I am so excited … hold the front page … This week I launched my first creative commercial venture … an Etsy shop where I can sell my handmade books. I’ve been making handmade journals, commonplace books and sketchbooks for a while now and this week I finally took the leap of faith into the world of setting up my own online shop.
Journaling has always been so incredibly important to me and having beautiful books to write in makes keeping a journal even more special.
So, what is a journal?
It’s your story, your history, your present moment. It’s a gateway into who you really are and how you really feel. It’s a place to play and a place to get down to some serious work. Keeping a journal, whether you do it every day, once a week, or only in moments of strong emotions, good or bad, can be so many of these things, and so much more. Keeping a journal is meditation, it’s a place where you can open up a dialogue with your inner self, or your inner child, or your inner crazy-person-who-just-needs-to-rant!!
For me, keeping a journal has always been my link to myself, a place where I can be my true self, and a space for me to explore what I might become. I believe that keeping a journal has, quite literally, saved my life; it’s allowed me to face my fears; it’s allowed me to recognise and move out of toxic situations; it’s allowed me to come to a place of acceptance of the things I cannot change; and it’s allowed me to celebrate the good stuff.
My home has always been filled with notebooks that I use as my journals. I confess, I’m an unashamed stationary addict! A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to do a Coptic bookbinding workshop with an amazing local artist, Isa Carmona, and I was totally hooked on making my own, completely personal and unique journals.
Trouble was, once I started, I just couldn’t stop, so all of my friends started to receive gifts of journals and commonplace books and sketchbooks! Then people wanted to buy them, to gift to their friends… And so, the idea for this Etsy shop was born.
I started off by making the covers from upcycled wallpaper samples, old maps or handmade paper. All of the cartridge paper for the pages is recycled, mostly from old paper cups, and it’s all hand torn.
I use Coptic binding to hold my books together. Coptic binding was used by early Christians in Egypt, the Copts, and was used from as early as the second Century AD all the way up to the eleventh Century. Coptic bindings were characterized by one or more sections of parchment, papyrus, or paper sewn through their folds, and (if more than one section) attached to each other with chain stitch linkings across the spine.
The modern-day tradition is to have 7 sections or “signatures”, each of which has 8 pages, and this is the layout I use for most of my books. But I have made some much thicker than that, which people have used for diaries and bullet journals.
The fantastic thing about this method of bookbinding is that the finished book lies flat when opened, which is really great for journaling.
Commonplace Books and Journals
I’ve also been turning some of my books and journals into “Commonplaces”, which have a secret little pocket in the inside back covers, so that the writer can keep things … tickets and photos, letters and mementos. I have always loved Commonplace books myself, and it’s great fun when I pick up a notebook that I haven’t used for a while, and find a poignant little reminder of a wonderful day.
“Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They have been kept from antiquity and were kept particularly during the Renaissance and in the nineteenth century. Such books are essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces are used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts. Each one is unique to its creator’s particular interests, but they almost always include passages found in other texts, sometimes accompanied by the compiler’s responses.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)
My other creative passion is photography, and my camera is never far from my hands. Early in 2020, I got interested in exploring alternative photographic development techniques, and I was so inspired by the work of an artist friend of mine @redeartharts, that I thought I had to try cyanotypes or “sunprints” (what a great name!). I bought my first small bottles of cyanotype chemicals, and hey presto … a new passion was born and lots of experimenting with cyanotypes began. It seemed an obvious next step to use my cyanotype prints for the covers of my journals.
I use local wildflowers or flowers from my garden as the subjects for the cyanotype prints; I sometimes use dyes or salt or even coriander and pepper in the development process. Each print is completely unique, which means that when someone gets themselves one of my cyanotype books, they are guaranteed to be getting something that no one else will ever have.
So, these are exciting times for me. I hope that people will like what they see if they chance upon my Etsy page … I hope that they will like their books and journals, should they be kind enough to buy any … and I hope that they will spread the word. Most of all, I hope that having a beautiful handmade book will encourage people to write … and write … and write … because truly there is no better way to find yourself than in your own words.
So … unashamed bit of advertising now ….
As well as Handmade Journals, Commonplace Books and Sketchbooks, you will be able to find Cards created from original prints or photographs on my Redheadwondering Etsy shop. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to request a special book for a special someone (or just especially for you!).