(the last) SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES (for this year, anyway): When Shape Matches Content

I traveled to China in 2004 with 8 extended family members
(ages 10-81).
My uncle Billy specializes in architectural and stock photography from China.
He speaks Mandarin and he's an awesome tour guide.
So he planned a trip for our family.
My journal from the China trip is probably my favorite travel journal.
And I think this is largely because the shape fits the content.
Think shapes. Now think Great Wall of China or long snaky Dragon. They're both long meandering shapes.
So is this journal.
It's an accordion book with signatures sewn in on both sides.
I made the journal as I went.
I bought the fabric in China.
It stretches out long, and crunches up small.
It's not the only book I've ever made where the shape matches the content. Try this one about a family reunion in Minnesota:
Have you ever made a journal into a shape that somehow matches the content? I'd love to hear about it.
As summer is finishing up, it's time to bid adieu to my
Thanks for joining me! Happy September everybody.


These three journals are all from the same trip:
One is mine, one is my husband's and the third is our's both -- a photo album.
We got engaged during our trip to South America in the year 2000.
I love that our journals tell the same story, from different points of view.
Even though these are three books, they are really one.
Just writing that makes me smile a goofy, dreamy, lovey smile.
It's been a good decade.


THANKS to all moms everywhere who save kid-art.
When I was about 14 I decided the few travel journals I had kept when younger were "so embarrassing." I tossed them.
Or so I thought.
It was like Christmas when my mom drug these out of a box for me a couple years ago.
The drawings pictured here are from one of the first road trips I ever took. While I sat in the back seat of the car, I drew stuff I saw along the way.
One of my favorite pages isn't pictured here. It's of a traffic jam. I was from a really small town. A traffic jam seemed exotic to me at the time.

The other journal my mom saved was a gift from beloved teacher. She gave me the journal below right before I left for a month long road-trip my extended family took in Europe when I was 10 years old. We met relatives in Sweden. We went to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark. And most memorable of all: My Grandfather revisited places he fought in WWII, including the beaches of Normandy, where he landed on D-day. He told us stories. Old people hugged him in the streets and gave us free hot dogs. Wow.
It's funny. I wrote about things like the quality of the water in the showers instead of Grandpa's stories (although I did write quite a bit about Legoland). I guess that's why I tossed the thing when I was 14. I felt I hadn't written about any of the real stuff.

But I'm so happy now to re-read what the showers were like on that trip.
I'm happy to see my old hand-writing and remember the trip through the lines.
Thanks Mom, for saving me from my own inner critic!

Hopefully I can do the same for Oscar.

P.S. Okay ya, you are right. It is Saturday, not Friday. I'm a day late. And sad, but true -- the summer is winding down it is just about time to bid farewell to my Summer series and cook up something new for the fall. How about 2 more weeks of travel journals though? After all, summer isn't quite over yet...


My in-laws live in upstate new york. I'm still feeling pretty chill after returning from an amazingly peaceful trip to visit them and other family last week.

Visiting my in-laws house is like taking a retreat in the woods.
It's peaceful. There's lots of out-doors stuff to do. Especially if we head up to the family's camp on the St. Lawrence river.

So in honor of visiting family, out-door fun, and all other distracting happy summer things:

These pictures are from a NORMAL OLD SCRAPBOOK I made from a trip to New York in 2005.
Not a very revolutionary scrap-book.
But special just the same.
The first half is almost all photos of family. No writing. Just happy memories.
The second half is from a week I spent in NYC at the end of the trip looking at art (still in 2005, not from my recent trip mind-you).
Here's an idea for your journals: progressive postcard pages, laid out in an overlapping flippy-book way.
Not exactly connected to the pictures of me fishing.
But who cares? Same trip, same journal.

Does this post sound lazy and summerish? I hope so.

To be honest, even though I've been feeling pretty chill, I'm still working like crazy. I always am. That's the way I am.

It's just nice to have an super active mind and still feel pretty peaceful. You know?


In honor of the recently finished Tour De France bike race I thought I'd put up some pictures from one of my favorite travel journals: The YELLOW journal.
My best friend from high school got married in Italy in 2004, a week before the Tour de France started. Thanks Anissa! I went to her wedding and then headed North to watch some of the opening stages of the Tour. I traveled with my sister and my hubby.
The journal from that trip was the first that I made as I went. I took only some yellow plain paper and some water color paper with me. The rest I found and added as I went.
And boy, did I find as I went! I was only in Europe for 3 weeks, but the journal was so fun to make and collect stuff for that I rejected editing. As a result this book is humongous thick!
And yet, it's one of the best journals I've ever made.

Editing is almost always a good thing (especially when you are a picture book writer). But maybe not when you are just playing. Playing is raw and fun and leads to good things with art. When I'm playing (especially in my journal), sometimes I gotta just let myself make my work thick. I can always edit later.
Or, I suppose in this case:


Are you familiar with Antoni Gaudí, the famous Spanish architect?
Both times I've visited Barcelona, I've felt swept into the dreamland of Gaudí's spaces.
Gaudí's buildings feel like organic living creatures.
There's no such thing as "living in a box" with Gaudí. His buildings curve, twist, spiral and sparkle.
And they are often covered in mosaics.
My husband recently dissected why he thinks I like mosaics so much:
Pottery (my first passion in art) + collage (my home in art) = mosaics.
Imagine a world full of spaces that feel alive. Nice.

My sister got engaged at Gaudí's Park Güell the day before we left Spain. The dusk light gilded the evening perfectly. To top the trip off, on our last day, we visited Casa Batlló -- the inside of it. When I was in Spain 10 years ago it wasn't open to the public. Wow.

Here's a fitting quote for a travel journal series.
It's written in the last page of my journal from Spain:

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Collecting Junk to Glue In Your Journal

Want to know the easiest way to make a cool travel journal?
Collect random paper junk wherever you go and glue it in a book.
Don't even worry about making it look cool.
It will be exactly what you want: a great way to remember your trip.
I worked on some of the above collages in this 900-yr-old building (a partial castle!), a few hours north of Barcelona :
Here's my sister and I using our glue sticks:
Years ago I found one of my favorite quotes on journaling in the front of the awesome picture book, Dear Diary, by Sara Fanelli. I think it's fitting to this post:

"The habit of recording is first of all likely to generate a desire to have something of some interest to record; it will exercise the memory and sharpen the understanding generally; and though the thoughts may not be very profound, nor the remarks very lively and ingenious, nor the narrative of exceeding interest, still the exercise is, I think, calculated to make the writer wiser and perhaps better." -- Charles C. F. Greville (from diary, Jan 2, 1838)

When I'm looking for stuff to glue in my journal, I'm looking at little details around me more. I notice other things too. Things that don't have a paragraph in a guidebook, but can be just as cool. Pretty details like the shelves in my Grandma's room at the castle:
Those who like the collecting-junk-and-gluing-it-in-your-journal thing idea might enjoy these two books:

Found by Davy Rothbart (who also works on the awesome "Found" website & magazine)


Evidence: The Art Of Candy Jernigan published by Chronicle Books.

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Notetaking in Museums and Art Pilgrimages

Have you ever taken a pilgrimage for art? How did you document your trip, if you did at all?

In 1999, fresh from graduating from college, I was lucky enough to go to Europe to spend 3 months looking at art (I spent all my frequent flier miles to get there -- I had a lot, I was an out-of-state student, plus I also think I used some of my mom's miles, thanks mom!).
I spent on average about 8-10 hours a day in museums (honestly), planning my day around what museums opened earliest and which ones closed latest. I often didn't stop for eating (not a good idea -- unless you want to loose a lot of weight fast, which I did; my sister wanted to know if I had an eating disorder when I got home).And everywhere I went I bought postcards. While I was at the museums and galleries, I took copious notes that I transferred onto the backs of the postcards at night. I thought I'd have a little booklet of postcards by the end of the trip. HA! I had 4 enormous binders full (I ditched lots of stuff from my pack as I went along, to make room for my journals, by the end of the trip I was REALLY sick of my 2 shirts).
Anyway, it was a dream trip. I spent days in places like the Prado, the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and countless others. I spent entire hours in front of single paintings (like Guernica).By taking notes, I forced myself to slow down and really look at all sorts of things, color, texture, composition. The notes were silly (and are tedious to look back at), but the act of taking them helped train my eye to look. After all, I had to look for something to write about.I also made a point to never spend longer reading or writing than I spent looking. Looking took precedence. And making a point to spend more time looking also trained me to look. By the end of the trip I took hardly any notes at all. It was like meditation. I would just loose that side of my brain and be a part of the colors and vistas before me.
Because I only had three months, I edited lots of locations from my initial itinerary. I wanted to enjoy the places I did go, and look at ALL the art I wanted to see in each of those places.

My biggest regret from the trip (save for missing things that were closed for renovation -- it seemed that many places were closed for renovation in 1999 -- prep work for 2000?) was that I skipped out on a few amazing art towns in Spain.
Like Toledo, and Bilbao.
While I planned the trip I took to Spain this past February, I swore I would make up for lost time.
It didn't end up working for us to go to Bilbao, But I made my Grandma skip Madrid so we could spend time in Toledo.
Unfortunately when we got to Toledo, quite a few places were closed for renovation (go figure!) but what was open turned out to be the perfect amount to see in the amount of time we had there anyway.
This time I didn't take notes while I looked at the art at all. I just soaked it all in.

P.S. Interesting side note to this post: I took something home other than 4 enormous binders of art postcards from my trip in 1999. I fell in love on that trip. No kidding. My husband and I met in Rome and then again in Venice. And then again in Paris... And then again in Seattle. Bryce was touring around checking out the spring classic bike races (his biggest passion is bike racing). Our first kiss was in front of Claes Oldenburg's Buried Bicycle sculpture in Paris:

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Plans and Surprises, in travel and in travel journaling

When I travel, I like to research like a madwoman ahead of time, and then be completely open to dumping all the planning once I get somewhere. I do the same thing with my travel journals: prepare, prepare, prepare and then welcome surprises.
Before we went to Spain, I researched interesting places to stay in a rather intense manner. It paid off so many times.
I found the most amazing hotel in Sevilla. It was called Hotel Amadeus. It was a small hotel on a tiny hallway of a street with a classical music theme. Every room was named after a composer (we stayed in the Verdi room). All of the art was music related:

And best of all, our room had a piano. The room was even sound-proof so my husband could play music whenever he wanted.
Nothing is more romantic than your beloved playing the piano, making up beautiful music that matches your day. But it wasn't too likely we would have found such a perfectly matched place without research.

On the other hand, we didn't plan anything about my favorite part of our time in Sevilla.

We stumbled into an amazingly whimsical public-art sculpture show right at the perfect-light time of evening.

What a fun surprise!

Most of my travel journals have been make-as-you-go sorts of affairs. I bring a bunch of loose paper that I'll sew into a book later, normally in a color palette that kind of matches the research I've done (the best research is colorful, no?). I bring an embarrassing array of supplies (see this post). I make a rough plan for how I'll go about my journal (in Spain I had planned on making a collage every day and listing 5 things I had done), and then when I actually am off having adventures I see what happens. If I leave my book un-sewn and basically open to adding whatever, I can I add any sort of paper, place-mat, or brochure and bind it all in place when I get home.

So I plan like crazy, and then stay open to the surprises. Mixing the two can be so lovely.

P.S. I'd love to hear about your own make-as-you-go journals if you've made one in the past. Or let me know how it goes if you decide to try one out while on summer vacation.

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Another Tool For The Journaling Tool Belt


Last week I shared about my magical day in Morocco, a strange and wonderful interlude from my trip to Spain. I also shared the ugly collages from my journal that I made from that amazing day. I expressed my disappointment and also my cherished rule of letting go.

So like I said last week, I let it go. Or so I thought.

When I got home, I made a few different sorts of collages. I couldn't help myself. I'm crazy crafty Kjersten and sometimes I have a hard time letting go of fun crafty projects. Especially when they relate to my travel journals. (It doesn't matter if I have tons of other stuff to do. Don't visit my house. It's always a mess).

So partially out of my frustration with my Tangier collages and partly due to the fact that when I added my photos to those of my camera-happy sister I had about a million photos, I decided to make a second journal altogether. I actually do this with travel journals quite a lot, I'm a bit ashamed to say.
Anyway, I made a blurb book of our entire trip as a gift for my Grandmother. Blurb books look like traditional coffee table books, but they're your own. Blurb makes the sort of self-published books that self-publishing is good for: family albums, family histories, family recipe books etc. They print on demand and their prices are awesome. Here's the Tangier pages from my blurb book:
I felt like I was cheating on myself at first to make a photo album from my trip that wasn't handmade, ordered off the internet no less. Gasp! But I had read about blurb books from a few other blogs and decided to give it a try for the photos from my trip. What I learned: They are just one other way of making a "hand-crafted" book. One more tool for the tool-belt.

Why limit myself? I have a personal pet-peeve against using the exact same kind of album or journal for every thing you ever need an album or journal for (sorry, I know for a fact that I have a lot of beloved artist and writer friends who are stuck in their journal selection and like it that way. But I have a hard time accepting this. It makes me more playful to use different sorts of journals all the time. I'm a bit evangelical about it. I don't like the idea of getting stuck in a rut. I dare you to buy a wacky and weird different kind of journal next time you fill yours up and go to replace it with that same boring old same-old you've been using for years. I've heard all your arguments for sticking with the same kind. I still disagree. But I digress).

I love my blurb book and if you have a gazillion pictures from a trip you should buy an album from me, another crafty artist and/or etsy. But if you're looking for something you can make a small print run of (say if you want to give a travel album to everyone you traveled with and you don't want to physcially make the book that many times), I highly recommend Blurb books.

Here's my two journals from Spain displayed on my wall using plate holders (why not?). The blurb book is on the top, the Collage Journal is on the bottom and underneath is a photo of my Great Grandmother cuddling my Grandmother who was then a baby.
I've often found that I end up having two books after a trip, one for photos and one for writing/art. They feel like a team. Here's my blurb book next to my handmade journal:
Thanks Grandma Muriel! For inspiring our trip with your dream. And also for passing on that travel bug you've always had.

Oh ya. P.S.
My house is cluttered with a few different collections: handmade books, puppets, pottery and weaving. Forgive me for being a tourist; I bought a weaving in Tangier:
Isn't it beautiful?


SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Sometimes my favorite "rule" in journaling is that it's okay to let something go

My Grandmother had always dreamed of going to Morocco. It was a request of our trip to Spain. "Can we go to Morocco, too?"
I wanted to take her there with all my heart. But I knew the kind of travel I most enjoyed would probably not be comfortable for her in Morocco (she is in her mid-eighties!) no matter how adventurous she is.
So I spent many a long night after my son had gone to bed researching just the right way we could take her on a day trip to Morocco without it being cheesy and without it being uncomfortable.
I found a woman in Spain who owns a guesthouse near the ferry to Africa who lives and breaths all things Morocco. We stayed at her guesthouse, a magical and tranquil place called Dar Cilla, which is decorated peacefully and perfectly with Moroccan handicrafts and antiques. Even if we weren't going to spend the night in Morocco, I wanted Grandma to relish the flavor of the place.
The people at Dar Cilla arranged for a private tour for only my family. It was a beautiful and perfect day. I never imagined a day-trip tour could be so fulfilling. Our guide listened to things we cared about and walked us (or drove us) to see such things. That's how we ended up in an apothecary shop learning about spices (my husband loves to cook) and in a communal bread baking oven underground. It's also how we saw many of the sites Matisse had painted when he lived in Tangier (There are unassuming diamond shaped cobbles in the roads wherever Matisse painted). These colorful string bits are tied all around posts and doorknobs in the section of the market where thread spinners work:
We weren't pressured by any heavy duty salesmen but we didn't have to worry about the stresses of transportation and we had a guide who taught us lots of fun and interesting things. We also ate one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life with some crazy brewed fruity juice concoction. I felt like the day was a trip on a magic carpet ride back in time to the days when silent movie stars and Parisian artists came to Tangier for the color, life and magic of the place. My Grandma beamed all day. I was thrilled that I made her dream come true.

And here's where I sigh and bring us back to journaling. My journal pages from this magical day are anything but. How frustrating.They are boring. And un-colorful. In a sense, I let them go before I even started making them. I was too busy taking in all the color and life and magic to collage about it later that day. But even though it's frustrating, it's also okay. Sometimes my favorite "rule" in journaling is to just let something go. So I didn't do it justice. Move on. At least I had that magic ride.

If I beat myself up about every time I didn't do some experience justice in my journal (travel or otherwise), it would mean I wasn't having enough magical experiences (I'd rather be having them than recording about them).

So consider this a permission slip from a journal junkie. If you are ever journaling (or blogging) and you really really wanted to capture it all, but you also really really wanted to do something else, do something else -- especially if that something is magical. Journals suck when they become dreaded obligations.

All that being said, I did bother to make some different sort of collages from my Tangier magic carpet ride when I got home. But that's another post.


SUMMER FRIDAY SERIES: Travel Journals and The Stories they Tell

Every story is, in some way, a journey. And every journal is, in some way, a story. But unlike more polished stories, journals don't always have beginnings, middles and ends. They are messier. More organic. More like a big pile of seeds that haven't been planted. Or else like a big pile of weeds that have (or haven't) been pulled.

But travel journals are a bit more linear, no? They (at least kind-of) have a beginning, middle and an end. And like characters grow in stories, travel often changes people. You don't return home the same person you were when you left. You grow.

(At least so with journey kinds of travel. Maybe not so with lazy vacation travel -- don't get me wrong, lazy vacations are good -- just not usually adventurous).

Maybe due to my Adventure-ess spirit I can't help but often favor travel journals amongst all the different kinds of journals I have kept. I love the unknowns, the risks, the challenges, and the fun discoveries. I love creative play, discovery, and most of all, engaging in wonder. So, duh, I love travel journals.

So anyway, all this is to say that for the rest of the summer (through labor day), every Friday, I'm going to put up a blog post about travel journals. I'll be mining lots of pictures from my personal stash, but I'd love for anyone to send me pictures or links to post of your own if you have them. I think it will be a fun way to keep some focus to my blogging and a way to enliven an old regular feature (journal of the week) that I suspended recently.

And to start? Let's finish up with those collages from Spain...

For those newer to my blog, I went to Spain in February and shortly thereafter started posting pictures of the collages from my travel journal alongside pictures of the stuff that inspired me to make the collages.

Well I left off about half-way through my trip, right before I visited Bodega Tradicion, a sherry bodega with an owner who has a passion for art collecting.

The tiles behind my Grandma were painted by Picasso:

There's an intimacy to small, semi-private, art collections that's often lost at big museums. The owners of Bodega Tradicion display their art in a beautiful long private gallery. They have pieces by Velazquez, Goya and Zurbaran.
And they have delicious artisan sherry. Cheers!

Better Late Than Never... Show and tell from Spain


5 things I did on Valentine's day*:
  1. Flew to Portland (awesome flight attendant named Pattie).
  2. Gave Bryce a Handmade "rain in Spain" card for Valentine's day.
  3. Put on a temporary tattoo.
  4. Watched 3 bad movies on a very long flight. Consolation: one of the movies took place in Barcelona.
  5. Flew to Frankfurt

I gave Bryce the card in the Portland airport (after taking a bus from Bellingham and a plane from Seattle) as we waited to board the plane to go to Frankfurt to go to Barcelona.

We definitely over thought which temporary tattoo to put on which person's arm:

Bryce: I can't remember which one was which. Was Juliet the Capulet or the Montague?

Me: I should know this.

Bryce: Hmm...

Me: Okay, in the famous balcony scene, Juliet says something like 'thou art thyself though, not a Montague, what's Montague?' so that means Juliet was the Capulet.

Bryce: So I'll wear the Montague one.

High fives. Apply tattoos.

Me: Wait... if I'm Capulet and I put the Capulet tattoo on myself doesn't that mean I'm in love with myself? We messed up!

Bryce: Crap! Wait... No one really cares.

Me: I care.

Bryce: Oh well.

And thus began our trip!

5 things I did the day after Valentine's day (Feb 15, 2009)*:
  1. Delicious tea in the Frankfurt airport (I guess it was morning). Bryce drank 1L of beer.
  2. Buttery croissant -- yummy! And at the airport even!
  3. Frankfurt airport is a maze of confusion. It took us one hour to find our gate.
  4. No order to loading the plane. BIG MOB pushing frantically, FRANTICALLY! As if entering a backstage first-come-first-serve thing for Bono. Crazy! We sat it out and waited.
  5. We flew to Barcelona in the afternoon...

*copied (mostly) from my journal

A Travel Journal Kit

Goals while packing for Spain (a few weeks ago):
1. Bring hardly any extra clothes
2. Bring way too many art supplies

I've gotten into a habit of making travel journals as I go. Instead of showing up at my destination with a book ready to be filled, I show up with supplies. Loose paper. Pens. Glue. Scissors. Paint. I brought it all with me on my recent trip to Spain.

I've got some fun arty/crafty/whimsy inspiration to share from my trip. Lots of collages. I'll post travel stuff in-between other posts for the next couple of weeks. Join me for the trip!

Travel journal packing list:
-colorful pens
-pencil sharpener
-colorful pen case
-funky pattern-cutting mini-scissors
-watercolor set
-small tubes of acrylics
-glue sticks
-photo squares --ESSENTIAL
-new travel water color brushes -- AWESOME! LOVED THEM
-scrappy acrylic brushes
-colored pencils
-date stamp and ink
-set of mini-letter stamps and ink
-lots of mix-match paper
-sewing needles

Oh ya, I also started with a cover this time. I made it using an old poster I bought when I was in Barcelona 10 years ago. I also used my sewing machine. Having the cover ahead of time gave me some guidelines for size as I collaged the pages.

To be continued...