Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Handmade Garden Projects: A Virtual Book Tour

I was recently invited by Timber Press to participate in a virtual book tour for the launch of a new book, Handmade Garden Projects, by Lorene Edwards Forkner. Naturally, when I saw the title I leaped at the chance, mainly because I saw it as an opportunity to get a free book about, well, garden projects.

And you all know how I feel about a good project.

By and by a copy of the book arrived in the mail. I had to wait a few days to get a good look at it, though, because there was all this pesky end-o-semester stuff to get out of the way. It wasn't so much an issue about not being able to find time to read the book. It was more that I was a afraid that once I started, I'd want to stop everything and head out to the shop to look for my drill and hammer.

Sure enough, when I did finally sit down and read it, I found the book chock full of good ideas, ranging from easy stuff that can be cobbled together in a few minutes, to slightly more complex projects that will take a while to complete. Even so, each of the projects comes with clear, concise instructions, complete with a materials and tools list, so the beginner should not be intimidated at all to try any of them. In fact, this is a book I heartily recommend to someone who has not done a lot of building and tinkering, as Lorene does a fine job of not only inspiring you to pick up the tools, she walks you through the scary bits so easily you might not even realize you weren't born with a screwdriver in your hand.

Some of my favorite projects include a simple water fountain made from a large pot (how I wish I'd received the book before I went out and bought a pot water fountain!), a cocktail table made out of glass, cobblestones, and the kind of wire used to reinforce concrete, and lanterns made out of canning jars and simple touch lights. My favorite, however, is one of the simplest projects of all--and destined to become part of my own garden: "fireflies" made out of magnets, wafer batteries, and LED lights. I am already planning a summer party, just so I can use these.

One of the things I really appreciated about the book is the use of "found" and recycled materials. Most of the projects in here are very affordable, and give the garden a quirky, artisanal look.

I had the opportunity to email Lorene and ask her a few questions (it is a "book tour", after all), and here they are, along with her replies:

ST: I can trace my own interest in making things to my father, who was an inveterate tinkerer and inventor. What is your own background? What got you interested/started in constructing things?
LEF: Earning my crafting “chops” has largely been a matter of economic necessity and “what if” experimenting. I still have the same fascination and preoccupation with making things that I had as a child when I first discovered craft books at my local public library. I also have 2 giant garbage bags filled with shaved wood excelsior in my shed right now; a direct result of this early craft education. I had never heard of this “exotic” material, yet it appeared again and again as a necessary ingredient in all the really cool craft projects.  Note: it’s packing material easily obtained from your local nursery when they receive a shipment of glazed containers from overseas and it’s free! Now to come up with a project that uses excelsior!  Childhood crafting led to a degree in Fine Art where I learned to factor in form, texture, color and form; composition and balance.  But formal training still takes a backseat to childhood exploration.
ST: What advice would you give to someone who says s/he is all thumbs and can't build things?
LEF: Go loose!  Start on projects that are more process oriented and dig in.  The rustic troughs are really just playing with mud pies and the rough, decidedly non-polished finished project is the best part of the project.  The materials are easily obtained at the corner hardware (although the packaging is such that you’ll have way more than you need to make a few troughs – a perfect excuse to gather some friends and have a mud-pie party!)  Some of my most successful projects came about simply experimenting  with “stuff” I had in the basement or my garden shed, or in response to a need in the garden. Black bamboo poles from a huge stand that “migrated” from my neighbor’s lot became bean teepees, and tomato cages and eventually morphed into a structure so beautiful I’m loathe to plant anything on it because I don’t want to hide it!
ST: What is your favorite project you've ever made?
LEF: So hard to say.  I’m very fond of the flame-free canning jar lanterns which are dead simple and charming in the garden after dark… but my heart is always with the totally silly handmade fireflies.  Not much to look at by light of day – this simple combination of an LED light bulb, a coin battery and a craft magnet are magical after dark!

If you are looking to do a little tinkering this summer, you could do worse than check out some of the ideas in Handmade Garden Projects. At a minimum, you will be inspired; at a maximum, it will keep you off the streets this summer while you build that funky cocktail table.


  1. Just when I had resolved to clear out my bookshelves to free up space and aid in my downsizing, there you go enticing me to buy another book! But it looks like it's worth the shelf space. Thanks! (I guess.)

  2. Susan, I think this book MIT be perfect for you!

  3. Have fun at that garden party! Thank you for your kind words about Handmade Garden Projects.

  4. I really enjoy anything that helps to encourage repurposing or recycling. I guess I will need to get the book.


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