My Heart Wanders: chapter openers…
Posted in behind the scenes, book design, my heart wanders September 3rd, 2012 by pia

Making the chapter openers was by far one of the most fun parts of making the book. Those of you who have followed the My Heart Wander blog project from the beginning may recall I made whimsical chalkboard numbers using flower petals to mark the countdown toward the photo submission deadline. This became one of the strongest elements of the book from the very start as it was one of the ideas that my publisher loved and was keen for me to recreate as chapter openers.

My “studio” to create these pages was the kitchen floor of the houseboat as it had the most light in the space with its 7 windows looking out over the canal. But it was also the rockiest part of the boat as it was higher than the main living space so I had to pick my days of shooting to be the calmest, and sunniest of all (not easy in a windy, cloudy city!). I set up the tripod and chalkboard and gathered my props on a section of the floor (so you have an idea, the floor was about 3 meters x 1 meter). My props being chalk and lots of flower petals in various states of decay…

so much fun to play with dried petals

For each number I drew a chalk outline on a small square chalkboard, then arranged the flower petals until I was happy with the composition. I would purposely create chalky smudge marks to give the numbers some texture, and was quite loose with each arrangement, stopping when I saw something I liked. Each number was photographed at least half a dozen times with various changes so that I had a few to choose from for the final page.

three in progress…

Sometimes I would get distracted and doodle on the chalkboard, thinking it might look good for something in the book, then I’d step back and realize it was crap, rub it off and get back to work…

playing with petals and chalk

Then once each number was photographed I played around with fonts and chalk scribbles to add the chapter opener text…

When I had something I likedΒ  I’d send it to head designer Vivien at Murdoch Books in Sydney to get her feedback and thoughts on it, we’d play around some more then she would bring it to life by adding her magic touch…

the finished page for chapter 6 of My Heart Wanders

After the chapter numbers were all photographed, I then created images especially for each chapter opening double page spread (DPS). As I mentioned in the previous post, each photograph visually described the story that followed, representing how I was feeling at that point in my life, and what I was doing in my life. Here below you can see the final DPS for Chapter 6…

Tea for me is all about renewing the soul, so creating an afternoon tea setting on my dining room table seemed only fitting for this particular chapter.


There is one design feature about the chapter openers that I haven’t mentioned, but maybe some of you have already spotted it while reading My Heart Wanders – did you notice the colour way of each chalk & petal number through out the book? Each number graduates in colour, starting from the gentle muted tone of the dried hydrangea petals, moving through to soft pink peonies and dahlia petals, deepening to a richer hue of rose, then purple, then moving onto yellow tones for chapter 6 (the ‘realisation’), and fading off to white for the remaining chapters. This was something very deliberate that I wanted to create, to flow with not only the seasons that the story takes place (starting in autumn in Sydney, moving into Spring when I moved to Paris, then summer, then white for winter in Amsterdam), but also my state of mind at the time of each chapter’s focus. I won’t say much more about it for those who haven’t yet read the book, but perhaps now for those who have, there might be a deeper connection to the story, represented by not just images but the colour and tones within each chapter.


As you can see, every element, every stage of the making of this book is very much made by hand. From creating each photograph, to making the chalkboard letters, photographing wings and petals and branches to cut and paste onto images. Is there a particular design feature of the book you’d like to learn about?

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  1. Krista says

    I love this so much. πŸ™‚ Your creativity inspires me on so many levels. After a very painful two years I went to Amsterdam for three months to recover and get strong again. The light in your photos reminds me of those long, lovely days of soul-restoration. Now that I’m in Australia I feel my soul awaken and be creative. I love that! A dear friend sent me the link to your blog and I’m so glad she did. πŸ™‚

    September 3rd, 2012 | #

  2. Mary Jo says

    Pia, I am loving this series about the making of your book. Your photos are so stunning, and so uniquely yours. And yet when you describe each step in the process it all seems so accessible. It is all very inspiring.
    Thank you, Mary Jo

    September 3rd, 2012 | #

  3. caroline @trend-daily says

    Another wonderful post in a fantastic series Pia-you are so wonderfully talented and very inspiring πŸ™‚ Caroline

    September 3rd, 2012 | #

  4. Joanna says

    Thank you Pia for a wonderful, touching book. It is so inspiring to see how much heart and thought went into making each page, and for the reader/viewer the whole experience put together becomes incredibly rich. I love how you let your creative eye guide you in such tangible ways, and am really hoping for a follow-up. πŸ™‚ OR something entirely new and different…that is the beauty of the creative spirit.

    September 4th, 2012 | #

  5. Gretchen says

    Hi Pia! Very fine story about you working. It’s always interesting to hear artist telling about her/his work. I’m photographer also so I do respect your work!

    September 4th, 2012 | #

  6. Carla Coulson says

    So interesting to read about your journey with this book and how fabulous to see your creative mind working I just adore the chapter openers! Love the new Book Shop Brava
    Carla x

    September 5th, 2012 | #

  7. Janet says

    Dear Pia,

    I ve loved to read your book.just before we went on our holidays to France i bought it via the internet.Though English is not my native language (i am from Holland) i really enyojed reading it.The next book i like to read is Paris made by hand.Just because i love France and i love handmade things….

    Love ,Janet

    September 5th, 2012 | #

  8. Paris Rendez-vous says

    Gorgeous in every way Pia. Merci beaucoup.

    September 9th, 2012 | #

  9. Anoek says

    HI Pia,

    What a nice website and what great work you create! I would like to linkpartner with you. Please contact me and let’s see if we can do this!

    Regards, Anoek

    September 12th, 2012 | #

  10. Victoria says

    I just want to say thank you for your book. I bought it back in Australia and as I read it, I realised that it was my dream to move to london. It felt like everything you were saying at the beginning of the book was exactly what I was feeling, like you were talking right to me. So here I am, on the other side of the world following my wandering heart. And on days when I start to feel homesick, I only need to pick up your book, have a read and I remember why it is that Im here. So thank you xx

    September 12th, 2012 | #

  11. Vicki says

    So inspired! Thank you for sharing – going over to Amazon to buy your book now. V x

    September 16th, 2012 | #

  12. Natascha says

    I love your pictures and these numbers!

    September 17th, 2012 | #

  13. Mihaeko says

    So charming and nicely done!

    September 18th, 2012 | #

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