Sunday, April 6, 2014

Faking it!

For years now the amazing Roz Stendahl (Yes, I have to call her the amazing Roz Stendahl, because there's no way this very prolific woman is an ordinary human being) has organized International Fake Journal Month  (IFJM) every April. And for years now I have wanted to join in and I never did.
IFJM logo by Roz Stendahl

But recently some things just came together to make this year different.
  • For one I have been thinking about my journaling habit a lot. Now I always think about my journal and I know that you have noticed that this year I've been trying a bit of more haphazard approach to my books and not worry so much about making it all look pretty. I wanted to explore further on that.
  • Another thing that happened is that with my vacation to Ameland I finished The Notebook. I will show you the last part of it in some future post, but the point is that it was time for a new journal again. I had actually been preparing an altered book to become my next journal, but it wasn't ready yet, so a few weeks ago I started an impromptu journal to cross the time until my altered book was ready for use. Anyway, this meant I had an altered book almost ready to go.
  • And the third thing that happened was that I ran across a wonderful visual journal on the interwebs and started wondering why why why I'm always writing so much and have so much need to explain myself (even if only to myself) in words. For so long I've wanted a 'real' visual journal without so many words, but I can't seem to get myself to really go for it. Of course there's nothing wrong with writing, but I did wonder what would happen if instead of writing all the time I would spend that time doing more visual stuff. How would that affect my journal?
And wouldn't you know it? I thought off all this stuff right along the time that IFJM was about to start. And guess what the theme of this year is? NO EXPLANATIONS! I kid you not! Apparently the journal gods were conspiring against me (or is it for me?). I had not choice. I had to join!

You can read all about IFJM on the IFJM-blog. Do read the introduction posts to get a good idea about what it is. The general idea is that you pretend to be another person and journal as that person would do. It's a way to get out of your comfort zone, try new approaches and techniques and basically have a lot of fun!

Although Roz suggests to keep the fake journal next to your real one I knew I wouldn't be able to do that, so I decided to focus my artistic practice this April solely on the fake journal. That way I could really get into it and wouldn't be distracted by other things. To do this I made sure that my fake persona is reasonably close to me, but has a couple of traits that I would like to develop more in myself. I took some notes in my impromptu journal about what I had in mind. Feel free to read them to see what my alter ego is all about. It saves me a lot of time typing it all down. ;-)

Basically my fake person is a maker of handprinted fabrics and papers who lives in London but through a home exchange site is staying in my house for a month to recharge and get some new inspiration. She's an experienced visual journaler who has no interest in writing about her life or writing in general or having  journal that is an account of her life. Her name is MJ Wilkins. MJ stands for Mary Joan, which is an adaptation of my second and third name (Maria Johanna).

The above notes are just my initial thoughts that came into my head when I started thinking about all this. I have no idea if all of it will show in the actual journal, but that's not the point anyway. The point is to fill a book the way MJ would do it, with complete disregard for things like chronology, explanations or even finishing a spread. To her it's all about the process and the handling of materials.

For my book for this project I chose the altered book I was going to use as my next journal. I finished it just in time before April.

It's an old library book I got at a thrift store. It's from the 1930's and it's a very nationalistic book about the Netherlands called "Ons Vaderland" (Our Fatherland), full of proud facts and reflections. I found it a bit creepy actually, haha.

I bought it because it had a ton of luscious black and white pictures, beautiful printed paper and was a nice size to make journal out of.

To prep it I took out all the picture pages (those can be used for collage)  and some of the text pages until about half of the book was left. Then I gesso'd the pages and filled them with gouache washes to give it some colour. I also added some tabs. Here's how it looks now:

And here are some examples of the spreads with the gouache on them. A couple have some ink on them too.

I really like how the book turned out. It's nice and messy, so there's no way this will ever be turned into a pretty perfect journal.
I intend to make a fabric cover for the journal, because that's something that MJ would do and because it's something I want to dabble in more myself. It's not done yet, but I have a general idea of what it's going to look like. Here are some notes on that from my Studio Book:
The cover will be machine sewn with blue and flowered fabric, but it will have patches of felt that have embroidery on them with crochet yarn. I have actually started the embroidery already. Here's the current state of affairs on the cover:

Aren't those colours just luscious? The pink felt on the left will be cut into circles which will be hand embroidered on the the orange and purple patches of felt. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

In fact I'm having a lot of fun with the entire journal! I have been working in it for a week now (I started early to warm up a little) and I must say it is doing exactly what I wanted it to do. It's opening me up a whole new way of working. MJ is becoming my hero, which is good, 'cause in the end she's just me, haha.

I will show you some of the spreads I've done so far in my next post. I have a lot to say about the way things are going, but I will refrain from it until the month is over and do a bit of a reflection on it in May. Just know that April will pretty much be all about this fake journal and very little else (except for my birthday next week which will have it's traditional birthday giveaway, yay!). I hope you will enjoy going through this experiment with me and maybe you would like to join in. It's not too late. Just visit the IFJM blog and see if it's something you would like to try.

Have a wonderful Sunday all!

PS: for those visiting through Roz' IFJM blog: all the posts concerning the fake journal will have the label 'fake journal' attached to it. You can just click the label in the label list on the sidebar.


  1. How fun to invent an alter ego and let her run wild! And how brave to share her with the rest of us. I can't wait to see what she creates. It would be fun to see her portrait sometime -- do you have a picture of her in your mind?

    1. I actually do now. I did several drawings from mail order catalogue girls and when I coloured one of them in I thought: that's her! That's MJ! She'll show up in one of the future posts.

  2. This is a great idea and you are off to a very creative start. There are so many possibilities for the work. I was thinking, if I was someone else, I would use a lot of ribbon, fabric papers, black and white printouts and etc. Bead gel would have to be thrown in the mix. Sewing on felt is a very unique idea. Can't wait to see what you do with your journal.

    1. So far I really find it very liberating. With everything I do it's like it doesn't really matter (in a good way) since I'm not the one doing it anyway. ;-) No pressure.

  3. OMG - you are SO inspiring me with this project - AND this post. Thank you, thank you! I love the felt colors, the idea of how to do it, it is buzzing around my head with great pleasure. I also like how you think through your ideas, using your journal for planning. I'm not there yet. I'm still kind of random, but the thing is, that's how I need to be right now, as much as I long for the method and order of how you work. So looking into your neat notes and seeing how you prepare in so many ways for a project is helpful to me and a promise, I hope, of the future. I have a book I'm thinking of making into a journal for the first time - thank you for showing me yours, I will use your good example. Also... oh yeah - I LOVE MJ - looking forward to a fascinating April with you! Many, many thanks...

    1. Thank you Judith. Mind you I don't usually use my journal for planning like this, except for setting up journals and journal covers because I need the measurements and such to build one. I do note down general ideas and thoughts, but rarely work out a project before I make it. But for this one I really felt I needed to have an idea of who this person was and how I could put a lot of myself in her and at the same time stretch myself a little. Hope you will enjoy what's to come.

  4. Love the look of the altered pages and the delicious stitching. Enjoy :-)

    1. Thank you Lynette, I'm enjoying myself tremendously already. :-)

  5. Wow, Caatje...what an interesting project! I have heard about this before, and thought it would be fun, but had not considered joining in. I will join in with you vicariously! Looks like you have put some wonderful thought into your alter ego, and I look forward to seeing how your project will develop. I liked seeing how you prepped your book.

    1. Thank you Andria. I found for me the only way to join was to put all other things aside. That's not what's recommended by the way, but that's what works best for me. I need to really dive in and not be distracted by all my other goings on. Look forward to showing you how the book progresses.


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