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.

NaNo Winner 2016 by daintydora

Since Monday I've written around 10,000 words. Almost 9,000 of those were about completing my NaNoWriMo Novel Writing challenge yesterday (a day early!), then some new ideas I had as soon as I finished, and then my personal journal in recording my thoughts and feelings about my achievement.

NaNoWriMo Winner Certificate 2016

It's been tough some days to dedicate the time I needed to my words. I've neglected family and friends. I haven't been writing much else apart from my NaNo-Novel (working title: Control).

But that's OK because it's been an immersive and cathartic experience, reminding me every single day that it really is possible to write 1,667 every day for 30 days, or 2,000 words, or even 5,000 words, even when you don't know what you're going to write.

That's the dream. Not waiting for the muse; just doing it.

My NaNo word-count total for the 3 years I've taken part now sits at 151,180 words. That's amazing! I can't believe I did it, but I did.

I knew I could do it but it's great to prove it to myself again (read my NaNo tips to myself).

Now I have a whole new work-in-progress novel I can take forward and do amazing things with. It will need work - a lot of work obviously - but the framework is there and I'm excited about the story. That's half the battle.

And I do love the glory of a downloadable, editable, printable certificate!

Now I'm going to pay-it-forward and donate to this amazing challenge so that it may continue inspiring others as it has motivated and inspired me, because...

What makes a writer a writer? Writing.


Becoming Wise by daintydora

In a recent issue of THE WORD, my newsletter for writers and word-lovers, I linked to Krista Tippett's interview with Elizabeth Gilbert on her radio show On Being. And then I read an interview with her on The Great Discontent, discussing her new book Becoming Wise, and found I identified so much with the things she spoke of there too, especially this:

...to become wise, is the work of a lifetime

She's right of course, but it's pretty frustrating.

On one hand it's amazing to know that as time ticks on you'll inevitably learn and discover and conquer new things each day, week, month, year of your life, becoming wiser the older you get. Perhaps things like:

How to buy and sell a house, how to deal with awkward social situations, how to articulate how you feel, what you want, what makes you tick, and how to mix a martini (and whether you prefer it shaken not stirred)

And that's all fabulous.

But it's also sad in a way because it means that by the time you've finally nailed it, finally learnt everything you need to know in life, all the tips, tricks, short-cuts and truths - who you even are - that's when it's kind of over. Not to be maudlin, but it's true.

When asked what the recurring themes and qualities of lives full of 'beauty and wisdom', Krista response is:

The basic elements of our lives are the raw materials of wisdom

I like that; like life is about finding the things you will use to 'build your wisdom'. Except it all takes so damn long.

Words, words, words

She goes on to say: "spiritual life is as much about how we inhabit our bodies as it is about ideas... Our bodies are messy and they get us in trouble."

Yes. So true. I think our spirituality is very much about how we inhabit our bodies, how we present ourselves to the world and each other, how we interact.

"We need to tune into the truths of our bodies. There’s no such thing as an emotion that’s not physical or a physical symptom that doesn’t have emotional input—this is something we’re learning and science has proven it."

I like the link she makes between the emotional and physical, and it's something I want to learn more about.

Emotions play a big part in my life and I know that if my emotions are out of balance, then I can't be productive in my day-to-day. Even small tasks feel insurmountable because what's going on in my head disrupts the flow of communication in my body. I'm more clumsy, sluggish even. I feel the impact in my limbs.

Krista knows it. I know it. And we all feel it.

I also love that Krista's 'grand vision of chapters' eventually led her to what she describes as the 'five elements of living we all experience', and the first one she chose was 'words' (the others are: our bodies, faith, hope, and love).

If anyone has 'become wise', it's Krista, and I'm adding her book to my reading list.

Go and read/listen to Krista's wise words, and I'll end with this perfect quote:

I love words. They’re a huge piece of who I am. I think we can excavate the word love.

(And there's a big emotional/physical word right there!)

Do you feel you've 'become wise', or is there still a long way to go? I find the more I learn, the more I discover I need to learn. And so it goes on.

Sign up to THE WORD, a fortnightly newsletter for writers and word-lovers.

100 days of my favourite words by daintydora

“Words, like glass, darken whatever they do not help us to see.”

– Joubert, Pensees

Thank you to Gretchen Rubin's daily happiness email for that thoughtful quote. But it's true isn't it?

When I decided to use words as the focus of my 100-day project for 2016, I understood the inherent power they yield.

Today is 100/100 and the word I've chosen to celebrate my achievement is 'Firework', because it connotes celebration, success, happiness - and on this occasion perhaps even a whiff of relief. This day has (finally) arrived.

It also conjures the joy of bright colour on a dark night, childish excitement, danger, power, spontaneity, laughter and that smell of sulphur in the air. I think words can do all those things too.

Some days I've been playful, optimistic and creative with my word choice; other days I've been a bit darker in tone, bringing the etymological force of the English language to bear. Hopefully in both cases I've inspired others with my 'daily habit' linked so intrinsically to my life as a writer. (Hello 'Alphabet' - I couldn't have done it without you.)

In some cases, perhaps I've even introduced a new word to someone, taking them on a brief journey of exploration or an unexpected linguistic tangent? I'd like to think so. (I'm looking at you, 'Petrichor'.)

And isn't it funny how when you focus on a word - perhaps a word that doesn't crop up in every-day language, like 'ekphrastic' or 'chiaroscuro' or even 'synchronicity' itself - it suddenly appears everywhere as if to say 'here I am, look at me' (use me! play with me!)?

I do have a predilection for personification. I try to resist, but find the new depth - often world - of meaning a personifying verb or adjective brings to the intangible 'inanimates' of life...irresistible:

Thoughts that leap. Memories that stir. Happiness that soars. The 'demonic' inner critic. Grrr.

So here we are. 100 days deep in words. See the rest of the pack via my Instagram profile, or search under #100daysofmyfavouritewords (there's definitely 100 - I checked!)

A big shout-out to Elle Luna who started the 100-day project, and all the creative friends who shared the journey with me.

Finally, check out last year's '100 days of Haiku'. What will next year bring?

100 days of words by daintydora

Words. Words. Words. Words. We use them everyday, all the time.

In speech, in private, in public, in text messages, emails, stories, poems, chats, transactions, when talking with strangers and with loved ones. Sometimes we write them in the air with sparklers, or arrange to have them written in the sky.

I write every day (one of my 'mantras' I set for myself at the beginning of 2015); words are my currency, my love, my passion, the essential hard-working tools of my chosen career as a writer.

Last year I took part in the 100 day project pioneered by Elle Luna and publicised by The Great DiscontentInstagram the mechanism for accountability.

I chose to write 100 Haiku poems (#100daysofhaiku), although it wasn't a unique project to me or a unique hashtag. I didn't mind sharing.

Some days it was hard, some days it was easy. Some days I left it far too late to get a proper shot that looked 'nice', but the point was the act of creating each day in a big, unbroken, chronological chain of accomplishment.

I spent time breaking my words down into syllables, the root of their sounds and meanings, moulding them into 3 lines about what I was feeling that day or what was happening in my life.

Then I promised to make an eBook out of them.

No-one asked me to, it was just my own idea to 'complete' the project, come away with a tangible body of work comprising 100 days of creative output and effort. But I haven't done it yet. The guilt ebbs and flows. It will get done (I know it will - it's on my to-do list. Right after 'complete my novel'.)

I'm single-focusing you see. I have to get my novel completed. I'm three-quarters through the first re-write.

So this year when the murmurings about the 100 day project popped up, I decided I wasn't going to play along. I would eschew the tyranny of daily creativity (oh the misery of it!), for slow, steady, regular progress on my book. Nearly there, nearly there, I whisper to myself at night. Just another week, fortnight, month. Maybe.

But then on 100day eve, I was sitting in bed and I had the urge to write down a list of my favourite words. It was an act inspired by an art journal prompt, part of the Get Messy Art Journal 'Season of Lists'.

"Write a list, you could make it a hundred items long."

So I got to about 25 and realised it was a quarter of 100 (yeah, I'm simple like that). I carried on writing, squeezing words all over an A5 page instead of taking a new sheet, until I got to 100 and beyond.

100 days of my favourite words, The 100 day project 2016

All those lovely words crammed between lines and over lines; diagonal, horizontal, bleeding into each other.

I put my list away. I wrote in my journal. I read my book. It was just a list. 

Then the next day I saw everyone posting on social media about their 100 day project, about all the cool things that people were going to document and achieve between 19th April and 27th July. I felt like I would be missing out (the worst kind of creative FOMO?) and then I remembered my list. 100 of my favourite words, in complement to this starter for 10. It was a creative 'do or die' moment.

As the night ticked on I wrote down my first word, dated it, and uploaded it to Instagram under #100daysofmyfavouritewords. It's a bit unwieldy but it's unique to me. My words. My favourite words.

I'm doing it. I'm in.

Some people might think it's cheating to already have my list, but I think the creative commitment is choosing and focusing on a specific word each day, and part of the challenge is being experimental with capture, presentation and display. I want my words to shine.

Day 1: Oxymoron. White on black.

And so it begins...! Day 1: 'Oxymoron' @elleluna #100days #the100dayproject #100daysofmyfavouritewords #words #oxymoron

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

Day 2: Gypsy. A fragrant herb-word.

Day 3: Yoyo. Coloured pins on a corkboard.

Day 3: 'Yoyo' #100daysofmyfavouritewords #the100dayproject #100days #100 #words #pins #pinboard #corkboard #yoyo #yoyos

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

I'm giving myself these 100 days to get my Haiku eBook completed too, because sometimes you need a new challenge, a different deadline, the creative pressure to just get shit done.


There's over 800 here already...

A hand-lettered reminder of my mantras & sayings for 2015 by daintydora

When I posted my 12 'fortune cookie' mantras & sayings for 2015 on New Year's Day, I believed in them and they all meant something special to me.

But to receive a hand-lettered version through the post, made especially for me by my beautiful, thoughtful, like-minded spiritual sister Tracey, all the way from Australia, was so much more than special.

Hand-lettered mantras for life

I wanted to feature my 'mantras manifesto' here on my blog to marry up with the post I published at the start of the year, but mainly to say a huge THANK YOU to Tracey:

you made my day, my year, and I will treasure this beautifully hand-lettered piece of art forever.

Number 7 is speaking to me the most just now:

You can do anything but not everything.

And that's a wonderful lesson I've learnt from Tracey too.

Check out her blog One Thing at a Time and you'll see what I mean.


LOVE captured, fleeting in black & white by daintydora

Some images of the word LOVE captured in condensation, ethereal and fleeting.

It was early on a cold and frosty morning and the sun shone brightly through the letter-gaps I'd created, which were then reflected back to me on the wall. I couldn't have planned for it. It just happened.
Just like love.

LOVE written on a condensated window

Found love
Bold love
Black and white love
Hot love
Sweaty love
Profound love
Distant love
Distilled love
Faded love
Crazy love
Captured in condensation love
Love in the window
Love in his eyes
Love in her eyes
Love in disguise
Love in reverse
Love in the background
Love in real life
Love in the past
Love in the future
Love in your heart
Love all around

LOVE written on a condensated window LOVE written on a condensated window


The colour RED (& its many clichéd connotations) by daintydora

Red is all around this week in card shops and in heart motifs. I'm guilty of using it myself. But what does the colour RED make you think of? It makes me think of a big, blank empty screen. Like when you shut your eyes against the sun and your eyelids glow red inside.

The colour RED

And it makes me think of the word 'vermilion' and an all-consuming passion, and Mars, and fire. Monosyllabic. Simple yet complicated. Roses and poison and hearts and love. There are a multitude of connotations, many of them a cliché:

Fire Engine red, Pillar Box red. Danger and the red triangle of warning. Red lips. Maybe the reddest of red lipstick you've ever seen; a red gulf of glistening red micro-beads that last all day, reflecting red beams of light back into the atmosphere. An aura of red around the red-lipped wearer. Red lipstick stains on a white coffee mug or transparent glass or a cheating collar.

Is any other colour so evocative, so powerful, so in your face as RED?

It has passion and heat, pigment, energy, danger, daring and the devil all driving it on, forcing it into the consciousness of all and making it unforgettable.

It is the colour of hell and the Scarlet Woman and harlotry and evil.

"The red devil reigns on in riotous red!"

A primary colour, it is cheerful and vibrant and perfect for the festive season. The Crimson Petal and The White. It sits well against the purity of snow but is a crime when coupled with green.

It is a Shepard's warning and the hot, sticky night as the ball of red fire sets in the sky, rippling its death-dance daggers into the horizon.

It is the colour of heat and the opposite of cold. It smacks of sex and adultery and illicit adventure. Long red talons like the bloody claws of a bird of prey. Glamour and wealth and slutty hooker traits and the grotesque macabre of a clown's oversized nose. Regal, royal, religious, poppy-seeded hope in a field of faded faces.

Red hair framing a porcelain complexion, or the bullying taunts of being ginger?

It is popular, understood and AVAILABLE.

It turns heads and rages ferociously from nowhere when emotions collide. Slide. Dangerously. Vindictive, harmful; won't ever stop until the battle is won. Draws blood. Thick red blood that won't stop. Congealed life. A pin-prick or a stab wound.

Ludicrous, loud and it won't go away; can't get rid of the stain (you can never get rid of the stain.)

RED is volatile, explosive and out there. Whatever it makes you think of or what you think of it, be careful...

(Merry Christmas & Happy Valentine's!)

10 favourite words by daintydora

I really love words. They are my currency, my stock-in-trade. And nobody owns them. They're free for everyone to manipulate and juggle and borrow and blend into structures and sentences. Words are the magic of communication and the literacy of dreams (in my opinion!)

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling

Here's 10 words, some old favs and others very new to me, that I love:

1. Troubadour - I think I first saw this word in an Erica Jong novel. I seem to remember something about a 'naif troubadour'. Brilliant!

2. Fabulism - new to me this week, 'fabulism' is a form of magic realism and although I at first thought it was related to the word 'fabulous', it is in fact from the word 'fable'; 'fabular'. It all makes sense now. So what's magic realism again???

3. Ennui - but I'm always forgetting what it means! Is that symptomatic of embracing the word itself? (ON-wee. ON-wee. ON-wee.)

4. Pom-pom - isn't this such a wonderful word? According to wikipedia it is "a loose, fluffy, decorative ball or tuft of fibrous material. Pom-poms may come in many colors, sizes, and varieties and are made from a wide array of materials, including wool, cotton, paper, plastic, and occasionally feathers. Pom-poms are shaken by cheerleaders."

5. Halycon - oh how I long for those halycon days...

6. Cornucopia - makes me think of nests filled with Faberge eggs or treasures in a charity shop or a gathering of haberdashery delights in a shop like Liberty. It makes me feel creative just by saying it: CORNU-COPIA.

7. Twig - like twigs that form on branches and branches that grow on trees and trees that are of the oldest plants of the earth; so beautiful and so enduring. 'Twigs' was also the name of the owl that delivered our wedding rings when my husband and I got married. And I like this song by FKA Twigs.

8. Myriad - I use it all the time. I love it. It has myriad uses (haha).

9. Virago - "A virago is a woman who demonstrates exemplary and heroic qualities." Yes. Exactly.

10. Triptych - I'm drawn to this word and it pops up all the time in art and in exhibitions. But I can't say it. It's a tongue-twister. It mocks me. But it makes it even more appealing to me. I want to create a 'triptych' of something, someday. That'll show it!

Other words I struggle to say are obfuscate and archipelago. I'm sure there are plenty more.

What are your favourite words? Is it just me who struggles with triptych, obfuscate and archipelago?


International Day of the Word by daintydora

I'm reading a book about shark attacks and it's the International Day of the Word as Bond of Humankind, created by the Museo de le Palabra. Words hold so much inside them; all the emotion of their syllables and the weight of their definition and their infinite use in language and print, their ability to elevate, inspire, suppress or destroy.

We wouldn't be able to communicate without words. I wouldn't be able to write without words. Writing wouldn't be a 'thing' without words. What about that?  Even the word 'shark' is jagged and sharp in itself. Sharp Shark. SHARP SHARK.

Big thoughts to ponder on the International Day of the Word as Bond of Humankind. You can read more about it on this site, though it is a little old.

Here's to another week of strange associations, ideas, deep and dangerous dreams and the light between the cracks. And words.


You Imagine What You Desire by daintydora

Profound words. Words that form a new artwork by Nathan Coley at Jupiter Artland. You Imagine What You Desire, Jupiter Artland

Viewed, standing in a freshly painted steading of white.

But things never look white when they're on a white background. Or at least, not very easily in photographs taken on a phone. I like the way that the lights burn brightest with the background greying to black, here. Like a Playhouse in old Hollywood perhaps, or on Broadway, or at 'the shows'.

And the little lightbulbs so perfect and poppable. White light. Words lit-up. Stark and yet so full of meaning. A lightbulb moment. A time to wake-up and imagine what you desire.

I'm going to do that now. Because how often does anyone sit back and just imagine what they desire? Not very often. Not in a blank-canvas, pure-white-space kind of way; with just the words to connect with and relate to.

Nathan Coley Postcard

I bought a postcard to remind me. And was delighted to have it *signed* by Nathan himself.

The original text is from a George Bernard Shaw quote:

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.

Nathan Coley through the window

Glancing back (never go back, never turn round!), a partial view, a simple glimpse, is all you get of what is inside. The words are a step removed; not fully formed; out of reach and unattainable and that I suppose is a metaphor for our true desires.

But the lights are on. A beacon. A lighthouse in the storm.

Barriers - physical, literal, figurative, tangible, intangible and every other possible permutation - can all be overcome by the creative mind.

Which returns us to the start, and just five words:

You imagine what you desire.