The road ends, but the journey continues...

William Blake was an Indie Artist

Shortly after my previous post

The day my CDs arrived!

…I received delivery of my Goat Suite (Saga) CDs.

Around that same time, I read a post by my quilter blogger buddy, Mariss.

In another few days after that, I got sick with flu!

While I’m making up for lost time and will post an update on GS(S) release date details soon, the above does beg the question:

So, what does all of that have to do with William Blake?

Well, here’s the thing. Until I re-read that blog post and began a comment-conversation with Mariss, William Blake was not on my radar as a creative who faced technical hurdles in getting his poetry ‘out there’. Here now, was a comrade creative from the 18th & 19th centuries brought to my attention who had to tackle similar challenges as myself, an Indie Artist in the 20th & 21st centuries.

Let me relay to you the relevant portions of our comment conversation sparked by the photo of the backside of her featured quilt:

Me - Purplely delightful finish, Mariss. I'm wondering what is written on the backside, is it in Africaans?
Mariss - Good morning my sharp-eyed, purple-loving friend. Thanks for the chuckle. It is upside down Swahili. I think it is the brand name/reference number for the cloth…You no doubt surmised that I inadvertently used the cloth the wrong way round, unlike William Blake who purposefully etched his poems in mirror image (for the printing process).
Me - Upside down Swahili - very cool! 
I did not know that about Blake – it seems us creatives are always having to learn new and weird skills just to get our (he)art out there!!! This is a huge comfort to me here in the 21st century because I often feel so isolated and impotent in the world of the virtual, techie and thrust-upon-DIY and am constantly having to learn and re-learn stuff just to ‘get anything out there.’
Yeah, coming up on a snag with some music release stuff. But at least I don’t have to play my music backwards to get it out there (my equivalent to Blake’s mirror writing).

Aside from my obvious reference to an old Beatles gimmick, that conversation piqued my interest in William Blake as an Indie Artist.


English poet, painter, and engraver William Blake epitomized the DIY ethic. During this period, Blake self-published some of his best known works, including Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. He wrote the text, designed accompanying illustrations, and etched these onto copper plates. He then printed and colored the pages to create his illuminated manuscripts.

from an article in Poets&writers magazine
William Blake mirror writing etching example

To clarify: ‘etching onto copper plates’ involved doing everything backwards for the resultant printed product to display content in normal orientation.

Mirror writing – technically called retrography – is the technique of inscribing letters and words backwards. Blake used this skill in order for his poetry to be printed.

In other words: Blake did the extra DIY steps of painstakingly learning methods of distributing his (he)art that went way beyond the scope of being a poet.

And in that, I find a modicum of comfort as a 21st century creative painstakingly navigating an endless DIY labyrinth of getting my own music ‘out there’ on my terms. Even after having released unexpected in 2007, the internet tools of the trade have morphed considerably. Many are so far out of my league, yet some of them are indeed necessary, and often interesting, to learn.

All of it – in Blake’s 18th & 19th centuries and in my 20th & 21st centuries – takes time, effort and resolve in areas outside our/my desired focus, but necessary for achieving certain (he)artistic goals of ‘getting it out there’.

Indie music is not a genre, it is a method of getting one’s music out into the world in a world where major record labels do not bankroll indie artists.

simplistic summary definition


  1. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet

    What a fascinating post, Laura! I was only dimly aware of William Blake, but I am motivated to learn more by your intriguing post! <3

    • laura bruno lilly

      If not for Mariss’ post, I’d not have known the depths of this historic poet. It’s been fascinating for me, too, learning more and reading his poems again.

  2. Annika Perry

    Laura, your wonderful post exemplifies everything I love about blogging! Wonderful to learn about your exciting news of your CDs … your smile says it all and I can’t wait to listen to your music! I love how shared about Blake and his retrography- absolutely fascinating and one wouldn’t want to make a mistake in this craft! It is fantastic that this knowledge gave you extra energy and resolve with your own tech hassles! Congratulations and best of luck with the full launch later this month! x

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thank you so much, dear Annika. Hopefully this ‘Blakean Revelation’ will give creatives of all types extra resolve in our 21st century tech hassles to get our (he)art ‘out there’.

  3. cedar51

    your post message slipped down the inbox. Interesting information about Blake and his need to learn backward writing – seems such a more technical piece of knowledge to acquire than we have today. Although I don’t know much about your trials etc with your music.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Blake turned into an unexpected inspiration for me on the perseverance of getting our (he)art out to the world…
      Thanks for checking up on my posts, Catherine!

  4. Lavinia Ross

    You are right, the Internet keeps changing, and the tools are different. Congratulations to you, and I hope you feel better now. Flu is no fun!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yeah, I know you ‘get it’! I mean cdbaby doesn’t even have a ‘store’ anymore (as of 2020)…which was one of the unique perks of signing up distro with them. So I guess keeping up with the changes keeps me young???AHA!
      I’m definitely feeling up to my old self again these days, thanks for asking. I hope your hand/wrist surgery went well.

      • Lavinia Ross

        Thanks for asking! No surgery was, or will be, done. The neck, shoulders and arm are just taking a bit longer to heal.

        • laura bruno lilly

          Whew! Glad to hear – take it easy, girl!

  5. deborahbrasket

    Just think! We wouldn’t have Blake’s poetry if he hadn’t self-published. The world would be so much poorer. I’m glad you are getting your music out there. I’m still trying the traditional route for my writing for now. But if in time that route doesn’t produced, I’ll turn to self-publishing myself.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Only goes to show ya that the ‘getting it out there’ aspect of the life of an (he)artist hasn’t changed much – but also shows us creatives that the extra push really is worth it for like you said: The world would be so much poorer had Blake not self-pubbed.
      Keep trying, Deborah. I know your manuscript will grace the world in its appointed time – hard to navigate whatever that appointed time is, but keep at it!

  6. Jennie


    • laura bruno lilly


      • Jennie

        You’re welcome!

      • Jennie

        You are welcome!

  7. Marie A Bailey

    What an interesting post: Blake, quilting, and music! Really does all go together 🙂 Congratulations on getting your CDs. I didn’t study Blake in college, not enough to remember anyway, but, wow, I have renewed respect for him and his creativity. I hear you on the indie DIY to get your [writing, music, etc.] out there. I admire your tenacity 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      I can just hear your writer/cat lovers mind: “She, with cat-like tenacity, pushed onwards towards the finish line.” HA! Thanks for commenting, Marie.

  8. zippyquilts

    Oh, dear! It’s all I can do to manage a blog. I hate to think of trying to release a CD, too. Good luck with all that. I was just wondering yesterday how the Goat Suite was going. If I’d kept up with my reading, I’d have known!

    • laura bruno lilly

      HA! I haven’t been keeping up with my blog reading, either – so not to worry, I get it! 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by and catching up, Zip!

  9. Laura

    Love the photo of you with the fruits of your labor! And I am glad that you have recovered from the nasty flu!
    So fun to hear how Blake has inspired you; what a hard self-promoter worker bee he was! I had no idea! I think you have chosen a great role model! You have a lot to share with the world and Blake is gonna help you do it! 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      Like I mentioned to Ally below…who’d a thunk Blake would come on my radar as a role model? (Well that’s not exactly what I replied, but given I’d never really known about him before, I’m sure you see the connection!)
      Thanks so much for your encouragement, Laura.

  10. rl2b2017

    Hi Laura! I cannot even imagine how to go about getting your art out there but that boxful is really cool, isn’t it?! I have to add that I follow the band Chicago, and have for years. Their trumpet player has spent a considerable amount of time learning how to carry the band into this century and beyond. He is in his 70s and has found the whole social media platforms fascinating. I only mention this because I know you can do this!! There are great resources on the internet – it’s just a matter of connecting and finding them. You’ve got this. And as another aside, my mom was the typesetter for the local newspaper in her early teens. She was born in 1911 and could read that small backwards type with ease. Mr. Blake had to do what he thought best to stand out and he succeeded. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne (you will, too!)

    • laura bruno lilly

      I lived in Chicago as a teen when the band was local! Seriously. Had their albums when they were CTA even!!!! Always loved – and still love – that band. Rich textures along with great tunes and sense of comradery. Plus when we moved to Boulder (CO) in High School, their hits on the radio reminded me of home (you know how teens don’t do change too well!). I even could get WLS (even though I was a WCFL follower while living in Chicago!) all the way in Boulder, (you know back then it was a top 10 station) when the night was clear and late!
      Anyway – your Ma really impresses me Yikes! Talk about messing with the mind – I had a friend in college who took notes in mirror writing yikes!!!!
      Yep, we all gotta do what we gotta do.
      Thanks for the “Roseanne-pep-talk”, Roseanne. I hope all are on the mend at your house.
      Take care.

      • rl2b2017

        WLS!!! I went skiing in college in the UP and listened to WLS way up there. My 1970 Maverick didn’t like the cold so we had to out and start it (!!!) every few hours or the battery would be dead. Yeah. I’m happy to give the pep talk. You’ve Got This! And I sent you an email with a Goggle idea that’s free. {{Hugs}}

        • laura bruno lilly

          Got the email, thanks! So we’re WLS veterans from ‘way back’ eh???! I love it!
          Stay coooool, lady.

  11. Janis @

    Holy cow! Not only a genius creator but to create backwards too… thank goodness we no longer have those barriers (although, some might argue that self-publishing has become a little too easy). I am so excited for your CD delivery! It must be so fulfilling to see all your hard work come to fruition. I love the picture of you with your “babies” (or, should I say “kids”… see what I did there? 🙂 )

    • laura bruno lilly

      LOL!!!! Yep, indeedee I did! Thanks Janis for your fun comment and support!

  12. Jane's Heartsong

    I did not know that about Blake. Very painstaking work. I took printmaking and had a hard time thinking backwards when working a design into a surface and figuring out which part would catch the ink and print.I don’t know if that was why I dropped the class or it was my instructor’s frustration with me.
    Take care and be well soon.

    • laura bruno lilly

      The thing about thinking backwards is so mind boggling, isn’t it? I’m impressed with your foray into printmaking, Jane. Even if the course was dropped, you learned much from the experience.
      Thank you for the well-wishes. I am mended and tackling my ‘to do’ list with vigor!

      • Jane's Heartsong

        I forgot to mention that I am excited about the release of your new CD’s! Congrats! I would like to order one.

        • laura bruno lilly

          Oh Jane, I figured the congrats were implicit – thanks! I’ll pass deets on how to order etc on the blog so keep your eyes and ears open! HA! Thanks for your desire to pre-order, too – very exciting!

  13. Andy

    Love the photo showing your delight at the safe arrival of your creation ?

    Like Ally said, my memories concerning Blake have faded as I last read him around the age of twenty. (The way everything points to something else, I was introduced to him via The Doors.)
    The Tyger still shines bright (?) in my mind though, and also my favourite lines which are taken from the opening of Auguries Of Innocence:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour

    • laura bruno lilly

      The Tyger and those opening lines you quoted are among the treasures I’ve just newly discovered! I’m always in awe of art/poetry/ideas/inventions/scientific discoveries/etc that span the centuries – connect the centuries – in their messages that are perpetually relevant and continue to touch heart’s in whatever century those ‘hearts’ live in!
      BTW: It really is a delight to hold a box of one’s creation in physical, tangible form! As you no doubt have felt with your own published books of poetry…

  14. That is brilliant – this post and the research you shared was inspired by the back on one of Mariss’ amazing quilts!
    Congratulations of completing your suite and getting to bask in the awesomeness of a stack of CDs!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Somehow I knew you’d get the intricacies of the connecting threads of this post! 😎
      Thanks for the kudos, Tierney.

  15. piecefulwendy

    I have a deep appreciation for indie artists and the work that you have to do to be out there. In our family, we tend to look for indie artists Itwo of our favorites, besides you, are Holly Arrowsmith and Josh Garrels). Hubs and daughter are much better at finding them. We enjoy reading their stories and supporting them when we can. I always learn interesting things from your posts! I hope the snags are easily solved for you! Congrats on the new release!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Aha! You are familiar with Bandcamp! I looked up your two indie artists and there they are in all their indie glory. I especially like Josh’s vibe – with the family studio and all, how can I not fall in love with his music? FYI: Michiganders are alot like Coloradoans in (he)artistic inclinations and love/immersion in the outdoors.
      Part of my snags involved setting up a Bandcamp account with a ‘custom header’. Using Canva, the header itself was a piece of cake, but then turns out the menu/navigation bar needs to be activated using HTML!!!! Yikes! Still figuring all that out – almost there!!!!!
      Thanks for your support, Wendy, one creative (he)artist to another – I still remember your love for my Mawicke cousin’s pottery – who knew?

  16. L. Marie

    Great post, Laura! I didn’t know this about William Blake. Wow!
    How can we purchase a copy of your CD? Congratulations!!!!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks a bunch, L.Marie – your enthusiasm means the world to me.
      Deets on purchasing my CD/digital music are forthcoming…I’ve finally nailed a real ‘release date’ and am working on pre-sales stuff at the moment…kinda fun, but a bit time consuming, too! Will keep you in the loop for sure, via personal email.

  17. marissthequilter

    Congratulations, oh Composer. You look as pleased as you should be with the boxful of your newly released Goat Saga Suite.
    I am sorry you got flu and hope you are fully recovered.
    Thank you for the ‘shout out’ and for linking to the upside-down verso side of my Mystery Quilt.
    I am delighted you have gotten to know Blake a bit better. And thank you for explaining so clearly the meaning of Indie.
    (The novel Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk offers a glimpse of Blake’s brilliance, and is a good mystery story as well.)

    • laura bruno lilly

      Well, you can claim credit for introducing me to Blake! (see reply to Ally’s comment)
      You’ve mentioned that novel before – twice put it on my radar. I’ll be looking to see if our library carries a copy of it. I do like mysteries with a touch of history mixed in for flavoring.
      Oh and, did you notice the boxed CDs look like a patchwork quilt design?

      • marissthequilter

        Like Ally Bean I studied Blake at university (college) and was perplexed by his genius. I still am. The twice-mentioned novel by Olga Tokarczuk revived my fascination, so here I am referring to it for a third time!
        Your box of cds would make a very neat and ordered quilt pattern!

        • laura bruno lilly

          Three’s the charm as they say…I guess if the library doesn’t have it, I might just have to purchase a copy for myself!!! I’ll let you know what comes of all of that for sure!

  18. Ally Bean

    Interesting on many levels. First congrats on your progress with your music CDs. That’s an accomplishment. I studied William Blake in college both as a writer and as a printer. He was a genius, but I’ll admit that much of what I learned about him has faded from memory. I do remember that he did his own thing– and not everyone was thrilled with him for doing so. Resonates today still.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I admit to not studying William Blake at all in school. Plenty of other poets, authors and such but not him. I assumed I’d not like his poetry once I began looking into his body of work – however such was not the case. I do enjoy a few of his poems and definitely appreciate his active hands-on passion to get his work ‘out there’ regardless of the circumstances! Thanks for the congrats, Ms Bean.

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