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October to December 2022

How the time flies!

Clea wrote a lovely blog and left me to drop in some pictures and then the time disappeared. It feels wrong for me to abandon it, so here it is as it would have been in the Autumn.

‘Autumn Days When the Grass is Jewelled’

It’s November and finally it feels as though autumn has properly arrived. The unseasonably warm, sunny days that accompanied us through much of September and October seem to have fled with the turning of the month. It feels a welcome change, despite the howling gale and thunderous rain outside. I don’t think that I could happily live in a place where the sun shines all year and there is no real variation between the seasons. Somehow the differences - quality of light, length of the days, the leaves worn by the trees – bring an essential rhythm to the year as each season turns. For me, there is still a child-like joy in kicking through the damp, jewelled autumn leaves and feeling the chill of the first frosty morning since the spring.

Reading back through our blog from last month reminds me of the things we had planned for September and October. It has been every bit as busy as we’d anticipated. As is often the case, more things were added to the diary as the days went on!

Black Arts

Our ‘Black Arts’ residential workshop saw a small group of wonderfully creative people arrive to work with Adrian, Al Brown and (Stephen) Raff. Each person had a full day with each of the workshop leaders and with such a small group, it was possible to tailor each element of the workshop to suit the individuals who joined us.

Adrian took people out to a range of locations nearby to capture some stunning and diverse images, choosing the locations based on what each client hoped to achieve. Time out on location was then followed by some time to process and print on a range of papers back in the studio at Kingsdown.

Al Brown also worked out on location with each of his group, teaching each person how to prepare and then paint with Bideford Black pigment. Everyone was able to practise on a smaller scale image before working on their final piece, which showcased the techniques that they had tried. The skill level of each participant was very different but all managed to achieve results that they were proud of with Al’s expert guidance.

Creating images using wet plate collodian has a real sense of magic to it as the developed image finally emerges in its watery bath. Stephen Raff was able to give each of his students the creative and technical skills to conjure the magic with their own images. We ended the week with a meal at Kingsdown and a ‘Show and tell’ sharing of the outcomes from our week of creative exploration.

Paris and a big birthday!

No sooner had we sent our Black Arts guests on their way, bags packed with mounted prints, glass plates and their mounted Bideford Black watercolours, than it was time to pack our own bags and head for Paris. Though technically a holiday for us, there was inevitably some discussion of how Paris might feature in our future plans for workshops, as we explored different areas of the city. Of course, Adrian found the combination of ancient, modern and Brutalist architecture irresistible! We celebrated Adrian’s 60th with some gentle meandering which took us via Les Halles and Jardin des Tuileries to the 5th and 6th arrondissements and finished with a rather good steak frites. En route, we stumbled upon some fabulous small galleries and stationery shops. It was a shame not to have luggage space to bring back more bookbinding supplies – but maybe next time! We also spotted an amazing small book bindery, where we watched a young man painstakingly constructing a box, probably destined to enclose a beautifully bound book.

Paris is certainly somewhere we are planning to visit again before too long- we have a few ideas!

Image and Word

After the success of our first ‘Image and Word’ workshop with Paul Sanders back in the springtime, we were both really looking forward to running it for a new group. Having tweaked some of the timings and processes, we were eager to see how it would work out. The group joined us in the early afternoon, and we all headed out to explore our chosen location before a delicious dinner at our local Italian restaurant.

The weather wasn’t quite as kind to us as it had been back in April but the upside of that was some beautifully wild and stormy skies. Encouraged and supported by Paul and Adrian, everyone gathered and created stunning images, which we then edited, printed and made into books on the final day. There is something magical about seeing the pleasure on people’s faces when the pile of paper and bits of card they have in front of them suddenly transform into being an actual book!

Visit the workshops page for more information or to book a place.

Bookbinding Explorations

Once the Image and Word workshop was completed, we finally had some welcome time at home including some actual full days with nothing booked in!

Although Adrian did have a mix of on-line one-to-ones and small groups, he managed some creative time for himself too. He has a gig coming up at the end of November and rehearsals planned before that so really needs some time in the music studio before then!

For me, this meant time to revisit a book structure that I’m working on for our ‘Part 2’ bookbinding workshops and teach it to Adrian. His bookbinding went well – he was thrilled with the result, which you might have seen on his Instagram. Teaching a new book form for the first time (as opposed to making it myself) always brings up questions, challenges and problems to solve which lead to fine-tuning the teaching process. So, after guiding Adrian to make his version of the book, I went on to play with a few more versions.

Whilst discussing papers for books, Paul had mentioned to me that Fotospeed had just launched a new paper developed with book making in mind. I went off to investigate and ordered some of the paper – Art Smooth Duo 210 – for my experimentation. The paper is guaranteed to be short grain, which is very helpful when planning to print for a specific book form. After a first try with the paper, I would say that it works well. It creases relatively crisply for a paper of this weight, prints cleanly and has a high-quality feel to it. It has a slightly warm, creamy colour tone which I rather like.

One of the other jobs for our time at home was a stock-check of resources that I would need to replenish before our December workshop and this lead us somehow into the rabbit hole of considering how we could introduce something extra/different, in terms of the materials that we typically use. I’m starting to experiment with a range of materials for marbling and other decorative techniques for end papers and cover papers. More about this in a future blog!


After a couple of weeks of time mostly at home, it was time to prepare for our trip north for our new workshop - Newcastle in Black and White and then on to the Creative Light Festival in Scotland. It’s a long, long drive for us! We made a stop off in North Allerton on the way up, to break the journey. It’s always a pleasure to call in to the Joe Cornish Gallery and this time we were looking forward to seeing the ‘Sense of Place’ exhibition…..

We arrived in Newcastle Upon Tyne a couple of days before our group were due so that we could check our planned route. There’s always a risk that scaffolding will have appeared around a location that looked just perfect a few months ago! Our Sunday recce started fine and clear, but we were both soaked, despite our waterproofs, by the end of the afternoon. Fortunately, the group of clients brought better weather with them, and we had two days with lovely atmospheric skies but no further rain. The final day was spent inside, processing and printing, with some stunning images emerging from the printer as the afternoon progressed.

Creative Light Photography Festival

We foolishly hadn’t checked the route for our journey onwards to Drumnadrochit, near Loch Ness, for the last part of our northern adventure so were somewhat shocked to find it was almost twice as far as we had thought! But we headed off and managed to make it to our accommodation just in time for the evening meet-up, despite a slow puncture on the way.

We were headed for ‘The Creative Light Photography Festival’ dreamed up and organised by Margaret Soraya. We had first heard about it from Margaret back in February when coincidence/serendipity brought us to the same place at the same time during our expedition to the Outer Hebrides. Billed as ‘3 days of photography, inspiration and community in the Highlands of Scotland’, it sounded such an interesting project that we were very keen to find a way to be part of it.

It was a wonderful, uplifting creative experience. What a privilege to spend time with an amazingly talented, diverse group of people who all had creativity at their heart. Adrian provided lightroom, processing and printing expertise to people who joined his planned sessions but also as a ‘drop-in’ for people who had a problem to solve or a question to ask. I was fortunate to be able to participate in workshops with Marianthi Lainas & Lesley Lintott, and KJ Nasrul. It’s always a pleasure to learn from others as well as sharing one’s own creative journey. We are really hoping that we will be able to be part of the second year of the festival which Margaret is already busily planning.

The journey home was long – 13 hours – this time with no stopping other than to switch driver and grab a bite to eat. Adrian needed to be back to get to Hartland for the first November workshop, the start of another very hectic few weeks through this month and the start of December. For me, it’s a pleasure to be home again and now to have some time to get back to my exploration of book forms and decorative papers…let the playfulness continue!

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