“they have so much history; they’ve travelled” — lulu watson, luimadeitBack
Jennifer Lee O'Brien
There’s something so romantic about handwritten letters. To write a letter by hand in 2015 is to put the silent button on the chimes and buzzes and rings, set the clock back on the twenty-first century, and slow down slow down slow down enough to put pen to paper and start with a Dear.
Dear mum, Dear friend, Dear colleague, Dear lover; and then a comma, and then it begins. Two pages in, and your hand starts to ache; you’ve crossed out words, doodled in the corner. Maybe you’ve had to start again, and ripped up the page; or crumpled it onto the floor like they do in Hollywood. Begin again with Dear. It’s all Dear, Dear, Dear, until finally you’ve got it right, or at least legible enough to get your message across.
There are no emojis in letter-writing; no autocorrect, no delete button, no hyperlinks. No copy and paste to save you, no clickable context, only the context you create for the page with an alphabet or iconography of your choice.
Writing a letter in 2015 is romantic, and like a lot of romantic things it’s inconvenient. Paper, envelopes and pens are all pretty expensive, so if you’re going to pay for all that you’ll need to make sure that your letter is something worth sending. You’ll need a stamp, and often you can’t buy just one; and if you want to buy just one then you’ll need a post office, and at the post office there are queues and confusion and complaints and you end up late for work anyways, so you end up buying a six pack from the convenience store and realise you’ve left your letter on the counter and by the time you get back in the evening, it’s no where to be seen.
Begin again. Dear. Comma.
That postage stamp is really the most important part; it’s your letter’s passport and its plane ticket. Without the postage stamp, your letter, painstakingly spelled out word-for-word, might as well not have been written at all.
Stamps take your thoughts, your emotions, your bills, all over the globe. They’re an internationally-accepted currency, a thumb-sized piece of history and, often, artwork in miniature. Stamp collecting is still one of the world’s most popular indoor hobbies; the study of stamps is known as philately, although it’s unnecessary to actually own any stamps to be a philatelist. There’s a lot of gravitas within that little rectangle you’ve pressed onto your postcard.
“They have so much history. They’ve travelled. They’ve been on a handwritten letter, which is something that we don’t do everyday anymore, and that’s nice.”
That’s Lulu Watson, Sheffield-based designer, collector, mixed-media aficionado and the jewellery maker behind Luimadeit. Lulu has been creating jewellery pieces out of stamps since she purchased her first collection at a charity shop in Australia, back when she was a textiles intern at a print studio. A year later, after a move back to the UK, Luimadeit was born — inspired by travels, letters long-forgotten, and all that romance that’s packed into a single stamp from somewhere else.
“I really love the simplicity of old travel souvenirs, and I love collecting objects from around the world,” says Lulu. “My auntie used to teach abroad, and wherever she went she used to send me a little package back, so I’ve got this amazing collection of bits and bobs. That was definitely a major influence in my work.”
Lulu has been selling and commissioning pieces through Instagram and Etsy, and has recently launched a new collection of hand-crafted necklaces through the online shop Not On The Highstreet. Her jewellery is colourful, contemporary, and feels like far-away places. She photographs her work alongside vintage maps, shells, plants, and other accompanying sources of inspiration. Her stamps are sourced from local adventures — sifting through flea-markets and car boots, and collecting ideas from a world made not-so-small by the internet. She also compiles her ideas and inspirations online onto her Tumblr — a visual scrapbook and colour diary that is one of the most satisfactory scrolls we’ve had in a while.
“Colour is one of my main passions,” she says. “I’ve taken colour palettes from all kinds of things — lost and found rarities, old maps, other things I’ve collected. A lot of people buy the jewellery based on places that they’ve travelled, or the year that they were born. It’s so nice to be able to provide someone with a piece that has sentimental or personal meaning to them. That’s something that’s really nice about working with the stamps.”
Lulu works out of Bloc Studios in a room that she has filled with things she loves — stamps, prints, textiles, and plants. She’s often there working late into the night, listening to music, playing with different materials, exploring colour palettes, and developing her craft. Her online following is international, and she has sent commissioned work all over the UK and the world; stamps transported by even more stamps from her creative, treasure-filled space on Arundel Street.
“I’m quite a visual person, so I can’t just work in a white room. I need to have my clutter — my organised chaos — around me,” she says.
Lulu has spent part of this year travelling through Europe, selling at markets down in London, and will soon be packing her suitcase for New York to visit a friend. She wants to travel the world, but for now, the adventures created, imagined, and contained within her dreamy studio in Sheffield feel like enough.
“I’m quite lucky with what I do that I’m not tagged to one geographical location,” she says. “I’ve not ruled out moving away, but Sheffield is such a great platform for independents; there are so many interesting, creative people that all support each other and collaborate. Sheffield is where my home is, at least for now.”
Originally published in The City Talking: Sheffield, issue 03