What we do in the quiet times.

Well, the thing is, we rarely get quiet times. Sometimes we long for quiet times but, the paradox is, if things are quiet then business is slow and if business is slow then there’s the worry that we will not be able to keep a roof over our heads and that worry drowns out the peace of any quiet times we may have had in the first place. I would call it a vicious circle but, when all’s said and done, we know we’re quite lucky to be doing what we’re doing and it’s really quite a pleasant circle to be in.

Luckily though, our customers keep us busy pretty much all of the time. We’ve been getting more and more people sending us their custom designs to tool onto the covers of our leather journals and binders.

We love this!

The vast range of uses our customers put our work to astounds us and you can see a few examples on our custom gallery here:

CUSTOM GALLERY

Usually March and April are our quietest months of the year, they always have been. In our seventeen years of business it has always been the same. January and February are busy, March and April are slow, May gets busy again and it stays that way for most of the year, getting hair-tearingly busy towards Christmas. However, this March and April, although a little slower than the rest of the year, have still been pretty busy.

We would normally be using the relative peace of the springtime to develop new ranges, something we rarely get time to do at any other time of the year. But this year we’ve had to put that aside so that we can do something far more important.

We’re making a new online home for Earthworks! Here’s a sneaky screenshot from the new homepage:

Earthworks Journals new website 2017 preview

It’s about time really, our website has been with the old host for years and although they have been generally quite reliable they seem to be resolutely refusing to move with the times. We still don’t really have a satisfactory way for people to browse our site on mobile devices! So, we will be saying farewell to our old host, we will up anchor and sail the good ship Earthworks to a more civilised land where mobile compatibility comes as standard and where SEO has been discovered.

Our old site is obviously still up and running (so please continue to buy, as usual) while we’re behind the scenes creating the new one. When we first had the idea we thought, “That’ll be a quick and easy job, we’ll have it up and running in a few weeks”. That was back in January. We have become very, very aware that it has been a very, very long time since we built the last one. Even though basic templates make things easy, the strange and esoteric modern coding is, well . .  strange and esoteric!

Here at Earthworks we are much more at home with physical tools than we are with virtual ones. We are skilled with things that cut, groove, indent, gouge, split and stain. Put us in front of a computer and you’ll find us, at best, scratching our heads and, at worst, slumped over the desk sobbing with despair.

Earthworks Journals leather tools and celtic design

But, we insist (perhaps ill-advisedly) on doing every single thing within Earthworks ourselves. Call us pernickety, call us control-freaks, call us obsessive fools (you wouldn’t be the first), but we will get there. The new website will be created. Perhaps later rather than sooner, but we will get there. And it will function beautifully, we insist upon it!

And when it’s finished, it will be a glorious thing! No more clunky old website. Earthworks Journals will have a sleek new home.

You must come and visit when it’s done. We’ll be sending out an invite to all Friends of Earthworks when it’s complete so you can come and let us know what you think.

What do you mean? You’re not a Friend of Earthworks? Very well, you can sign up on our website in the link below. Just create an account and make sure you click the box to sign up for the newsletter. After all, you won’t want to miss out on our Grand Opening Discount Weekend!

EARTHWORKS JOURNALS LOGIN

17 years old today!

Earthworks Journals, 17 years of handmade journals.

Earthworks Journals is seventeen years old today!

Who’d have thought that the little amoeba of a business we conceived all that time ago is edging its way cautiously into being a proper grown-up? We feel so proud.

All of that nurturing we did in the early years certainly paid off. Ok, we were quite lucky in that it was always quite well behaved and mostly did what it was told. There were a few sleepless nights when we’d lay awake worrying about it and talking about its future; but everyone does that, right?

And then the last couple of years were a bit tough, but those mid-teen years are always a bit tough. All that work we put in while it was young, trying to socialise it and get it seen in all the right places fell by the wayside. The next time we looked Earthworks was 16 years old and the internet had decided to change all the search engine optimisation rules while we weren’t looking! Honestly, you can’t take your eyes off them for a moment! Still, we caught it just in time and they’re playing together nicely again now.

We thought, as a treat, we’d buy Earthworks Journals a special birthday present this year. It’s been knocking about in a rather clunky old website since it was young and, to be honest, it’s beginning to outgrow it. It still looks ok, if a little old-fashioned, but it is a bit over-complicated, the payment gateway is a bit on the creaky side and it’s impossible to make it look good on mobile devices (which isn’t great as half the world seems to have thrown away their desktop computers).

So, in the spirit of modernity, we’re in the process of creating a shiny new website for Earthworks. We see all these slick young websites coming along with their fashionable good-looks and modern, if somewhat aloof, ways and we think that if we gave Earthworks a spit and polish and a bit of a trim then we could fit its gruff, home-crafted ways into one of those sleek vehicles without losing any of its affability.

So, a very Happy Birthday to Earthworks Journals. We’re proud that it’s still here after 17 years, all thanks to our wonderful customers, new and old. It’s all very exciting, you’ll soon be able to visit Earthworks on a proper up-to-date website; we’re working on it at this very moment and we’ll let you know when it’s ready.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

It’s that time of year again. Spring is approaching; very slowly perhaps, but it is approaching. Taking Tanner out on his daily walks we’re seeing the leaves on the birches beginning to burst; the first dapple of blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows; the first glow of catkins on the willows.bluebells

It’s just the time of year when our imagination comes out of hibernation and we start to look forward. A time to think about the summer and all the adventures it has in store.

I’ve been looking back over my own journals this winter and found they are mostly written during the warmer months. The few entries from the winter months are more likely to be introspective meanderings; whereas the summer entries are much more external, more about the physical, more about the things I’m actually doing. It’s like the sun allows us to experience life outside of ourselves. And, of course, re-reading those summer entries allows me to experience them again, in a small way.

We tend to live a simple life, myself and Samantha, we spend most of our time in the workshop and when we’re not in the workshop, we like to go for walks (I say ‘walks’, but they tend to be long romps exploring weird places other people rarely go). Some people think our life is boring, but we like to think of it as simple.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

~Henry David Thoreau

beachSo, in the spirit of looking forward to warmer days; to travelling; to walking; to holidays; to whatever you like to do when the sun shines on you (and to keeping a note of all those things in your Earthworks journal, so you can look back on them when winter comes around again!), I thought I’d share a few inspirational quotes from a favourite writer of mine, Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau (1817-1862) is perhaps most famous for his book Walden, in which he records his experiences of living a simple life, over a period of two years, in a cabin he built in the woods.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Of course, living a modern life in a modern world it’s unlikely to be possible for us to give it all up and bugger off to the woods for a couple of years, as much as we might want to sometimes. But, should we wish to, we can live by the spirit of the quote. I suppose Samantha and I have created a metaphorical cabin in the woods with our workshop. It may be a lowly red brick terrace in a non-descript small town but it’s where we do real things, we’ve filled it with the tools of our trade, we heat it with a wood-burning stove and we have a window which looks out onto our small garden which we’ve made into a tiny sanctuary for wildlife. It’s a simple thing and I think a lot of us have that metaphorical ‘cabin in the woods’; whether it’s a tool-shed; a favourite spot in the garden; a study; a particular park bench; even your favourite chair. It’s that place where we can become ourselves and shed the trappings of modern life; we’re very lucky that we get to be in ours most of the time.

garden

Another of Thoreau’s best known essays is his treatise on ‘Walking’. He thought of this essay as one of his key pieces of writing, one which encompassed all of his other work.

“I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.”

“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours …but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”

“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Again, we may not be quite willing or ready to send our embalmed hearts back to our loved ones when we go missing in the wilderness. We may have been open to this in our younger days, when we would set off around the country, often selling our wares, in our clapped out old camper-van (we were never quite sure whether we’d make it back alive in that thing!), but these days we’re as partial to our home-comforts as anyone. We’re more than happy to take Thoreau’s spirit with us out on our adventures, but we do like a warm bath and our own bed on our return.

But Thoreau’s greatest work is thought to be his own journals. Compulsively writing about his everyday life and all that surrounded him he filled forty seven volumes, that’s around seven thousand pages, with his thoughts. In these journals can be found the first seeds of his books, essays and poetry.

And so, to finish off, one more beautifully apt quote from Thoreau which will hopefully inspire you to record your own life for future generations, if you haven’t succumbed to the bug of journalling yet!

“A written word is the choicest of relics.”

~Henry David Thoreau

journals and maps

Exciting project ~ 1: The Outback Range

Some of you may remember that we were talking about the exciting projects we have lined up for Earthworks Journals over the next few months.  We’ve been very busy in the workshop and have the first up and running already.

You can see them (or buy them!) on our website here:

EARTHWORKS JOURNALS OUTBACK RANGE

If you’re a member of a Friends of Earthworks mailing list then you will have received your introductory 10% discount code already. If you’re not already a member then please get in touch, it’s not too late to receive your discount. You can sign up for future discounts by creating an account with us here:

SIGN UP

We’d like to introduce you to our new Outback range of leather journals and binders.

A5 OUTBACK SPINES 2016

We’re making these from an amazingly rugged leather. It’s a natural vegetable tanned leather which has been finished with oils and waxes on the outside to make it supple and very, very durable. This is the sort of leather to take on your adventures, any scratches you put on it can be removed by rubbing with your finger (the warmth reactivates the waxes to reseal it). Of course, if you’re the sort who doesn’t mind the odd battle scar then you can leave the scratches in!

A5 OUTBACK BURNT TAN OUTSIDE 2016 A5 OUTBACK DARK KHAKI OUTSIDE 2016

This leather comes in a range of earthy tones, at the moment we have them listed on our website in two colours, Burnt Tan and Dark Khaki (as you can see above). We have them available in an A5 journal, an A5 2 ring binder and an A5 6 ring Filofax compatible binder. Having said that, if you would like a different size then just get in touch and we’ll be happy to make you one.

A5 OUTBACK DARK KHAKI OPEN 2016

A5 OUTBACK DARK KHAKI OPEN RINGBINDER 2016 A5 OUTBACK BURNT TAN OPEN ORGANISER 2016

We’re using a generous amount of bootlace cord as a closure on these ones. It’s finished with two movable leather beads, so you can find your own way of tying yours up. There’s even an integral pen holder in the binders made by the cord!

A5 OUTBACK BURNT TAN OUTSIDE ORGANISER 2016 A5 OUTBACK DARK KHAKI OUTSIDE RINGBINDER 2016

So, if you’ve got any adventures planned for this year and you’re looking for a companion the an Outback Journal or Binder could be just the thing. Tough, rugged and reliable. And it will remember all of your stories so you don’t have to!

Happy Birthday To Us!

It’s Earthworks Journals’ 16th birthday today. Samantha and I have been making things together for a bit longer than that but we made it all official on a bright Tuesday afternoon on February 15th 2000. And people thought the world would end at the turn of the millennium! For us, it was just beginning.

YEARS IN BUSINESS 16 cream

The journey of any small business is rarely a smooth one, there’s always the chance of stormy seas, pirates, even massive whirlpools which threaten to suck you out of existence on occasion. We’ve been very lucky that, for the most part, it’s been pretty calm sailing. We haven’t encountered too many problems and we’ve met a lot of nice people on the way. The last year or so though! We’ve all seen some economic uncertainties, I think. We’ve noticed a bit of a downturn ourselves, I’m sure our eagle-eyed customers will notice that our waiting times have been perhaps just a little shorter of late? People just don’t seem to have quite as much spare cash to buy luxury items at the moment and when it’s a choice between a beautiful new leather journal and putting food on the table then it’s obvious that we need to choose the latter.

Of course you can always choose the former and write about the injustice of the hunger you’re feeling in your beautiful new leather journal instead!

So, Earthworks is in the middle of those difficult teenage years but we are nothing if not stubborn parents and we refuse to let it lay around not earning its keep. We have a lot of exciting projects on the horizon for the coming year.

Exciting project ~ 1

It’s a dangerous business going to our leather supplier as he knows exactly the sort of leathers we like and we always end up spending more than we intended. We like leathers that actually look like proper leather rather than heavily processed leathers which have all of their natural leatheriness taken away. So, when he showed us these new Italian leathers we just had to take a couple of hides straight away. This is a thick, natural vegetable tanned leather which has been heavily oiled and waxed, which makes it incredible hardwearing. We like to think that if Mad Max gave up his career as a post-apocalyptic road warrior and settled down into a home-based office job then this is exactly the sort of ring binder / journal he would choose; due to the rugged outdoorsiness of them we shall be calling these our Outback Classics. They will be up on the website very soon, here’s a sneaky peak:

a b

Exciting project ~ 2

Some of you may remember that we said we would be introducing a lined paper option for our journals some time ago. Unfortunately we encountered difficulties with this and it never came about. You’ll be glad to know that we think we may have sorted this out (finally) and we hope to be introducing it over the next few months!

A5 LINED PAPER PERM

 

Exciting project ~ 3

As well as our passion for leather and all things journaling, we also have an interest in letterpress. This year we’re hoping to combine the two! We’re experimenting with inking text onto leather using traditional letterpress techniques. We can’t put into words how excited we are about this, we get to play with tools and typefaces; two of our favourite things!

letterpress

Exciting project ~ 4

This one’s top secret. If Earthworks has reached its 16th birthday then perhaps we can consider giving it a baby sibling! You may hear the patter of tiny tools very soon! This one will hopefully grow into something beyond journals and journey into new realms of leatheriness. Let’s keep it between ourselves for now.

question

Personalising your journal ~ Part 2: Wraparound Journals.

If you remember, in Part 1 of the post on personalising your journal we spoke about having text on the cover of your carved or plain classic  journal or binder. What? You didn’t read it, you say? Well, you can catch up by reading it here:

Personalising your journal or binder ~ Part 1: Text

But what about our range of wraparound journals? We use a different type of leather on these which is beautifully soft and supple; the style needs this so that the covers can wrap around themselves. However, this suppleness means that we cannot tool text or designs onto the leather covers.

But, all is not lost. We can still personalise them by printing text onto the first page inside. And the best thing is, it’s free of charge for any amount of text (as long as we can fit it onto a single page).

Please note, all photographs of inscriptions on this page are examples only, you can rest assured that your own heartfelt messages will not be displayed here.

So, what font will it be in?

We have three fonts that we commonly use, they are clear and easy to read. We have an Informal Font, which we often use for more personal messages. We have a Classic Font, which is our good all-rounder and looks like the title page of a novel (and it has a beautiful italicised version). Finally we have our Capitalised Font, which is great for single names, initials and for a more formal look.

We have no hard and fast rules about which one we use for an inscription, unless you specifically ask we will use our own judgment. We usually print the text in a colour to complement the cover.

THE INFORMAL FONTTHE CLASSIC FONT

 

 

 

 

 

THE CAPITALISED FONT

Ok, how does the Informal Font look in a journal?

I’m glad you asked! Here it is:

RUGGED BROWN INFORMAL

Informal font

Informal font italicised

Informal font italicised

DISTRESSED SADDLE INFORMAL & ITALICS

Informal font (quotation with italicised author)

How about the Classic Font?

This is our most versatile font and has the benefit of having a stunning italicised version.

DISTRESSED DIRTY BLUE CLASSIC FONT

Classic Font

DISTRESSED OXBLOOD GARDENING CLASSIC FONT & ITALICS

Name in Classic Font with italicised title

RUGGED WOODLAND GREEN ANNIVERSARY CLASSIC ALL ITALICS

Classic Font all italicised

RUGGED SCARLET WEDDING GUESTBOOK CLASSIC ALL ITALICS

Classic Font all italicised

RUGGED CHESTNUT WRITING BOOK CLASSIC & ITALIC

Classic Font with italicised personal message

 

DISTRESSED BROWN CLASSIC & ITALICS QUOTE

Classic Font with italicised quotation

…and the Formal Font?

RUGGED PETROL FORMAL INITIALS

Formal Font initials only

RUGGED BROWN FORMAL

Formal Font with numbers

RUGGED BROWN FORMAL FULL TEXT

Formal Font name & title

Your standard fonts are great, but what if I want something a bit different?

That’s no problem at all. Just send us the text you would like and the font style you would like it to be in (even better, send us the name of the font you would like) and we’ll do our best to match it.

Here are a few examples:

APOCALYPSE SURVIVAL GUIDE

Distressed for that post-apocalyptic look

WHITBY WEDDING

Victorian Gothic for a Whitby Wedding

KEROUAC QUOTE

Typewriter font for the literary quotation

GEORGIAN STYLE

Georgian style for the roguish

FANCY WEDDING

Modern take on traditional wedding script

And that’s about it. It’s all quite simple, if you buy an A6 or an A5 wraparound journal then send us the text you would like and we will add it to the first page for you. And best of all, it’s completely free.

How’s that for a personalised gift?

The Quiet Before The Storm

Every year in the Earthworks workshop, sometime around early to mid-October, it all goes very quiet. The email inbox seems strangely empty, the number of sales drops off considerably, even the amount of questions we receive goes down in number.

In the early days we would often worry about this and think “Oh no, nobody loves us anymore!”

But nowadays, we’ve come to recognise the signs and we fully understand the cause. It’s the pre-Christmas lull. We know you’re all out there, mulling over what Christmas presents you’re going to buy for who but it’s perhaps just a little too early to commit to anything just yet. And, of course, you’re not buying anything for yourself because you’re saving your hard-earned cash to spend on your loved ones.

So, now we know about this temporary period of quietude, what do we do with the time? Of course, we use it wisely and spend it doing our own Christmas shopping! We plan our present buying with military precision and try and get as much of it done as we can now, this is because we know that very, very soon the chaos will begin.

Stocking up on leather for the festive season.

Stocking up on leather for the festive season.

Towards the end of October we’ll see a steady increase in sales and, as the items will be intended as gifts, we’ll get more and more requests for personalisation.

By the beginning of November it will start to get really busy. We usually do all of our office work, processing the sales, answering questions, etc. in the morning. This usually takes around an hour, but as we move into November it will start to take around a couple of hours. Every year without fail, with it being busy like this, we say to each other “Well, this isn’t too bad, don’t know what we were worried about.”

Then we get towards the end of November and things get really busy. Our Christmas waiting list is almost full, the morning office work takes up most of the afternoon too, which means we’re working late into the night making the journals. We find we’re working from the minute we wake in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night. We’re living on a few hours sleep and whatever meals we can prepare and eat quickly (usually standing around discussing what we should do next).

Of course, if we were producing the journals and binders on a machine then none of this would matter, we could just churn them out like a factory. But we don’t, we like to make sure that each hand-made item is perfect, and you just can’t rush things like that.

Personal message on back cover of Brown Journal

Personal message on back cover of Brown Journal

And then, sometime around the beginning of December our Christmas waiting list is completely full. All of the orders are booked in on the respective dispatch dates, each and every customer has been informed when they will receive their parcel. But still the orders keep rolling in and our January dispatch days start to fill.

The busyness continues relentlessly, every waking moment a continuous whirl of paperwork, leatherwork and dispatching until the very last posting day before Christmas. That last bag of parcels goes to the post office, we contact each of those customers to let them know their journal or binder is on its way and to give them their tracking number.

Then that’s it for another year, we collapse in a heap on the sofa in front of a roaring fire and, more often than not, crack open the first of the sloe gin (which is coming along nicely as I’m writing this, by the way).

Our sloes steeping in gin.

Our sloes steeping in gin.

We look at each other and one of us will say, “How did we get through that?”. But, of course, we’re fully aware that the cycle will carry on and next October the quite period will arrive again and at the beginning of November we’ll say, “Well, this isn’t too bad, don’t know what we were worried about.”

And so it goes on!

 

p.s. And if you think this post was written in a blatant attempt to get you all to buy early for Christmas then yes, you’re absolutely right. As you know, all of our items are handmade and we offer a personalisation service, this means we cannot make them in advance. We really hate to disappoint our customers, especially over the festive period, but every year we get lots of people who unfortunately leave it too late and we’re unable to make them something in time.

Looking forward to those bright winter walks with Tanner the Earthworks Mascot in the Xmas holiday!

Looking forward to those bright winter walks with Tanner the Earthworks Mascot in the Xmas holiday!