A super quick GIVEAWAY!

I’ve got a brand spanking new copy of Seth Godin’s latest book, What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn) to give away.

I’ve been working my way through this book slowly, savouring it. Let me just say, it’s awesome.

seth godin  what do do when its your turn


Giveaway is over on my Facebook page here, and open to Australian residents only (sorry!). Bonus entries if you’re subscribed to the minibus!

Comp is open until this Friday (so hurry), and winner will be announced on Saturday 10th January.



Join me on Facebook at tractorgirl.viz.biz to enter.


(Yes, I know I’m officially supposed to be on holidays, but I thought I’d sneak this in before I actually head to the beach on Sunday. Julie 🙂 x)


{Update: 10th January, 2015}

And the winner is….. Grace of Papier Mouse!!

Congrats Grace, I KNOW you will love this book. I’ll be contacting you shortly to arrange delivery.

Thank you everyone who entered, you guys are awesome!

Julie XX

The crafted object : Su Blackwell {papercut}

Su Blackwell : papercuts

In secret forests small creatures lie low and trees whisper their stories to each other through their leaves and branches. Light plays games of hide and seek with shadows as solitary wanderers search out their destinations. Birds sing quiet songs of loneliness, despite the company they keep.


su blackwell - the woodcutters hut

su blackwell – the woodcutters hut


The storybook papercuts of Su Blackwell are evocative; imbued with a sense of melancholy and longing, of magic, mystery and intrepid adventuring on a childhood scale.


“As a child, I spent a lot of time playing in the woods near to my home, in my own make-believe world. I gave the trees names and believed they would protect me. I made dens, with curtains and carpets that I scavenged from home.”


su blackwell - the raven (photo by jaron james)

su blackwell – the raven (photo by jaron james)


After school, Su drifted into textiles at the local college in Sheffield, and discovered she loved it so much she continued, eventually receiving her MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003. Now living and working in West London, she has designed large-scale theatre sets, she contributes to regular columns in Intelligent Life magazine and Harpers Bazaar UK,  and her clients have included Disney-Hyperion, Penguin books, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, British Airways and Vogue Deutsch, and has exhibited extensively.


su blackwell - treasure island

su blackwell – treasure island


Her foray into dioramas started after a trip to Thailand, when she found a beautiful second-hand book on the Kao San Road. “My father had passed away while I was studying at the RCA, and I was thinking about life, death, and the in-between. I created my first book-sculpture, ‘The Quiet American’, cutting moths from the book with a craft-knife. The piece was inspired by a Chinese legend, about two lovers whose souls re-emerge from burnt ashes in the shape of two moths. I began working with paper, because of its connection to spiritual rituals that I encountered in South East Asia, and this in turn led me to work with books, and fairy tales.”

She says although she always starts with an idea, it’s the materials that lead the work. And while textiles are still important to her, she says that paper is her medium of choice for several reasons. “Paper is more malleable to the hand, it has a visible memory. I am not tired of working with paper, in fact the more I work with it, the more fascinating it becomes. Fabric is less forgiving than paper.”

“Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world. I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions.”


su blackwell - nature in britain

su blackwell – nature in britain


Her influences are many, including Ann Hamilton, Joseph Cornell and Jonathan Callan. She says it was particularly Jonathan Callan’s show ‘Interference’ at The New Art Gallery in Walsall that had the most profound influence on her, for his ability to push the boundaries of materials.


su blackwell - the baron in the trees

su blackwell – the baron in the trees


su blackwell - the baron in the trees (detail)

su blackwell – the baron in the trees (detail)


There is always respect for the book. “I always read the book first, at least once or twice, and then I begin to create the work, cutting out, adding details. The detail is what brings it all together, the magic element. It is a tediously slow process.”

You can find more of Su’s work on her own website, www.sublackwell.co.uk.


Small biz + Books : The Compendium of Collective Nouns {Jen Skelly}

jen skelly - compendium of collective nouns

The Compendium of Collective Nouns :


How is THIS for a book?

I am so excited my good friend Jen Skelly is launching her very first book! I feel very fortunate to have been given a copy of it to review.

Working as a self-employed illustrator out of her home in Tasmania, she has drawn on her long-term fascination with animals and their collective nouns to put together this very charming book, the publishing of which has been crowd-funded through a Pozible campaign.

jen skelly - bouquet of hummingbirds

Jen’s wonderful illustrations are quiet, bright, curious and sweet. And the colours are glorious! Bouquet of Hummingbirds has to be one of my very favourites, for the jewel-like hues of the birds which she has captured beautifully.  I love the little added details of decorative pattern on many of the animals too – it adds another whole level to the drawings making these engaging creatures even lovelier to contemplate (haha, I’m such a sucker for pattern!).

jen skelly - hover of trout

Perfect for grownups as well as kids, Jen deserves serious congratulations for this effort. My kids love it! I love it. You can get copies of the book in her Etsy shop here.



(And you can find out more about Jen on her own website, RedParka.com.au. Her story to becoming an illustrator is a long, meandering and occasionally rough one, with many sidetracks, setbacks and false starts, including a one-time ambition to be an olympic swimmer! I encourage you to read more about her journey here).


Books : Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger


audrey niffenegger - her fearful symmetry

audrey niffenegger – her fearful symmetry


Despite the appalling title (really? her what? -), I picked this book up to read as I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife so much, for its imagination and oh so skilfully crafted plotline.

This is a ghost story about estranged identical twin sisters, one with identical twin daughters. When Elspeth, one of the elder twins dies, she wills her large apartment overlooking the historic Highgate Cemetery in London to the younger twins, who she hasn’t seen since they were tiny babies. But it seems that even in death, Elspeth can not quite leave her flat, and becomes a force within it.

There has been a great rift many years ago between Elspeth and her twin Edie, the younger twins’ mother. Edie, who lives in America, has never spoken of Elspeth to Julia and Valentina because of some mysterious and dark secret.

Arriving in a strange country to live in the apartment of an aunt they never knew they had, Valentina and Julia spend their days exploring London. Valentina feels stifled by her elder twin Julia, who in turn feels utterly sure that her purpose in life is to keep her asthmatic sister safe from harm.  There is Elspeth’s grieving lover who lives in the apartment downstairs, and there’s an obsessive compulsive crossword setter who lives upstairs. It’s a complex story of relationships both real and imagined, of human frailty and what prompts us to behave the way we do.

There are some aspects of the book that I found a bit far-fetched (although perhaps surprisingly, the ghost of Elspeth was definitely not one of them). However, Niffenegger’s writing is vivid, the plot is wonderfully imaginative, well-woven and gripping.

Despite its faults, there are great characters, and some great scenes in this book, and it has to be said, some sections that were totally gobsmacking.

Niffenegger is a wonderful storyteller, and Her Fearful Symmetry is well worth a read.

Books : An Extraordinary Theory of Objects ~ Stephanie LaCava


an extraordinary theory of objects - stephanie lacava

an extraordinary theory of objects – stephanie lacava


An Extraordinary Theory of Objects ~ a memoir of an outsider in Paris is a curious book, although perhaps not quite as curious as Stephanie would have us believe.

The book itself is intriguing. The edges of the pages are left rough, mimicking antique books with their uncut edges, and there are some nice illustrations, the best of which glow with ink like a good etching. There are also some nice words – rich stories of searching out beautiful and interesting things, of finding pleasure in small details, and of LaCava’s seemingly inscrutable father, with his moustache and his mysterious job.

Stephanie describes herself as strange. Of feeling displaced, an outsider, awkward in the company of others, and finding comfort in collecting things of historical or natural wonder – toy frogs, a piece of ivory, a skeleton key. And when she was 12, her family moved from America to a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Paris called Le Vesinet. For someone who was already a loner and coped by burying herself in collections of curious things, the move was a further push down the road of withdrawal. Her collections became her solace, a kind of unchangeable certainty.

Perhaps it’s her knack for describing logically the reasons for her behaviours, and perhaps it’s the fact that she is not alone in feeling awkwardness as a teenager, but for me her stories don’t convey that strangeness that she is at pains to point out. Not to discount LaCava’s struggle with depression, but it would seem that much of what she describes would be true of many teenagers’ experiences, and would be especially true of a teenager swept to a foreign country with a foreign language.

Despite the usual disclaimer about changing some names in the story to preserve anonymity, there are some strange, unanswered questions. Like why she chose to change the names of her brother and her husband when they are clearly named in the acknowledgements at the back. Perhaps that’s just a bit more of her strangeness.

The stories are nonetheless engaging, and at times beautifully evocative of the places experienced – the Palais Rose, the antique market. What I find particularly lovely is that each special object is accompanied by substantial footnotes, explaining that object’s origins and connections.

Despite its shortcomings, it’s a read I’d definitely recommend.

{Stephanie LaCava also has a website, where she posts photographs and words regularly – stephanielacava.com}

an extraordinary theory - skeleton key