This week I was fortunate enough to be creatively employed. Well, not for money, but it was certainly pleasant having a project. My friend Hannah works at an adorable little boutique here in Oxford called Juniper and she asked me to come in and help with a new window display this week while all the students were out of town for spring break. I convinced Megan, a friend from my work, to help and we had so much fun making stuff. Mostly we just got to hang out and make paper flowers all day, which, if you ask me, is an awesome day. It reminded me of how nice it feels to make things just for the sake of making things. I've been pretty obsessed with Ashley Meaders, a DIY style event designer, and we used her ideas as inspiration. We made a bunch of different sorts of flowers before settling on what we used, and just playing around with the paper and whatever we could find around the store was a perfect exercise in creativity. It definitely got the juices flowing again, which feels great. Overall, not a life-changing mammoth project, but it felt nice to be creating in public other than murals, not to mention the chance to be around some great ladies all day.
(Above)Megan working on the finishing touches for the flowers
Registering for gifts is one of the strangest customs I have encountered during our engagement. For the first time in your life you get to tell all your friends and family, "buy me things!" and you don't even have to be ashamed about it. What's more, you get to tell them exactly what to get you so they don't even have the excuse that they just weren't sure what you needed. AND you get to run around department stores with little price zappers in some deranged grown-up version of laser tag. So what's not to love?
The downside is this: as with all great privileges, this can be abused. Sean and I, in addition to Target and Crate & Barrel, also opened a registry on Amazon.com for the express purpose of using their Universal Wishlist feature. That means nothing is off limits for your registry. Maybe you want to register for that one-of-a-kind wine opener hewn from ancient acacia trees and blessed by a shaman but it's only sold on some obscure import enthusiast site. Thanks to this feature, that's not a problem. You can rope in any items from any site and compile them into a registry on Amazon. This opens a world of possibilities, but in the words of Solomon, an increase in knowledge is an increase in sorrows. No sooner had I started poking around the internet for cool, one-of-a-kind items to add to our registry than I realized that this feature made it really easy to go overboard. I've seen plenty of couples get married and register for items they use once and then it becomes another thing that takes up space. I'm sure Sean and I's first place won't be Versailles, and whatever space we have we'll need to use economically.
Still, it's hard to hold back on some of this stuff, so I've compiled a list of my Top Ten Things I Wish I Could Register For, just to get them off my chest. Some things got the boot because they were too impractical or too expensive or the fatal combination of both. Seriously, what good would it be to have a historically accurate working Gramophone if you have no plates to eat dinner off of while you listen? Better to stick with the necessary objects, I say. Also, some items snuck their way in because they were just selfish wishes: things I'm not sure register etiquette allows for, I just don't have the funds to buy them for myself. Finally, the most difficult to veto were things like rugs and furniture that belong on a registry, we just don't know where we'll be and if those things will fit wherever we end up. But hey, maybe I'm being too practical. Anything on here you think I really should put on the registry? I'm standing by...
Yesterday while trolling down the aisles of our local grocer, I discovered a treasure. It was the only one of it's kind left on the shelf, and for $1.70, there was no way I could afford to leave it there. Now it resides on our coffee table. The verdict? Best $1.70 I spent yesterday. I know you must be wondering the identity of said mystery object and don't fret, I will tell you.
It's a tissue box.
Yes, it's true, I've always been a sucker for a well designed tissue box. You can observe for yourself how nice it looks in our home. It's got that great book
spine design that I've noticed is becoming quite prevalent lately, a trend whose train I will shamelessly jump on.
I first began to notice this around Christmas, when I gave my lovely housemate and snail mail enthusiast Shannon a box of Penguin Publishing house's Postcards from Penguin, in which there are 100 postcards featuring vintage Penguin book covers. One of the cards that really caught my eye sports a stack of some particularly flashy old book spines.
Penguin, it seems, has really been cashing in on this. Postcards aren't the only items being printed with their book stacks. They are also hawking novelty wrapping paper and journals, both of which I could be easily tempted to endanger my bank account over.
You don't even need an actual library these days to fill your house with books. You don't need to run to Ikea for that MDF shelving system you can't pronounce the name of (who knows how to use an umlaut these days?) All you need is wallpaper.
It's true. Designer Tracy Kendall has made it possible for you to tome it up anywhere you like...or at least anywhere your landlord will allow.
When I saw that tissue box, it made me wonder: why are we so into this? Why
do we suddenly want to be surrounded by books? Is it because soon we won't have them anymore? Are we printing them on every surface imaginable because they are a dying relic? The Amazon Kindle has made a killing already, and other reading gadgets, like Barnes and Noble's Nook, already can pull up thousands of books (even those from your public library!) for your convenience. I think our culture is being confronted with letting go of an object that is more than just a thing. The book is a symbol of knowledge, learning, and the possibility for people to understand each other across time and cultures. By that definition the Book is something epic, something we won't get over easily.
I recall an exhibit I saw in Cincinnati last fall by one of my favorite artists, Anne Hamilton, called Reading. There were several different experiential aspects to the exhibition, but just one that really stuck with me. Hamilton had cut up old paperback books and stacked them in ways that were beautiful and detailed and compelling.
Hamilton's Book Weight
In her statement the artist describes reading "as [an experience] that might leave the reader forever changed, but leave no material trace"(Hamilton 2010). It's true that the book itself is just a vessel for it's words, so maybe the object itself isn't important. But when I look at these things printed with book spines I am reminded of the Royal Tenenbaums and how you can almost smell that old musty book scent just watching that movie. How Ritchie and Margot camp out in the Museum of Natural History and read books by flashlight under the benches. And I think of how, my freshman year of college, I would ride my bike across town to the public library every friday before dinner and pile a bunch of books in my basket to take back to my dorm, more than I would ever read. I hope I'm not the only one out there. Didn't any of you ever retreat into those wise old walls of books? But being in there felt safe, like there were familiar things and people in an otherwise unfamiliar place.
Maybe a Kindle can conjure up those same feelings, but I remain skeptical. As for the wallpaper, tissue boxes, and other book-printed paraphernalia, I say an emphatic yes please! Just don't let them take away the actual books; let them make it feel more like living in that old, familiar library.