Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Friday, 5 December 2014

☜ Sign Writing for Beginners ☞

I've always loved lettering, when I was a teenager I used to fill pages with 'bubble' lettering and draw letters with shadows and reflections. It was my way of doodling. A friend's father who was an artist said I had a real talent for it and I was secretly thrilled. I used to covet other people's handwriting  and I was a seasoned signature practiser. All of which, I thought, would make me a perfect candidate for a sign writing course. I had no idea how beautiful and difficult it would be and I am now completely hooked.

I dream of signs; I spot hand painted signs everywhere and now I am aware of how much skill and thought goes into them I spend quality time looking at them. That person peering upwards, giving herself neck ache? Probably me. Reverence where reverence is due, I say.

Day 1 of my sign writing course and I'm full of thrill and nervousness. The excitement compounded by the signs I see everywhere, all beautifully executed.
I love fairground horses~gallopers. These were all being repainted.

Tools of the trade ~ 
Half the reason I love crafts of any kind is for the tools and the materials.
The stick like a giant ear bud is for steadying your hand, a Maul stick 
and the paint shelves are a feast of drips and splash..

It occurs to me that I may be in over my head. The other participants are professional tattooists, sign makers, illustrators, designers and a genuine Punch and Judy puppet maker and performer. Our tutor Joby Carter is a wonderfully natural and talented 'letterist' demonstrating in a few sweeps of a brush how he has his 'eye in'. 
We are set to copy Roman alphabets onto exercise paper like children. 

The place is quiet apart from a few sighs.
The sighs turn into grunts and then the real swearing starts.
It's not as easy as you think.
I finish mine and feel as though I nailed it when Joby points out that my serifs are too short, my O's too narrow, my thins are not thick enough and then I see, really see, just how easily things can drift.
Then we have to draft out words and letters with pencil and ruler.
Hours of it. Hours of breath holding, sighing, tea making, biscuit eating, grimacing and swearing.
I thought this looked totally brilliant. Once upon a time. 
But now I can see just how bad it is. 
I'm posting it here as a reminder to myself that I'm capable of vast areas of improvement if I apply myself to something diligently and faithfully for a week.
I spent a couple of days on thrashing around with a pencil.
I like Es Rs and Ws. I am not keen on Os and Cs.

Being shown how to really sign paint is enlightening. It's a real skill...watching a master at work is fascinating and educational. We go for tours of the yard, the course is set in a winter yard for a fairground and all of the rides and vehicles get repainted here... all very thrilling.

Then we get to start with real paint and brushes, but it's baby steps for everyone. Painting lines and circles, rubbing it all off with white spirit and beginning again. Hours and hours of silence and concentration. And swearing.  

I got admonished for my brush handling skills. 
"Sign writing isn't colouring in." 
"It's not a fucking watercolour"
"You aren't holding anything correctly"
"Sit up straight"

I progressed slightly.
I swore a lot.
So did everyone else.
The smell of paint and white spirit all washed down with tea and chats. The chats were small though, everyone was studying hard.


I was fairly pleased with my first whole painted word KINGDOM but it was full of mistakes.
I loved doing it. I felt entirely at home and in my element.
Always a good thing.

I was a bit disappointed every time I spent hours on a word and then had to scrub it all off and start again. But it was good for me.
Practice Practice Practice
Where have I heard that before?

Then it was the last day and we had to make a completed sign, well, we didn't have to, I was desperate to take one home though, so I stayed up half the night planning and plotting my words. I had spent so long wondering which word was going to be The Word I Would Paint. It took a week to come up with something and then I got the lightbulb idea. 
The phrase just fell into my head. 
As though it was whispered into my ear.
A typical sign phrase.
But with a lovely double meaning.
Encompassing freedom and bookbinding and with it's original practical purpose.

 Ta daaah!
Out of Bounds.

It still needs varnishing and tweaking and it's full of mistakes but I love it as it is my first born and I will not part with it, not even to Rumpelstiltskin.

Lady Sign Writer For Hire

I thought Out of Bounds would make a splendid Book Bindery name. 
So I announce that I shall call my new studio / business venture 
Out of Bounds 
and you heard it here first. 
More on that soon.
But someone has the flipping domain name and isn't using it but wants £800 for it.
Errrrrrr. I will pass.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

⚽︎ Summerhill ⚽︎

We took off up the A12 at 5am on a busman's day off to visit Summerhill.
Picnic and raincoats at the ready.
Summerhill is a co-educational boarding school in rural Suffolk.   I saw a documentary about this school when I was a kid. A school where students could choose which lessons they go to or none at all. I thought it looked and sounded very cool. It was ahead of it's time then and I think it still is today.

"Founded in 1921, it continues to be an influential model for progressive, democratic education around the world"

And what a wonderful place it is. Idyllic, rural, relaxed, happy and charmingly eccentric. The students we met were all articulate, confident, mature and proud. We had the pleasure of a school tour where I was able to take these images. What beautiful and lush grounds for a child to wander and explore. alone or with friends or teachers. No school gates, everything open and gloriously free. I would have FLOURISHED here. Most people I know would have too.

The first stop was the art room. I didn't like art lessons much at school, I had no confidence in my creativity having had a few berations when younger for doing my own thing (when I look back I am appalled at those 'teachers') I loathed sewing because I was scared of the teacher as she used to be ferocious in her critisism. Yes, I am looking at you Mrs Bailey.

This art room was very ready to get stuck in, all kinds of equipment and an enthusiastic teacher ready to teach. Check out the cool sewing thread reel storage board. I need one of these. A lovely student explained to me how to make it. Bang nails in a board basically. 

The windows opened on to the school grounds. Children poke their heads in to see what's happening. Zooming around on skateboards and bikes. The rule that has evolved (the students make the rules democratically) is that if you are out of the school building you move your tag to the out board for health and safety reasons. Simple and Perfect.

If you leave your wheels out in the rain, I guess it is your loss if they go rusty.
But you can always nip over to the woodwork studio to fix things up.

Or you could sit and dream and design your next project.

I fell in love with the place, the charm and sophistication of the system appealed to every part of my childhood self. To every part of my teenage self longing for kindred spirits. This is the school you imagine when you dream of the perfect school. The quirky cross pollination of Enid Blyton adventures and a free festival.

I felt quite emotional remembering how much my education lacked at my school and that the antiquated Victorian system is still in place now but with even more attainment, rules and boxes to tick. THIS is the place that is the answer. A school that is like a family, a home and a beloved friend all rolled into one. A school that lets you become your very best self and if the best self is a bus driver or a politician or a nurse that self will be happy and fulfilled. I think Summerhill is doing an amazing job in the face of adversity and constant criticism. I long for it to continue, for it to grow more beautiful people in it's quiet understated way. I hope that one day the model of Summerhill will be replicated and chosen as the ideal after they have finished experimenting with attainment and success driven models that aren't a measure of a human's happiness but a measure of what mainstream society is being brainwashed into thinking is successful. 
Phew. I'll shush now.
I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I would have reached the same ideas about being alive but a lot more quickly. Oh well, I am here now.

Looks like they made a chair for my arrival.

I love these assorted notes on the back of the classroom door for the teacher to utilise.

Looking out of the science classroom.

Another delicious aspect of the school.
Skateboard ramp built by previous students
Every child should have access to a tree house

Heaps of outdoor fun.
Everywhere we went, students zoomed past us running, skipping, cycling, skateboarding, stopping to bounce on the trampoline or to collect their break biscuits. The whole place was full of vitality and collective energy. I didn't see any feral grubby anarchists at all.

I love the wheels strewn and abandoned, ready to be taken up again.
One of the few rules the students have made for visitors: not to touch abandoned wheels as the owner might be coming back for them. A Very Good Well Thought Out Rule.

Dog guarding the school

Plants and flowers in abundance

I loved all the little notices and signs I came across

Upon graduation, all students sign the brick wall.
I wonder what Mark does now and whether he thinks his school days were beautiful?

After our school tour, we were lucky enough to attend one of the famous school meetings.
The students and teachers all have an equal voice, issues are raised, suggestions are gathered and then a democratic vote is led. The maturity and wisdom of the students was inspiring and delightful.
A huge thunderstorm broke out when we were listening and the rain teemed down outside the old wood panelled room. I felt transported and aligned to a historic democratic practice which sent a shiver down my spine.
This is the way everything should be decided.
There was always the FOR vote and show of hands count and there was also a chance to vote for NONE of the suggestions. I wish we had that as a vote in the upcoming elections. A NONE OF THE ABOVE vote to show we don't want any of them. I guess more people would vote knowing their collective distrust of a dreadful system would be counted.

I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I wish I had been able to send my children and I wish for a similar concept in every town as an alternative to what we have now. Summerhill is so ahead of it's time, the world just hasn't caught up yet. Remember when only a handful of people had Apple computers? It was considered slightly dippy, slightly hippy. I think Summerhill will come of age and become what it should have become 50 years ago. 
A universal model to grow beautiful thoughtful people. 

If they had jobs for me and Mr LouLOuLoves here we would gladly take them.