At the beginning of last year I was feeling a little brave. After spending 6 years in Exeter feeling totally isolated and barely leaving the house, I took a giant leap of faith and offered up my baking services to The Hub On The Green (who I found out about via Twitter) for one of their Craft Fairs. Much to my surprise this turned out to be an enjoyable experience, and so I did it again for the next one.
I soon became involved in the setting up of the Exeter Baking Club. I also started helping out at The Hub’s Craft Fairs serving the tea and cake. Both things I never thought I’d be able to cope with doing. It hasn’t always been a smooth journey and many anxious, panic filled tears have been spilt. But I did it. I got myself out there, met new people, did new things.
Then I started to realise I had stopped getting out there and doing new things. I was going to The Hub all the time and constantly hearing about this exciting workshop, or that great crafting afternoon, but I wasn’t doing any of them. I had done all the hard work of originally getting myself out of the house and interacting with other people, but I’d built up a new comfort zone that I was becoming just as scared of leaving.
And this is where we come to the Handmade Books Workshop. I had seen the posters advertising it and was immediately intrigued. Any book lover would be. But then I did nothing. It didn’t enter my mind that I should actually go.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m sat at home flicking through Facebook out of sheer boredom when I see a post about the Handmade Books Workshop again, mentioning how you should book a place quickly because they’re going fast. So on the spur of the moment, I sent off an email asking to book a place.
The next 3 weeks of waiting for the night of the workshop were an anxious hell. All of that hard-earned confidence from last year has completely vanished.
Come Monday night I had almost decided that I couldn’t bring myself to go and stressed myself out so much about it that I didn’t sleep at all. But as yesterday evening came around I kept saying to myself, “you’re just going to The Hub, you’re just going to The Hub” and eventually this was enough to get me out of the house.
Once there I decided it would be unacceptably rude to leave and with one familiar friendly face in the group calming my nerves slightly, I sat down and just hoped my anxiety and slightly uncontrollable shaking wouldn’t ruin the entire experience.
The shaking caused some slight problems. Cutting straight lines was comically difficult but I have ended up with two very lovely concertina books and one slightly dodgy looking one that I’m just going to forget was even attempted. I had intended to put a spine on one of the books too but didn’t get around to it in the end.
It was a wonderfully creative workshop. Nina gave brilliant demonstrations for us to follow and then set us free to play and experiment. Making a book can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. I kept it simple. Nina’s own work was incredibly impressive (books with compasses and paint palettes built-in!) and some of the other ladies created some stunning things too.
I don’t know if I’ve proven anything to myself through this experience; that I did do it despite everything I was feeling. I don’t feel particularly proud of myself. Especially not after bursting out in uncontrollable tears as soon as I left. Just once I’d like to be able to enjoy something without the experience being tainted by my ridiculous problems.