Wednesday, February 17, 2010

REVIEW: Alchemy Arts: Recycling is Chic, by Kate MacKay and Di Jennings

Alchemy Arts: Recycling is Chic, by Kate MacKay and Di Jennings. Published 2010 by Marion Boyars Publishers. Nonfiction. Crafts.

Alchemy Arts: Recycling is Chic is a pretty, nice looking craft book by Scottish artists Kate MacKay and Di Jennings, which takes advantage of the trend towards reusing and recycling old clothes and household items to make one-of-a-kind outfits, costumes and accessories.

The designs are fanciful and creative- a deck of cards becomes a hat; a pile of old clothes and ties becomes a gorgeous kimono; more old clothes and an umbrella become a skirt. And the book itself is beautifully photographed and fun to page through. There are interesting anecdotes and information on the projects and the inspiration behind them. A chapter on working with felted wool, for example, opens with a page on German artist Joseph Beuys, who survived a crash landing during World War II only to be rescued by a nomadic tribe which taught him to look at woollens in a whole new way.

I had fun looking through Alchemy Arts, but I doubt it's a craft book I will ever actually use. I know how to use a sewing machine and could theoretically do some of these projects (especially those on jewellery making and wool felt) but most of the projects are much too advanced for me. The authors have taken a minimalist approach to writing instructions; a moderate to high level of skill is assumed and rather than provide patterns or detailed how-to's, the authors have put together lists of "tips" that leave out a lot. One chapter, called "Carnival Time," covers creating a ball gown from pictures torn out of a magazine. The reader is instructed to "glue or staple the fliers together and arrange them onto your base garment." Okay. It seems like there's something missing here! A chapter on creating beads with rolled paper offers the suggestion to "Experiment with the effects different triangles have on the end bead shape...the chunky, rounder beads in this example were achieved by using several triangular strips of descending size." How many? How long? How wide? All but advanced crafters will be left out in the cold by these vague suggestions.

If you're one of these advanced crafters, you'll get a lot of inspiration and ideas from Alchemy Arts; I have a friend who runs a business selling handmade clothes and jewelry and I think she would love this book. This is someone who will spend whole days learning how to use that clay that fires to silver and use it to mold one-of-a-kind jewels out of sculpted molds she also makes herself- she's totally fearless and she has the time and space to do those kinds of experiments. I, however, don't! So think about what kind of crafter you are and if you're bold and highly skilled, you'll enjoy Alchemy Arts. If not, well, it's fun to look at and who knows, you might find something that strikes your fancy.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations.


bermudaonion said...

I'm barely a beginning crafter, so this wouldn't be for me.

wisteria said...

My students would really appreciate this one. Thanks for the heads up.

jewwishes said...

Nice review! This would be too advanced for me, though.

caite said...

In theory, I am sure reusing these things is great..but in reality, how many of us could, or would ever be motivated, to actually do it.

I am pretty handy, but I doubt I would.

stacybuckeye said...

It sounds too advanced for me, which is too bad because I'm interested in the idea.

Zibilee said...

Great review! This book sounds like it's really unusual, and although it sounds a bit advanced, I'd still like to get a look at it.