I bought my first tube of copper ink at the end of 2020, around Christmas. And I ain’t gonna lie, it has been my favourite. It finally squeezed its last the other day and I replaced it immediately, knowing I couldnt be without it.
Thought it made a funny meme, summing up my state of mind, but after posting it on its own, it just looked odd. So now I’m writing some weird long-winded explanation which is probably wholly unnecessary and ruining any kind of humour.
Letterpress is my favourite obsession to date, of which there have been many. I will probably post more about printing in the future, hopefully you’ll find it just as interesting as my book posts, recipes and other random ramblings!
So I’m taking part in an open studio event again this year (did it for the first time last year) and so far it has been busy!
The first time I visited studios during h.Art week was in Sept 2019, when my friend Lu and I decided it was high time we follow some bright pink signs and have a nosey around artists’ studios.
One of the venues I visited was Berrington Press, where I met Sarah and Francesca. It was there I tried letterpress printing for the first time, and I can honestly say it was love at first clunk.
I immediately commandeered an Adana from my dad’s antique collection, and got myself kitted out with ink and type, and it has been an obsession ever since.
I’ve now had my studio in Hereford for nearly 18 months, and have sold my printed work at fairs and in shops, as well as in my studio in The Apple Store Gallery (venue 3), and at Sacred Tree Spirit (venue 73).
Such was the obsession that my last novel for adults, The Girl Who Loved Much, had a letterpress theme, and the cover was a photograph I took of my own printing blocks in my studio. I also did a limited edition print run of extras to go with the book.
I have had many, many hobbies in my life, but I can honestly say that I feel that printing was what I was looking for all along. It helps that the printing community on Instagram and in the British Printing Society are the loveliest people I have ever known!
So if you’re local, do check out h.Art, and if you’re a reader wondering why I haven’t written so many books lately, this is one of the reasons why!
Apparently I started to write this blog post in February last year. I had the title and a single sentence (which I have just deleted), and then I apparently got distracted.
But oddly enough, it is very relevant in this moment, and was relevant throughout the whole of 2020. Crafting and creating is what kept me sane. And continues to keep me sane. Making things is my favourite thing to do when things get to be too much. And right now, I cannot help keep getting more and more materials to make more and more things. Very much like my main character, Caru, in The Girl Who Loved Too Much, I have a LOT of hobbies.
I letterpress print things on my Adana presses. I knit things. Crochet things. I love making Luna and friends, by Sarah Peel, with their tailored clothing. I enjoy making things out of leather, and stamping metal with words. I love taking photos, making little videos. And then of course I love to write, though you could argue that wasn’t a hobby, but my work.
Why is creating so therapeutic? I know that not everyone has hobbies to the level I do, but over the last year, I have seen quite a few friends who have declared themselves uncreative in the crafting sense, take up a craft and find themselves enjoying it a lot. And not just enjoying it, but being damned good at it too!
I genuinely think that a large part of the difference between those who create things and those who don’t, comes down to whether they were encouraged to make things in their childhood. When I was little, we were ALWAYS making things. Always. And I watched my parents constantly make things. It was normal. But when I ran a little crafting group 15 years ago, I found that none of the children were allowed to craft at home. Because it created mess. Because it meant having to find somewhere to put the things they created. Because it didn’t fit into the neat and tidy lifestyle the parents had created.
This is something I tried to address in my latest novel. Is it possible to be creative, while also being wealthy and neat and tidy? So far in my own experience, these things are mutually exclusive. To be creative is to create mess. There are things drying, things in half finished states, things at various stages. Then there are things waiting to be sold, or given as gifts. And money? Well that gets spent on materials, on packaging, on courses to learn more about your craft and on yet more materials.
But when I consider the question whether I would prefer to be creative or be wealthy, or creative or neat and tidy, creative wins every time. Even though it drives me crazy that I can’t find things. Even though I keep moving house and having so much crafting equipment and materials to move is a nightmare.
Because to create things is part of who I am. These things are extensions of myself. They are manifestations of my thoughts, my excitement, my enthusiasm. And they are my way of coping with things. Of moving through these ultra-weird times we find ourselves in.
So tell me, do you create? What do you create? Why do you create (or not)? If you have Instagram accounts, or somewhere I can see your creations, post them in the comments!
I’ve never really experienced writer’s block in the way that other writer’s describe. Where the ideas have dried up, and they have no idea what to write. Ideas are definitely not a problem.
But I have hit blocks in terms of getting the words and ideas onto the page. Not just when writing books, but also in terms of this blog. In December this year, this blog will be 10 years old, and just a couple of weeks ago, it hit 100k views all time. As proud as I am of this, I wonder where to take things next. With the shift toward Instagram and YouTube, I admit to neglecting this blog over the last year or two, with posts dwindling down to a couple here and there, instead of every week or even every month.
I never used to worry about what I posted, I would just write whatever came to mind, but lately, I haven’t been sharing as much, because there is the pressure to only share what is useful to others, or that teaches, inspires or at the very least, entertains. There is more leaning towards things needing to create revenue and get clients and customers and not just simply provide a glimpse into the world that I inhabit.
I didn’t write any books last year either. I was focused on publishing The Winter’s Sleep by Monica Cafferky, and also found myself moving house too many times to mention! I took part in many festivals and MBS shows, and by the end of the year, found myself needing to focus on my health more, as I got quite fatigued and couldn’t keep up the pace I had set.
I did however discover a passion for letterpress printing, and papermaking, and even leatherwork. So although my writing has been at a minimum, my creative output has been pretty extensive! So I feel maybe I just needed time to be creative in other ways.
I have no idea what 2020 has in store for me, and unlike last year, I haven’t made a huge long list of things I want to accomplish, because inevitably, when I set the bar too high, I end up being disappointed with that I have managed to do. I do however have a few books in the pipeline, some are by other authors and some are by myself, the first one is a poetry book, called Duelling Poets, which I can’t wait to release into the world. (post about this coming soon)
So what direction do you think I should go in? Do you enjoy the random wonderings? Is it just useful information you are looking for? Or more gluten free recipes? (those posts got a lot of views!) I don’t want to abandon the blog altogether, as it has been with me from the very beginning of my writing journey, but I would love to hear what you think.
I do hope 2020 has been kind to you thus far, and that we get to interact more in the coming 12 months!