Hey there! It’s good to see you here. My name is Lizzie, and I am the redhead who is always wondering! Wondering about life, about this beautiful world, about words and light and colour and form. And mostly about how I can be the best me that I can possibly be.
I am a creator of hand bound books and of art, in the form of cyanotypes and photographs. I am also an avid journal-keeper and I’d like to share some of my journal wonderings with you today ….
The Highlights from The Rest of January
In my last blog I told you about the brilliant Instagram Challenge we had in The British Craft House … a month’s worth of tasks and subjects, to kick-start our social media year … so, for this blog I’m going to share some of the other highlights.
January 9th – Skills
A few years ago, I had a life-changing experience … I attended a Coptic bookbinding workshop with local artist, Isa Carmona.
Why “life changing”, you ask??
Well, imagine you absolutely love music, and one day, someone sits you down at a piano and shows you how to play, and then imagine that you’re good at it!!
Well, that’s what learning to create books was like for me! I am a voracious writer, I am a woman who has always found her voice through the written word, rather than the spoken one.
Here was a way for me to create the very journals that I so love to fill with all my words.
Here was a way for me to create something special and beautiful with my own two hands.
From that first workshop an obsession was born … hand bound books … it goes hand(bound) in hand(bound) with my love of words, of writing, of seeking solace in the blank pages of a journal.
I use Coptic stitching to bind the books together. Coptic binding means that the books lie completely flat when they are opened, and that makes them perfect for journaling or sketching.
Coptic binding was a method of bookbinding used by early Christians in Egypt, the Copts, and it was commonly used to create books for about 900 years.
Coptic bindings are characterized by sections of paper sewn through their folds and attached to each other with chain stitch linkings across the spine of the book. The book artist who taught me Coptic binding told me that traditionally, hand bound books would have seven signatures, or sections, and that is how many I use.
This ancient art is the perfect way to create handbound books. It’s strong and beautiful and very practical.
The pages lie flat and make it so much easier to write.
And it’s strong … these journals do not fall apart, no matter how often you open them and write in them!
January 10th – Goals … The Year Ahead
2021 was an amazing year for me. I achieved so many of my goals. I launched my own website, and I started selling on The British Craft House. I connected with the most amazing people online.
I’m part of the loveliest groups. I’m a member of the Abundant Business Collective, where I am supported by a wonderful group of women, who are also running their own small businesses.
And I have so many plans for 2022. It’s going to be my best year yet!
My word for 2022 is THRIVE and that is just what I’m going to do!
Thrive … verb:
to prosper; be fortunate or successful
to grow or develop vigorously, flourish
That’ll do me just fine!
And that is what I’m going to do next year. 2022 will be the year when I thrive, the year where all the seeds I’ve been planting and all the roots I’ve been putting down in the last year start to bear fruit. I will grow vigorously. I intend to be successful and prosperous. I intend to take my biz to the next level. I feel really excited about where this is heading.
Why? Because I damn well deserve it! Is there a better reason?
January 13th – Outside … Take In The View
“… going back to the same place in a devoted way and in a curious way is a huge part of my life …”
This quote from Michael Longley really resonated with me.
It’s how I feel about going back to Salisbury Plain again and again to take photographs. I see beauty at every turn here. The rise and fall of the Downs, the sweeping grasslands of Salisbury Plain, the verdant hedgerows, the knee-deep, thigh-deep blankets of wildflowers … all these beauties spark joy in me.
I can take photographs of the same landscape, the same trees, the same roads, but every time, I see something different.
The light changes and I see features in the landscape I didn’t see before.
The trees are bare, or full of vibrant green.
The sky is wide and blue, or tumbling with clouds.
The heathlands are full of golden grasses or carpeted with wildflowers.
It’s a great place to take in the view!
January 15th – Learning Curve/Evolution
Because I want my handbound books to be beautiful, whether they be journals or commonplace books, sketchbooks or photograph albums, I use only the loveliest materials.
When I started out, I was using upcycled wallpaper samples for the covers. I was choosing only patterns I loved myself (I am very taken with William Morris-inspired patterns!). Then I started to use old OS maps for my travel journals, or musical scores, or handmade paper. You can create a beautiful cover from so many things.
Then I started to experiment with cyanotypes, and everything changed! At first, I hadn’t been thinking of them as book covers, I was simply fascinated by the alchemy of this exciting alternative photography process.
But then I realised how perfect they would be for book covers, and I started to create prints with books in mind, using wildflowers from the hedgerows around my home, or flowers form my garden as the subjects.
This means that every book I create is completely unique because every single cyanotype is unique.
When I started bookbinding, I was only making A5 sized books.
Then I started to make A4 sketchbooks and photograph albums.
Now my favourite size is B5 … half-way between A5 and A4 … it’s the perfect size for a journal!
January 16th – Tools Of My Trade
The tools I use for bookbinding are fairly simple, and in some cases, homemade.
There’s the awl and the hole punch (I used a screw hole punch when I first started out, but jeez that’s hard work … so I switched up to a leather punch, much easier to use and it also makes much neater holes in the covers).
There’s the bone folder or paper creaser. I also have a small guillotine for the grey board used in the covers. Then there’s the various paint brushes I use for the glue and the ink, and there are scalpels and scissors.
One of the most important things is obviously the needle I use for binding the books together. I started out using standard darning needles, but then I tried a curved needle and it made the Coptic binding so much easier and neater, so I stick with that now.
And of course, there’s my trusty homemade book press!
January 18th – Reducing Waste/Reuse/Recycle/Eco Friendly
When I am creating my journals, I try as far as I possibly can, to use sustainable, recycled or ethically sourced materials.
The paper I use for the pages is recycled from used coffee cups, and is supplied by a small, family run business in Brighton.
The paper I use to create the cover artwork is ethically sourced through Khadi, a UK supplier who works with communities in India, Nepal and Bhutan, to produce papers made by traditional methods in sustainable ways. This both preserves techniques & generates an income to many families. The papers are specifically designed for artists and are suitable for most media. I usually buy my Khadi paper from the wonderful @tornedgepaper on Etsy.
Sometimes I use repurposed pages, which means that the books have extra little messages in them, which might even inspire the women who use my journals … one never knows what might trigger inspiration to create words or images.
Any cut-offs from my cyanotype prints don’t go to waste … I use them for spine wraps on some of my journals.
The tools of my trade, the materials I use, I always try to buy from small, independent businesses.
The subjects for my artwork are wildflowers or flowers from my garden, which Nature produces for me in abundance!
And I use the sun to develop the prints … as an energy source, you can’t get more sustainable than that!
January 20th – Personal Touch
I use original cyanotype prints to create the covers of my journals. I use flowers as the subjects for the cyanotype prints. The way a cyanotype print is developed is through exposure to the sun’s UV rays … wherever the sun touches the exposed paper turns a gorgeous deep blue. Where the flowers are laid, the sun is either prevented from touching the paper, or it is filtered through the petals and stems.
This leaves a ghostly image of the flower on the paper … the photographic “print” developed by the sun.
Every journal I create is one-of-a-kind, because every single cyanotype print is unique. Even if I use the same flowers, the same added ingredients, no two prints will ever be identical.
And that is the thrill for me. Every single print is an original. Every print has a character of its own. It also means that when you buy one of my journals, you are also getting a totally unique work of art!
To add the extra personal touch, I gift wrap all of my journals before I post them out.
If you buy one of my photograph albums, I’ll also send you some photo corners to get you started!
And if you want something even more special, I’ll create a journal just for you. A couple of these photographs show a journal I created using lots of green and gold inks … it was a special commission for a small business owner, who wanted a journal in her brand colours!
January 24th – Books/On The Bookshelf
I love books. My life has been filled with books. I share my home with at least 2500 books (probably more!). There are a gazillion novels, and hundreds and hundreds of text and reference books on just about every subject under the sun (my husband is a perpetual student!). I have a small shelf above my desk, where my “inspiration for writing and creating” books sit. I can’t imagine a life without books!
I cut my reading teeth on sci-fi and fantasy … a brother seven years older than me meant that I was exposed to Asimov, Dick, Tolkien, et al from a very early age … I’d read Lord of Rings (for the first time!) by the time I was 8 or 9 years old (I’ve read it about half a dozen times since!).
I have so many “favourite” books, and so many beloved authors, whose work I read voraciously. But asked to name just one, I think I’d plump for Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Hardy’s prose is so lyrical, so absorbing, that I can lose myself in his books. Far from the Madding Crowd is also a huge love of mine, but I think that Tess is the top of my list. It’s deeply moving, and just the most poignant story.
One of the things that I have always loved about Hardy’s writing, has been his descriptions of the Wessex landscape that his characters inhabit. I fell in love with the place decades before I ever visited it.
And now, how lucky am I?! I live in Wiltshire, three miles from Stonehenge, the very place where Tess meets her end. I drive through the rolling Wiltshire landscape every day, and I have countless opportunities to take photographs of this most glorious countryside. My husband (the perpetual student) is also an author, so we have lots of his books around too. I love his stories, and my favourite is one which is a short, sweet and beautiful book about young love, confusion, and long, hot summer days …. Genial: The Love Song of Simon and Julie (Dereham Connections Node 4.5) by Steve Dewey @wordandlightsmithing … it makes me go “mmmmm” and sigh a lot!!
January 25th My Day/Routines
I am a lark, and my husband is a night owl, and that works for us, because it means that I have solitude for a couple of hours every morning before he is up (and he gets the same after I’ve gone to bed!).
This time alone is when I write, this is when I create, or when I work on photographs.
As Rhian Sasseen puts it, “to work, we need to be alone. To create anything, we need to have the freedom to lead, unimpeded, into the murkiness of our own minds.”
I think that we all need to be able to carve out “alone time”.
And writing in that “alone time” is my morning ritual. It is how I connect to myself.
I can tell my secrets to the blank page, as I sit there in the shadowed room.
I can dream in a new way.
I can sense new beginnings.
I can look at the old ways that no longer serve me, thank them for the lessons they’ve taught me, and move on.
I use my own journals myself for my morning pages routine. I also write my ideas for my business in there. I brain dump. I draw little diagrams. First drafts of social media posts and blogs come flowing out of my pen as I write in the mornings.
If you would like to know more about my journaling journey and maybe get some tips on your own, why not subscribe to my Wonders out of a Redhead Newsletter.
January 31st – Relaxing … Finding A Balance
So, what I do to relax and chill-out … I hang out with my lovely husband (laughing a lot!), I take photographs, I tend my garden, I watch rom coms, I listen to music, and, when COVID allows, we head to Devon. I miss our seaside trips, and I sure hope that we get to have a few jaunts this year.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me this month. You’re the best!