He Lived Generous and Friendly

We have been out and about, despite the horrible weather, and we will continue to be. The pleasure of seeing faces again is very great, and counteracts, just, the opposing desire to retreat into one’s burrow, stop up the door, and not come out until March. Last Christmas some people were emerging very tentatively into the world. This year to our delight friendly faces are everywhere to be seen. It’s a significant compensation for the other news which continues to be bewildering, grim, relentless. The weather is supposed to be becoming cold and bright any minute now. Therefore we urge you to come and see us, if humanly possible, at the Selvedge Winter Fair in Bloomsbury on Saturday. Or if you’re a Cambridge resident come to our studio rummage sale which takes place the following Tuesday – a day on which snow is forecast!

Last month we were in Ely at the Christmas Fair. Inside the Cathedral, despite the bustle, the enormous soaring spaces induced a state of transcendent calm and awe.

It’s very hard to believe that human hands were responsible for building this extraordinary structure, almost a thousand years ago. Our fellow stallholders who were billeted outside the cathedral were being lashed by violent winds and horizontal icy rain that threatened to destroy their little booths entirely. The Festive Food Village was islands of deliciousness (we note especially the superlative hot chocolate stand) in a sea of mud— a  vision of humans doing battle gallantly with the elements and the laws of physics. Inside all was peace, mulled wine was being served, and the walls were covered in fascinating reading matter.

All over the cathedral are plaques with testimony of lives well-lived long ago. The language is frequently delightful, and the lettering is a great pleasure to see. Thomas Hall, who lived generous and friendly, was liberal to the poor and benevolent to all, and died in 1759 at the age of 48, is a particularly good one. As with so many things, it is the occasional eccentricity of execution or specificity of detail that elevates it so far above anything that can be accomplished purely mechanically.

We have been thinking quite a bit about David Jones recently —  wildly eccentric early twentieth century master of the art of painted lettering, among other art forms. Some beautiful examples of his work are to be found in the permanent collection of the house at Kettle’s Yard.

Kettle’s Yard has rather a good shop, and from time to time they ask us to make something for them inspired by the collection. This year we seized upon the opportunity to channel David Jones just a little, and had a fun summer trying to freehand lettering inspired by his improvisatory precision. Of course we could never approach his elegance, simplicity and flair. Indeed the harder we tried, the more evident his genius became. Nevertheless, we did enjoy trying and you can see the results now in the form of a whole set of Christmas cards, small, medium and large.

All can be found in the shop now, along with a whole range of other novel Christmassy things, and some old favourites. If you are thinking of ordering can we urge you to do so soon? Things are getting very busy and the Royal Mail strikes, latest exemplar of the raft of tribulations sent to plague us all this winter, are playing merry hell with delivery times. When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. Order soon, or else choose the courier option at checkout, as the poet did not go on to say.

Happily the train strikes with which we are also about to be afflicted are not scheduled for this coming weekend, so please head to Bloomsbury in London on Saturday to the wonderful one-day Selvedge Christmas Fair where we will be exhibiting our wares, vigorously and ruinously shopping from our fellow stall-holders, and hoping to see as many people as humanly possible. Unlike at Ely, we will have a few boxes of our Christmas Printing Blocks with us, with which we printed the paper you see here, and some inks as well.


Mary Ward House

5-7 Tavistock Square

Kings Cross

London WC1N 9SN

Saturday 10th December, 11am—4 pm

Tickets are £10 on the door but you can buy two for the price of one on the Selvedge website here using the code CHRISTMASFAIR2022

Getting to Cambridge on Tuesday 13th December for our studio sale might be more of a challenge as there is a train strike scheduled for that day. Not only this, but snow is forecast, so that the stock image we like to use to illustrate the venue (the Unitarian Church Hall on Emmanuel Road) may this year be accurate. Don’t let the strike or the snow deter you! There are glorious bargains to be had. Our doors will open at noon and there’ll be mulled wine and mince pies to warm and cheer you, as well as a year’s worth of accumulated seconds, experiments, mistakes, off-cuts, bin-ends and very slightly damaged articles in need of a good home. In particular we’ll be selling the last few yards of our patterned linens off, preparatory to new experiments with textiles coming soon. Everything must go. If a sign that says ‘everything in this box 50p’ makes your heart leap within you, this is the event for you.


Unitarian Church Hall

Emmanuel Road

Cambridge CB1 1JW

Tuesday 13th December, noon—6 pm