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Live & Learn: Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books (AARP®) Hardcover – August 3, 2010

21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Thick, creamy paper, gorgeous photos, a gallery of pages from beautiful journals, and step-by step sketches draw the readers right in to the mechanics of amateur book construction and open the way toward creative, individualized bookmaking projects. Chapters on tools, covers, paper choices, and bindings are detailed and fully illustrated, but Diehn, a designer as well as an artist, goes well beyond that, making a point to include information on creating a purposeful design, enriching textual content, and binding the words to the visual elements to reflect a bookmaker’s interests and personality. To that end she includes a chapter comprising nine short profiles of individuals whom she helped build journals. The profiles reference a “Choose Your Own Bookbinding Adventure” booklet located in an envelope on the inside front cover. The device is perfect for individual users (as is the tip sheet attached at the back), but librarians will need to secure the booklet to ensure the chapter makes sense. Even with the bit of extra work required, this remains a lovely, helpful volume that will inspire and attract journalers and scrapbookers alike. --Stephanie Zvirin

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Product Details

  • Series: AARP®
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Books; 1 Har/Bklt edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600594921
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600594922
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 9.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gwen Diehn was born and raised in New Orleans, LA, and studied art at Indiana University at South Bend, The University of Notre Dame (MA), and Vermont College (MFA). She has exhibited her artwork internationally and has work in many private and public collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. She has taught college art as well as workshops for many years. She has also written several books about art and also journal keeping and making. One of them, The Decorated Page, is being re-issued in a revised edition/bind-up with another one, The Decorated Journal, in spring, 2012. Her most recent book, Real Life Journals, was listed as one of the top 10 gardening and crafts books of 2010 by Booklist.

You can visit her blog at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Sue B VINE VOICE on July 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you haven't yet made the leap into making your own books and journals to write, sketch or doodle in then this
book will serve as an invaluable guide to getting started. There is so much information packed into this latest
book by Gwen Diehn that no matter what your experience level with journaling or book making you're sure to
find something to inspire you.

This is not just a how to make a journal book. Using the central premise of designing your book from the inside out the author guides the reader through a series of questions about what the intended use of the book is going to be before it's created. Questions such as what size book, will you use paints, pens or pencils on the pages, do you want it to lay flat, have removable or replaceable pages and others are used to help guide the reader through what Gwen calls the "design inventory". This inventory is then translated into an appropriate book design for the binding and cover using the "choose your own bookbinding adventure booklet" found in a pocket on the inside front cover of the book. Once that decision is made you'll turn to chapter 4 of the book where you'll find illustrated directions on a variety of book binding styles such as pamphlets, spiral, piano hinge, longstitch, concertina, coptic and others. Chapter 5 of the book covers a range of book cover instructions such as flexible, hardcover, glued in cover, laced in covers and others.

For those not familiar with the basic tools and skills needed for book binding the pull out bookbinding essentials foldout that comes in an envelope in the back cover of the book will be a handy tool to keep on their work table.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By D. Purser on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have other books by this author and when I found she was coming out with another book on Journaling, I was eager to get it. I was not dissapointed at all with the instructions where you can "interact" with creating your journal specific to your needs and wants. I journal quite a bit and have ventured out to make my own with a variety of pages to use with different mediums such as watercolor. I am however not a book maker and was not really interested in learning at this time complicated ways to make a art journal. What I do like about this book is that you can start out with very simple book making techniques making the journal the way you want. I like that. Looking at the other bookmaking techniques and the very clear instructions given that I will be trying out some of the other ways to make journals such as using a existing book cover with maybe a coptic stitch. It is like having a bunch of bookmaking classes wrapped up in this one book. I did enjoy the stories of folks in the book that shared there stories of what they journal and what kind of journal works for them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in journaling and bookmaking!!!
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you're a journal-keeper--and especially if you're artistically inclined--you'll want to take a look at Gwen Diehn's latest book, Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books.

A unique marriage of the art of handcrafted books and the art of journaling, Real Life Journals offers a step-by-step program that will give you what Diehn calls a "design inventory" for the journal you want. It will help you decide what kind of journal fits your style, create a design and choose the materials for your book, and craft the journal.

To illustrate the process, Diehn invited nine people to choose the kind of journal they wanted and work with her design inventory. Using their responses, she created a journal for each of them (one was a father-daughter pair, another a grandmother wanting to journal for her family). She documented all nine journals--and the journaling experience each embraced, each one different and each unique to the journal-keeper's intentions and dreams. You'll be inspired by these experiences to make your own inventory, design your own book, and begin your own journal.

Throughout, Real Life Journals is richly illustrated, with careful descriptions of each part of the process, from bookbinding techniques, materials, and tools, to ideas for creating covers. I'm no bookmaker, but reading the instructions and studying the illustrations, I'm confident that I could attempt even the more complicated of the bindery processes Diehn describes. The text and illustrations are supplemented by a mini-book tucked inside the front cover that helps you "choose your own bookbinding adventure" and a foldout chart illustrating binding essentials inside the back cover.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Dawn Supan on October 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"How to" books are not usually in the "couldn't put it down category" but this one was. I have purchased 2 of Gwen Diehn's other books and loved them just as much as this one. I really like the technique Diehn used taking individual people through the process of designing journals for their own journal projects, using the process in her book to decide which type of journal, binding and cover would work best for them. It really brought this process alive for me. The evaluation of how well their journal worked for them and looking at what they would do different next time was so helpful. Diehn brought up lots of options and possible solutions that I wouldn't have thought given my level of experience with journal making. I loved the journal photos and found the instructions to be very clear. You do not have to go out and buy a lot of specialized supplies for these journals and I appreciate that. This is an excellent book. I read it cover to cover in two days and am so excited to start work on a new journal tomorrow.
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