Different Ways of Seeing: or, Taking The Road Less Travelled By.

 

SUN DOGS - EVENING WALK NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - EARTHWORKS JOURNALS

It’s been a strange year.

Our regular customers will know that we launched our new and improved website one year ago to combat the lacklustre look and poor performance of the old one. Even though the things we make, and us as people, are quite analogue, we still need to keep up with new technology; striking that peculiar balance between the hand-made nature of the journals and the mind-bending technology needed to get people to see those journals.

Admittedly, we’ve never been totally comfortable in this new technological age but we’ve learnt that we need to keep our eyes and minds open to it because, if we do not embrace change early, then those changes will probably overwhelm us later on.

We’re pleased to report that here and now, one year later, all the hard work seems to have paid off. We’ve had some lovely messages from our old customers to let us know how good the new website looks and how much easier it is to use than the old one and we’ve been getting plenty of new friends of Earthworks Journals too.

Of course, this increase in customers has meant that we have been very busy in the workshop. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that our waiting list has been a bit longer, that we haven’t been keeping up with social media and that we haven’t sent a newsletter out for a while.

But, we’d just like to let you know that, even though we haven’t been on social media and that we haven’t sent out a newsletter for a while, it doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate you! We do! Very much! It’s just that we haven’t had much time to do anything else.

Not that we tend to do much else, anyway. We lead a strange and insular life in our workshop home; just the two of us with our two Border Terriers, Tanner and Hob. We’re not ones for socialising; we don’t go to pubs or out for meals; we rarely go to the theatre or cinema; we don’t go shopping (bar the occasional rummage around a bric-a-brac shop or second-hand bookshop); we inhabit our own world.

Our one diversion is walking.

Often we will spend weekends going on, what we call, our big walks. These are usually around 10 miles long, planned out by plotting three random points on an OS map and finding a route between them. This means that we usually miss out on the well-worn picturesque locations but we do find some peculiar and interesting places along the way:

But even these ‘big walks’ have been put on the back burner this year due to the combination of a heavy workload and the abnormally hot summer (neither us nor the dogs do well in the heat). Even the daily dog walk was changed in the exceptional summer this year; rather than going out mid-afternoon, we started to take the dogs out to our local woods late in the evening, just as it was getting dark.

It’s remarkable what a difference a simple change can make if we embrace it rather than fight against it. It’s easy to bemoan a change to a well-worn routine without appreciating how it can make us look at life a little differently.

EVENING LIGHT - HARLESTONE FIRS - EARTHWORKS JOURNALS

Obviously, we’ve been out in the woods at night before, but to break a well-established routine and do it every night lets you experience the woods in a different light. Quite literally! Everything is different; the golden glow of the last of the light drifts in sideways and makes the trees look like oil paintings; the musty smells of the forest floor are intensified at night and become strangely comforting; and the sounds! The woods come alive as the darkness arrives. We’ve seen foxes, deer, badgers and bats; all things that shy away from the daytime crowds.

WALKING IN THE WOODS - HARLESTONE FIRS - EARTHWORKS JOURNALS

I think it’s important that we strive to do this once in a while, just to try and see things differently. When we first had the idea to start Earthworks Journals it seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. Could we really make a living making leather journals? On the rare occasion we meet someone and tell them what we do, they often say “What, and you make a living doing that?”. We know it seems unlikely, yet we do. I mean, let’s face it, we’re never going to be rich doing it, but that’s not why we do it. We do it so that we can comfortably inhabit our own world. That was always the plan. To earn enough to pay our own way and not take anything in benefits; to not allow our business to lose its way in the pursuit of money; to be free to live our own life, however small and strange that life may be!

It’s not completely stress free, obviously. We still have to worry about how the next bill is going to be paid, just like everyone else but…

… walking around our woods always makes things right.

I’ve been going there my entire life; I went there as child with my dad; I went there in my teenage years with friends; and I still go there now with Samantha and the dogs. Whenever we get stressed, anxious or unhappy a walk in the woods will, more often than not, help to quell those worries. Some days Samantha and I will walk around excitedly discussing new ideas for Earthworks, other days we will walk around in near silence with our own thoughts. It was in the woods where we discussed and planned this blog post.

I invariably turn to Henry Thoreau quotes on these blog posts to put my transcendentalist ramblings into a far more eloquent form. And this one’s no different:

“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

Or that other great philosopher:

“What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself!”
~ Tom Good, The Good Life

(All photos on this post by Samantha Webster.)

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!

“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:

A4 DISTRESSED SADDLE OUTSIDE 1 2015

A4 A5 A6 DISTRESSED SADDLE OUTSIDE STACK 2015

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.

UPDATE:

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

https://earthworksjournals.co.uk/collections/a4-wraparound-journals

 

How the Earthworks Distressed Wraparound Journal came into being…

We’re all about leather that really looks like leather here at Earthworks. There’s nothing better than that aged look that a really hardwearing leather gets after years of use. The scuffs, the scratches, the stains, that patina that builds up from the constant polishing your hands give it, they all contribute to the feel of a journal. The more you write inside your journal, the more use it gets. The more use it gets, the more the leather cover reflects that use. The more the leather cover reflects its use, the more you’re inspired to write in it. It’s a strange and cyclical, symbiotic relationship between a journal and the words it contains.

Of course, some of us like that rugged and aged look straight away so we thought we’d have a little play around with our leathers to see what we could come up with. And here are the results!

A5 DISTRESSED SADDLE SET OF THREE 2015

We took one of the stunningly good quality hides of full grain, vegetable tanned leather which we get from our local leather supplier. This leather really is a thing of beauty. It’s been tumbled to soften the grain structure so that it has the perfect amount of body and suppleness for a wraparound journal. As is always the case with our leather supplier, this hide came to us in pristine condition…….then we had our wicked way with it!

After several dying and staining processes we achieved a look that we were very, very happy with. A look as though someone had climbed a mountain with their journal and then thrown it off the top……and then went back down the mountain, got in their Landrover and ran over their journal several times……before burying it in a peat bog for a few years.

A5 A6 DISTRESSED SADDLE GROUP 2015

We even used the natural edge of the hide on the wraparound flap, just to give it even more of a rustic look. Each one of these will be unique, some will have quite a straight edge, some will have a bit of a slant and some will be wildly curvaceous. As it is the natural edge of the leather you might even find the odd little surprise on yours; scars, cuts or even holes. But, of course, as with all of our journals, it will be practical and hardwearing; we’ll make sure it’s pleasing to the eye as well as the hand.

And so there we have it, the Earthworks Distressed Wraparound Journal! A beautiful quality pristine leather journal that looks as though it has been hitting some hard travelling but, of course, its adventures are just beginning!

If you would like to have a look or place an order for one of these then you can find them on our shop here:

Earthworks Journals Distressed Wraparound Travel Journal

A5 DISTRESSED SADDLE GROUP MAP 2015

“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.