How to: Make a spare ribbon bookmark for your journal 


This is for the type of notebook with a spine you can look down when the book is open (hardcover or case bound).

  1. Cut the cardboard to go down the spine: Cut a strip of light card. It should be about half the height of the book, and just wide enough to slip down the spine when the book is open. 1cm worked for this Moleskine journal. If in doubt, cut it a little bit too wide, then trim it down until it fits.
  2. Cut the bookmark ribbon: Use a ribbon that is narrower than the thickness of the closed book. Cut a piece that is at least 6cm longer than the book (A bit over 2 inches). I like to keep the ribbon long, then trim it to length when I’m finished (cut it at an angle, to stop fraying). You can also use more than one ribbon, if you want lots of bookmarks.
  3. Attach the ribbon to the card: Attach your ribbon(s) to the top of the strip of card. Overlap the ends, rather than matching them up (see the photos above) – basically, the ribbon should come off the card like a whip off a handle. Staple ribbon and card together, then wrap the join with masking or duct tape for durability.
  4. Attach bookmark to book: Open the book flat, then slide the strip of card all the way into the hollow spine, leaving the ribbon hanging out. When the book is closed, it should hold the card snugly in place.
  5. Reusing the bookmark: The bookmark should pull out easily when you want to add it to a new journal.

(Edited for clarity)

To the Volcano – Part 3

At the Whitegrass Airport on Tanna, F (small and organised and quiet) and her husband C (with a cheerful smile and hair in an impressive top-knot) and the driver whose name I never did quite catch collected me. F and C climbed in the back of the Hilux and we set off over unpaved roads towards the other side of the island.

We stopped at a co-op to buy three eggs. A few kilometres further we picked up more supplies and some extra people for the back. We passed an inlet where some goats were climbing, and a group of peace corps workers walking down the road and came to another smaller store with Bible verses painted over the door and a hurricane lantern hanging in the trees nearby to advertise a kava bar. A little girl wanted to join us but was only allowed to pass up bunches of bok choy and fresh peanuts with their stems tied together. Then the owner of our truck appeared and took over driving. He was friendly, but spent most of the drive on the phone, swearing at one of his drivers (a new mobile phone company had opened across Vanuatu the week before, and the coverage was better than in Australia). We went back to the co-op where some chickens ignored us, then back to the small store and bought potatoes and bok choy and added a few more people to the back. It must have been at this point that the little girl joined us after all.

We turned inland – past coconut palms and overgrown plantations, bougainvillea apparently coexisting peacefully with other plants, farming families walking down the road waving and smiling and swinging their bush knives, cows tethered on banks or blundering loose in the road and regarding us with that particular unimpressed expression native to all cows, past extravagantly-tailed roosters and neat compact pigs which waited intelligently for the truck to pass before crossing the road. We stopped at a little outdoor market under a spreading tree and the driver bought more fresh peanuts, still on the stalk and with a sweet vegetable crispness, which we ate as the truck laboured over rutted, slick hill road.

At last we came over the top of the island and saw the sea on the other side. The horizon seemed as high as we were and the mother-of-pearl ocean fell down to the shore far below us. Down there was an iron-grey plain of ash and the volcano – smaller than I imagined but more barren, a black cone smoking distantly and rumbling.

On the other side of the plain, which was cut by clear streams, we found an ash road between the trees and almost ran over a puppy. Someone recognised it, so it was picked up by one leg and added to the back of the truck. We drove to the driver’s bungalows, unloaded most of the people and supplies, then went back down the ash road and up a rutted side road to our bungalows. I put my bag in my bungalow and then W (driver) and P (guide) and I left in the dark and drove to the volcano.

The main ash roads had been smooth and firm, but the track to the volcano was very rough, well beyond corrugations, and by now it was very dark. We drove to the base and then P and I walked up, P a bit behind me, shining the torch on the path. It didn’t take long to reach the top and then we were on the edge of the volcano.

K and B had described the volcano to me, but it would have been hard to have been prepared. I had been mesmerised by Isabella Bird’s descriptions, but this was not a lake of fire. Instead, a great black sulphorous pit fell away below us, and from the darkness at irregular intervals fire flew upwards. The earth would gather itself with a great roar like the rushing of the sea and then glowing molten rocks would fly up into the air, from far below us high into the sky and fall, whistling and glowing orange against the night. There was more than one cone and they would explode alternately, sometimes a hiss of glitter, sometimes howling and shrieking. Many of the glowing rocks fell back into the earth, but some seemed to stop suddenly in mid-air, fallen on the sides of the cone which was otherwise invisible in the darkness. Huge rocks rough with glassy knobs lay around us, fruits of more violent explosions – some within the last few weeks.

It was hard to turn away – it felt disrespectful. Walking back down, the volcano rumbling and venting behind us, I looked across to another mountain, cold and dark, with the plume of the milky way sailing up from it like an explosion of ice.

(Part 1 here; Part 2 here; still to come: Part 4 “Things that didn’t kill me”)

Vanuatu: To the Volcano – Part 1

While in Vanuatu, I went on two jaunts by myself. On both occasions I expected to be thrown in with an existing group of tourists, and instead was alone with a guide. The first was a Saturday rainforest trail ride through some of the prettiest cattle country I have seen. The second time, I went to Tanna to see the volcano.

When I was little, a combination of factors (to wit: living in a wooden house with a wood-burning stove; living on a cattle property in a drought; growing up on novels of the Ash Wednesday fires; a well-read National Geographic with pictures of Mount St Helens; a children’s encyclopaedia which described in sufficiently lively detail the tale of the farmer in Mexico who found hot rocks popping out of his paddock and a week later the farm was covered by a live volcano; and my family’s general inability to get out of the house in a timely fashion) gave me nightmares about fiery pits and infernos for years. And then I read Isabella Bird’s accounts of climbing up and looking into volcanoes on Hawaii, and generally being Victorian and fabulous, and decided that I would quite like to see one. Her descriptions were awe-inspiring.

I did very little research before I went to Vanuatu, partly because I do fly by the seat of my pants and partly because I didn’t expect to be doing anything on any other islands. But then K and B washed in on the tide bearing tales of maritime adventures and videos of the volcano and I realised that I was right there, in Vanuatu, only a few islands away from a Real Live Volcano.

The rest of the group were kind enough to encourage me to go (and then give me a hard time later about skipping out on work), so when I went to the markets to buy cucumbers and pamplemousse, I kept walking to the thatch-roofed tour agencies and found an overnight trip to Tanna, including everything except dinner and the fee to enter the volcano area, for only a few hundred dollars. One of the shiny shop-front agencies offered a trip for over a thousand, but that did not include flights. The next day I collected my tickets, and the next morning I worked, had a quick lunch and caught a bus to the airport.

Page 13

Vanuatu: Sketchbook

My poor maltreated Moleskine. It is held together with duct tape now (on the inside, so I can’t pass it off as industrial punk) and has been soggy and dirty and flecked with volcanic ash and had a near miss in the Port in Port Vila.

But it survived and the picture pages are scanned and up as a set on Flickr: Vanuatu 2008 Moleskine.

This sketchbook has fewer receipts and brochures and tickets than the American one (although there are one or two pages of receipts and boarding passes I didn’t scan in), and is better scanned and – in the drawings at least – more colourful due to my acquisition of more markers. My handbag was (is) full of markers (and pencils, erasers, sharpeners, gel pens, blending pencils, etc).

But next time I will carry the book in a ziplock bag. Just in case.

—–

Now, so far I only have one question to answer about Vanuatu, and my answer is: no, to the best of my knowledge there are no longer cannibals in Vanuatu; that doesn’t stop the tourist trade trading on that piece of history; and from time to time startled linguists have been ‘discovered’ by anthropologists searching for cannibal tribes.

Any other questions?

 

What was learned – Part 5 of my travels with a sketchbook

USA Sketchbook 20
  1. I had an epiphany at a Turner exhibit – the importance of boldness. This was the biggest lesson: to be bold in terms of time, line and materials. I have always tended to pale, tentative sketches. The limitations of time and materials forced me to far less subtlety, and I think that is a good thing. You can get away with a lot more if you do it with confidence and flair. I’m still working on both of these, but I am aware of the difference now.
  2. To appreciate markers and coloured pencils. Not always like, but appreciate.
  3. The joy of having the book constantly up to date.
  4. Paying attention to little scenes. I remember places keenly because of a knitting girl or a moldy pumpkin.
  5. People complicate travel sketching. I am conscious of their possible reaction (both to my sketching and to others’ reactions), time constraints, the need to move at a joint pace rather than individual, the vagueness it lends my half of conversations. I need to practice drawing in company and to stop being rritated by conversations which on drawing time.
  6. I have become much more comfortable with drawing/sketching from life and have continued this in other sketchbooks since returning.
  7. I like having a visual record. It is more legible than handwriting alone, I look back at it more frequently than a written journal, and I think it is more self-contained and interesting than a photo album alone.
  8. I feel less self-conscious about inviting people to look at sketchbook than at photo albums. This is partly vanity and partly because I am never convinced people actually want to look at photos (and I have to sit there and explain them).

Knitting at Books of Wonder

Next time I will:

  1. Take less.
  2. Ignore perfection – better at all than never.
  3. Draw more.
  4. Be bold.
  5. Make hi-res scans the first time around (still, better at all than never).

Painting Ghandi
The other parts:

And the journal itself is up as a set on Flickr: USA 2007 Moleskine.

What was organised – Part 4 of my travels with a sketchbook

Alligator Rattle

In the grand tradition of not making up my mind until the last possible moment (as usual, some time after take-off) I browsed through travel journals in newsagencies and online trying to determine an optimum combination of categories – should I include expenditure? an itinerary? what about an address book? How much space should be allotted for each day? How did artists organise their travel sketchbooks, if at all? Were journal, diary and sketchbook incompatible?

I settled on the winning combination on the flight over: The debden notebook would retain its usual structure – infodump with index. I put all postcard addresses in there (indexed under “contacts”). Otherwise, it was used for directions, reminders and a futuristic science fiction story involving cryogenic sleep and prosthetic limbs and lawyers on motorcycles and mafia connections and the rule of law (the true hero) and consisting only of the bits in between the action.

The sketchbook was divided into two sections.

Section one was a planner: each page featured four hand-drawn boxes with the date (a sticker), month and day of the week. In these I jotted down a very minimal account of the day, and only missed the last four or so. For a random example, 17 October – Wednesday reads:

Up 9-ish.
Watched part of the Waltons and Little House (guest starring a very young James Cromwell)
Breakfast @ Free Port (“Good food, legal drinks”): cinnamon scrolls.
To North East to wait for Martha to get off work.
Lunch at Bova’s.
Back to Martha’s to drop off a sub for Nick.
Through Eyrie to Presque Isle.
Drove around Presque Isle, monument, lighthouses.
Stopped at visitor centre.
Back to Martha’s for pie. Spoke to C.O. on phone.
Back to farm.
Downloaded photos. Kathy & Mommy organised for me to go to Pittsburgh.

Section two was everything else (I micromanage content, as you can see). The date headers went in as each day came along. I sketched as I could through the day, wrote only a little, and at the end of the day added in any cartoons or drawings (often from photos on my camera or phone) or bits-and-pieces that remained.

I had an idea that if I wanted a list of expenditures I could start from the back, or keep lists of Things to Eat on the index cards in the back pocket, but none of these were necessary.

Driving to Pittsburgh

And the journal itself is up as a set on Flickr: USA 2007 Moleskine.

What was stuck – Part 3 of my travels with a sketchbook

USA Sketchbook 44

I did not want to repeat the pattern of previous holidays which resulted in collections (envelopes, packages, bags, boxes) of papers, brochures, tickets, advertisements, envelopes, squashed pennies, packaging, cards and labels.

This time, I implemented a policy I referred to as Cut Things Out and Stick Them In.

Every night, before bed, I had to cut up the papers collected through the day, cut them up, stick the relevant sections into my sketchbook-journal and Throw The Rest Away.

There were a few late nights, but it was not generally an onerous task and tiredness could make me brutally selective. As I carted the glue stick with me, dead time in airports (“the planes in America have never been so safe or so late”) and planes and trains or while other people were in bed could be used productively.

My bags were lighter, there were no folders to sort or store when I arrived home, and I don’t regret throwing out anything I did.

Best of all, the journal was always up to date. I could not show photographs to people, but I could show them scraps and sketches, and when I arrived home, the journal was almost complete: pictures drawn, scraps stuck in, observations made at the time. All that remained was to add in the few pieces that had fallen through the cracks and into the back pocket of the sketchbook: a menu, some currency, a greeting card.

Scraps, however, were not the only things that were stuck in. Before I left, I treated myself to one of the unsung treasures of the stationer’s: numbered stickers. I took a package of black-on-white to label the days in the planner at the start of my sketchbook, and white-on-black to label each day as I progressed through the sketchbook. It was unnecessary but fun, with some of the mild excitement of an advent calendar, and knowing that as each day was sketched and written and pasted, I could mark it off and start a new one with a fresh new sticker.

USA Sketchbook 21

The sketchbook is here: USA 2007 Moleskine.

Other parts: