creating beautiful journals and books

Work with what you’ve got

hundreds of things blog

At my ‘Finding Content’ workshop in Melbourne recently I heard myself tell the group to ‘just work with what you’ve got.’ It made me wonder – where did that idea come from?

Work with what you’ve got is a motto I like to apply to my life and art. It fits with my philosophy to respect, re-use and re-invent.

My father, a creative and resourceful man, was a child in the depression of the 1930s and times were so tough that his whole family had to re-use, recycle and repair whatever they could. His father re-soled their shoes using old bicycle tyres. Now in his nineties, Dad still gets a thrill out of mending things.

I think I got it from him.

As a writer and artist, I find it can be liberating to simply work with what’s at hand. That means I can get on with things and organise the available elements in ways that are meaningful and satisfying to me. It saves wandering off on tangents and getting lost in the possibilities of ‘what if’. Of course, sometimes there are ingredients that are essential and must be used. Then it’s a matter of waiting or searching for the right ideas or the right materials that fit. But generally, I find it a good practice to focus on, value and enjoy what I have.

The other day I set myself the task to make something out of the things I collected on a trip to the opportunity shop.

Here are the ingredients:

A red, coth-covered vintage book which I bought for its quirky title: ‘Third Book of Hundreds of Things a Girl can Make’ ($1).

red book

Another book with a torn jacket, dated 1955 and titled ‘Japanese Etiquette’ (50 cents).

A pamphlet book of Patons & Baldwins 1950s knitting patterns (50 cents).


First I scanned the red book to use the (altered) title and the texture of the old cloth cover. With the help of Photoshop, I changed the colour from red to green, added a few extra ‘shapes’, then altered and collaged the other ingredients to make the image below. This is the print I am using as my finished cover art.

hundreds of things cover

And here’s what I made using what I had.

This design has become the cover for a series of little notebooks I am making for my friends.

Somehow though, I don’t think the boys will want one.

hundreds of things for blog

3 comments on “Work with what you’ve got

  1. greengaze
    October 1, 2015

    love the philosophy and love the end product!

  2. Suzanne
    October 1, 2015

    I love what you have done with these op shop finds. It is inspiring.

  3. sandyaureli
    January 28, 2016

    I never actually wrote the essay on the theme “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself” (apparently a quote from Igor Stravinsky) but I very often think of it and say it to myself – and others. This article reminds me of it. I do admire the way you are so constantly creative, Marama. Just love it! X Sandy

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