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Writers & artists at home: 'The Book of Pebbles'

Posted on 06 Aug 2020

Fancy an escape to the British seaside? We spoke to writer Christopher Stocks and printmaker Angie Lewin – creators of ‘The Book of Pebbles’ – who allowed us to peek inside their inspiring homes and socially-distant seaside retreats. They’re experts at taking pleasure in the simple things, like pebble collecting, and at bringing the great outdoors in.

Image: Alun Callender

At home with printmaker Angie Lewin

Image: Alun Callender

My workspace

‘At the moment I’m in my print studio on Speyside in northeast Scotland. Printing rollers and inks are arranged on shelves, and a long pinboard runs along one wall above my plan chest where I hang sketches and proofs of my prints, alongside postcards and other inspiring images.’

Image: Alun Callender

‘I also have a studio in the house where I work on my watercolours and drawings. In here there’s a wood-burning stove and lots of shelves to store books and my eclectic collection of ceramics, ranging from Georgian tea bowls to Wedgwood china designed by Eric Ravilious. Often chipped and cracked, they hold the feathers and seed heads collected on walks. Pebbles are scattered amongst them and on window sills too.’

Image: Alun Callender

‘I have a table where I set up still life compositions and, next to this, my desk has a view across fields to Ben Rinnes, which frequently features in my work. There’s plenty of wildlife to watch: oystercatchers, curlews and hen harriers, deer, hares and stoats. It’s easy to be distracted.’

Image: Alun Callender

My working routine

‘I’m in the studio most days, whether cutting, engraving, or printing lino and wood blocks, painting watercolours or working on textile or wallpaper designs for St Jude’s, the company which I run with my husband, Simon. Tea and coffee breaks are important as taking time away from my work allows me to return to it with fresh eyes. I also like to get out into the garden every so often. We’re without a dog at the moment, but I still walk each day which is important as the landscape and native plants here are the starting point for much of my work.’

Image: Alun Callender

My inspiration

‘As well as the River Spey and the local landscape, I’ll often head up to the nearby Moray coast where the beaches, including Findhorn, have beautiful hooped and striped pebbles. There are views to Sutherland in the far north and sand dunes with marram grass and wildflowers growing on their landward side.

I also spend time on the west coast and the islands. Every year we stay on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides where the diverse wildflowers of the machair are spectacular and grow down to the beaches, mingling with the gneiss pebbles with their contorted patterns in shades of speckled greys and white. I often return to walk and sketch on the north Norfolk coast where we used to live. It’s still a significant influence on aspects of my work.’

Image: Angie Lewin

At home with writer Christopher Stocks

Image: Alun Callender

My workspace

‘At home in Dorset I have a study on the top floor, with a spectacular view out to sea over Chesil Beach, but I find the view so distracting, and the light so dazzling, that I often work downstairs at the dining table, where I can easily get up and make myself a drink or wander out into the garden.’

Image: Christopher Stocks

‘I’ve never felt the need to separate my work and home life, which have always merged into each other. I write on a MacBook laptop and have done for as long as they’ve been around, but I find it far too easy to be sidelined by emails and the internet, and I miss the physicality of a typewriter: its noisy clang and clatter, and the fact that it creates real pages as you type; you can feel a book emerging.’

Image: Christopher Stocks

My writing routine

‘Though I write almost every day, I long ago abandoned any attempt at having a routine. When I first started working for myself I tried to start at nine and finish at five, but found it very frustrating when I got stuck. These days if things don’t flow I go off and do something else – a run, swimming, gardening, reading, meeting friends – and then come back to it a few hours or even a day or two later.’

Image: Christopher Stocks

‘I usually have Radio 3 on in the background, which isn’t too distracting and helps mark the passing of the hours. I write in a very fluid way, often in short bursts and not always in sequence, and my best time is usually the late afternoon and early evening; I’m not a morning person!’

Image: Christopher Stocks

My inspiration

‘Inspiration can come from anywhere, but is much richer when my life is quiet and my mind is disengaged: I long to be really bored, like a teenager. Ideas can come out of sleep, constant reading, second-hand bookshops, The Economist, even just sitting on Chesil Beach. I’ve always been inspired by images as much as I am by words, which is why I love posting to @christopher_stocks on Instagram as well as visiting as many galleries and exhibitions as I can.’

Image: Christopher Stocks

Discover the book

The Book of Pebbles

Christopher Stocks, Angie Lewin
£9.99