I Love Words!

In the past few weeks I’ve had interview requests from people who want to ask me questions specifically geared towards the difference between my traditional book writing and my blogging. I know exactly what they expect me to say because of the difference between the type of printed books that I write (handmade, years of research, traditionally published as hardbacks and then paperbacks as opposed to my online writing which could easily be stitched together as an ebook and sold online). The most recent interviewer opened her questions with “So what’s the secret to your success?” (An alien idea, that, but impossible to squash politely so I just went quiet with sheer embarrassment and pointed at a crow stealing a sandwich out the window). Then I bumbled on about not really doing anything unusual except trying to write well. I think it’s just in my DNA to want to be a better writer. Or as my granny puts it, “You were born a scribbler”.

With that bit of the interview whackery thankfully out of the way the interviewer moved onto the question of ebooks and writing on digital platforms (the question she really wanted to ask in the first place). She was looking to investigate the difference between “real” books and was hoping that I would say that “blogging and one click download ebooks from Amazon.com onto my Kindle App on my Mac or iPhone were the future of publishing.” My optician would freak (I’ve started to squint quite a lot recently from screen glare) but let me be honest, realistic and frank, I don’t see publishing that way at all so I mumbled something along the lines of “Charlotte Bronte said: “Better to try all things and to find all empty, than to try nothing and leave your life a blank.” I said this because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it usually sounds better if it’s something at least half-decent. Also I didn’t want to be pressured into saying that ebooks are going to take over the world because I really don’t see it like this.

A while ago I tapped out this post about my ten favorite books. It’s a baseline, the list that I would pack for a desert island trip. And if you’re wondering whether I’d pay extra and lug a suitcase full of printed titles to an island like in Castaway Tom Hanks style then the answer most definitely would be YES! The truth is, I love nothing more than the pleasure of a physical book. My house is lined with them. Actually as I look, there are even rows precariously leaning against by dressing table begging to be read. I spend a lot of money on hardbacks for keepsies and if I find a great book through my kindle App AND love it, I’ll buy the hardback or paperback just to have. See I support both book forms and like to own a book if it’s really great. I suppose without getting all deep about this, quite simply the pleasure of flicking through a physical book, savoring the words, studying the colours of the images and the beautiful cover art can’t be equalled YET by ebooks. That said, if you’re just talking about the simple practicality of reading plain text and fiction then after a bit of practice, I’ve found a certain way to prop up my Macbook Air or iPad like a physical book on a neat cushion so that it kind of feels like I’m reading a physical book while I sip a cup of tea. No Kindle yet then? No, not yet, I use the Kindle App.

Fact.. whether it’s physical book or ebook good writing is good writing and beautiful sentence structure regardless of the medium can sometimes leave me with feelings of great despair and good old-fashioned must-try-harder thoughts. Such feelings I think serve as a constant reminder as to how much I still have to learn and keeps my feet firmly planted on terra firma. When I feel that a writer has swept me gently into his/her world then I know I am in the presence of greatness and frankly I don’t care which type of package this experience comes in (digital or traditional). But if pressed hard I will admit that the book publishing landscape is changing rapidly as will in no time be a twin of the music industry but I also feel that there are enough of us who will always want the smell of libraries, the sound of real pages and a shelf of unforgettable book covers. Question is.. are there enough of us? Hope so!

Happy Word Book Day! XXX

A Goddess Guide screen print

A little while ago, I visited The Print Club London, where they allowed me to play !!Artist!! for a day and make 100 bespoke Goddess Guide screen prints – I write that word with exclamation marks and a capital “A” because well at the time, it felt a bit special (to me anyway). So let me tell you why the experience deserves just a few more quick exclamation marks. Honestly, I had a really lovely time even thought most of it was spent saying things like: “Stop filming!!! Emergency!!! More tea please!” I learnt a whole new language of colour while simultaneously trying to achieve the correct Pantone shade for my cups of milky tea.

Yes, this shade of tea is a tad dark for my liking right here but I had so much interest in mixing up the different paint colours that I even put them before finding the correct Pantone colour for my tea. I take my tea a very light shade a million miles away from builder and while the teabate continues to this day, I did manage to settle on four colours for this screen print.

Meanwhile during all of this chin-stroking and colour checking I was being filmed, but you’ll notice in the resulting film at the end of this post that you can’t hear me speak. Not a word. There’s a reason for this, it’s because the film is shot in stop motion – thousands of stills strung together so the only sound to be heard was the constant clicking of a camera shutter and not my *Irish excited and panicked voice* dribbling paint and words all over the place.

So I had a mixed media pen and ink drawing, hand painted in acrylic and oil which I wanted to screen print in four colours and ochre, a kind of a yellow was the first colour I chose. I was using this colour to get the correct shade of SHINY, GOLD, ANTIQUE for the chair and the Goddess’s vintage dress. It’s at this point in the film below that if there was indeed talking you would definitely hear me say…. “A bit more er, gold-ish wotsisname in there please? Thank You”

While choosing and creating four different colours I realised that there are quite a few steps to making a screen print. This was a first for me and whether it was the sheer concentration or too many cups of tea on the day but I started to get that first in your life feeling… like my first printed by-line; my little name in print above a piece I wrote about art in a newspaper which I brought home at Christmas to show my Mum. Or the first copy of my first book hot off the printing press. This print felt like that.

For the first screen pull, I had a go at placing the plastic sheet with the chair and Goddess’s dress drawn on it under the screen and taping it in place.

Then the screen was filled up with the ochre paint so that it could be pulled through the screen onto the paper (it’s easy to see all this in the film below).

And this is what the first ochre pull revealed. Only ninety-nine more chairs and dresses to do. Yikes!

Do any of you know how long this usually takes? Nope, me neither until it was explained to me by the printer Olivia Sautreuil that you have to wait for each colour to dry before you can add another. So after a few hours the ochre had dried and we applied the next colour…

…pink for the Goddess dress and head-dress. Mixing it made me wish I could find yoghurt this colour.

And this particular move right here was sure to get plenty of paint around the studio because it turned out to be one of my favourite shades in the world to work with (but not to wear).

So I got stuck in. No point in hiding the gleeeeeee, it’s quiet evident I’m a bit over-happy about this pink right here.

Olivia who was helping me print on the day also, (ahem!) handily gave me a few tips about getting my hands clean after working with inks and paint. Olivia buys Loctite in industrial size bottles and decants it into these tiny Muji bottles. She showed me how she just puts it on her hands, rubs it around a bit and it takes all paint away, NO water required. And she goes nowhere without her Ducray Laboratoire Dermatologiques Ictyane Créme mains réparatrice, a hand cream which helps repair and offers long-lasting protection to prevent dry and chapped skin (she has the most beautiful hands but I wouldn’t have expected anything less, she is after all French.)

Can you not spot her Frenchness even from behind. The way she carries her printing squigy in her satchel. So in her honour I named this print Les Liaisons Dangereuses. And by the way I’m not really this tiny, it’s just the way photo was taken (Swear).

I toyed with using a whole bunch of other colours when I saw them scattered on this. Seriously what sort of a blogger would I be if I didn’t toy with the idea of mixing !!Art!! !!Fashion!! and !!Colour!! (and loads more exclamation marks?)

I think I may have said something at this point along the lines of… “anyone who chooses to turn their hand to writing or sketching daily, I commend them.” This Goddess is in fact a sketch of Courtney Love which I did one day when doodling about with her over cookies and tea. It’s probably the most normal thing we have in common, the love of tea, cookies a good sketchpad and pen and pencil action. It’s important to keep making things if you’re any sort of artist. I really believe that. For me that means making things that make me smile….”

I was secretly hoping that it would turn out well when the red wallpaper background was applied. The background had taken me a good few months to create, each little thing in it is hand drawn (it’s from the cover of the first Goddess Guide book and is a pattern compiled of my favourite items).

I hoped with a little prayer that it would all come together once the final black layer when on.

I closed my eyes and squinted a bit as I opened them hoping that the final image would look good. Then I thought of something vaguely philosophical “It’s an homage to a Goddess who can quite effortlessly mix Topshop with a fantastical bespoke vintage headpiece and push her own style to the edge of existence. Her world is layered with luscious texture; the scent of Fracas perfume rolls over a satin and gilt edged chair, red flock wallpaper matches crumbling 40’s lipstick, kohl’d eyes look from beneath blonde Elnett curls. A landscape of longing.”

The significance for me of being able to hand make a print in England in a studio giving printers constant work cannot be underestimated. And if you’d like to try the process yourself The London Print Club lets you take a group along and you can get an introductory session for a fee. I hired The London Print Club for a full day and if the experience wasn’t a wonderful one, no amount of tea or smiles would make me pretend otherwise. I had the best fun and everyone there was so, so kind.

Also on this day, frustrated at not having anywhere to show step by step behind the scenes making of things (Jeeeeeez, shit, how am I supposed to show the littlest details of people that I visit?), I made the decision to start this blog. Just to be able to blog about things I like and hear what people like me really think in the world. To find and talk about things like this headdress in this print by this American designer here

So that’s all really! Oh yes, just to say that I’m not that small really, see it’s just that this print is really rather big! Also just to say that I did a print on the day with a blue background inspired by a blue mug in the studio, but I only did a few.

Some of these prints have already been bought by some pretty amazing people so if you fancy giving one a safe home, somewhere where Goddesses and milky tea are much appreciated, then have a look here. Meanwhile come behind the scenes in this little film below.

P.S. A special Thank you to @katieantoniou who helped organise everything for me and above all, thanks to you. X