Why I Started Making Journals

Journals are beautiful. They are one of the simplest tools for self-discovery, transcending the binary of paper and pen to one consolidated, string-bound item that’s made unique by each owner.

My first Journal was a Daler-Rowney silver covered hardback with plain pages inside. I was 9. It was a Christmas present. I wrote about how I got it for Christmas, and how excited I was. Very gripping stuff.

For a while I lost the journal, and created a story in my head that recovering this diary would help me to figure something out about myself, to delve into my childhood thoughts and uncover what was really going on. This was an idealistic story.

My Mum looked for the diary as we’d moved house and location many times, along with it boxes of unorganised stuff. I really convinced myself that finding this silver book would be life changing.

Eventually, two years on, my Mum found the book in one of these boxes. I read through it in one sitting and laughed as I realised my 9 year old capacity for textualising emotions was pretty basic. ‘Today was half good, half bad. I’ll skip to the good part: we got a pizza from dominoes and watched a film. It was good.’

So no, I didn’t really uncover anything about expected subtle childhood traumas or misunderstood events, just that I was a child who really liked food, playing games and watching films. Maybe this is a great discovery anyway. Pure and simple.

Anyway, the point is, even though this diary didn’t necessarily help me to understand anything about my younger self’s deeper emotions, I know that it helped me at the time. It gave me purpose, something to do when I was alone, an inanimate, un-judging friend that wouldn’t let me down. I think my diary has always done that for me.

There’s something exciting about the idea of a secret diary. A diary will not gossip, laugh at you or get you into trouble (unless placed innapropriately.) It has a different energy to other books, an unwritten code that lets others know it’s not for flicking through. Even when it’s on the shelf next to titles filled with printed pages.

Despite the fact that it doesn’t usually have a lock, its energy remains so.

But anyway anyway…I digress. The point is, diaries are great.

I always keep a diary, not as a daily ritual but there’s at least one on the go. I like to have a nice cover – probably as cast by the first silver number I was lucky with. It adds to the special feel.

As I was travelling a lot and working on various workaway projects pretty far in the countryside, I got a bit stuck when I finished a diary and didn’t have a backup one waiting. I had managed a quick look for one in a city we’d passed through but hadn’t found one that felt right.

Instead of settling, I decided to just buy some paper and make my own cover. I then proceeded to source some wood at my next workaway, drill some holes, sand a little and sew it up with rainbow thread.

It turned out very large, so this instead became the recipe book for Casa de Jurgen’s.

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Filled with blank pages, whoever made a meal that was highly approved wrote something in the book. This featured 3 ingredient Scottish porridge from Benji – complete with illustration, kimchi and mole from Julia, banana bread from Kati and potato rostis from Krystyna. The book lives on today and is a kind of diary of all the volunteers who come in and out of the special kitchen at Jurgen’s.

Next I really needed to make a diary. I found out about coptic stitch binding and made a prototype with orange card. This I named Persimmon and gifted to my Mum.

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Next, I tried with wood. This was my first wooden-bound notebook. And this went to Eva, who said how much it reminded her of her Mother.

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Bound with twine, sanded and painted using a mix of coffee, pink stain and cocoa, it was to be placed on her grave as a kind of memorial book.

Wow, that felt special.

I could really see how these books meant something to people other than me, as I watched the enjoyment from writing meals in the recipe book, Eva’s eyes at the reminder of her Mother’s creative passion. Paula’s face when I started carving a sun and moon.

I wanted to personalise the books with art and drawings, so I tested out the astrological sun and moon on a spare bit of wood. It was therapeutic to sit and push grains and curls out of the circle as the form developed. Eventually, I decided to make the practice piece into a notebook. Uniquely shaped, I had to measure each piece of card exactly to fit the cover. I then bound it in twine and went over the engraving using a solder iron. My journal was born.

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Since then, I’ve made over 20 different notebooks. Some similar sizes, some for special occasions, some for studying and some just for photos. One was even for writing prayers in which I made with a different stitch to respect that religion.

I have continued making the journals because I’ve seen how happy they can make people. Paula when she danced around the kitchen saying “MY book. Mine.” Shahema when she pressed a flower picked from Portugal on her first page. Myself when I pick up my favourite black pen and start scrawling.

The special-ness of a journal encourages one to write, to express and to be creative. It’s a safe escape from the confusions of the day to day. A white blank page to fill with boundless possibilities.

I may sound hyperbolic, but my belief in the power of journalling is 100% genuine. It really feels like a weight lifted off to write things down and clear them out of the body.

Kinda like this post I suppose! So, now I’ve written down my sycophantic love for the journal, I can go on with doing other things today. Maybe, I hope, I have inspired you to start writing too.

If you made it to the end of this post, I’ve got a special discount for you.

20% off all journals in my Etsy shop is available using the coupon code DIARY20.

And don’t forget, if you’d like something specially made, you only need ask. The discount still applies to this offer!

Happy writing x

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