It’s blowing a gale outside, I can hear the rain sloshing against (and probably soon into) the windows, not pattering, sloshing, in great bucket fulls. It’s the perfect night to sit with a cat on your knee writing a blog post but goodness it’s hard to settle down to – oh I need a mug of tea, the fire needs another log, hang on while I check Instagram one more time… oh and I need to answer that message on Facebook… Despite a long conversation with my brother tonight, about how much time we all spend on social media, I’ve probably spent more time this evening looking at pictures of other people’s dinners than doing anything constructive of my own. In the half silence of fire crackle and storm howl, now pinned to my chair by a sleeping demon, I have no excuses and no distractions and anyway this week was newsworthy.
Visiting Hebden Bridge this week felt very emotional for several reasons. Firstly I was delivering work to a lovely gallery there. I first heard of Heart Gallery in late 2015 when the town flooded in the same storm that devastated much of the Lake District (and eventually led to the loss of my job at a gallery in Keswick due to a drop in the visitor income that paid my wages). Many of the businesses in Hebden Bridge flooded including Heart and since most of these were small independent shops it seemed an even crueler blow. Dropping off my work in the bright and beautiful gallery on a sunny Autumn day, it felt like the culmination of a long journey and one of those weird things that happen these days, where you feel as though you know someone or somewhere because you’ve emotionally invested in their story online. I made sure to do my very best “Just a Card” thing and bought a copy of Elementum and a card by Ruth Thorpe before calling in to see Ed at Snug Gallery , another virtual acquaintance with a flood recovery story to tell (here I acquired a card by Julia Ogden and a copy of Uppercase). It’s always weird introducing yourself to someone you’ve only met online, somehow implying you are a “person of great importance” among the billion voices but here’s the thing – we can make real connections from afar and although parting with cash always stings when you don’t have bundles under the bed, it also felt right to be spending it with love if that doesn’t sound too cheesy. Ok, it sounds cheesier than melted cheese on a cheese scone but I don’t care; the world is full of stuff and junk and pointless landfill (Sainsbury’s plastic pumpkin anyone?) and all the places I visited in Hebden were full of … heart, for want of a better word.
So here’s the second reason for being emotional… When I was at college we had to write a study of inspiring designer makers and I chose Hannah Nunn, who, I think, had graduated fairly recently and was just about to open her shop Radiance, showcasing her gorgeous glowing paper lamps. Hannah was generous and supportive in her replies to my questionnaire and when we eventually met, years later at BCTF, it turned out that she was actually pretty lovely in real life too. When I started making lampshades and filling in business planners about ideal stockists, Radiance was top of my list but… I didn’t dare ask because I liked Hannah and Ffion too much to risk an awkward rejection!
Anyway, knowing I was visiting Hebden Bridge at last I plucked up the courage to at least ask for some feedback and was given the news that was announced later… (please read it)
The shop is beautiful, the people are lovely ( not to mention all the other hard working designers and makers who they support as stockists) and what are we to do if places like this can’t continue to light up our towns? We’ll all be poorer for the loss of them. Hannah was kind enough to show me around her studio in a nearby mill which was wonderful, all sunlight and “tiny treasures” and luckily thriving away from the risks of the high street. I don’t know what the answer is. We are all so used to things being relatively “cheap” because they are mass produced and ultimately disposable so of course handmade things seem expensive in comparison, of course they do, even if the person making them probably doesn’t even pay themselves a minimum wage. Tonight, driving home from the bookshop, I listened to a radio programme about the Experience Economy which discussed the fact that people are choosing “experiences” over “stuff” but that one of those experiences can be the feeling of connection with a story. I left that northern town with a small bag of treasure, a lighter purse and a feeling I can’t quite identify but that I know is positive – visual stimulation, creative inspiration, a sense of history and connection, something fizzy and hopeful despite everything.
Have I rambled on? Is there space to tell you about the cat getting stuck up a tree and eating Hawthorn spikes ( we needed tweezers to remove them!) or walking around Loweswater in the first frosts of Autumn, hugging trees and sharing chocolate peanuts? I haven’t even told you about visiting Haworth and seeing the tiny, tiny notebooks of the Bronte’s.
I’ve been busy making new things to take to Kendal Craft Market at the end of the month and also getting distracted with a rediscovery of heat transfer disperse dyes, painted by hand and printed onto fabric. These work best on manmade fibres unfortunately but I’ve recently found a supplier of some recycled polyester made from plastic bottles which is much nicer than it sounds, so watch this space. Inky doodles have also resulted in these hyperactive hares. A repeat pattern (made digitally) that might work on fabric or wrapping paper.
Finally here is the Purple Pomegranate version of the little illustration project I was working on in September. The books are designed to be sent as greetings cards and come with envelopes and space to write a message.There will be a bigger version for the teaching of English to children abroad so I’m looking forward to seeing that when it’s printed. I loved working on this, I certainly learned a lot and there’s nothing quite like seeing something you’ve worked on in print.
It’s chilly now, the cat left my knee ages ago in favour of the radiator so I’m off to bed where I shall dream of inky hares and perfect pink roses, sunlight through seed heads and kittens up trees – but it’s so late that you won’t get this until morning. Have a lovely day.