through grieving. How could that be?  I pulled out my tapes of The Power of Myth, the six-part interview between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist.  I saw immediately the part tragedy plays in sending us into our hearts and minds for the meaning of such happenings. Think of all the families that have started numerous nonprofit organizations in the name of the deceased love one whether they had died from a disease or murder.
         Next, I revisited Vincent Van Gogh through his letters to his brother, Theo. In 1890 he wrote, "You need a certain dose of inspiration, a ray from on high, that is not in ourselves, in order to do beautiful things." I could agree with that. As I read more letters it became clear to me color was his inspiration. He loved to paint nature and peasants and you can tell color certainly was one of his personal muses. He describes places, nature, people, seasons and even bugs in terms of color. He traveled widely in search of colors. "Spring is tender, green, young corn and pink apple blossoms. Autumn is the contrast of the yellow leaves with violet tones. Winter is snow with black silhouettes. But now if summer is the contrast of blues with an element of orange in the golden bronze of the corn - one could paint a picture which expressed the mood of the seasons year each of the contrasts of the complementary colors." Since Van Gogh was a self-taught artist his letter give us a window into his own special inspirational process. He tells us, 'Walking directly on the spot, I try to grasp what is essential in the drawing, later I fill in the spaces which are bounded by contours -either expressed or not, but in any case felt, with tones which are also simplified.  Now I understood, he didn't draw what he saw but what made him feel, what inspired him went onto canvas. Little could he imagine how inspiring his letters would be over a century later.
       Next, I turned to poets since poetry inspires me too. Robert Frost said, "a poem begins as a lump in the throat." I have a real affection for Robert Frost because his poem, "The Road Not Taken" inspired me to travel to Egypt alone and do research for a book, and to start this business. Remember how the poem begins? "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...." And he has to make a decision which to take. He finally chooses one and wrote, "I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." Another poet, Rita Dove, says she puts down all her inspirations into notebooks. Dove says she has a number of these that she flips through to inspire her. I constantly scribble notes on scrapd of paper but I put them in titled files.
       Excited about this adventure I found myself traveling I called my friend and writer, Martha Miller and asked her what inspires her to put words on paper.  "A book or movie that is well written," she said.  I agreed. One film that really inspires me is, The Whales of August, the last film for Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Vincent Price and Ann Southern. All these legends were in their 80's or more. Bette Davis, weakened from a mastectomy and stroke, is painful at first to watch, yet her power still surfaces. The magic of these four stars on screen is so inspiring I've watched the movie at least six times. As a teenager I spent a summer in Maine and this movie stirred up a pot of memories of that experience. I'm also getting older and seeing these actors not giving in to age or illness reminds me never to quit. That movie is a reminder that inspiration is not the property of a particular age and it is not over until it is over.
        Something was still missing about the roots of inspiration. I called my friend, Nanci Henry, a friend for over forty years.
She and her husband Ed love to cook and Mark and I have had some incredible meals at their home. When I called she was, of course, in the middle of cooking. I asked, "What inspires you to love cooking?" This was a puzzlement to me, a person, who quickly throws a meal together and associates cooking with dirty dishes. "Fragrance," she said. "I love the aroma of spices and herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano and the smell of cooking food. Today I patted rosemary and basil over the entire chicken and it is now roasting in the oven. A that moment Ed walked into their kitchen and I heard him say, "That smells  incredible." Nancy laughed, "That's what triggers my cooking inspiration." Trigger. What a great word.  Some inspiration "triggers" us into action. We talked a few minutes longer about how the sense of smell is our strongest link to memory. One sniff can bring back tons of old memories. A turkey roasting takes me back to Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house. The scent of jasmine instantly transports me back to Cairo, Egypt on a summer night, or the scent of wet grass takes me back to my great Aunt Jessie's summer home in Somers, N.Y. when I was a little girl. Hmm. Maybe I could use more of this sense in my writing. At the very least I had discovered a new appreciation of cooking. And I saw why the Greeks said Memory was the mother of inspiration.

      My journey was headed into its final leg. I really was enjoying this quest. I turned next to needleworkers. Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn leapt into my mind.

I piled up their books and first leafed through The Art of the Needle. The word inspiration jumped out at me in the introduction. "The aim of this book is to inspire you to try techniques new to you and become more aware of and to enjoy the colours and textures that surround you in your daily life." In their, Complete Guide to Creative Embroidery: Designs, Texture, Stitches, they wrote, "the ideas are there to inspire rather than follow slavishly, but the guidelines will encourage those first marks." In Gardens and More, they encourage learning to SEE what we are looking at so as not to miss the discarded snail shells, nuts, fruits, debris from a storm, and even encourage needleworkers to walk barefoot (I who hate to wear shoes, loved that!) and record the sensations to highlight your work. I thumbed through two more titles for more insight. In their Trees as a Theme they remind us, "historical perspective is just one of the aspects of trees that could provide a lifetime of inspiration." And..."The colours and patterns that change with the seasons, winter, summer, sunny or wet may well enchant, motivate and inspire you." In Giving Pleasure they state: "Giving should be a pleasure not a chore. In some countries special clothes form the basis of the gift presentations (eg. Japan, India, and Korea). We can use these celebratory clothes as an inspiration for our own "wrapping cloths" if we treat them as pathway for our designs."
      I couldn't finish my needlework inspiration journey without a word from Constance Howard. In her book Inspiration for Embroidery she writes, "Keen observation is the inspiration for ideas' - and suggests "periods or days should be planned when there is time to look properly as this searching can not be carried out in a few odd minutes." Though hard to schedule I knew she was right.
      So sources of inspiration seem endless. A well we can all dip our ladle into when we are thirsty for new ideas. Color, poetry, films, taking time to really see what we are looking at, mythology, books, history, touching tree bark, music, silence, and cooking aromas all open the door to being inspired. The next time someone asks me what I do I'm not going to say I sell books I'm going to say I sell inspiration! And now you'll have to excuse me. I'm so inspired by my journey I've got a great idea for a new story.

To help with your inspiration:

Gelb, Michael - Creativity on Demand: How to Ignite and
Sustain the Fire of Genius - Do moments of inspiration have to be few and far between - or can yu develop this ability to access your deepest creativity any time? Our author, an expert on inspiration and creativity, says yes we can, that he has discovered the missing key that allows genius to flourish; an open, reliable connection to the vital life energy we all possess.  He received citations for his work.  Guess what I'm reading next?  $16.95   

Johnson, Steve - Where Good Ideas Come From - This sweeping study of the history of innovation breaks out the seven patterns of innovation like "the slow hunch" and "serendipity". It debunks the myth of the lone genius and presents the real-world dynamics and context that enable innovation. He shows how understanding the roots of innovation can lead to individual creative breakthrough.  Great reviews.  $16.00

Csikszentmihaly, Milhaly - Creativity: The Psychology and Invention - His name might be hard to pronounce but his classic work on creativity is an accessible and enjoyable read. His book 
is about capturing those inspirational moments that make life worth living. He reveals what leads to these moments - be it the excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab or those who design things. He uses over 100 interviews with exceptional people and thirty years of research to bring us this book.  $16.99  

Cameron, Julia - The Artist's Way - I've mentioned this classic before and since it is celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping millions discover and cultivate their creative selves I've included it here. This edition is updated and expanded.  $16.99

Leslie, Ian - Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It - I'm a curious person so this book interests me. The author has outstanding credentials in the creative field and studying human curiosity.  He says that curiosity is misunderstood, undervalued, and increasingly monopolized by a cognitive elite. He states that instead of the wired world of internet increasing true curiosity it is now at risk.This mental muscle atrophies without regular exercise and is not encouraged enough at home, in schools, and the workplace. The positive reviews of this book are pages long.  $26.99

Pressfield, Steven - The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles - This book meets "The Artist's Way" in this no-nonsense, profoundly inspiring guide to overcoming creative blocks of every kind.  This was a best-selling New York Times book.  $12.95       


Peck, Amelia - Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade - 1500-1800 - This definitely a great book for inspiration. This is the first book to investigate the textile trade as a history of
design - and to approach it from a universal perspective. Richly illustrated texts examine the inter-relationship of textiles, commerce, and the taste from the Age of Discovery to the 19th Century, providing detailed discussions of more than 120 works. From India with its renowned mastery of dyed-and-painted cotton to the sumptuous silks of Japan and China, Turkey, and Iran, the paths of influence are traced westward to Europe and the Americas.  360 pp., 360 color ill.,maps, and more.  Even the cover is exquisite.  $65.00  I'd like to thank a great needleworker and reader, Connie Collison for introducing me to this title.  

Into Brazilian embroidery? If so, here is a new book for you by Cheryl "Sunshine" Schuler - Sunshine's Fantasy World:
Butterflies, Bugs, Bouquets and Critters Brazilian Embroidery - All color pictures and 136 traceable designs, directions for embroidering the front and back covers, 60 flower directions, 28 stitch reviews and more all under this one cover!  $29.95  

Jalajas, Claudine McCormack - Beaded Bracelets: 25 Dazzling handcrafted Projects -These bracelets are gorgeous! I love the one on the front cover and drooled over the lovely color photos
of the others inside the book. Every bracelet design is unique and has been created by the author.  She helps you master the four basic beadweaving stitches: peyote, crossweave, right angle weave, and herringbone. Each design comes with a complete material list, and clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations. All the projects show you how beads are gently woven together to create bracelets that are lacy, chunky, sleek, fringed, delicate and, of course, beautiful. She also includes tips for purchasing the right tools and beads and resources that will guide you through your buying decisions.  $18.00

Jayne, Torie - How to Show and Sell Your Crafts - Using highly-
visual, step-by-step tutorials, this book is packed with helpful branding, selling, and merchandising tips that no serious crafter should be without. Using profiles of some of the world's most successful crafters, you will learn the top ways to merchandise and sell on-line, craft fairs, markets, pop-ups events, exhibitions and shops. Learn how to create a memorable brand, blog, website, improve your photography and how to optimize your workspace to improve creativity and profitability and so much more.  $22.99

Search Press - A-Z of Crewel Embroidery - Learn the basics, learn new techniques, learn to reach new horizons, and most of all learn to experiment. This is a revamped design of a book that has been a classic for years and now more affordable. Includes 500 step by step photos, 45 stitches and techniques, and full-size patterns included.  $19.95

Schmitz, Beate - How to Make Beautiful Buttons - Great  buttons make a great finish to a beautiful outfit. Buttons are not only practical additions to bags, jackets and other garments but they also make great fashion accessories all on their own. There are 25 designs to make with easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photos accompanying every project. A huge variety of techniques including embroidery, knotting, beading crochet, painting and clay get us started on making buttons. Let's get started!  $19.95 ( March discount code: donna15)

Waldman, Joan - 1000 New Embroidery Designs - Useful for all types of embellishment this resource showcases hundreds of stitch combinations for hand stitching and crazy quilts.  $24.95


Montano, Judith - Free-Form Embroidery with Judith Baker Montano: Transforming Traditional Stitches into Fiber Art - This book is over two years old and has been a great seller but
maybe you missed it.  Judith gives us a new comprehensive stitch guide that will take you beyond traditional embroidery. She shows us how to create stunning landscapes and seascapes by applying fine art principles to your fabrics, threads, and fibers. Learn how to use these materials with other embellishments to convey life like trees, flowers, ocean corals, and more with 60 stitches and 67 stitch combinations. Learn artistic embroidery techniques for building layer, creating dimension and perspective, and blending shapes translate your favorite snapshot of any landscape or seascape into fiber art.  $29.95                


With all the hoopla over deciding what color a dress was on the internet this past week I couldn't resist adding something about color, so important to our lives and our needlework.  As to the dress, how could so many people look at the same photo and see such different colors? I saw blue and black, someone else saw white and gold, and a reporter saw blue and orange. This was not a joke or trick. Some of the differences can be explained by bad lighting in the photo and the light we are in when we look at it, BUT that doesn't explain everything. Jason Silva, who hosts his "Brain Games" on National Geographic Channel, says, "No one sees color the same way." How our brains process reality is different from how our spouse, children or friends process it. To feel like we belong and have some kind of consensus about the world around us we need the illusion we think like our peers.  This dress made us realize how our brains work. He continues on, "The very essence of how you measure reality is being put into question by something as trivial as this dress." I don't know about you but that doesn't scare me like it did Taylor Swift. This realization led to to explore more about the brain.

An article from 2012 by Michelle Hufford owner of Come to the Point (whose title I borrowed for this article) adds to the wonderful mystery of our seeing color.  In her article Michelle writes, "I stumbled onto a fascinating documentary on the Discovery Science Channel entitled Do You See What I See? The subject was color; how do we perceive it, and what influence does it really have on our daily lives? As someone whose mission is to put as many beautiful colors of thread into as many hands as possible, the premise hooked me.

The primary color discussed was red. The question posed by several scientists on the program was are we hardwired to see the color red, or is it a skill we've acquired over the course of evolution, as a survival and /or pleasure enhancing mechanism?

The experiment that intrigued me the most was conducted by Dr. Beau Lotto of University College London. He was interested in determining human perception of color vision. He gave 150 individuals of all ages and genders 49 tiles to arrange as they chose. He discovered that participants arranged the squares in predictable patterns based on clues received from nature. The study concluded that an individual's age, gender, and social status influence color perception.

I was fascinated by this "piecing" experiment. As fiber artists, we ask ourselves every day what color goes where, and does it work with the surrounding colors. When I ask customers why a canvas wound up in the UFO stash, the primary reason is "I don't really like the colors." Red often proves the sticking point.

The results of many of the experiments discussed in the program is that the concept of "red" is a learned one. Love it or loathe it, it's part of our culture." She concludes it's definitely been to our advantage to expand our color palette. 

I've included a selection of books about color here to tempt you to broaden your color horizons.

Eckstut, Arielle and Joan - The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet - This book celebrates the countless ways in which color colors our world. Why is the sky blue, the grass green, a rose red? Most of us can't answer these questions, nor are we aware that color pervades nearly all aspects of life, from the subatomic realm and the natural world to human culture and psychology. Organized into chapters that begin with a fascinating explanation of the physics and chemistry of color, this book travels from outer space to Earth, from plants to animals to humans. We learn about how and why we see color, the nature of rainbows, animals with color vision far superior to ours and those far inferior to our own; how our language influences the colors we see; and more. Our authors also turn our attention of the individual hues of the visible spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet presenting each in fascinating in-depth detail. Whether you see red, are a shrinking violet, or talk a blue streak this book is for anyone wanting to expand their world of color.  $29.95

Mollica, Patti - Color Theory: An Essential Guide to Color-From Basic Principles to Practical Applications - This
book features everything an artist might need to know about color, including shadows, highlights, and much more. Regardless of your medium, a solid understanding of color and its applications is essential. With a fresh, contemporary take on the subject of color, this essential guide features step-by-step projects and practical tips and techniques to put color knowledge to effective use.  $9.95

Pastoureau, Michel - Green: The History of a Color - In this beautiful and richly illustrated book, this acclaimed author of "Blue" and "Black" presents a fascinating and revealing history
of the color green in European societies from prehistoric times to today. Examining the color green in art, clothes, literature, religion, science, and everyday life, our author traces how culture has profoundly changed the perception and meaning of the color over millennia - and how we misread cultural, social, and art history when we assume that the colors used then signify what they do today. Green proves to be an ambivalent color through history - a symbol of life, luck, and hope, but also disorder, greed, poison, and the devil. His study of green is amazing.  $35.00

Greenfield, Amy Butler - A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire - In the 16th century, one of the world's most precious commodities was cochineal, a legendary red dye treasured by the ancient Mexicans and sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune. As the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans, joined the chase for cochineal - a chase that lasted for more than three centuries - a tale of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolded. This book evokes with style and verve this history of a great obsession, of intrigue, empire, and adventures in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.  $15.99 

Wolfrom, Joen - Ultimate 3-in-One Color Tool - 24 color Cards with Numbered Swatches - 5 Color Plans for Each Color - 2 Value Finders Red and Green - All I can add to the tile description of this tool is over 100,000 have been sold.  $16.95


Historical or Mystery? How About Some of Each - Nancy Bilyeau gives Us Both 

Nancy had much experience in journalism before she turned her attention to writing novels. And the period of time she wonderfully involves us in is the reign of Henry the VIII and the dramatic religious changes of that period.  She wanted to understand and share what it would have been like to live through a forced reformation especially when in the 16th century religion was at the core of your life.  Nancy says when she wants to get into the "mood" of the Tudor period she visits the Cloisters Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or taking a very long walk in the snow. As you probably surmised, Nancy lives in New York City with her family.

What authors does she read? In her childhood her first love was Daphne du Maurier. Nancy has read the books of Edith Wharton and Henry James and says she's been also influenced by Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins. She doesn't hesitate, for inspiration, to read one of their books twice. Other writers that are sources of great inspiration for her are: Robert Graves and Mary Renault. Lately she has added A.S. Byatt, Katherine Neville, Elizabeth Kostova, and Ariana Franklin to her list.

But let's get to Nancy Bilyeau's own writing. Her first historical novel, The Crown, debuted to glowing praise. I read it about two years ago and loved her writing.  Her protagonist is Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, who learns her cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII and is to burn at the stake. Defying the rules of her enclosure she leaves the priory to stand by her cousin's side and  ends up, along with her father, arrested by the ruthless Bishop of Winchester who forces her to find an ancient relic - a crown and thus save her father's life.  $16.00   

But the story doesn't end in the first book.  Joanna Stafford is back in the second book, The Chalice.  Aristocrat-turned novice Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king's torture rooms and risks imprisonment again when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King.   This book was the winner of 2013 Best Historical Mystery. $16.00

I was thrilled to see Nancy Bilyeau has a third book in the Joanna Stafford series out this month, The Tapestry. $26.95.  
I'm not waiting until the paperback comes out next year! I'll let you know how it reads.

And Last but Definitely Not Least ...... Janet Perry - Have you seen her series, Predictable Results in Needlepoint ?  If not, here is your chance to get acquainted with Janet and her books. 
She has been doing needlepoint since the late 1970's when she was a mere girl of fourteen and has never stopped.  She needlepoints every day whether she has one hour or many - that's what I call consistency.  Since she also designs she has to leave a space of time for that as well.  Perhaps we can all learn from that.  If we wait for "enough time" nothing will happen.  So I started this year with making sure I write at least for one hour before bedtime. (I'm a lousy morning person.) Janet loves quilting as well and somehow finds a niche for sewing as well. If you curious to learn more about this devoted needleworker take a peak at her teaching books that are great aids in solving problems you might encounter with your stitching.  (Don't forget the discount code of 20%.) 

Touch me, Feel Me: Needlepoint Threads - You'll learn about the different types of fibers, how to classify thread construction, the best way to open different thread packages, and lots of other advice that will make using threads of all kinds a breeze. This book does not list every thread available so it will never go out of date.  $21.95

Making Overdyed Threads Behave - Learn how to use overdyed threads in projects other than geometric designs. You will discover easy techniques that will help you use these lovely threads in any needlepoint piece.  $21.95

Exciting and Easy Background Techniques - Learn great background techniques that will energize your needlepoint. Learn techniques such as using fabric, blackwork or bargello as a background, creating needlepoint damask patterns, and lots more.  $21.95

Color My Needlepoint - This book gives you the information you need to conquer color questions in your needlepoint. You'll learn the basic vocabulary of color, how color behaves in threads, six main color schemes and how to create them in your stitching, an easy way to create a color scheme and more. With examples from art and needlepoint you'll learn about the different types of color contrast and why they are important. Plus you'll see examples of canvases analyzed for contrast and color.  $21.95

The Needlepoint Answer Book - What questions do you have about needlepoint? Dry blocking, laying tools, mesh size - it can be so confusing. Written by a life-long stitcher, beginning stitchers will find it a perfect and easily understood guide to the world of needlepoint. Even experienced stitchers will find great tips and tricks.  $21.95

                                     ABOUT US 

In case you are not familiar with Ruth Kern Books I'd like to introduce you to our business. We've been in the needlework book business for over 23 years.  We have provided books for ANG and EGA seminars for 21 years. We offer a free out-of-print search and stocks lots of out-of-print books at our shop. If you are searching for a particular title give us a try. We have a website that is being updated at this time but it is still useable.

Questions? Call Monday through Saturday toll-free:  1-800-429-5075 between 9:30 am to 6 pm Arizona time. We Arizonians are the people who don't ever change our clocks. Look forward to hearing from you. I always have time for book lovers. Or e-mail me at: or If you want to reach me by mail: Ruth Kern Books 7235 N. 9th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85021.