Interview by Helen Robinson
The first of Gifted Local’s ‘Get To Know’ series highlighting the incredible sellers in our community.
Please tell us about Woodle Books
Quite simply, I make gorgeous handmade notebooks that are all unique. All of the books that I make are made with love and I agonise over the combinations of paper and covering material. Nothing is just thrown together. I choose the wording with the colours. I try to imagine who is going to want this book, and then decide what sort of phrase they are going to want. Each book is handmade from scratch so it takes about 6 hours to make each one. Each one is also completely bespoke and unique, there is never more than one Woodle book featuring the same phrase, front colour, inside pattern or size.
Why did you set up Woodle Books?
I have always loved books and I grew up surrounded by them. Whilst working at the British Library I applied to do a course in book binding at City Lit. Having completed this course after a year I then got an internship at Windsor Castle in the Book Conservation department and experienced and learnt so much. I then moved onto a Bindery and loved every minute of it but eventually decided I wanted to work for myself so I started out on my own. I love what I do and being my own boss makes me love binding even more. There's something about taking a large stack of flat paper and turning it into a beautiful book, it’s a uniquely satisfying thing!
Feminism is also extremely important to me, I’ve stopped promoting messages of female empowerment as they are for all and there are a lot of people out there who need to be empowered who don't identify as female. I’m growing as a feminist and want to spread the word as loudly and proudly as I can, and if my notebooks help someone stand up and say what they are worth or just bring a smile to someone’s face it's all worth it. We should all be feminists and I hope I’ve helped one or two people begin their journey.
In what ways are you ensuring your products are ethically produced?
Woodle Books is all about empowerment and I am a strong believer in doing as I say so I source end papers from other female business owners:
- Jemma Lewis - Marble
- Esme Winter - Geometric
- Alphablots - large bright papers
- Paperchase - the papers I source from here are made by women in Nepal all earning a living wage
- Artway - made from 50% recycled coffee cups and this is what I use for the main body of my books
What do you use as packaging and how do you ensure this is minimal / environmentally friendly?
I re-use all the packaging I receive from my suppliers and general packaging I receive at home. I never buy anything new and have moved onto using washi tape instead of plastic tape.
What has been your strangest request by a customer so far?
I had a beautiful request for a photo album where I incorporated part of the customer’s wedding dress into the fabric of the cover.
How do you feel when someone buys a book?
I only make books that I love so it’s always hard to part with them. I get attached to books quite regularly and have to make sure they are going to a good home.
Because of the messages on the books I am often told they are being gifted to some very powerful and amazing women: lawyers, judges, human rights activists and that really makes it all worthwhile. I especially like it when they are bought by a male customer or bought for a male friend as a present! I love being at markets and what’s especially great is seeing older members of the public laugh at the swear books – they often do a double take followed by a wry smile.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Everything! I love the flexibility, of being able to sit in the garden and read for two hours in the sun and work later into the evenings when the sun has gone down. Meeting all the amazing people that I never would have if I had stayed at my job. I have never met a better group of people than I have doing markets, the camaraderie and just general awesomeness has got me though a few dark, cold and rainy days. It’s a community I didn't know existed but one I’m so proud to now be part of.
What’s the worst thing about running your own business?
Everything! It’s tough, I’ve had more than a few days where I wanted to give up and go back to the easiness of being employed and having a regular income. It can be really lonely and it’s hard if you don't have people who know how utterly soul destroying it is to have a bad day at a market when you can’t help but take it personally as everything you have made is personal. But… I am lucky to have amazing people around me who know how to pick me up and have kept me going.
Where do you get most of your work done?
I sew all of my books at home and make all of the cases as well. I then get myself to the London Centre for Book Arts (www.londonbookarts.org) where they have the big machines I need like the Guillotine and the Pragnant, which is the machine I use for blocking.
How did you feel when Gifted Local contacted you to be part of the site?
Extremely excited, it’s a great idea and makes gifting so much more personalised. North London is full of really talented makers and it’s great that so many of us will be all in one place.
Where do you live?
Wood Green in London is where my husband and I bought our house eight years ago having rented in Bounds green for a while. We love being on the Piccadilly line, it’s so quick and not that sweaty in the summer and it’s such a green area - we have four parks in close proximity to us which is great for our dog Stan.
How do you support your local community?
Being a small business I realise the importance of all of those sales. Just one can help out so I try to buy small and local as best as I can.
Finally, what is your Top Local Love?
I love living in such a hilly part of London. We get great views of London and all of the surrounding areas! There is a secret view of London a few roads from where I live which is glorious.
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