Makers Story: Sprouts Press
This month, we asked Carolyn Eady of Sprouts Press all about letter-writing, book-binding and more! Just in time for WayzGoose, a weekend showcasing the art and craft of printing.
What inspired you to start Sprouts Press?A. I went to art college (OCADU) to study drawing & painting, printmaking and back when I was a student they had the OCAD Book Arts Fair. It was an annual gathering of students and professional artists and artisans working in various areas of book arts (ie. papermaking, marbling, bookbinding, restoration and conservation, printmaking, etc, etc). It was a full day event, my first glimpse into 'book arts life', and what a day it was! It was so inspirational to see professionals making a living doing what I was studying at art college. I looked forward to it every year, even after graduating, and right up until it ended a few years ago. Since then organizers have started up "Bound Book Arts Fair" at the Arts and Letters Club, but due to COVID it hasn't run since 2019.So I suppose you could say I was inspired by the craft at art college, but realized it could actually be a career by the examples set at the book arts fair. There are a few book arts-specific fairs around Southern Ontario that had similar impact. I had found my 'book arts' people!However, I didn't have a real push to actually start an official arts-based business until after I returned from studying fine art overseas (the OCAD Florence program). The program I participated in was a 5th year, after graduation certification program, intended to act as a bridge between being an art student to practicing artist. It was largely self-directed and I found myself always returning to paper arts and bookbinding. When I returned to Canada I got serious about starting a business. I had the art direction down, but no idea how to turn it from a hobby to a business. I was researching business licences, attending CRA workshops and participating in arts council business programs. I took so many notes (in my own hand bound notebooks, of course!) and some I refer to still.Once Etsy was created and online selling was a thing, I found my 'indie arts business' people through the Toronto Etsy Street Team, through local markets. I also started teaching with CBBAG (Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild), which has had a huge impact on my growth as a bookbinder. Through the guild I've learned more traditional bookbinding techniques not taught at art college. I also sit on a couple of artists committees that keep me connected to the book arts communities, something that I really value especially during lockdown. This all keeps me inspired on a continuous basis, which is really the heart of being a creative professional I think; to create as regularly as possible.
We hear you love to write to pen pals! Do you have a fun story related to letter-writing?A. I've had pen pals and been a letter-writer since I was a kid. In adulthood I returned to letter writing several years ago and even designed a 'Correspondence Journal' specifically for the Toronto Stationery Show! I found a few new pen pals and started prototyping said 'Correspondence Journal' and realized it was a great tool so decided to make a fancy handbound version and sell it from Sprouts Press. I still use this journal, even to this day. (and you can find them in my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/
shop/sproutspress/?section_id=) 20997305Since lockdown I've found myself reminiscing of childhood hobbies and when my parents moved out of their home of 40+ years early in the pandemic, I was gifted much of my old pen pal/writing stuff. I started attending the Toronto Letter Writer's Society online socials, and learned of a few websites to find new/more pen pals. One of these sites was LetterMo.com! For those who don't know, LetterMo refers to letter writing during the month of February. You can register yourself as a pen pal on the LetterMo.com website and request other pen pals. Word of warning - you will end up with a LOT of pen pals, lol! For example, I went from having 3 long time, regular pen pals to now having 41 pen pals! Ha!! It's my first year participating so I'm not sure if people will continue to correspond beyond February, but fingers crossed they do!Pro tip: read the fine print before you start happily requesting pen friends. When I first joined up I thought 'how great is this to find alllll these people wanting pen pals! I'll friend you, and you, and you' . . . . and on it went for 20 plus new pen friends. It was only after joy-riding the 'request friendship' section, that I read the 'Read me first' file. Uh, what did I just get myself into?? Turns out that the person who requests the friendship is responsible for initiating the correspondence. Ha! I did not know this. And there are more rules to LetterMo. For example, you must respond to every letter you receive during February, and the whole idea is to write and mail at least 1 letter a day for the whole month.At first I thought this was ridiculous, but then quickly realized that yes, these are the written rules, but we're in a pandemic and we can only do what we can do. The rules are there to set expectations and goals and guide those of us who are newbies. I've since grown to really enjoy my letter writing time and look forward to all the goodies in my mailbox each day. I've connected with some really lovely people who share my interests but have also taught me new things through their experiences.There's also a forum on the LetterMo site and someone made a really important comment that letter writing is truly a life line for a lot of people during the pandemic. For some, this is their only connection with others, and how lucky is it to receive a letter from someone and realize that this might be the first conversation/connection they've had with someone else in a very long time?My last comment is for those who might want to join but aren't sure about putting their address on the LetterMo website. Safety and security is paramount on the LetterMo website, your address is only on your profile, and no one's mailing address is revealed to anyone they don't accept as a friend.What is your favourite paper-related tool?A. I love my screw hole-punching tool! It's a hand held tool with a lovely wooden handle, brass mechanism and comes with various sized ends that are interchangeable. The concept of it is to punch clean holes of different sizes. But unlike an awl, it doesn't 'push' the material to the other side, it totally removes it. And then stores the punched bit in the brass mechanism for clean removal later. It's awesome!! Clean, perfectly sized holes every time!