Sea of Mud

It has been wet for so long that we have to confess to slightly impaired morale. The streets of Cambridge are grey and miserable, and out in the countryside the fields are doing their best to revert to fen. Like Rose and Cassandra at the beginning of I Capture the Castle, we are finding it hard to believe that we will ever escape from this sea of mud. Rose summons change by the highly dubious means of wishing upon the head of a gargoyle, making a pact with who-knows-what local spirits. And of course spring arrives, and with it the longed-for change, friends, and prosperity. Is there a better book for describing the enchantment of the fragile English spring and early summer? We are using a less sinister form of sympathetic magic, attempting to conjure up better weather by changing our colour palette in the studio from the (overcast, waterlogged) greys, blacks and dark greens of winter to the pale pinks, yellows and blues of spring flowers. In particular we are designing eggs.

We have been meaning to make egg decorations for years, but somehow always miss the window of opportunity. This year we’re really going for it, and the shift has at last occurred: once you’ve spent enough time on a project, creative inertia is overcome and the ideas often begin to spool forth more swiftly than one can act upon them. Egg designs came slowly at first (it’s an awkward shape to fill), then more quickly, and now the studio has been engulfed by a wave of egg designs. We’re not sure that we’ll be able to tame this flood in time for actually printing a sell-able version in time for Easter this year, but we’re doing our best.

If you want to try this spell for the summoning up of gentle breezes and warm sunshine yourself, we found drawing with posca pens over watercolour a useful medium for this small and fiddly design project. We’re intending to decorate both sides, punch holes in the tops and string them up with ribbon. Choosing the ribbons will be a very enjoyable task in itself.

Our last foray into Easter decorations was a few years ago. It was a set of Easter printing blocks, and we do have some of those at least available for sale right now. The very sweet pink box contains printing blocks for three different big eggs, one tiny egg, a hen, a chick, a dancing hare playing his trumpet, and a sprinkle of tiny flowers.

Cambridge Imprint Easter Printing Block Set
Cambridge Imprint Speckled Hen border

Our new paper patterns are reaching a final proofing stage before going into production and this Sea Star paper is being resolutely tried out in spring-like colours, in the expectation that sometime soon they will feel more appropriate.

You will remember that in I Capture the Castle, the impoverished Rose and Cassandra feel horribly conspicuous when they travel into London wearing their white summer suits, the only respectable clothes they have left, and find that they couldn’t be wearing anything more wrong. (If you don’t remember, on account of never having read the book, then repair this omission: time cannot be more enjoyably spent.) Our summery swatches have a similar air of incongruity, as the rain lashes down outside.

“Drips from the roof are plopping into the water butt by the back door. The view through the windows above the sink is excessively drear. Beyond the dank garden in the courtyard are the ruined walls on the edge of the moat. Beyond the moat, the boggy ploughed fields stretch to the leaden sky. I tell myself that all the rain we have had lately is good for nature, and that at any moment spring will surge on us. I try to see leaves on the trees and the courtyard filled with sunlight. Unfortunately, the more my mind’s eye sees green and gold, the more drained of all colour does the twilight seem.”

100 pages later and the leaves are on the trees, and the courtyard is filled with sunlight. We can be sure, the wind will drop and the spring will arrive. In the meantime, rain is once again forecast for the weekend, and I intend to spend it curled up with a good book. On consulting my ancient copy of I Capture The Castle to find the paragraph above I discovered to my mortification that it is not in fact MY ancient copy, but a book that was lent to me in my youth by a kind friend who never got it back. You might want to deploy our new bookplate stamp to prevent any of your books going similarly astray.