Peering out of the train window, photographer Liz Seabrook and her friend Rosie, share a look of childish glee as they make their way to the little town of Rye. A week-day trip seems to bring more adventure as you grow up.
Along the way, Liz has happy thoughts of sea-swimming and walks on a quiet beach, but they can wait, as she's there to meet with print-maker Anthony Burrell to see the creation of his limited edition prints for Rosie's brand Human\, with 100% of the profits going to the charity Young Minds.
Words & Photography by Liz Seabrook | @lizseabrook
“Being near, in, on, or underwater can make you happier” smiles a cheeky little illustration on my pals Miscellaneous Adventures’ Instagram feed. Rye is on the coast, right? That means sea swimming! And not just any sea swimming – midweek sea swimming. I excitedly dig out my swimsuit and towel ready to pack the following morning. In the morning, doubting myself, I check; Rye is firmly inland. How did I imagine otherwise? Stuffing everything into my Tinsley the Tote Pack, I glance at my swimsuit. It doesn’t take up much space, so I chuck it in regardless and head to St Pancras to find Rosie.
Rosie is an easy person to spot; she’s usually wearing dungarees and she’ll most often be found chatting to a stranger. She also has the biggest smile on the concourse. It’s 2:30 pm on a Wednesday and the train is unsurprisingly quiet. Juggling our bags, snacks and tea into the carriage, I get that same flutter of excitement a child gets leaving school early. Things have been busy recently – for both of us – and as the train pulls away from London there’s an almost audible sigh of relief from us both.
Whilst telling Rosie about my misguided thoughts as to Rye’s location, I notice something on the map – the town is a stone’s throw from Camber Sands. Good thing I packed my swimming costume – we’re going to the sea after all! Beach today and then tomorrow we'll meet with the artist and print-maker Anthony Burrill at Adam's of Rye, the reason for our visit to Rye, to do a limited run of prints for Rosie’s brand HUMAN\.
"... as the train pulls away from London there’s an almost audible sigh of relief from us both."
Founded in 2017, HUMAN\ supports artists through collaboration, with 10% of all profits going to Young Minds. She has primarily used Instagram to reach out to artists and makers to swap skills and support one another. After following his work for a long while, Rosie decided to reach out to Anthony and after striking up a friendship the pair decided to collaborate. This time though, 100% of the profits will go to charity.
We unload our bags onto the bed at our BnB, grab my Oli the Zip Pack and tote pack, carrying all our essentials for the day, and go straight back downstairs to ask for directions to the beach. Map in hand, we head out. After 10 minutes of walking along a busy 'A' road, we decided the bus might be a wiser option. Flat marshlands appear around us, scattered with lambs skipping about and then, dunes. Unable to contain my excitement, I insist we disembark the bus at the earliest opportunity and hit the sand. Rushing to untie my shoes as I wobble-run up the dune, I pause at the top and stare at what’s in front of me.
The tide is out. If you’ve ever been to Camber, you’ll know that when the tide is out, it’s way out. Beyond a huge sign that says ‘dogs’ pointing right – I knew this was the best bit of the beach – a vast expanse of sand glistening in the late afternoon sun. A couple of dog walkers are a long way up the beach in one direction and more wandering speckles can be made out in the other, but otherwise, the beach is deserted. “Rosie! I’m going in!” We trek over the sand, slipping and sliding on some suspiciously slick ground until we get to the water’s edge. Loading up Rosie with shoes, jeans and my t-shirt, I pull my towel out of my bag and around my shoulders and wriggle into my bikini, before running into the sea. After a while I stop running, it isn’t getting any shallower. I wade some more, and then a little more, before giving up and lying on my back, floating inches off the seabed. It’s not cold. I watch my toes happily bobbing on the waves in front of me and look up into the bluebird sky. I’m only in for less than 10 minutes, but I feel replenished.
"I watch my toes happily bobbing on the waves in front of me and look up into the bluebird sky. I’m only in for less than 10 minutes, but I feel replenished."
Back on dry land, we find a spot in the dunes for me to dry off and get changed before basking in the last of the day’s sunshine. Stuffing my wet swimming things in a dry bag and then into my tote, we climb up through the dunes to get a better view before heading back into Rye. After a stroll around the famed cobbled streets, we hungrily munch our way through dinner – appetites fuelled by the sea air – before crashing into bed.
Adam’s of Rye is tucked in the back of a funny little shop, the kind you only seem to find in seaside town. There is a sort of newsagents on the ground floor and a toy shop on the first floor. The window display, surrounded by wooden panelling boasts paddling pools, snorkelling gear and plush toys with eyes like saucers. Anthony guides us through to the back of the shop, where two doors bearing the words ‘staff only’ open into a workshop with high, sunlit ceilings. A workbench in the middle of the room has an empty frame laid out, ready to be filled with the words ‘Together Human’. Helping set the frame is Derek who proudly informs us that he’s been printing for 50 years. His experience shows as he guides Rosie and Anthony around the space pulling out type from drawers and reminding Anthony where things are kept.
After arranging the letters loose on the counter in several different typefaces, Anthony watches on as Derek leads Rosie through the process of setting the frame. Around the type, blocks are built up to hold them in place and then screwed into place with expanding blocks. Unexpectedly and suddenly, Derek whacks the frame on the bench to make sure everything’s in place and I simultaneously hit myself in the face with my camera.
Next, we go through to Ian – known all over Rye for his printing expertise – and his beautiful late 1960s Heidelberg printing press. He loads the rollers up with bright red ink as Rosie and I are hypnotised by the wheels and levers working away as if possessed under the same charm the teacups were under in Beauty and the Beast. The first print rolls through; pale pink paper with bright red letters. ‘Human Together’. Anthony takes the print over to a table and examines it, commenting on the kerning and making tweaks to the positioning of the letters in the frame. More tests come through on bubblegum, mint and violet paper, each one as exciting as the next. Here we were, humans together on a slow adventure learning new things about printing slowly.
Armed with a box of prints and after many happy thank yous, we leave Adam’s, enjoy lunch at Fig – in the company of Anthony’s wife Emma and Pip the Spaniel – pop into the beautiful Merchant and Mills fabric shop and head down the coast to arguably the weirdest beach I’ve visited.
"...he loads the rollers up with bright red ink as Rosie and I are hypnotised by the wheels and levers working away as if possessed under the same charm the teacups were under in Beauty and the Beast."
Dungeness is Europe’s largest shingle beach – so large, in fact, it’s technically a desert. Vast expanses of tiny pebbles surround a single track through the estate lined with homes – some humble, some very much RIBA directed – leading to a lighthouse with an enormous power station just across a small estuary. It’s not the first time I’ve been here and a familiar feeling of awe creeps back in as we stroll along a walkway winding down the beach. There’s something wild and dangerous about Dungeness, shells of boats litter the beach and the power station ominously looming feels apocalyptic. The wind whips around us taking our breath away. At the shoreline, Anthony spots a dogfish flapping about too far up the beach to get back to the water. He picks it up and hurls it out to sea, I wonder if it’ll make it, but it doesn’t reappear.
“Every second breath we take comes from the ocean.” I clicked through from Miscellaneous Adventures’ post to find the campaign they were working for. With that in mind and Derek Jarman’s little black house with its sunshine yellow details behind me and the shingle leading to the sea in front of me, I take a couple of deep breaths thanking myself, Rosie and Anthony for bunking off work. Back to the train and back to London with sand in the turn-ups of my jeans and a little pebble in my shoe gently reminding me to slow down more often.