• Con6
  • Con4
  • Con3
  • Con1
  • Con2
Miscellaneous

Nick Hand: Conversations on the Coast

Posted by Rob Alderson,

During a cycling holiday in Cornwall, graphic designer Nick Hand wondered how long it would take to cycle right around the British coast and back to the same point. So a year later he did just that, setting off on a 5,000 mile adventure, and interviewing some of the fascinating folk he met, from a boat builder to a tea taster. A year later he did a similar trip round Ireland and all the interviews live on his website as compelling digital stories but now 20 of them have been brought together in a new book, Conversations on the Coast. We spoke to him to find out more.

Hi Nick, why did you decide to do a book to document your adventures now?

We never intended to do a book, in fact I remember in 2009 promising The Observer journalist Mike Carter, who did the same journey in the reverse direction, that I wouldn’t bring out a book (he has written an excellent book One Man and his Bike about the journey). But I think it is so different to his, he will forgive me – his is also much funnier.

The reason I changed my mind was that I have transcribed a number of the meetings from my journey for Boneshaker bicycle magazine and was surprised how well the photofilms of artisans that I met on the road transcribed into print. We thought how great it would be to craft a little hardback book with 20 of the people. It has been a great experience choosing a great little Welsh printer and a Scottish paper for the book, deciding on a header tape and ribbon colour, and cloth for the binding.

We have self-published the book and have barred Amazon from selling it, selling instead just on our website and in small independent bookshops. In some ways it reflects the independence of the makers in the book itself.

How hard was it to choose the 20 stories? What criteria did you use?

Harriet (Nick’s partner and colleague at The Department of Small Works) and I wanted to show a good spread of artisans and makers as well as spread the selection around the coast. It was difficult though, and we could easily do a volume two and three.

How much diversity is there on the British coastline? Are there characteristics that seaside towns share?

It’s intriguing to think that you can set off from one point anywhere on our coast and cycle around little roads (and some ugly bigger ones) to arrive 4,700 or so miles later at exactly the same point. I don’t know if that confirms how small our island is or how large.

I did though, visit many little islands, each has its own unique character from the Isle of Wight, to Anglesey to Aran or Mull. The almost treeless Orkneys are stunning and wild. The characteristics that are the same though are the people – you meet amazing people everywhere you go. People doing amazingly skilled things, some people struggle to survive as a craftsmen. But they are always generous with their time and will feed and look after a hungry and tired cyclist. I rode away from meeting so many people completely inspired and energised to ride.

As for seaside towns, in some ways they are like the people, sometimes a bit ragged and struggling, sometimes grand and beautiful. But again, each town has its little gems to seek out, like the Smokies of Arbroath, or talented people like Zoe Murphy in Margate.

Fish and chips would often be sought out as would a cake laden cafe (cycling 50 miles a day burns a lot of calories). And I’m happy to report pretty fine stocks of both in our seaside towns.

2009 was the first trip, 2010 was the second. What did you get up to this summer?

This summer, I’ve concentrated on earning some money (as a graphic designer and photographer), my bicycle journeys have been self-funded, so it was time to come back to reality and earn my way again. I will though do some kind of journey next year on my trusty Argos bicycle (not the Argos of your high street, but the little frame builder from my home town of Bristol).

We often hear that traditional crafts are enjoying a renaissance – does that tally with your experiences?

I think with the help of some great people like Robin Wood at the Heritage Crafts Association, traditional crafts are making a comeback. They never really disappeared, but the change is that we are looking to support apprenticeships more, so that the skills and crafts are in the hands of a younger generation.

I’m interested as well in the idea of merging modern skills – coding and web developments with making skills. I recently talked at the Do Lectures and spoke immediately before Zach Smith from Makerbot Industries. If you take a look at what they are doing with 3D printing, I think it is directly related to the awakening of making things in a small clever way.

Listen as well to Russell M Davies talk about making. I think we are suspicious of big business and naturally turn to things made in a careful slow way. Knowing the maker helps as well, we are tuning in again to things that last, things that are well made. I can’t help thinking it’s a good time for smart people who can use their hands and make beautiful, clever things.

Conversations on the Coast is available for £14, with £1 going to Parkinson’s UK.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Miscellaneous View Archive

  1. House-announcement

    Sound the conch folks, we have some exciting news from It’s Nice That HQ. We’re restructuring and expanding our team and so we have not one but two great opportunities to come and be part of our team.

  2. Main

    A sincere, golden corner of the internet here: The Datamath Calculator Museum. The online museum is a historic, matter-of-fact and outrageously in-depth look at the history of calculators in the modern world. Remember the first time that a “scientific calculator” appeared on your back-to-school list? This trove will take you hurtling back to sitting in double maths using that very machine to write “boobless” (80087355) over and over again until the bell rang.

  3. List_image

    Over the course of seven years It’s Nice That has been providing creative inspiration on a daily basis through our website, our publications and our events programme. But never ones to rest on our laurels, we are always reviewing what we do and how we do it. This is where you (hopefully!) come in. As part of our ongoing development of the It’s Nice That platforms, we’re super-keen to find out a bit more about who you are and find out what you like about the website, what you don’t and what you might like to see in the future. This way we can move It’s Nice That forward with plans that put our readers front and centre.

  4. List

    If ever the high and the low brow were to come together in the project of my dreams, it would look like this series by James Kerr, AKA Scorpion Dagger. The artist and frighteningly capable GIF wizard has struck an absolute goldmine with his website devoted to Renaissance artworks reworked into outrageously funny GIFs. In case you’re not persuaded, this isn’t the equivalent of an Oprah hairflick or Barack Obama looking at a fly; these GIFs have narratives, they have beginnings, middles and ends, they have multiple settings and jokes and punchlines and they are almost too good to be true.

  5. List

    There’s a day for for everything now; and last week we all celebrated World Emoji Day didn’t we? What do you mean you didn’t know? Seems pretty remiss of you if you don’t mind me saying. Anyway luckily the excellent folk over at Funny Or Die were much more on the ball than some people we won’t name and they marked the momentous occasion with a ridiculously silly blog of Rejected Emojis. With the help of Jesse Benjamin, Avery Monsen and Darryl Gudmundson, they compiled a Tumblr of offerings which ranged from the surreal to the sinister, the bizarre to the almost-could-be-true. That sad clown will haunt my dreams.

  6. List

    It’s common for people to imagine that they see faces made out of the shapes and folds of everyday objects: It seems to be a human trait that we like to see ourselves in the world around us. We look up at the clouds and imagine that we see the outlines of faces and body parts, and at night we convince ourselves that a rumpled item of clothing thrown over a chair is really a sinister grinning figure.

  7. Main

    Well, this is terrifying. Internet-loving artist Mario Santamaria has taken advantage of Google’s scheme to take the world into art galleries and ornate buildings all over the world by collecting screenshots of moments where the Google camera catches its own reflection in a mirror. Ghostly figures interact with the camera in some shots, and in others the machinery is draped with a weird silver cloth – first prize goes to the person who can identify what this cloth actually does. For me this is the best Google-related blog since Jon Rafman’s 9 Eyes and is hopefully a new dawn for simple, spine-tingling projects that linger with you just a smidge longer than you’d like.

  8. List

    Webcomics are another medium to emerge from the digital sphere, and a very interesting one at that; Bird’s Eye China is just another example of how funny, accessible and scathing they can be. The Tumblr blog is made up of screenshots from Baidu maps, a kind of Chinese online mapping service not dissimilar to Google Maps, but brilliantly, looks just like SimCity.

  9. Main1

    “The sun is always rising somewhere; breakfast is always just about to happen. Dinner time in Dakar is breakfast time in Brisbane. And in the background of breakfast is radio, soundtrack to a billion bowls of cereal or congee, shakshuka or api, porridge or changua.” Well, we certainly couldn’t have put that any better ourselves. Global Breakfast Radio arrived in my inbox courtesy of ex-It’s Nice That writer Bryony Quinn. The concept is simple and immediately engrossing: a live radio that streams breakfast shows from around the world as and when they happen. In their own words, “it’s the equivalent of a plane flying west with the sunrise, constantly tracking the chatter and music of people across the planet.”

  10. List

    Creative briefs come in all shapes and sizes, but opportunities to create work for one of the most popular and ubiquitous brands in there world don’t come round very often. That’s what makes this one so exciting, with our friends over at Talenthouse on the hunt for artists, designers, filmmakers and animators to create artwork for Spotify’s new #nowfeeling campaign which is built on the way music inspires and informs our relationships with the world, and each other.

  11. List2

    The amount of games out there is fairly mind-boggling and there are new ones flooding the market all the time. In the face of this kind of overload what’s needed are curators; people who know what they’re talking about, who can be trusted and who have great taste. Step forward then Cowboy Picks, a new archive of “inspiring game design” put together by the fine folks behind interaction design agency Hover Studio and animation production company Animade.

  12. Main

    It’s a universally acknowledged truth that the week back to work after a long weekend drags like no other, so with that in mind, we’re bringing you some light entertainment to break up your Thursday afternoon and while away the hours until Friday hits.

  13. List

    The average Beyoncé fan’s repertoire is fairly complete, as far as these things go; on top of the extensive merchandise and the dedicated online community (the Beyhive) there are bookmarked folders full to the brim with Tumblrs and fan-sites and even a dedicated Soundboard. What they don’t have, however, is an art gallery full of the one woman superstar’s family portraits. Or they didn’t, at least. They do now.