Meetings With Hares, or: a few rambling anecdotes about hares interspersed with some hare inspired art.

“A hare’s movement seems plagued by the flicks and judders of restrained energy, as if carrying an ache that can only be relieved by running. The rest of the time it’s as though they’re absorbing the earth’s energy, tapped into a ley line, shivering with pent-up static”

~ Rob Cowen, Common Ground

As it’s March, it’s the perfect time to talk about hares. There’s something about hares, isn’t there? A certain ‘strangeness’; perhaps even a certain otherworldliness. I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a hare out in the wild, everything becomes a little stiller, a little quieter. It’s no wonder this elusive creature has exerted such a fascination on us mere humans over the millennia, becoming a firm feature in our shared folklore.


Leaping Hares Linocut by Amanda Colville

Samantha has always had a fascination for hares so, naturally, that fascination has passed over to me. On our walks together we see lots of wildlife – fox, badger, deer, owls, otter, stoats, snakes and slow-worms – but it’s always the times we see hares that really stick in the memory.

I remember the first time Samantha and I first saw them together. It was dawn on the summer solstice in the late ‘90s, we had got up early to watch the sun rise from a hillside field on the edge of one of our favourite woodlands. We’d already seen a badger while walking through the semi-darkness of the woods and while we sat waiting in the dewy grass of the meadow we noticed them; quite a way off, further down the hill, a small group of hares – presumably young ones – gambolling and playing in the early light, chasing each other, leaping and turning somersaults. They outshone the sun of the new day.

It’s funny but, before that first time, we’d never seen hares on our walks; but after it we saw them often. It was as though our eyes were opened to them.

Being craftspeople ourselves, we naturally buy the occasional piece from other artists and craftspeople (when funds allow!) and, that strange shared fascination we have for hares can be seen in the creations of others. Over the years we have collected several pieces which now decorate our house and workshop, every one of them an attempt to capture the uncapturable.


keith newstead hare automaton - earthworks journals

Hare automaton designed and built by the amazing Keith Newstead. You can visit his shop at Or see his incredible youtube channel at

It was my birthday, a day in May full of grey drizzle and we went walking at Geddington Chase, a surviving outlier of the old Rockingham Forest. Admittedly, we were in a part of the woods where the public are not supposed to go but sometimes our curiosity gets the better of us when we’re out and about. We emerged from the trees onto a broad green ride where, a hundred or so yards away, a few hares were browsing. We noticed that one hare had separated from the rest and was ambling up the ride and coming straight towards us, so we gently backed off a little and crouched in the long wet grass. Slowly, very slowly, the hare came closer, stopping now and again to nibble the fresh growth… the tension was unbearable. It finally got to within about 10 feet of us and stopped to sniff the air, it looked uneasy, as though it could sense something was not right. Samantha and I were so close we could even see that one of its ears was ragged and torn. I’d been crouched in the same position for far too long, not daring to breath, muscles burning and there was an intense buzzing in my ears with the tension, but I didn’t want this moment to end. Finally, one of us made the slightest movement and the hare bolted… one moment it was there and the next it had vanished.



A raku fired hare we bought many years ago, unfortunately we cannot remember the name of the artist. If you recognise the work then please let us know.

The following year we returned to Geddington Chase a little earlier in the year, in March. Although we didn’t get so close to a hare this time we did get to see something quite wonderful. It was in a ploughed field bordering the woods that we saw two hares boxing. This is, of course, the typical ‘Mad as a March Hare’ behaviour, two hares rearing up and attacking each other. It’s often mistakenly thought to be the male Hares which do this, in a fight for dominance, but it’s far more usual for it to be a male and female; the amorous male chasing the female until she gets fed up with his advances and turns to fend him off. This was certainly a male and female we saw as the Jack’s persistence finally wore the Jill down and nature took its course amongst the furrows. It was incredible to witness this wild and intimate moment.



The battered tambourine with the dancing hares – painted many moons ago!

Many, many years ago Samantha found an old, battered tambourine and painted it with her hare and moon design (the hare being indivisibly linked with the moon, of course) and, through a succession of homes, it’s been hanging on our wall ever since; currently in prime position above the fireplace. A while back, we were sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold, winter’s evening and we got to talking about that tambourine and the design and hares in general (which led to this blog post), when Samantha asked rhetorically, “How come we don’t have more hare designs on our shop?”

We’re really not sure why we don’t have more hare designs on our shop, but we plan to put this right! We’ve had our Tinner’s Hares design available for a while, but that’s it. So, as a start, we decided to take that design which Samantha created over 25 years ago and add it as one of our hand-tooled designs on our leather journals and binders. And, here it is (click on the image to see it on our website):



As I’m sure you already know, the best place to see Hares is just after the harvest in late summer, when the fields are all bare and stubbled. If you look at a field and think, “that tussock looks a bit out of place”, or “that clump of earth doesn’t quite look right”, then you may well be looking at a hare. A few years back, Samantha and I were walking with Tanner, our Border Terrier, across just such a field; it was a bright day on a high field and we were walking into a light breeze; we were admiring the surrounding views as we went, one of those days when all is right with the world. Suddenly, we weren’t alone, the earth sprang up and grew legs; a hare was suddenly in front of us, not more than six feet away (it’s always surprising how huge they look when close!); I’m not sure who was more startled, the Hare, me and Sam, or Tanner! I’m guessing we must have disturbed it while it was laying in its scrape but, with a bound, the Hare was off towards the nearest hedgerow, which was quite a distance, with Tanner in pursuit! Of course, we called Tanner back but we weren’t too worried, a little Terrier is no match for the speed of a hare. Before the Hare disappeared into the hedgerow it stopped and cast a look back at us; this is something we’ve noticed they do often, they give a little haughty, almost mocking, look back at those who dared to startle them as if to say, “You’ll need to be quicker next time!”



A limited edition Tinners Hares linocut called Three Hares, signed AM 2004

I’ve saved the strangest encounter until last. You know when you get those moments that transport you somewhere ‘other’? Those rare moments that don’t seem quite real? Those moments which, when you’re separated by the distance of years from them become indistinct; were they real or something you dreamt? For us, this was one of those.

We had a stall at a huge craft show on the Sandringham estate and, as we did back then, we spent the weekend on site and camped in our dilapidated old van, which we had converted into a make-shift camper. It used to be quite nice attending the shows on bank holiday weekends; after the customers had all left there could be quite a camaraderie amongst the stallholders camping ‘on site’ – much drinking and merriment, and musical instruments would often come out (who can forget Wocko the Woodman and his accordion?).

Anyway, on this particular evening, Samantha and I had decided to go for a walk around the woodlands of the Sandringham estate. It was a strange light, one of those evenings of bright sunshine and slate skies. Lazily ambling around the woods we came across one of those hides they build up in the trees, those simple platforms with a ladder (I’m never sure whether they’re for people to view or hunt the wildlife); so, we climbed up and sat in it, quietly chatting about whatever sprung to mind. I think we both saw it at the same time… a hare slowly walking along the path, with the usual ungainly gait. We sat silently, watching it from above. A few moments later and another hare came past, following the first. How wonderful, we thought, to see two hares! As we sat and watched, more hares came, one after another, until there was a procession of more than a dozen of them. A dozen or more hares, all walking in single file in their peculiar hop-hobbling way; all walking from the fields and going somewhere deep into the woods.

After the last of the hares had disappeared we sat in silence for a while before climbing back down. The sky was darkening and we could hear distant rumbles of thunder as we walked back through the woods and it was at this point we met the gamekeeper. At first he seemed a little offish and wanted to know what we were doing in the woods but after explaining we were from the craft show and were just going for an evening walk, he warmed up a bit. We explained to him what we had just seen and he replied in a broad Norfolk accent, “Ah, they often come into the woods when a storm’s coming”, and then, after a pause, “…well, either that or they’re on their way to their parliament”.

A Parliament of Hares – that’s a phrase to conjure with, isn’t it. According to tradition, people have witnessed hares gather in a broad circle, all looking into the centre and this is known as a Parliament of Hares. No one seems to know why they do it or even if these gatherings really happen; they could be one of those strange twists of folklore. But, the romantic in me certainly wants to believe they do happen and… if on that night, instead of turning away, we had quietly followed that procession of hares, what would we have seen and, more importantly… would we have returned to tell the tale!?


Golden Hare by Tracey Long. Tracey’s beautiful illustrations are well worth a look and you can find her at

Of course, we have no photographic evidence to back up these tales, so you’ll have to take me at my word. There have of course been many other meetings with hares, including the time we strayed from the path on a wintery Kinder Scout and encountered the Mountain Hares and their almost invisible movements of white fur against a white landscape. And then there was the time when we were sleeping on the side of Glastonbury Tor on Midsummer Eve when Samantha turned into a hare, but that was when we were young and wild back in the ‘90s and is perhaps best kept as a story for another time!

As it’s that time of year, the time when we’re seeing the first green of spring, we’ll take this opportunity to wish you an early Happy Easter or perhaps a Happy Ēostre would be more suitable! We’d love to hear about your own meetings with Hares, so if you’d like to share then just add a comment! Or you can visit us at:



Tinners Hares Wall Plaque by Firwel Crafts. You can see more of their work at

To end, I’ll leave you with Seamus Heaney’s translation of this anonymous Middle English poem which is perhaps the best thing ever written about the hare.

The Names of the Hare
Translation from the Middle English by Seamus Heaney

The man the hare has met
will never be the better of it
except he lay down on the land
what he carries in his hand—
be it staff or be it bow—
and bless him with his elbow
and come out with this litany
with devotion and sincerity
to speak the praises of the hare.
Then the man will better fare.

‘The hare, call him scotart,
big-fellow, bouchart,
the O’Hare, the jumper,
the rascal, the racer.

Beat-the-pad, white-face,
funk-the-ditch, shit-ass.

The wimount, the messer,
the skidaddler, the nibbler,
the ill-met, the slabber.

The quick-scut, the dew-flirt,
the grass-biter, the goibert,
the home-late, the do-the-dirt.

The starer, the wood-cat,
the purblind, the furze cat,
the skulker, the bleary-eyed,
the wall-eyed, the glance-aside
and also the hedge-springer.

The stubble-stag, the long lugs,
the stook-deer, the frisky legs,
the wild one, the skipper,
the hug-the-ground, the lurker,
the race-the-wind, the skiver,
the shag-the-hare, the hedge-squatter,
the dew-hammer, the dew-hopper,
the sit-tight, the grass-bounder,
the jig-foot, the earth-sitter,
the light-foot, the fern-sitter,
the kail-stag, the herb-cropper.

The creep-along, the sitter-still,
the pintail, the ring-the-hill,
the sudden start,
the shake-the-heart,
the belly-white,
the lambs-in-flight.

The gobshite, the gum-sucker,
the scare-the-man, the faith-breaker,
the snuff-the-ground, the baldy skull,
(his chief name is scoundrel.)

The stag sprouting a suede horn,
the creature living in the corn,
the creature bearing all men’s scorn,
the creature no one dares to name.’

When you have got all this said
then the hare’s strength has been laid.
Then you might go faring forth—
east and west and south and north,
wherever you incline to go—
but only if you’re skilful too.
And now, Sir Hare, good-day to you.
God guide you to a how-d’ye-do
with me: come to me dead
in either onion broth or bread.


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:


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 footer on our homepage. After all, you won’t want to miss out on our Grand Opening Discount Weekend!


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:


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 signing up for the newsletter in the footer of our homepage:


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


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!


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.



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!


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!

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.








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

I’m glad you asked! Here it is:


Informal font

Informal font italicised

Informal font italicised


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.


Classic Font


Name in Classic Font with italicised title


Classic Font all italicised


Classic Font all italicised


Classic Font with italicised personal message



Classic Font with italicised quotation

…and the Formal Font?


Formal Font initials only


Formal Font with numbers


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:


Distressed for that post-apocalyptic look


Victorian Gothic for a Whitby Wedding


Typewriter font for the literary quotation


Georgian style for the roguish


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!

“Take care of all your memories, for you cannot relive them.”

I had a look through some of my old journals today. It’s not something I do very often. I’ve been keeping them, on and off, since I was very young and it always feels oddly intrusive when I look back at the old ones, almost as though the older me is peering over the shoulder of the younger me. I can still remember the younger me and I think that he thinks the older me can be rather judgmental when he reads what he has written.

The worst thing is when I look back at my very first notebook which I kept when I was a teenager. A small black leatherette thing with an elastic strap that has long since perished to a sagged and oversized ribbon (that’s why we never use elastic as a closure on an Earthworks Journal).This is it:

1st notebook

As you might expect from a first journal, angst drips from every word; from the first embryonic dabblings at poetry to the awful self-pitying rants which span several pages. There are also mementos slipped inside the cover; a handful of old cinema and gig tickets, a couple of group photos of friends who seemed so important at the time but who I haven’t seen in the last quarter of a century and a page full of Woody Allen one-liners torn from a magazine.

When looking through this notebook part of me wants to pat that young lad on the shoulder and say, “Listen, I know it doesn’t seem like it at the moment but everything turns out alright. Believe it or not you’ll fall in love soon and, with that woman, you’ll actually start your own business making leather journals for other people to write stuff in. Those people will fill those books with all of the wonderful and terrible things that happen to them, just like you have.”

But, knowing that young lad like I do, I probably wouldn’t do that because I know he’d just turn round and shout “Get off me you old weirdo, you don’t understand! No one understands!!”.

And he’d be right. I’m 46 years old now, a long time since I had a teenager’s frame of mind. I would find it difficult to understand him.

BUT, and here’s the thing, I can remember him. I have his thoughts right there in front of me now in his old journal because, and I’m really thankful to him for this, he chose to write them down for me. Not for anyone else. He wrote them down for me!

And, of course, if you haven’t started keeping a journal yet it’s never too late. I’m still writing away in them now for the seventy year old me to read. He’ll have quite a collection to get through, here are some of my more recent ones. Of course, I only ever use our own Earthworks Journals to write in now. Why would I use anything less!! They’re all a little battered from our travels and adventures together but, unlike that little black leatherette one I started with all those years ago, they age a little more gracefully.

own journals

I wonder if the seventy year old me will be just as judgmental when he reads them. I can imagine him now, shaking his head at the things this middle-aged whippersnapper gets up to.

P.S. ~ The title of this post is courtesy of Bob Dylan. 

Our wraparound journals are getting larger!

We love the business we’ve slowly built up over the years. We really love it! Even though it means we’re exceptionally busy ALL of the time.

Of course, it’s good to be busy but it does sometimes mean that we don’t always have the time to develop new designs and ideas. Sometimes we need to be gently poked into action by a customer.

We had one such lovely customer just recently who liked the new distressed leather wraparound journals we blogged about HERE but they wanted one in A4 size. This was something we had been thinking about doing for a while but never got around to.

So, we made them one…and here it is:



It turned out so well, it was so big and chunky and great to hold that we were a little bit sorry to see it go in the post yesterday. But, the good news is that we will soon be introducing all of our wraparound journals in the larger A4 size.

If you can’t wait for them to be listed on our website then feel free to send us a message and we can make you one pre-launch in any of our wraparound leathers.

So, a big thankyou to that particular lovely customer (you know who you are)…and if any of you other lovely customers want something that we do not currently do then don’t be afraid to ask.


You can now find our A4 wraparound journals on our website here:


“How did this happen?”

Sometimes, on a day like today, when I’m at my workbench with the sun streaming through the open window and the birds are singing in the garden; when I’m tooling a customer’s own beautiful design onto the cover of a journal; when Samantha’s working next to me and Tanner the Dog is running in his sleep by my feet; I smile and think to myself, “How did this happen? Work isn’t meant to be like this!”

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s not all roses. There are other times when we’re still working at midnight after a 14 hour day because we’ve got a deadline to meet; or when there are barely enough orders coming in to pay the bills; when I’ve just tooled a customer’s own design onto a journal and discovered there’s an ugly scar on the back and the whole thing has to be scrapped (the perils of working with natural materials); when I scowl and think to myself, “How did this happen? Work isn’t meant to be like this!”

I suppose it’s a bit of an odd life we’ve chosen together, both of us working from home making leather journals for a living, but I can pinpoint the exact moment it happened. When I first met Sam I was a temporarily unemployed lad from Northampton who was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with his life; Sam was an art student living in a village just outside Northampton. Not long after we met Sam took me for a walk along the canal towpath near her home; it was a glorious day in mid-summer and she was telling me about how much she loved Canal Folk Art. We discussed the techniques of this and who the artists were and, due to us both being skint at the time, we toyed with the idea of spending the summer painting up some tin buckets, watering cans, plates, mugs etc. etc., setting them down on a blanket on the towpath and selling them to boatmen and tourists alike.

We didn’t actually do this, it was just one of those idle summer conversations, but that conversation never really left either of our heads. It appealed to the vague dreams I had as a child of being able to do something I loved for a living rather than that terrible and terrifying prospect of growing up and getting a ‘proper job’.

So, we devised a plan. While Sam was studying Fine Art at University I would work any jobs I could get. At the same time we would be practicing all manner of traditional crafts in our spare time. Studying art, Sam was already incredibly visually creative, so that gave us a bit of a head-start. We played with all sorts of crafts, woodcarving, pyrography, lace-making, crochet, walking stick making, an ill-fated excursion into the world of making didgeridoos, and, of course, bookbinding! During this time we had stalls at all manner of craft fairs and country shows, starting off small with little church-hall type fairs until we earned enough from these to attend the huge and fancy stately-home based design shows.

The plan was that within five years one of us would be working on the craft business full time while the other was sensibly employed elsewhere to help support it in the early days; that person would then go down to part-time hours in that job until, within ten years we would both be gainfully employed in our very own fully formed craft business. How’s that for a business plan? It’s almost like we’re proper people or something.

And we did it!

~ Us, The Early Years ~

~ Us, The Early Years ~

That ten year deadline has long since passed (it’s now almost twenty five years since that day of sunshine by the canal) and we’re still here, somehow that ragtag pair of misfits managed to grow up and become a proper craft business.

And I still often think to myself, “How did this happen? Work isn’t meant to be like this!”

…and I’ll leave you to apply your own meaning to that phrase.