Category Archives: Book Reports

When art won’t let you go, you write a book.

Sometimes when I finish a piece of art, I’m not finished. The ideas or inspiration or designs are still in my head and they still have something to say. I think this is why many artists do things in a series, like Monet’s variations on haystacks. The piece itself might be done, but the art is still trying to say something.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, I am done and ready to move on. But the art for the recent public art/utility box project that I did is one of those that stuck around and wouldn’t let me go. Before I had even finished up the final technical details of getting those pieces ready to be installed, I decided that I wanted to write a book.

The beautiful thing about making a book from this project was that most of the hard work was done. Because I was already making print ready files for sticky vinyl coverings, I already had high res files that were perfect for printing. And I had a lot of “leftover” photos. When I started the project for Prospect Park, I took about 500 photos so that I had options to work from. I wasn’t sure what I would need and I knew I didn’t want snowy winter pictures, so I shot a lot last fall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.42.17 AMThe story for the book I wrote at about 2 am one morning and it started with pictures of feet. The book has a very simple story; basically it’s about taking a walk with an artist and looking around you for art. Exactly what I did when I took the photos to make the collages. I realized that I had several photos that had my feet in them, because whatever I was photographing was on the ground. I was planning to just crop out my feet if I used those photos, but what better way to illustrate a walk and bring me into the story a little bit?

It’s a “kids book”, because I think there is a lot in it that kids would enjoy. Did you know that I snuck in a few pictures just for me? My dog, Leo, appears on one page. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s just his fur, and he’s wet.) There are lots of things to look for in the photos and I continued the I Spy game with thumbnails of things like colored pencils and faucet handles to look for in the photo collages.

IMG_3667I decided to publish this book myself. The great thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. The terrible thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. But I really think that was the best fit for this kind of a book. And I love how it turned out. I used a service called Blurb to print the books. It is a print-on-demand company, which means I can get as many or as few printed as I want to. They had a template set up for InDesign, which I use all the time, so the setup was really easy. And thanks to my sister Beth, who is my best second pair of eyes. She always sees the stuff I missed and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when something looks dumb.

Of course, I would like to sell a few, but more importantly for me, I want people to know the story. How many times have you run into art out in the world that was without context? Sculptures in parks, murals, mosaics. There is rarely an artist’s name and there is almost never a story. And don’t you always have things that you wonder? Why are there whales painted on the wall under the bridge? What’s the story? There is something fun about making up your own story, but I am curious. I want to know the artist’s story. I want to know the connections and I want to make my own connections beyond just thinking “I like those whales.”

So this book has several different stories. It’s about the art that’s in the book. But I also included a page about the art that I made first, the art that’s on the boxes. If the world is kind to them, the installers tell me that those wraps can last for several years. And I hope people wonder about them and have questions. I wasn’t allowed to put my website on the boxes (lest it look like advertising) but maybe through the magic of Google, someone will be curious and find the story.

And don’t think I am forgetting about fabric in all of this. I collected lots of photos of circles, thinking I would use those for making some part of the designs. They didn’t make the final cut for the boxes, but I used them for the cover of the book and to design this fabric:

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I made a dress from it to wear to the walking tour the neighborhood association did for the boxes. You can see a little bit of that here in the article that the local paper wrote about the project and it’s available at Spoonflower.

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. - photo courtesy MN Daily

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. – photo courtesy MN Daily

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.33.35 PMIf you’d like to get a copy of the book, you can get them at:

Online Party: A Spoonflower Handbook Giveaway

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.45.16 PMI know that not all of you live in the Twin Cities area and you can’t all make it to our book event here, so I am going to have an online party as well and I am going to give away a copy of the book as a door prize.  (That’s my way of saying thank you to all of you out there in my online community too.)

To enter yourself for my doorprize drawing, you just have to give me a shout out and I will put your name in the hat.  It’s that simple.  Between now and October 16…

  • make a comment on this post
  • hop over to my Facebook page and say hi
  • tweet me something @beckarahn
  • send me a hello message through my Spoonflower shop
  • sign yourself up for my e-newsletter (there’s a form right over in the sidebar)

Any of those things will put your name in for the drawing.  If you already have a copy of the book or have seen it, I would love to hear what you like best.  (I love the Pen tutorial on page 203.)

The fine print.

  • If you already have a copy of the book (YAY!) and you win, I will send your prize as a gift to a friend.  You tell me where it should go.
  • Make sure I can get in touch with you.  ie. If you leave a comment without your email address entered in the comment form, I won’t be able to track you down.
  • Any comments, tweets, posts etc I receive before 11 pm (CDT) on October 16 will count.

The honor of your presence is requested…

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Don’t forget: The party is this Thursday.

I would love to see you there.


You are invited: Spoonflower Handbook Book Party


We are throwing a party and we want you to come.  I would like to personally invite all of you to join us at a book party for the release of the Spoonflower Handbook.  I wanted to do a little event here in Minneapolis because this community has been so fantastic.  So many of you have taken a class or asked me about a project or taught me something about design, that I thought it was only right to do something fun to say thank you for all of your help and encouragement and inspiration.  So, Stephen is coming and we will talk about the book.  He’s bringing all of the projects from the book (and some more really fun bonus projects).  We will have door prizes to give away.  Textile Center will have books to sell.  We will even sign your books if you want us too.  (I can’t believe I actually have a book to sign!  How cool is that??)

The party will be held at Textile Center on Thursday October 1 at 6pm.  (Go to for parking & directions.)


Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters, mystery writer and creator of the indomitable Amelia Peabody, has passed away.  I have read every one of the books in that series several times, as well as a number of titles under her other pseudonyms. A description from the Washington Post of her 85th birthday party last year makes me certain that she was as much of a character as the ones she wrote about.  I am sad that I won’t have any more of her books to look forward to.

Embroidery, &Stitches and more

The latest issue of &Stitches zine is available and I am a contributor! This issue is all about books: embroidery books themselves, book themed patterns, fun contributors (like Aimee Ray and Cate Anevski) and a couple of tutorials for some really neat stitches (Turkey stitch).  It’s a fantastic issue once again.

My project & article is all about teaching embroidery to kids.  I picked one of my favorite projects, “Poetry Pockets” that we have done with several groups of 1st and 2nd graders at the Textile Center and gave some tips for ways to teach embroidery to kids, like picking the right needle and thread.

Threading needles is always the biggest hurdle in teaching kids (or adults) to embroider, so I have a bonus tip for you, which I always show in my beginning embroidery classes: Making your Own Needle Threader.

You can get “needle threaders”, which look like a little bit of metal with a wire loop on the end.  You pass the loop through the eye of the needle, put the thread through the wire loop and them pull it back so the thread goes through the eye.  Great idea, but I can tell you from experience that if you put one of these in the hands of an 8 year old boy it will last about 13.5 seconds before it is completely mangled.

However, you can make your own needle threader for large-eyed needles (embroidery or chenille) out of a tiny slip of paper.  Just cut a piece of scrap paper about 2 inches by 3/16 inches.  Fold it in half.  Lay your thread end in the fold.  Now push the fold of the paper through the eye of the needle.  Easy! (And you can make more when they get mangled.)