After the efforts of last year’s building marathon, we have tried to take more time to enjoy our landscape, more cycling, more swimming and more making. Of course we’ve been fettling the inside of the studio and making it more liveable/ workable, it’s actually pretty damn comfy now which makes starting the big build difficult to motivate. We’ve been pushing on with developing odd family ideas, take a look in the shop for this years oddities, it’s a slow pace of making, frustrating at times but ultimately a more balanced, sustainable way of being.
So Instead of more building what have we been doing? there has been plenty of tree planting outside. When we went on or travels one of the kids home-schooling tasks was to work out how many trees we needed to plant to offset the carbon footprint of our flights and miles driven in the camper van. So at the start of the year we planted over 200 trees outside the studio. We call it the ‘friends forest’ as when people come and camp here in the summer we ask them to bring a tree (its really so that they will come back to see us every year to see how their tree is getting on). It’s a great start to our forest and orchard that maybe one day the kids will be able to walk through with their kids.
‘A man doesn’t plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity’ – Alexander smith.
Keep making art
Heidi has moved into her drawing hut (caravan) at the top of the field and has been working on new paintings and drawings for an exhibition next year, the new goats are keeping her company and get in there whenever the door is open. There is so much nourishment in making new work, for Heidi it is a really fluid process, very intuitive, almost a vent of subconscious narratives, her work is really easy to connect with without being explicitly told what its about. Maybe it’s the opportunity to feel what we want to feel when we see something rather than being told what to feel and look at that makes it so connective. Different creatives have such diverse processes, it’s fascinating to work with someone who approaches their creativity with such a different outward approach but centres in on the same poetic spirit.
Heidi has also been working on mural projects this year for businesses and organisations in west Wales and was even on Welsh Tv channel S4C painting a mural with a Youth Centre in Carmarthen (luckily she didn’t have to speak welsh). She also led workshops at the National Botanic gardens of Wales and has finished plenty of commissions this year. Check out her Instagram @heidiplant to see a more artwork focussed feed.
Emrys (me) has been working on Odd studio graphic design projects this year, helping some good local businesses build their identities through their branding, some lush labelling and packaging has come out the studio this year as well as logo work which we’re pretty pleased with. It’s a branch of the creative practice that is rather more logic lead and delivery focussed, deadlines are good for getting shit done aren’t they?
There’s been more poetry at last, performing has been impossible over the last year or so but thanks to some lovely friends who asked me to perform at their events this summer, poetry is back in the room. Maybe next year there will be a poetry collection out, it’s definitely on the cards and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Poems have been coming from the studio for adverts and music producers this year so more of that to look forward to and a book has got to be coming sooner or later so watch out.
From Home to Home
At the end of summer I got on the poem bike and cycled across the country. The idea was to connect where we used to live in Kent to our new home in Wales.
I wasn’t sure I could do this journey. It’s long and it hurt and its a daft idea but It seemed like an important path to take, the physical and mental investment in a move across country marked by a journey under my own steam, I will have earned our slice of home when I see it again. Cycling from where we used to live in Whitstable on the Kent coast to our new home in Moylegrove West Wales. What a beautiful journey, it meant a lot to travel this way and take in the land that is now between our past and our present, a full East to West of the UK, coast to coast by bike. The route i took is 350 miles over three and a half days and every bit of my body knows it worked hard to physically earn our passage West and it feels right.
There were times I had to stop, my knees were screaming, I was cycling with one hand because my shoulder ached so much, but I was smiling. Smiling because I am experiencing all these moments, happy I was heading towards home.I stayed with old friends along the way and cherished the time with them after a long days ride, nourishing me with a hot shower, good food and a comfy bed.
Every moving second was a moment of concentration on the sometimes rough roads, the landscapes of the Cotswolds, Forest of Dean and the Breacons all trying to grab my attention. There’s not much room for daydreaming but thoughts run round and round to the rhythm of the bike, by the end of a day some ideas have cemented themselves while others will be left on the verges, I think that’s the way it should be, a natural edit, it’s not so practical to take notes while cycling. Instead I took mental records of the lanes and hills I passed, a stint along the Breacon canal was a welcome flat spot, chasing the sun West meant my shadow was there to back me up as I tired in the late afternoons, some (very) rough byway drover tracks took the wind out of me on a few occasions, (I should have looked at the route before hand but felt much happier looking forward to the surprises that came round each corner).
It was nice to do something so quiet but so hard just for myself, there is no real reason to have done it at all, but the challenge was there right in front of me, I wasn’t sure if I could do it at all, but here I am, Home, even if the final hill did nearly finish me off!
Together is better
The best Odd Family projects let us work together on graphics and illustration so to make interesting things we need to work together; we’ve been doing this for 20 years and know how to take each others work and add to it without spoiling it. You really have to trust your creative partner to understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes Heid will take a line of a poem I’ve written and illustrate that feeling, or maybe I’ll take some scans of Heidi’s collages and rearrange them at scale and add typography. A friend saw us working together at a moment when we were making decisions on some work we had done, they couldn’t believe we didn’t argue when we said (in a nice way) that bits of the work were shit and we couldn’t use it. Its so useful to be able to be honest with each others work and respect that objective feedback rather than be defensive and upset, I know if Heidi doesn’t like something then its not good enough, no matter what I think in the moment, give it a day and I’ll see what she is seeing and agree.
So after all that we managed to get a t-shirt and sweatshirt designed and printed and some bloody lovely socks made. We scrapped plans for the work we weren’t happy with and saved some lush print design to come in the spring, now we’re finding our flow we should have regular Odd Family goods popping up on the shop.
Keeping it real
Just a wee note to say that our odd family Instagram feed is just a snap-shot of life that hopefully brings joy to the world. On the days when we’re not feeling so hot we don’t tend to reach for the camera, but life is a balance and of course we have days when getting out of bed is a struggle, its all a bit overwhelming and life is shit, that’s normal right? So just to let you all know, particularly anyone else who struggles with the juggle, we see you and we got each others back and trust that the universe has also got us and it all keeps spinning so we can keep dancing.
So what did we learn this year that can make us better next year; take time out, keep making, look after each other, listen, try new things, back yourself.