We believe people’s energy helps the world go round in the right direction. Nick Hand used the creative energy of others to cycle against the flow, with just his bike and the open road he has crafted a life inspired by the people he’s met along the way.
The second part of The Maverick Streak connects with Nick Hand (Nick the Messenger Bag) – the Bristol based creative, cycle tourer and man behind The Department of Small Works. We asked him to share his story.
The Power of People. Words
and Photography by Nick Hand.
I suppose that for me it started with leaving the consultancy side of graphic design and going back to working on my own, it seemed a bit pointless carrying on in the same way on your own in a room as you did when you worked with ten people. I quickly realised that working for yourself you have the opportunity to head off on adventures and not really worry too much about the consequences (apart from the tax man catching up with you eventually, which is another story).
In 2009 and 2010 I rode on my touring bicycle around the islands of Great Britain, including the mainland, as many of the mad little islands that dot our coastline (and these are the best places to visit), as well as the brilliant island of Ireland. About 6,500 miles in all. Along the way I made a point of visiting makers of all sorts, you would call many of these people craftsmen and women.
These people were inspirational, and looking back I realise that they changed my outlook on life, and ultimately led me to where I am now, a letterpress printer and doing things in a slower more crafted way. I still pick and choose graphic design work, but I think even this work, I work in a more considered way.
I have also visited more makers, probably around three hundred or so, in American, Italy, Holland and many more in Britain (and of course, it’s islands). I have also clocked up many more bicycle rides and looked for more bicycle adventures, including last year The Printing Bike project.
The Printing Bike was a collaboration with my friend Robin Mather, a bicycle maker, whose workshop is 20m from the print shop where I work in central Bristol. I have been interested in what is possible on a bicycle, and I was fascinated by the old knife grinders who used to travel the length of the country living and working with their trusty bikes.
So Robin and I hatched the plan to build a cargo bike that could carry an Adana 8×5 letterpress machine. Robin’s beautiful bicycle emerged fully formed last October (2014) and we set off to ride to Mainz in Germany printing postcards along the 900 mile journey, posting them each day to the 70 or so folk who sponsored the project on Kickstarter. It was a great ride, no craftsmen on this one, unless you count Robin (definitely a craftsman), who carried the cooking gear and tent on his own bike (which he built a week before the trip, and it remained unpainted, slowly turning a lovely rust colour throughout the 19 days of the adventure).
So I discovered adventure, and I would recommend it to everybody, or at least to find something you love that is a little outside a comfort zone. But to try and do it in a way that includes meeting people. As Joe Strummer once said ‘People can change anything they want to, and that means everything in the world. Show me any country and there’ll be people, and it’s the people that make the country… it’s time to take that humanity back into the centre of the ring and follow that for a time.’ Amen to that.