One of my biggest sources of inspiration since I was a child are books. Growing up I could often be found, book in hand snuggled up in some small corner that only a child could squeeze into, reading. I was famous for staying up late devouring books and can vividly remember falling asleep once with 'Harry Potter-The Prisoner of Azkaban' balance over my face, only to be awoken by it falling off and hitting the floor with a thud. Books gave me worlds to visit when the weather was bad outside, friends to escape to when school was tough and a freedom for my brain to be distracted when anxious chatter filled my mind.
All of my collections are inspired by a story whether expressed through a written narrative or poetry. Each collection has its own story binding the designs together. Often when I'm reading certain phrases jump out at me and trigger inspiration for part of a collection or a design will come to me. The written text isn't the only thing which inspires me about books. I am fascinated by book covers. Whether dusty vintage tomes with gorgeous serif typography gilded on the front or modern graphical patterns, there is something about a book cover that excites me. And yes, you should always judge a book by it's cover.
Book covers help us to make visual sense of what is hidden within. A good design can help connect the audience with the story before they have even read the first sentence. These concepts resonate strongly with me because for me, that is what fabric design is all about, visually translating my story before the customer even knows what the narrative is. Each design builds upon elements of the narrative, usually culminating in the hero print which I often liken to my version of a book cover.
One of my favourite places to gather such inspiration is in Hay on Wye-'The Worlds First Book Town.' First stop on our visit is usually Richard Booth's bookshop. Richard Booth is the person who Hay on Wye can credit for it's name 'The Town of Books.' In the 1970's he opened a second hand book shop in the old fire station and had books shipped over from America where libraries were closing quickly. Probably my favourite bookshop in Hay (as well as one of the larger ones) Richard Booth's is spread over two floors. The shop is separated out into sections with the names of each section marked on the end of the individual book cases. Downstairs you can find my favourite sections which include the children's section, craft section and botanical section. This bookshop also has a café although I will admit I've never eaten there as we normally gravitate to the Granary (an old granary mill at the bottom of the town which makes delicious home made cakes.) Upstairs in Richard Booth's you can find an art and design section as well as a huge selection of vintage tomes. From colour palettes to gilded motifs on the spines, I find these types of books particularly inspirational. Often these books are dog eared and the colours muted from being faded in the sunlight creating a lovely sense of nostalgia. We often spend a large portion of our time here when we visit. My daughter loves choosing books in the large children's section to spend her pocket money on before we head to the Fudge shop in the Tourist Centre to spend the remainder on chocolate and sugar mice.
Meandering around Hay on Wye you can't fail to notice the Norman castle. Formerly Richard Booth's residence, the castle has suffered from two fires in 1939 and 1977. Repairs were carried out in the 1980's however the castle was sold in 2011 to the Hay Castle Trust who intend to turn it into an arts and education centre. Currently it looks as though the castle is being held up with scaffolding. Below the castle inside the castle wall is a small honestly bookshop. This is one of the quirky things which I love about Hay on Wye. Walking along you will often find small shelves of random books attached to buildings with no apparent owner just a little wooden honesty box bolted on to the side.
Amongst the quaint independent gift shops, deli's, antique shops and art galleries are cute hidden gems of bookshops. Whether you're interested in murder mystery, maps or music there is a specific shop suited to every taste. I tend to be drawn towards the bookshops which have lovely children's sections such as The Addyman Annex. Our final bookshop stop- The Cinema Bookshop, is usually on our way back to the car once we have done a full loop of the town. This large second hand bookshop is like walking through a maze of books. From leather bound bindings to modern classics, if you haven't found a book already to take home with you, you probably will here.
After many hours of inspiration there's one last shop to visit before we get into the car and that's The Fudge shop to stock up on old fashioned sweets for the car journey home.