Letters with love
The Magic Ink Pot creates bespoke stories for children. Zoe Walker chats to company founder Judith Katz about the pandemic, the inspiration behind her stories and why she uses Royal Mail to deliver the company’s products.
How was Christmas 2020 for The Magic Ink Pot? Were you busier than in previous years?
Well, it was a strange one—that’s for sure! The Magic Ink Pot was certainly busier and that’s partly due to the pandemic sending more people online to search for gifts. I’ve been so grateful to Royal Mail for managing to deliver our letters under tremendous pressure.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
The first lockdown was particularly busy as I think people were looking for ways to make staying at home more bearable for their children. Our ‘Letter from the Easter Bunny’ did particularly well at that time. Having to spend more time indoors has focused my mind on the business and I developed more products: a Letters from a Mermaid subscription and a Father Christmas I.O.U letter for parents who couldn’t get their hands on that elusive present in time for Christmas. Look out, too, for a ‘Letters from the Tooth Fairy’ gift pack in early Spring.
Why did you choose Royal Mail to deliver for you?
The Magic Ink Pot’s letters are written to bring a bit of good, old-fashioned magic into a child’s day. There’s no postal service more traditional and iconic than Royal Mail! With a postbox on every corner, it’s also incredibly convenient for me, especially when Click and Drop means I can pay for postage online.
What’s your relationship like with your postie?
I love our postie. He is unfailingly cheerful and friendly even when the rain is plastering his trousers to his legs.
Do letters still have an appeal in an era of emails and text messages?
Oh, gosh, yes. Perhaps even more so as they’re so much rarer these days. The click of the letterbox and the thud of letters dropping to the doormat still sends me and my children rushing to the front door in anticipation.
What makes letters different to other modes of written communication?
A letter is tangible. You can hold it, fold it, put it under your pillow. It’s a piece of its author, especially when handwritten. You can’t see the tear stains or smell the perfume on an email, and you can’t take a text message out of the old shoe box under your bed 50 years later to remind yourself how much you were loved.
How did you come to set up a business that focuses on writing letters for children?
A few years ago, I quit my job as a teacher to focus on home educating my two children. At that time, my younger daughter was a rather reluctant reader, so I started thinking of ways to encourage her to read for pleasure. She loves receiving post and so The Magic Ink Pot was born.
How do you get inspiration?
Nothing beats getting out into nature for inspiration. I let my mind wander during a long country walk or swim down the river. As a child, I was enchanted by the Brambly Hedge and Flower Fairy books, so I like to imagine all the little creatures in their hedgerow homes and going about their daily business.
Was there a particular person or event that inspired you?
My father was a wonderful storyteller and went to great lengths to make Christmas magical for me and my sister – footprints in the fireplace ashes, ‘reindeer’ droppings on the driveway courtesy of the local flock of sheep…books like Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s ‘The Jolly Postman’ and Tolkien’s ‘Letters from Father Christmas’ were, of course, a huge inspiration.
Can you remember the first letter you sent or received?
I wrote countless letters to Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, but the first letter I remember sending via Royal Mail was to my best friend when she moved to Australia.
Handwritten or typed?
Our fairy-tale characters handwrite letters using magical ink, but because their handwriting isn’t always easy for our young readers to decipher, I transform it into a dyslexia-friendly font.
Biro or quill and ink?
As an ex-teacher, I could never recommend a Biro for anything longer than a shopping list.
Laser printer or IBM selectric?
Ah, now that depends. I couldn’t do without my laser printer, but Father Christmas can’t be persuaded to get rid of his typewriter.
Yours faithfully or yours sincerely?
I was taught to use ‘Yours faithfully’ with Sir or Madam and ‘Yours sincerely’ when using someone’s name. In Fairyland, of course, it’s customary to sign off with ‘Love’.