The Mill and The Lost Words

A few days ago I posted a tweet requesting that if people wish to buy my books they do it from their local bookshop, please.

It struck a chord with bookshops, authors, illustrators, but also drew some negative comments, which I did try to take on board, but at day’s end, I stand by what I said. If you can, please, support your local bookshop, bookseller.

For years now I have worked in partnership with Solva Woollen Mill. We have a glorious symbiotic relationship. They enable people to buy signed copies of my books, sending them anywhere in this world. All the books are sold at full price, there’s no mark up for signing and dedicating and over the years there is a growing and loyal band of people who have supported us in our endeavour. They package the books beautifully, and the postage helps to ensure the continuation of the local post office in Solva, supporting another local business.

So, let me show you the Mill.

You get to the mill, snug in the Middlemill valley, by crossing a bridge. It’s the kind of bridge under which trolls might dwell. Upstream, downstream, the water dances with light. The other day when I looked down into the river I saw a dipper! A dipper! Tom, the owner and weaver says that kingfishers flash up the river, otters live up the valley and one year they saw a baby otter.

Often a heron will stand at the weir sill, and an eel trap has been put in to enable the eels to swim upstream with more ease.

All of these, appart from eel, are Lost Words and can be found in The Lost Words, by Robert and myself.

Brambles grow around the mill, a willow tree, young, grows beside the river, ash trees people the valley and in the quarry opposite ravens nest. There’s also ivy in plenty, curling over old wicker baskets. Wrens weave in and out of the brambles and thorns. It’s almost as if the book is inside and outside the mill at the same time.

Inside the mill you can hear the sound of the looms moving and the weavers work, a steady rhythm, beautiful rugs and runners.

There are still about 30 copies of The Lost Words left that will have both mine and Robert’s signatures. We had 200 labels, thanks to Hamish Hamilton. Each book is also stamped with a unique stamp, designed by me, exclusive to The Mill and The Lost Words.

The Lost Words costs £20. It’s a big book, heavy. For the first run of books bought from the mill each purchase enters you into a draw to win the tiny finch painting, in watercolour and gold leaf.

The Mill have my other books too.

So, we are having a launch on 28th Sept. Come if you can. If not we will have camera ready to document the event. And you can order online here. If Hannah is around I will try and get her to make a film for us. In the meantime, I am hoping you’ve enjoyed a wander around the mill. And I would like to thank all those who have bought from the mill, who have supported us so far in our venture. People like you make it possible for me to continue to do what I do.

I’m taking a rest for a while. I have books waiting in the boundaries, stories wanting to be written, paintings to paint. Promoting these 4 books is going to be hard work for the next few weeks. I know it sounds naive, but when I stated working in books some 25 years ago publishing was a different world. I didn’t realise that in order to sell work I would have to do so much, away from home, appearing at festivals, book launches, talking about the work. I love the peace of home, the quiet of the studio, the wild of the hill and the feel of the sea on skin. I am looking forward to meeting people, very much. I’m also very nervous of events, speaking, talking. But I know I will meet many new friends, and, like I said, thank you. Without readers, without lovers of books, without people with a passion for words, for art I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I do. Thank you sometimes does seem like too small a word.

I do hope I get some time to paint over the next couple of months. I’ll be painting at Blue Ginger, near Malvern on Saturday. Come and say hi. They have artwork on show from One Cheetah, One Cherry.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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13 Responses to The Mill and The Lost Words

  1. Sue Reid says:

    So beautiful. Thank you Jackie. You add such beauty to my life and to the world.
    Cannot wait to see my copy of Lost Words. It’s for Xmas, but unlikely to last unopened until then!
    Do take good care of yourself too.
    All good things,

  2. Angela Sykes says:

    I love Solva Woollen Mill. The people are so friendly, and there is something wonderful about the setting and about the fact that the mill still produces rugs and other things. Bobbin the cat snoozing in the shop, the cafe….
    I have two of their traditionally patterned rugs which my cats love to pounce on. They burrow underneath and hide toy mice in the folds. The rugs are totally snaggle proof !

  3. Bernie Bell says:

    I don’t see why you got negative comments – it’s straight forward – and self evident – enough. As with other independent shops – greengrocers, butchers, iron-mongers ( when did you last see an iron-mongers?)
    It’s simple – USE THEM – OR LOSE THEM!!!!!!
    DO. DON’T.

    • Jackie says:

      Some of the negativity said that it was nasty to say don’t use Amazon because some people have no choice. They can’t get out to browse bookshops. And it wasn’t something I had given thought to. It was casual able bodied prejudice on my part. But I wasn’t saying don’t use them, I was simply asking, please don’t buy my books from them. Most indies will post. And yes, it costs more. But Amazon keep their prices down by exploiting their workers and the producers and if that makes people feel guilty when they buy from Amazon, then I am sorry, that’s Amazon’s fault not mine.
      I try to buy from ethical producers.
      But at the end of the day it is your choice where you buy from.
      Someone else suggested I should be ashamed of myself because I was undermining my publishers and I was ungrateful. Well, not even worth answering that. Wilful inability to engage in constructive disgussion and enter into conversations from an aspect of severe ignorance is a definition of trolling. They can go find someone else to bait.
      Thing is, most people had an idea of what I was talking about. Some authors struggle so hard despite being ‘successful’ to make a living. I think the general public have a curious idea that all authors are wealthy. We aren’t. And we would like a fair wage. Not just for ourselves, but for those youngsters who are stepping into our shoes. We are obliged, I feel, to try and turn the tide so that the only voices that are heard aren’t the wealthy, or celebrities. It’s not easy. And if that makes me unpopular with some readers, then I am not sorry.

  4. Jane Dorfman says:

    I love seeing the mill. It is the perfect place for your books and realia, a fairytale setting.

  5. Bernie Bell says:

    I live on Orkney, I live out of the way, even on Orkney. I have rubbish eye-sight – so don’t drive, also a bad back and…well am a bit of a knackered old lady. So……it is difficult for me to get to shops. Mike does the food shopping on his way home from work – good man. Anything else, we build a list, then have either a ‘Stromness day ‘ or a ‘Kirkwall day’, and get things we need then – and that wears me out!
    The point of all this is…..we buy Orkney when we can, we buy British when we can. When we can’t – we go on t’Internet.
    I’m not a friend of Amazon – but – yes, some things, it works best to get from Amazon, so we do. As you say – that’s our choice – that’s everyone’s choice. Free will – which I am a big fan of.
    A huge subject, Jackie.
    When I read what you’d written, and answered, I did consider the folk who can’t afford to buy new books from what can be seen as ‘posh shops’. They are seen that way, by some people. That did occur to me. And here’s where an edge of hardness comes in, from how I was brought up. If we couldn’t afford things, we didn’t get them, or got them from jumble-sales – my dad was a wizard at jumble sales! Simple as that. I can’t ride a bicycle because my mum and dad couldn’t afford to get me one. No gripe about it – just how it was. And books – I was a member of Bradford City Library from an early age, and mum took me every Saturday when we went into town to do the weekly shop. Also, there was a great stall in the market, which let you buy books, then bring them back and get part-exchange on other books. So – no need to go without. There was no ‘Amazon’ then ( except for the obvious one) , but, there wouldn’t have been a need to use it if there had been. There are ways – and ways to access what you need – with a bit of thought.
    Through years as a student, on a grant, and as a person in not well paid jobs – that still held true. Still does now though, as we are now older and have the main things we need, and hardly buy new, we have a bit more to spare.
    So……yes, some folk can’t afford to buy from ‘posh shops, some have trouble getting to shops. If you can afford stuff, buy it, if not, don’t worry about it unless it’s essential, and apply a bit of thought to how it is possible to get things, within your limits, as ethically as possible. I think I’ve mentioned to you before that we don’t often buy new books – we mostly get books from charity shops – and it’s amazing what can be found in charity shops! An exception is ‘The Lost Words’, which I have ordered from Solva and eagerly await. That’s an exception, because – it looks like it IS an exception.
    Also, books by folk that we know – Antonia Thomas’ ‘Art & Architecture in Neolithic Orkney’, Mark Edmonds’ ‘Conversations with Magic Stones’, Marianne Pollich and Elisabeth Holders’ ‘What the architecture tells us.’ These are all recent new buys, because these days we can splash out a bit more, and they’re worth it.
    The point I’m hoping to make is….it does depend on how easy it is to access books – whether economically or physically. If a person can afford to – support small concerns rather than the big, monster retailers. Look in charity shops, etc etc.
    If a person is really that hard up – buying books doesn’t come into the equation. I had a time when I sold many books, records, clothes! It does depend on what you can manage, in every way. . but some thought needs to go into it – that’s the first step.
    I’m wittering a bit, but I want to say…..Amazon is useful, as a number of other things I don’t agree with can be useful – such as many aspects of t’Internet. But…as you say….it’s an easy enough thing to see – buy elsewhere if you can, especially when that means supporting small, independent sellers or craft-people.
    Amazon has stunning amounts of money, yet treat their workers like shit. ( Getting angry – calm down smallbear – calm down).
    So – I think those who had a bit of a go at you were being obtuse – they must see how simple it is – all they have to do is look at Amazon, all aspects of Amazon, then look at any small bookshop or record store ( they are disappearing fast, too).
    I’ll have one last mention of the big companies who are cheap because they exploit. People have slipped into automatically buying from these big companies ( and I include supermarkets here) that they don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions – where their money is going., and what it is causing. That’s the key THINK. I don’t need to tell you that – preaching to the converted!
    I do wonder what the man who ‘owns’ Amazon feels about what he’s doing. It’s his karma.
    When you wrote that the bridge to the Solva mill is like somewhere trolls would live – I thought I’d rather see it as a place where Water Nymphs might live – troll is getting a bad connotation these days – though they were never very pleasant characters anyway.
    So, Jackie, have a happy, troll-free birthday . Have they nothing else/ better to do?
    Keep on championing the small seller/worker.
    You do as you do, others do as they do. That’s about what it comes down to.

  6. Bernie Bell says:

    And, of course, plenty of small sellers are on t’Internet too – it really doesn’t have to be Amazon, if you can’t get out to the shops.

  7. RGS says:

    Dear Jackie,
    I have already placed my order with Solva WM for Lost Words – it is double-delight for me as a Morris and Macfarlane fan. When I caught up with your recent posts, I sent a message (with the link to this blog and to the Solva Woollen Mill Lost Books order page) to three friends whom I knew enjoyed his work, but were strangers to yours.
    I had almost immediate responses from two, saying that they had just ordered the book from Solva. They had not heard of it, so I was delighted that they fell in love at first glance! I’m hoping to get the same reply from the third friend (a busy architect) – I think she will love it too…
    A very Happy Birthday, when it comes! I hope it is as golden and vibrant as your paintings.
    Very best

    • Jackie says:

      Thank you. I am convinced that this is the way books become best sellers. By word of mouth. xx

      • RGS says:

        You are absolutely right, Jackie. I witnessed that with Edmund de Waal’s book The Hare with the Amber Eyes. An improbable best seller which spoke to people’s hearts.
        My beautiful copy of Lost Words arrived today – it’s for my daughter Isabel’s birthday. She is 26 but I know she will love it. I think the first JM book we bought for her (a long time past) was “How the Whale Became’, possibly from the Craft Shop on the Pobbles in St David’s… Thank you! Ruth

  8. Noney Hayward says:

    I first discovered you work when I received a card one Christmas. Its uplifting.Then I saw an article about you in the Metro dated 6th November.
    and now I have read your blog. I am always telling my family the Amazon is not the place to buy books and I hope they listen.
    Thank you again

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