Shed Stories #7 ‘Swanland Stories’

April has been an incredibly full month. As the sap rises my energy has been returning, and every moment has been spent creating in my workshop or making inspirational travels to the edges of our land- Cornwall and Pembrokeshire.
Next week I will be delivering some work to (Herefordshire) for an exhibition that opens on Saturday 10th May and in June I will be exhibiting at – more of that in the next newsletter.
Anyway, it seemed a good opportunity to get Dougal to write the newsletter this month and to fill you in on how he manages running our print shop as well as his other work.

Tamsin thought it might be nice to let you all know how I help with the prints and what I do when I’m not helping with the prints!

As well as helping Tamsin with the prints, I also work 3 days a week as a marketing administrator at the charity Carers Support Centre, and spend the rest of my free time producing music. Between these three roles, I get a pretty healthy balance of the things that make a good work life, and just enough money to survive!

My charity role is a bit out of the scope of this blog, but as for the music, I’ve just released an album featuring Tamsin’s glass as the album art, so we thought that was worth discussing.

But firstly, the prints.


The main thing I do on a day-to-day basis is simply package and distribute the prints. On the mornings of the days I’m not working at Carers Support Centre (Tuesdays and Fridays), I carefully package any orders in my living room. I live in a two bedroom flat in Bristol, with my girlfriend and a friend. They kindly let me turn a corner of our living room into an efficient but discreet print packaging facility (I’ve also got bags of card envelopes and backing boards hidden under our sofas). It all folds away nicely so that, rather than looking like a print factory, it looks like an unassuming living room (albeit with a slightly out of place chest of drawers). 

Most of the materials we use are local to Tamsin and all are of great quality. 

  • Iris Print are an award-winning print house in Worcestershire who make the ‘museum quality’ prints, which always look amazing.
  • Cotswold Mounts are another local company that provides the mounts backing boards and bags

Everything fits perfectly and works nicely, making the biggest part of my job very straightforward! 

I then put a return address label on the back of the packaging and a ‘do not bend’ sticker on the front and put them in my handy Uber Eats bag I bought from my friend.

Finally, I cycle the prints down the road to my local post office and the friendly postal worker, Marcus, sends the UK orders special delivery and the international orders tracked.

Quite simple!

I also format Tamsin’s monthly shed stories, design her newsletters, pick the ‘print premiers’ and ‘print spotlights’ and do a few other techy and strategic bits and bobs. 

When we started the print shop, we thought that I might manage a lot of the social media strategy and copywriting, given that I had previous professional social media marketing experience. However, I quickly realised that no one can write about and present her work as well as she can. Her descriptions of the historical, spiritual, folkloric and personal connection to the work add so much to the already beautiful glass. So rest assured, all Tamsin’s captions and comments are always from  Tamsin herself! 

It took a fair bit of work to set up the shop two years ago but now it’s mostly a case of keeping it all chugging along. It’s lovely to see reviews and comments from people enjoying the prints and appreciating the service.

People ask what it’s like working for my mum. I say it’s pretty nice! It’s very easy going and we’re both on the same page about almost everything.


Having a mum who’s successfully pursued her career as an artist has made me feel comfortable and encouraged me to pursue my own creative outlet, music.

I’ve been making electronic music for about 12 years now, and recently released my first project in 3 years ‘Swans in Series’.

My previous musical works have been a lot more energetic and drum and bass-driven, but this is far more peaceful, which was a response to situations in my life at the time.

In August last year, my housemates and I were told we’d be evicted from the house we’d lived in for 3 years, because it was being turned into student accommodation in a month. I was also unemployed except for the print work, so I also urgently needed a job. Long story short, I had quite a stressful two months rushing from house viewing to job interview and then back to my girlfriend’s parents’ house (where I was kindly allowed to stay), to apply for more houses and jobs. Needless to say I had no time for music, which, in its absence, I realised was an integral component to my well-being. Fortunately, I eventually found a nice job and house and by November/December, things had settled down again. 

I slowly fell back in love with music by listening to classical, ambient and minimal music while working from home at my new job. As the days got darker and things settled down, this calming music provided a perfect atmospheric backdrop to my new life. I started making it as well as listening to it, and decided that now was the time to make an ambient/neo-classical album

After playing around with a few styles, I became most captivated by a certain digital piano sound with a novel, otherworldly-sounding tuning system. I would create a few ideas in this style most evenings before bed. After a few months, I had more than enough for an album, so I started thinking about how I might package it up. 

Having some kind of non-musical theme helps me immerse myself in the world of the album and gives me the motivation to finish it, but I was struggling to find it for this project. That is until I sent a print order to a village called ‘Swanland’ which I thought had real potential! After working with this title a little longer, I told Tamsin about the concept and asked her if I could use one of her swans as the artwork. She sent back a few of her swan pieces, including this beautiful piece

I took the swan out of the image in Photoshop, duplicated it and added some text to quite quickly get the album artwork!

Tamsin had also mentioned some of the folklore associated with swans, including a mythological ability  to help transport souls to the afterlife

‘Passing through Nature to Eternity’ is available as a print

With this in mind, I eventually settled on a tracklist which, in my mind loosely portrays the journey of a Swan from its home (Swanland), through the lower sky, through turbulent clouds and eventually ‘Beyond the Firmament’. 

I was happy with how this was eventually conveyed in the music and artwork, but I wanted to go further by adding visualisers. I licenced some stock footage of swans, used artificial intelligence to separate the swans from the background and then distorted and glitched the swans. I felt this slightly ‘techy’ look fitted with the music but I also felt it helped evoke the idea that these Swans are on a slightly different transcendental plane to the world around it.

Swans in Series videos

I loved making this album because it was so uncomplicated and pure, and the whole process from starting the first ideas to self-releasing it, took only about 4 months. I also enjoyed it because it felt so congruent with my mood at the time and served as a gentle reintroduction to my passion of music production following a stressful period without it. 

So that is how I spend my Tuesdays and Fridays! Sending prints and making music about swans. Hopefully, it slightly demystifies my role in Tamsin’s print business and hopefully, you found some of the Swanland backstory interesting. Tamsin will be back with a regular shed story in June. Thank you all so much for being such great customers and helping Tamsin and me pursue our creative endeavours.