Notes from Isolation

We have always believed in collaboration, and this has never been truer than it is today. So, it’s doubly delightful to introduce this guest blog by artist and designer Billie Temple. Billie was instrumental in developing our creative response to isolation.

The Day it all Began

We sat on our Zoom call, four familiar faces in unfamiliar spaces. Despite having seen each other, sometimes day in and day out, for years we were seeing into one another’s homes for the first time. It was weird, but then again everything about 24 March 2020 was weird. It was very reassuring to see each other. With the world no longer providing the illusion of continuity it was suddenly very clear that it is people that are the real constants. Francis was reliably daft, Jo reassuringly wry and Roger resolutely calm as I nattered away.

Let’s Keep in Touch

It couldn’t have been clearer that human connection was an incredibly important ingredient in coping with our new reality of isolation. Jo and I had both been reading and thinking about how creativity, art and beauty are sources of hope in dark times and wondered how we could reach out and share a little joy and inspiration. So, after much prevaricating (talk of printer’s hats, online talks and colouring books aside) we decided sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. ‘Let’s keep in touch like we used to’ declared Francis, and a set of postcards was decided on.

Hope & Inspiration

But what to go on them? We wanted them to carry some hope, some levity and also a bit of inspiration if possible – that’s a lot to ask of a wee postcard! After much staring into the middle distance I realised I was staring at the solution – my house is full of books (as a book designer this is no surprise). Books full of wonder and delight, full of images, words and meaning by inspiring people. How did they work, what did they do to survive? The whole world was suddenly living and working like an author, artist or musician now – in lockdown isolation, from home.

With assent from the other three members of the postcard committee, research was done, inspiring humans selected, quotes were found and I set about illustrating them. Meanwhile Francis got on with making sure they were going to be the best damn postcards you could wish for. He knew he wanted to use Mohawk Superfine but would it be duplexed or triplexed? Steve Morfield at New Ink was alerted to our postcard plot and recruited for printing. He arranged to reopen his factory especially to get this printed for us.

After some agonising, I delivered the work and Roger set to artworking them. Like a dutiful Padawan I had created all my colours using only CMY (no black); I have learnt well from Jedi Print Master Francis that this is how you get truly vibrant colours when printing in process colour. So, after some pre-production magic had been applied (because we can’t give away ALL Francis’ secrets) they went to print.

Communication & Conversation

Francis and Jo had been busy contacting lots of lovely people to ask them if they would like a little pack of postcards to use in lockdown isolation and the responses were very human and wonderful. So we decided to include a blank postcard for you to find your own creative response to isolation – as an outlet for your inner rage, your advice on loneliness or a just a little moment to do a doodle and not check the internet again to see if any online supermarkets had a slot….

When the postcards arrived in all their colourful glory the assembly line at Hurtwood’s new HQ commenced! Francis and Jo got very busy with envelopes and a fountain pen, stuck on all the stamps and took a sack of joy to the postbox at 10am on Easter Saturday…

Words: Billie Temple

Photography: Holly Pickering