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SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2017 by daintydora

Black and white. Dim light. Bean bags. Red text. Lumière…

The scene was set for SHORTS at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

‘SHORTS’ – a short films event – launched in 2016, organised by Graphic Design Festival Scotland and Pretend Lovers. With no restrictions on theme, genre or subject; simply that all films be under 15 minutes long, the open-call attracted entries from over 100 countries.

Waiting for the first of 15 ‘SHORTS’ to begin for the 2017 event last month - amidst a backdrop of curated International Poster Design submissions – also part of GDFS – felt like sitting at the centre of a cultural melting pot of creative talent as conversations in multiple languages mingled with the tempting aroma of popcorn. (Popcorn: essential to film-viewing.)

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I found the experience a surreal and engaging snapshot of thinking from around the world, dealing with both hilarious and serious issues in clever and diverse ways. Not all the films were to my taste, but all of them had a strong message about life and what it means to be human: right here, right now.

The shortest of the SHORTS was only 1 minute 40 seconds (‘Life in Patterns’ by Vojtěch Domlátil), incorporating images of numbers, letters, diary pages, kitsch florals and the moon at a rate of 12 frames per second.

It felt naïve yet important, racing through pages full of text and scribbles and phases of the moon, then empty pages; white squares and black lines summing up a life and the patterns we create and adhere to (and often come to rebel against).

I felt an emotional connection to it as I watched, mesmerised; an urge to reach out and touch those pages addictive and powerful. All created in the mind of someone I’ll never meet yet it felt so intimate.

I wondered later if that film-maker was in the same room, watching us watch. It’s possible.

In ‘Salt and Sauce’ by Alia Ghafar, I felt the frustrations and disappointments inside Tammy, stuck working in a small-town family chip shop as friends and colleagues begin moving on to better things.

I felt her acute embarrassment as she tried to hide from a girl she knew who came in to buy a fish-supper, all talk of ‘the big city’ and Veganism and opportunity.

But Tammy has her camera and she has a story to tell. She’s a voyeur noticing the small details others overlook. She just needs that extra push to realise her own worth and her unique gift to the world.

This film reminded me of the important of fate (faith?), of how life/the world really does work in mysterious ways, and how you need both time and patience to assimilate your place and purpose. Poignant, cringe-worthy and optimistic at the same time.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile, sometimes words are irrelevant and that’s how it was in ‘Maze’ by Eve McConnachie. It featured an enchanting and animalistic dance choreography shot in the empty - and at the time - still derelict Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.

I loved the interplay of the two dancers (male and female) as they ducked and dived against, between and around each other reinventing the space: the deep end, the changing rooms, cracked tiles and outdated signs and all the places in-between.

At one point just their silhouettes were moving in rhythm to the electro-inspired music, two pillars either side. Totally immersive to witness this piece, completely befitting the venue.

During the break (and also at the beginning due to a slight tech hitch), a limited-palette animation played on a loop in black, white and pinky-red.

Appropriately titled ‘Gastaloops’ by Nicola Gastaldi, it featured patterns morphing into sketchy everyday scenes – the idea being “to convey the atypical universe of the Londoner”.

The success of the event lay with each piece having such an individual take on life and each film-maker a unique perspective to portray in their 15 minutes (or less) of opportunity. It felt almost as revealing as reading a diary.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Other themes explored on the night include:

  • The selfie generation, technology and its pitfalls (‘5 Films about Technology’ by Peter Huang)
  • Unrequited love and the unfortunate distractions and interruptions associated with romantic partnerships (‘Life’s a Bitch’ by François Jaros and ‘The Kiss’ by Nia Syazwani)
  • Loneliness/loss (‘Closed Visit’ by Jade Evans and ‘Brian and Charles’ by Jim Archer)
  • The monotony and minutiae of day-to-day life, specifically against the backdrop of the nightly News (‘Life Cycles’ by Ross Hogg)
  • Schadenfreude and karma (‘Second to None’ by Vincent Gallagher)
  • Abuse, disability and being 'different' (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ by Rob Savage)
  • Conflict and war zones (‘Irregulars’ by Fabio Palmieri)

The last film – Irregulars – particularly struck me as it was a first-person narration of fleeing war and persecution, to find only abuse, hatred and exploitation at the other end, not the anticipated 'safe-haven'.

The film itself showed the inner mechanics of a mannequin factory as each piece moved along a conveyor to be cast, sprayed, coloured, assembled and boxed up for shipping.

Faceless faces and dismembered limbs. The same image cast from the same mould, yet individual too.

The analogy was highly poignant and affecting, the lottery of where you're born dictating the path of your life for better or worse.

The promo poster for the exhibition (also on the cover of an accompanying brochure) summed up what we all need to do. Film - and particularly SHORTS - being the perfect, immediate medium.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

As the evening came to a close there was a quick, informal vote to see which film was the favourite.

'Brian and Charles' took it, with its comical take on loneliness and friendship in a bleak, rural setting through a man's relationship with a robot he built himself. Interestingly, that was the longest of the SHORTS, whereas I can't stop thinking about the shortest: ‘Life in Patterns’.

Overall a stimulating evening of film proffering an insight into the collective global consciousness at this moment in time, right in my home city.

NB. This is a sponsored post. Thank you to CitizenM Glasgow for a stimulating, creative night. 

The Inklings by daintydora

Following the idea that 'autumn is the new spring' - or even the 'new' New Year - I've been re-reading old magazines recently and finding that I hadn't actually read them all the way through the first time.

I was a subscriber of Pretty Nostalgic magazine while it was in print (and even won their storytelling competition back in 2013).

Through revisiting their gorgeous, thick, square pages I've now discovered: The Inklings.

An informal discussion group who met weekly in the local pub, 'The Inklings' were students/alumni - and their friends - of the University of Oxford in the 1930's and 40's, right up to the early sixties.

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

Here I've doctored the pages from the magazine to create my own memory of the Inklings; from the plaque on the wall honouring famous members: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, to a cut-out 'found' poem using words and phrases from the original article, by Peter Holthusen.

The Rabbit Room:

a wealth of stories

old Oxford eccentrics,

have drunk your health.

The Eagle and Child

artless emphasis

a framed hand-written

legacy.

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The Rabbit Room was a private room in the back of The Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings would meet. I love the connotation of it being akin to a secret, literary warren of discussion; the main purpose of the group being to read and critique their unfinished works in progress.

There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections. And as was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male.

How many of our current 'literary salons', groups and meetings will be remembered in this way? How likely is it to get such a group of talent in the same place, in the same room, talking and sharing as friends, now? Is it all online and hidden away in private social media groups?

I'd like to think not...but I think that's just my nostalgic side hoping beyond hope...

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The article also included a copy of a letter written by (Professor) J.R.R. Tolkien, discussing his reasons for writing 'The Lord of the Rings':

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

I wrote The Lord of the Rings because I wished to try my hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.

J.R.R. Tolkien

I think he achieved his goal, and then some.

Seeing that glorious, almost calligraphic handwriting reminds me just how important handwriting my own journal and letters to friends, is to me.

Fonts and type and electronic messages are essential in the modern world, but how nice to return to the nostalgia of that bygone time; all those now-famous budding authors under one roof as they toiled over books known now the world over.

Discovering new treasure in something old is also a nice surprise.

Apparently the old copies of Pretty Nostalgic are becoming quite collectible now too, but I prefer to pass them on for others to enjoy - especially now I really have finished reading them.

'Inkling' also happens to be a great WORD - sign up to receive my fortnightly inspiration-mail for writers and word-lovers.

Around the world in 80 days (of Punctuation) by daintydora

Yes, not quite as Phileas Fogg did it in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, but it's day 80 of my 100-day project (#100daysofthepunctuationproject) and it feels like a worthwhile milestone to celebrate. The last few weeks I've strayed dangerously into 'symbols' territory, rather than actual punctuation marks, but I always knew there weren't really 100 punctuation marks to go round.

The point of the project is daily creativity and the formation of a regular creative habit, and on that front, I'm totally winning.

The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project
The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project

So far I've interpreted and featured familiar (and not so familiar) punctuation, letters, diacritics and symbols in a variety of mediums in:

English/American English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Czech, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Japanese, Arabic and Swedish. Possibly more - I've lost track.

And these have encompassed the realms of:

Spoken and written language, finance and currency, bookbinding and typesetting, mathematics, music, computer programming, science, law and electronics. Wow.

I've learnt a LOT about language as an interesting aside and hopefully I've retained some of my new-found knowledge for future use (or at least to appear super-clever in a Christmas quiz?).

The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project
The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project

Ever the multi-passionate creative, I love to capitalise on my tactile/textile interests, pattern design skills, love of colour and my graphic/hand-drawn style in ink and watercolour.

That's half the fun in a project like this to shake up the day and allow a cross-pollination of skills and ideas, but I must admit, this is my most bold attempt:

Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project
Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project

There's only (only!) 20 days to go, and I'm already working on the 100th day - what could it be?

Follow me and the project via Instagram to find out.

You might also be interested in joining THE WORD, my fortnightly newsletter for writers & word-lovers. Check it out here.

The No-List To-Do List by daintydora

Just don't write a to-do list at all.

Yep, that's right. Don't do it.

Don't write everything down that you need to do and overwhelm yourself before you even get started. Don't be a slave to your digital or paper guilt-inducing self. Just, let it go.

It's a novel concept I know, and to be clear, I'm not saying don't do the work.

But the no-list to-do list truth hit me right between the eyes the other night when I realised I still hadn't started a new notebook for to-do-listing (of the many fabulous notebooks in my hoard) because I'd been too busy doing the work. Interesting.

To-do list
To-do list

And it gets better.

Because really it's about priorities and what needs to get done TODAY, not just 'what needs to get done'. They say (you know, them, the productivity gurus et al), that in order to succeed you have to single-focus, and it's impossible to single-focus when you have a list of 100+ nagging things to do. Even allowing 3 things onto your list is a distraction, apparently.

And I get it. I've been there.

It feels cathartic to write it all down and get it out of your head, but then you realise someone needs to try to work through those tasks, and that poor unfortunate someone, is you.

Now we all kinda know the ONE BIG THING that needs to get done that day, today, tomorrow, don't we? It's not going to be easily forgotten without the aid of a list. If you're working on a project then you know that needs your attention. You could maybe write down a few areas that you want to focus on, but re-framing it in those terms makes it that much more palatable and less stressy. You're choosing to work on a few key areas (or one!) and that's a good place to kick off in the morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you'll next be working on said project).

But the fact remains: the important, priority stuff automatically filters to the top of your mind because our brains seemingly can't let go of unfinished tasks. These tasks create continual feedback loops demanding our attention.

And that's what I've been experiencing. I haven't had a proper to-do list for around a month but each day I've been super-productive and worked through each task as it arises, prioritising the things with a looming deadline, the opportunities that I don't want to miss. Each day when I've shut down my computer put my computer to sleep, I've felt satisfied with what I've achieved, without the stress (or perversely, the satisfaction) of crossing out bullet points in a notebook.

And now that I've come to this shocking realisation?

I feel liberated - what if I never (have to) write another to-do list again?

I could allow myself to brainstorm ideas or plot out strategies or outlines. There's no ban on lists per se, but it's nice to think the tyranny of the to-do list could be a prison of the past.

It reminds me of this article by Tim Harford, partly inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his apparent life-long pursuit of a tidy desk (spoiler: he couldn't manage it).

The upshot is, a messy desk is ultimately more fruitful and organised than a tidy desk.

Messy desk theory
Messy desk theory

"There can be a kind of magic in mess"

And it makes sense.

A neat desk means business with no distractions, but all the things you diligently filed away get forgotten about - out of sight, out of mind - and not only do you forget their very existence, but when you start looking for that crucial piece of paper, research or must-have scribbled note, it's unlikely to be found.

Here's my favourite quote from Tim Harford's article, illustrating just how unhelpful so-called clever and niche classifications can be:

“Categorising documents of any kind is harder than it seems. The writer and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges once told of a fabled Chinese encyclopedia, the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”, which organised animals into categories such as: a) belonging to the emperor, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, f) fabulous, h) included in the present classification, and m) having just broken the water pitcher.”

In contrast, on a messy desk, things have to be shuffled about and 'lost' pieces of paper or information (or wires and screws and circuit boards in my husband's case) are sifted and sorted on a regular basis because they are THERE, right there, kind of in the way.

The odd piece of paper falls to the floor and then you tread on it and it sticks to your bare foot and you suddenly realise: it's the very inspiration you needed, like the universe pointing you in the right direction.

It's a similar thing with the mind. The more unfinished tasks there are, the more little reminders flag up alerting you to this fact. A bit like an app, but infinitely more...apt.

Which leaves more time for actual writing and journaling and creative-making.

The upshot?

No list today: the no-list to-do list
No list today: the no-list to-do list

So long to-do list and hello productivity, my old friend.

Battling Tsundoku by daintydora

Tsundoku: the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.

I've always loved books and reading, and over the last few decades (I feel old writing that), I've acquired books at a rate much faster than I've been able to read them.

I read as much as I can, but it's averaging out at anywhere between 25-35 books a year.

I'm disappointed in myself as I type that number as I would always have described myself as a 'prolific' reader; mad for books, a lover of being transported to far away places in other people's fabricated worlds. But it turns out I'm as busy as the next person and perhaps not prioritising reading as much as I should be?

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Hot on the heels of reading 'Spark Joy' by Marie Kondo of magical-life-changing-tidying-up fame, I realised that many of the books I was hoarding on my shelves had appealed to me at the time of purchase, but when I looked at them now I didn't feel in the least inspired to read them.

I went through a major 'geisha' phase at one point in my early twenties, and had managed to collect numerous books on the topic and by Japanese authors, which eventually spilled over into a love of Chinese fiction and history. I read Wild Swans in tears, and Amy Tan with intrigue and had managed to acquire a battered copy of 'Mao'. Mmm.

I realised quite happily there were plenty of books I could 'let go' and that I wouldn't miss; clearing a path for the books I really did want to read and still haven't. Atonement. In Cold Blood. White Teeth (I know, I've had that since I was at university - what's wrong with me?!)

Over the last few days I've carried three huge bags full of books to my local charity shop.

Some of them I've bought from there so it feels good to take them back; others have been like family friends. It was time to let them go and I don't regret it. They deserve to be read and that's not going to happen on my over-burdened shelves.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I had read once and thought I might read again, but when it came to it, I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn't going to happen. And as Marie Kondo encourages: if you really miss something, need it or want it, then you can always buy it again...or get it from the library.

As a writer, I want to make sure I really am supporting my local library, so on the way back from the charity shop with my last donation, bags empty, I stopped in to see what was on offer and borrowed three new books. I read Kate Tempest's The Bricks that Built the Houses in a matter of days, and now I'm onto Jessie Burton's The Muse. It's good. (I loved The Miniaturist too.)

Now when I pass my bookshelves I can see the books I've neglected, the gold rising to the top.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I'll always keep if they've been special gifts or are inscribed (to me or others), but you can't keep everything.

And in a few years, maybe I'll get round to reading some of them again. Or not.

I'm feeling lighter. At least 50+ books lighter.

My Tsundoku habit is finally under control, and this time next year perhaps my shelves could be almost empty, but I doubt it, and I don't think I'd like that either #booklove

Hemingway House, Key West by daintydora

It was such a gorgeous day, the light so perfect and the heat waning slightly by the time I arrived at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West. Visiting Florida as part of a family holiday, this adventure to the southern-most tip of America felt very special to me, having accidentally followed Hemingway around the world (Paris, Cuba, Italy, Spain...) He certainly had the right idea about how to enjoy life.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house is open every day but shuts at 5pm and it took much longer to drive the US1 from Key Largo than I'd anticipated, having not taken into consideration the often 35/45 mph speed limits. (Are they strict about these things in the States? I don't know. I didn't want to find out.)

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Luckily, it was well worth the wait. And the drive. The drive was actually beautiful, the ocean on each side and the roads very quiet. What more could you ask for?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house sits back from the road on a picturesque corner (on Whitehead Street and Olivia Street), with palms surrounding it providing plenty of shade. A huge brick wall encircling the property guarantees privacy... or maybe not:

Hemingway built the wall to keep out the 'riff raff' of tourists after his home was referred to in a tourist guide of the day, not long after he moved in. Ironically, tourists began to flock in even higher numbers to get their photograph taken in front of the wall.

Key West has at least doubled in size since Hemingway's day, and the house originally boasted sea views. There's even a lighthouse next door.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

But the first thing you notice - aside from the old colonial beauty and the deep hues of mustard and green amidst the palms - is the abundance of cats.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I think this tabby above is one of the six-toed tribe, likely to be a descendant of Hemingway's cat 'Snow White' who was gifted to him by a ship's captain. All the cats who live at the house apparently carry this 'polydactyl' gene, so even if they don't sport six toes themselves, their off-spring just might.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I thought it a nice touch they're all named after famous writers, artists, musicians and stars of the stage; a tradition started by Hemingway (now with a few wives in the mix!), and each name is then scribed into the cement/brick in a little area that is clearly the 'cat cemetery' when the inevitable day comes around ('Death in the Afternoon', perhaps?). Sorry!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I took a moment to worship at the grave of 'Zsa-Zsa Gabor':

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Even the windows had net curtains featuring cats - would they have been Hemingway's personal choice I wonder?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Inside, the house was set out with much of the original furniture, artifacts and antiques collected by Hemingway, but the most fascinating to me were bookshelves laden with his personal collection - the books he had physically touched and read - as well as memorabilia from the film versions of many of his books.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
The colours and shapes in details such as the tiles on the bathroom floor were worth much more than a passing glance, and it became clear that nowhere is off-limits to the cats.

The living room downstairs was dedicated to Pilar, Hemingway's Boat (also the title of a book by Paul Hendrickson that I took with me to read, but just didn't get around to), and a few more of his typewriters. I was pleased to note he wasn't particularly brand-loyal. Underwood, Remington, Corona...

"This boat is a marvel for fishing. Takes any sea comfortably and can turn on her tail to chase a fish."
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Outside, second wife Pauline's highly controversial swimming pool replaced Hemingway's beloved boxing ring.

It was the first and only pool in Key West by years, and ran well over budget, relying on manual labour to dig out the concrete because the use of dynamite was ruled out by the city. It was originally a saltwater pool as there was no running water in Key West until 1944. But it is a beauty - over 8ft deep. How truly decadent!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I love the story about Hemingway's last pennywhich is embedded in the concrete in front of the pool. Or maybe that's just a gimmick for tourists? I snapped it anyway.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Not far away was Hemingway's other 'trough' - a urinal from his favourite bar Sloppy Joe's, which he brought home as a kind of revenge for the pool. Apparently he told Pauline:

'I'll get rid of mine when you get rid of yours'.

Oh the rage!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Instead she added decorative tiles and an urn. It all worked out OK. She made the best of it. And the cats are apparently too clever to consider drinking from the 'trough'.

Finally, stairs lead up to a separate building, a kind of loft which at one point was joined to the house by a little tree-top walkway.

It served as Hemingway's office/study/writing room and I'm not sure if it was set up just how he left it - especially given the history of the house being sold on before becoming a museum - but there was a lovely sense of solicitous solitude there that made me feel close to the great man himself.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

It made me want to rush home and read more of his books as well as get more prolific with writing my own. And I say that having never really gelled with his writing style.

I struggled with A Moveable Feast. I couldn't wait to read A Farewell to Arms, then didn't.

I think there's just something special and charismatic about his life and the way he lived, battling many demons while traversing the world, like he was trying to escape himself in his pursuits. The sea, his boat. Living in remote outcrops: Cuba, Key West. Or maybe I'm just a sentimental writer trying to capture an ounce of inspiration from this big bold bear of a man?

But what a special place (and places) he chose to live.

I would definitely return to Florida, and to the Keys. Key West had a lot more going for it than simply the literary connections, but alas I had only scheduled one day in which to see it all.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Before traversing the slim road back towards Miami, I did manage a quick look at the Tennessee Williams exhibition. There was a lot to see/read and not much time, though I was able to view a collection of his first editions, albeit through display glass.

"There is no friend as loyal as a book"

Apart from maybe a cat - or is that just an oxymoron?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

A life in Letterpress by daintydora

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

Last week I discovered Alan Kitching's 'A Life in Letterpress' at the Lighthouse, Glasgow.

He's built up an impressive catalogue, and is still going strong:

Alan Kitching was supposed to be obsolete.

The new world is one of microchips and screens. Anyone can write and typeset. The most basic word processing software will offer a hundred fonts at the swish of a mouse. Hand printing was for museums, wooden type for antique shops.

When others sold off their font collections, he bought them. And then bought more. He mixed colour and fonts to dramatic effect. He invested in the written word with visual power. Alan Kitching has become rather fashionable and in demand.

Alan Rusbridger

Well I love letters - they are the building blocks of words after all - and the individuality of letterpress-printing just feels so beautifully idiosyncratic and original in the modern world. I can see why "in a world of uniformity Alan Kitching's work stands out".

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

I think too that I need to 'up my game' when it comes to the header on my newsletter; Alan Kitching and I clearly share a love of the word 'word':

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

He also did the cover for a special issue of Dazed & Confused. The Word issue. (Of course.)

Here's a few more of the posters from the exhibition that stood out for me:

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

An impressive array of styles, colour and design. I'd love to try letterpress myself.

There were also some very nice letterpress books accompanying the exhibition and a free newspaper-style handout. 'A Life in Letterpress' is on until 5th March 2017 in Glasgow.

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

NB: The lighting and use of glass cases in the exhibition made it difficult to get better photographs. This is not a sponsored post.

Visiting Sylvia by daintydora

This time last week I was deeply immersed in a poetry and book art retreat at the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank in West Yorkshire. It's a place I've longed to visit ever since I first heard about it, and now finally, I have.

On arrival, the house was steeped in autumn sunshine; the leaves and flowers in the garden offering up their secrets and magic. I couldn't stop taking photographs.

Sunset at Lumb Bank
Sunset at Lumb Bank

Even this simple pattern of leaves arranged on the grate speaks volumes about the collective creativity of the week. (See more 'foraged street art' by Sarah.)

Foraged and found 'art' = leaves, Lumb Bank, October 2016
Foraged and found 'art' = leaves, Lumb Bank, October 2016

What I didn't anticipate was the opportunity to visit Sylvia Plath's grave. I had no idea she was buried in the small village of Heptonstall, about 10 minutes walk from Lumb Bank.

On my first free afternoon I slipped away to find her.

Graveyard where Sylvia Plath is buried
Graveyard where Sylvia Plath is buried

I passed the house that belonged to Ted's parents, taking in the burnt-away colours of the trees and leaves. It was so quiet and peaceful, the narrow streets in the village quaintly cobbled.

There were so many gorgeous leaves and I wanted to collect then all, but I allowed myself only a few.

Autumn colours at Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire
Autumn colours at Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

Sylvia didn't ever live in the house at Lumb Bank, the house that is now the Arvon Centre, but it feels like her fate was being metered out when she first lived up the hill with Ted's parents; visiting as a willing lamb, not knowing she would one day return and never leave.

I had been allocated a room in 'the barn', the solid lintel of the window framing my view of the garden, and Ted's image - his eyes, his ghost - seeming to follow me everywhere; heavy with history and the tragedy of Sylvia taking her own life. I couldn't stop thinking of them together: writing, talking, arguing. I also thought of Assia.

Feminists have been 'blamed' for defacing Sylvia's headstone on multiple occasions, scratching away the lead-lettering of 'Hughes' to avoid it tainting her name any further, but I don't think Ted can be held solely to blame for what happened. I don't blame the feminists either (and count myself a feminist).

Searching for Sylvia Plath, St Thomas Church graveyard, Heptonstall
Searching for Sylvia Plath, St Thomas Church graveyard, Heptonstall

While searching for Sylvia's grave, I first walked around the older part of the graveyard. It felt quietly alive with the shadows of afternoon and not for the first time I felt like I was being watched by unseen eyes.

The rustle of fallen leaves on the path did nothing to assuage that feeling.

I found Sylvia eventually, in the newer part of the graveyard.

Only two lines of poetry (written by Ted) decorate her small headstone:

"Even amidst fierce flames

The golden lotus can be planted."

Sylvia Plath's headstone, St Thomas Church, Heptonstall
Sylvia Plath's headstone, St Thomas Church, Heptonstall

"A little rosebush grows on it, and some modest wreaths and cut flowers lie about. Crows and magpies fly above."

I felt so close to her as I stood there, the memory of reading her journals and her poetry flooding my mind with the time in my life when I became obsessed with her work, her world, as though she was a dear friend I'd simply lost touch with over the years. Words can do that. Especially words written in a diary or journal.

Pens, pennies, flowers and letters left at Sylvia Plath's grave
Pens, pennies, flowers and letters left at Sylvia Plath's grave

I had imagined her grave being better kept with a big memorial, the grass neat and well-tended, though perhaps it's fitting this is not the case.

I liked that people had left notes and pens and coins, and wanted to leave a pen but it didn't seem entirely right - and the pen I had with me wasn't particularly special.

Instead I wrote a note, folding it tightly and burying it in the earth at the head of Sylvia's 'grave-garden'. I hope my words echo down to her, somehow.

Flowers at Sylvia Plath's grave, Heptonstall
Flowers at Sylvia Plath's grave, Heptonstall

The angel/cherub was a nice touch, and I recognised heather, lavender, primrose and rose amongst other offerings - a respite from the weeds - yet still I couldn't help but imagine Sylvia hiding under the floorboards that time, the desire that burnt more brightly than any other, finally, fatefully achieved in the winter of 1963.

What would she choose if she had her time again?

View through the gate to the graveyard where Sylvia Plath is buried
View through the gate to the graveyard where Sylvia Plath is buried

It makes me so sad to think that a woman so alive with thoughts and words and emotion can be so-long buried and alone, no family to visit her grave. I know so many people do and will end up this way, but that only compounds the sadness.

I hope she felt at least a moment of freedom.

A magazine for The Gentlewoman by daintydora

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a preview event for local festival PaisleyMake. The idea was to highlight creativity and design in the area, with PaisleyMake one of many celebrations to come that will shape, enhance and inform Paisley's bid to become City of Culture UK in 2021. This is big. Really big.

I wrote about the design showcase in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed on my inspiration blog, but another key part of the day was a passionate talk by Penny Martin, Editor of The Gentlewoman magazine.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

I must admit I hadn't heard of The Gentlewoman, despite magazines - particularly the more niche titles - being my abiding obsession (hello FLOW, Kinfolk, Oh Comely, Womankind, et al, and fabulous Nova when it returned briefly in the early noughties).

The Gentlewoman must now be added to that list as its premise promises something deeper and more rewarding than most other 'women's magazines' out there:

The Gentlewoman celebrates modern women of style and purpose. Featuring ambitious journalism and photography of the highest quality, it showcases inspirational women through its distinctive combination of glamour, personality and warmth.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

Penny had me at 'Angela Lansbury was on the cover of Issue no. 6' and the idea of 'an arch, arcane approach; witty and slightly insincere, a Diana Vreeland-esque voice'. Yes.

There was talk of counterpoint, antidote, outsiders and 'being the cult'. Oh yes.

Of the 'interior furniture' of the magazine (which I imagined mapping to the interior furniture of my mind), 'the creative conversation' and a 'thoughtful pause' before relenting to the 'slavish consumer' mentality. Triple yes. Multiple yes's.

All this intrepid fabulousness; the reality over frippery (though there is some well-placed frippery, with tell of gorgeous photo-features on lazy breakfast-brunches, tight tights and an article on mushroom tea - which actually sounds quite sophisticated) will have me scouring my local newsagent and probably subscribing.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

I loved hearing about how the magazine was brought to life, how people conflate the words and get the title wrong (understandably one of Penny's pet hates), and about how The Gentlewoman strives to differentiate itself from its ilk in every issue.

The strong, design-led covers above are from a totally different iteration of The Gentlewoman which went out of print in the 1930's.

They whisper of the mysteries of feminine things in an urgent, powerful (witchy) voice and were the perfect inspiration for the modern, intelligent biannual that champions black and white photography, long-form journalism and women of note.

I can well understand that 'editing a magazine is like curating an exhibition in a gallery', as Penny explained they print in double-black, don't use a grid, are fastidious about paper, and obsess over small design details that elevate the magazine into much more than 'just a magazine'. These are the kind of details I love.

It's consumable art for the modern world. The Gentlewoman has gone meta.

Their partner magazine is Fantastic Man, and of course we all know: behind every fantastic man is a gentlewoman. Or something like that.

The Gentlewoman Magazine
The Gentlewoman Magazine

The autumn/winter issue is out this week, and features Zadie Smith on the cover.

The one where I turn down my first publishing contract... by daintydora

You read that correctly. I said 'no'. And I like saying 'yes' to opportunities, to doors being opened, to the magic of the universe making way for me.

But after a lot of deliberation and advice (thank you to everyone who answered my cry for help), my gut instinct on this was a slow-boat to 'no'.

The main reason for turning down the offer (after the initial thrill of excitement had worn off), was because it was for digital publication only (in the first instance) and my dream (however vain) is to see my work in print.

How could I have a book launch without a book?

So I said no, and now I sit back and wonder...was it the right decision? Will I live to regret it? What happens if I never get a publishing deal?

Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'
Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'

The truth is I haven't approached any other publishers, so as far as options go, the Writers & Artists Yearbook listings for UK publishers/agents is my proverbial oyster. Writing is indeed a waiting game.

Waiting for the idea. Tick.Waiting for the right time to start. (You should never do that. Don't do that. Just start!) Tick.Waiting for the words to flow and for the character to start chattering in your head. Tick.Waiting it out, biding your time until the story is written. Tick.Waiting to edit. (Words need time to relax and distill.) Tick.Waiting for the right opportunity. Saying 'no' to the wrong deals. Tick.Waiting to be noticed (never going to happen - you have to be proactive). Tick.And when the deal is finally done?Probably waiting for the day the book is available in the shops.Then waiting for the reaction.Then doing it all again.

But I love writing and I'm prepared to wait. Writing is my calling and my passion.

The characters and their voices want to flow through my fingers, their thoughts becoming my words.

It's the ordering of them that poses a problem. And the editing. The research and the finessing. No I like the research - it's where the book takes flight as the strands of the story begin weaving together.

The wildly scribbled notes and the nuggets of pure gold when you know you're onto something, a tangent, a twisting narrative path that could really lead somewhere, anywhere...

The whole act of it is like an illness, an addiction to the cause.

I'm waiting in the wings, but I won't give up.

I WILL SEE MY DEBUT NOVEL IN PRINT!

The End. (For now.) Tick.