Last week’s discussion about Japanese vs. US craft books was freaking amazing! We heard from book readers, authors, and publishers. Thank you to everyone who chimed in! (And, please keep chiming in if you like.)
Now, one thing that emerged in this conversation is that some folks seemed to hear me saying that all US craft books were somehow “bad.” That’s not my assertion at all. My point simply was that a lot of recent US releases didn’t seem to have as much staying power in my book stash.
There have been a few craft books in recent years that really stand out as examples of high value and usefulness. To my mind, they embody a lot of the things I was saying about Japanese craft books. So I thought I’d share them:
Home, Paper, Scissors, by Patricia Zapata
If you read Patricia’s blog, then you know she has a very distinct design sensibility – clean, simple, and modern. She used that style to great effect in Home, Paper, Scissors, but even more importantly, she presented a tightly-focused set of projects that took paper craft to new places.
Instead of relying on the usual papercraft suspects, Patricia showed us how to create shelves and lamps and bowls from paper. She really challenges the boundaries of what can be done with the medium. Plus, the projects are loaded with clear process photos.
This is a useful educational book, but also a challenging inspiration book. My review is here.
I love the way Susan thinks. Both of these books feature interesting projects I had never seen anywhere else. In Eco-Craft, Susan transformed six-pack rings into a gorgeous room divider. And Fabricate offers a completely inspiring new way to think about fabric – instead of offering yet another collection of sewing projects, she looks at ways to tweak, deconstruct, and transform fabrics. I always get a few new ideas when I flip through these books.
In both books, too, Susan offers lots of step-by-step photography, so each project is much easier to replicate – or reinterpret.
These two books strike me as awesome nerd love-letters to the craft of book-making. In both titles, there are totally fresh ideas as well as very old techniques. All the prototypes have a sense of humor, and all the projects come with delightful step-by-step illustrations.
Lotta Prints, by Lotta Jansdottir
To some extent, this book has less step-by-step education than I’d like, but since the actual craft techniques are so simple, it gets away with it. What makes this book shine is Lotta Jansdottir’s unique design vision – and an abundance of photos.
My review is here.
Material Obsession, by Katy Doughty and Sarah Fielke
This has to be one of my all-time favorite quilting books, and that’s because it approaches the craft through a focused eye. The authors re-interpret traditional quilt patterns using modern fabrics and design ideas. And they explain the rationale behind their design decisions in a totally engaging way.
I also love that each quilt design in the book is accompanied by clear illustrations and a useful full-quilt diagram. My review is here.
Looking at this group, I notice that all these books emphasize process over product. Maybe that’s at the heart of what makes a craft book valuable – its gives you food for creative re-interpretations, rather than a proscribed set of projects to copy.
It’s certainly true, though, that this is just the type of crafter I am. There’s a market for those project-based books, too.
What do you think? Which craft books have you seen lately that offer great value, and why?