02 May Nesting
Our new home is in a nice leafy spot, and the birdsong on the way to work in the morning is prodigious. The mad rush of true spring is upon us, the great green adventure. Every day our leafy spot becomes leafier still. Everyone is nesting, and so are we. The inside of the mill is now more or less functional, and we are Arranging and Improving. Thank you for the many kind messages of congratulation on our recent move, and the offers of administrative help which came from as far afield as Australia. Here are some glimpses of our new space, in which we are installing many ancient treasures for which we haven’t had a home before. Scavenging and foraging is the order of the day, for us and the birds, and then the weaving of the bits and pieces into a pleasing and functional whole. The aesthetic is ‘I found it in a skip’ with a veneer of sketchily applied white emulsion.
Here we have the ancient pink and red tin and plastic toy telephone that we bought years ago on the grounds that it would be a source of artistic inspiration and was therefore a legitimate business expense. It was also a sort of token or amulet, a charm that would one day bring about the circumstances in which we would have a real-life business telephone number. Well that happened a little while ago, and now at last it has also spawned a card, as you see. We feel it is charming and funny: it wasn’t until it was printed that we realised that this to us perfectly legible image is baffling to a younger generation.
In this picture you can see another hopeful item bought long ago in anticipation of future need, and comfortably housed at last. That piece of equipment over on the left is the Fixed Asset, so called because it was the single such item that featured on the company tax return for many years. It’s an extremely heavy hand-operated guillotine that can cut about two hundred sheets of paper at once, and we paid £30 for it in 2012 on the grounds that it was a bargain and would surely come in useful one day. Since then it has been a monstrous white elephant and trip hazard, far too heavy to be moved but needing to be moved regularly, and otherwise remembered only when you bark your shins on it. Now it has come into its own: it has a table of its own and there’s enough room to operate the giant handle and the plastic guard that prevents you from inadvertently cutting off your own fingers. Lo! it turns out that it is useful after all.
The inks too have a home of their own. The black structure in the foreground here is an unnameable shelves/trolley combo item — a piece of shop furniture we bought from an unlamented establishment named Neon Sheep when it closed down last year, and now repurposed for the housing of the blue inks from ‘Frogspawn Blue’ (very pale) to ‘Kingfisher’ (very deep). The studio is full of bits of furniture we have acquired from other defunct businesses, some of them very lamented indeed. We have a big fabric-cutting table from a wonderful Scandinavian homewares shop called Nord, which briefly flowered in Cambridge ten years ago, moved into bigger premises, turned part of itself into a great café, and then went bust. We mourned its passing but gleefully acquired the table. These dismembered and repurposed parts of other businesses give one occasional pause for thought — Remember Thou Art Mortal — and more frequently now, as the financial news grows increasingly gloomy.
In the background here is a collapsible set of shelves from a florist that we used to hump around to Christmas fairs to display things on until it collapsed on us once too often and was retired to a shed to grow cobwebby. No longer needing to be moved, the shelves have been fixed in place with screws and are stably accommodating inks in the yellow — green — greeny-blue range. Specifically, from ‘Transparent Orange’ through ‘Charleston Snot Green’ to ‘Sea Otter’. The key feature of a colour name we have found is not that it conveys the colour accurately — that’s just a bonus—but that it is totally distinguishable from every other colour name that you use. We learned this from the sorely-missed shop Tobias and the Angel who did their own beautiful block-printing on fabric, in a range of very good colours they had mixed themselves, of which we still remember perfectly the brilliantly-named ‘Fozzy Bear Brown’.
Our wood and glass drying racks— an ancient and fiendishly simple technology which we’ve had for several years since we spotted that someone was making and selling them on ebay — are in use at last. They’re just as cunning, elegant and convenient as we suspected they might be, and printing is much simpler now that there is no anxiety about finding table space or treading on prints that are drying on the floor. You see the drying racks here being demonstrated by our Coronation Poster, of which more below. You just push the wet print up into the slot and it is captured and held between the wooden frame and the loose marble being acted upon by gravity. To remove the print when dry, you poke the marble upwards and its hold is released.
As you see we have not just been nesting but have done some honest work. A Huzzah The King! poster, created to mark the occasion of the coronation, was litho printed ten days ago, in an edition of 300 on ivory 170 gsm paper in two colours, and is now for sale on our website. If you want one please move swiftly since at the time of writing only just over a hundred are left. When we posted a picture of the prototype on Instagram last month, there was a more or less uniform response that it was a pretty nice poster but that it would be an absolutely brilliant tea towel. Apparently it is universally known (except by us—but now we’ve learned) that a tea towel is the commemorative item of choice. We strive to please: our tea towel makers in Suffolk have been madly printing and hemming, and the tea towels have now arrived, just in the nick of time.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. A vocal subset of Instagram commentators would perhaps have preferred a Vive La Revolution! tea towel and we respectfully acknowledge their disappointment. Unfortunately we have no enthusiasm for that project. Have a lovely bank holiday everyone.