Made from time, plants, water.

Today I ground some pigment, Bideford black again, mixed with water from Dulverton leat and painted some hares.

These are all for sale for the Crowdfunder in Devon. The pigment is so dark, and I am still trying to get the mix of gum arabic right with it. Going to try soon mixing with egg yolk, and also with egg white to see if the sheen is different. There’s something rather lovely about making your own paint. I also have some Velour a sauce, that I want to play with, both with a stump and also maybe with gum arabic and water. I have one tube of the velour, at least 200 years old, a test tube of fine, dark powder that was in the old paints I bought in an antique shop in Llandeillo. It’s beautiful, a glass vial with a cork in the end. Almost full, but not quite, so it must have spoken years ago for someone else.

Anyway, the hares are £200 pounds each.

25 x 10cms.

Email me to secure before donating, stating which hare you want, with Hare in subject title.

Hare below now sold.

Two hares below have now sold. 

Hare below is now sold.

The photo above shows all of them together for easier comparison, and the one below is me thinking aloud with ideas of composition.

Robert and I are hearing wonderful stories of amazing generosity, with people offering to help deliver books to save money on delivery so that more books can be bought.

Email me to secure a hare before donating. And if you wish to contribute any amount to the crowdfunder you can do so here.

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Words and gold

This, then, is for sale for The Lost Words in Devon.

£250, words and gold leaf. It’s a walk at Abermawr in early summer.

It is made from Chinese paper, typed on my dad’s old typewriter, stitched, using an old handle Singer sewing machine, with pure raw silk to 3 sheets of gold leaf that are remnants from an otter painting and the ghost of a labyrinth from the stone that was left on the beach at Abermawr. An idea of its size can be gauged by the fact that the gold leaf is 8 x 8cms, and the words are typewritten. It’s signed, dated 2018.

The words are:

Otter is a small god

 

and

 

Beneath summer trees a green darkness spreads.

Breathe in the scent.

A narrow stream runs fast between the trunks.

Ints song winds and twines with the wind in the leaves

that sound so like the sea,

and with the song of birds.

 

Fast between the tall trees,

then slowly the water spreads

across a wide reed bed where

martins, fast as fierce arrows fly

to gather food for broods hunkered in

burrows at land’s edge.

 

The stream finds its way then

through a bank of sea-smoothed stones

to stitch its way to the salt

where land meets sea meets sky.

 

Otters live here, between the dawn and dusk.

 

 

So, if you wish to purchase email me, and then, once secure, donate to the crowdfunder.

The Devon crowdfunder is on a stretch target now, as is the Doncaster one and the Hospice. All crowdfunders can be found here.

 

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When it seems the day has never dawned

I have not done today the things I meant to do. Dark and wet, cold and miserable, I begin to understand why swallows fly south before winter. This is no weather for owls. And although there is some comfort to be taken in the election results when I hear the voice of Trump, how he speaks to people, how he talks to the media…. well…….

The weather is true Mrs Noah weather. Outside the paths remind me of how some of the words came, as pathways turn to streams and roads to rivers.

This is the path to my house and the road to the path, singing with water fast flowing down the road from a spring that flows when the water table rises.

This week James Mayhew and I heard the fantastic news that Mrs Noah’s Pockets, written by me, illustrated by James, has been nominated for the Greenaway award. James’ first time, for the beautiful illustrations. The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by me,  also has a Greenaway nomination, AND a Carnegie for the words. Robert’s first time.

Today I sought solace, distraction, peace of mind in ink and in pigment.

Sketches of tumbling otters lie in my book from a film I took of an otter swimming. It was the only way I could ‘see’ the movement, understand the shape.

First I painted small otters, made from spring water from Devon, 25 x 10 cms. The top two  otters are for sale for The Lost Words for Devon. These are 25cms x 10cms and otters are sumi ink and spring water- £180 each. To purchase, send me an email, With ‘Otter,Devon’ as the subject matter, to secure and then, once confirmed, donate to the Devon Crowdfunder.

The third pair of otters are for the Doncaster campaign. Again 25 x 10 cms and again £180, but please email to secure, with ‘Otters, Doncaster’ as the subject matter.

In Doncaster they have made a wonderful film to accompany the appeal. Love seeing the animated whole body encanting of the enchantments.


Then I turned to the Bideford Black, the 300 million year old pigment made by plants, made by time. With pestle and mortar I crushed some of the pigment, mixed it with ‘gum water’ bought from Cornellissen some time ago.

I had seen on Samhain, a picture of an otter, found beside the road by someone, I wish I could remember who, and taken and placed on a bed of gold autumn leaves. It stayed with me, and I wanted to honour the small, wild life also, and so, with ancient pigment and spring water I painted the curl that I remembered her body being placed in, so that she swims now forever in memory and in paint. And with gold leaf I gave her a halo.

Now I am offering her for sale. She’s a big otter, approx 75cms x 57cms. She’s on thick, beautiful watercolour paper, and if framed should be floated so the deckled edges show. She is £1 200, bideford Black, Spring water and white gold leaf and is called In Honour of Beauty, Samhain 2018, and the buyer will be asked to donate the money direct to The Lost Words for Devon. But please email me first to secure, with Samhain otter as subject, as the artwork is an original piece. I do love how the black pigment sits on the paper.

Next, hares, of Bideford Black and spring water.

Top- 25x10cms-£200 to Doncaster Lost Words. (SOLD)

Middle- 25x 10cms- £200 to Doncaster Lost Words campaign.(SOLD)

Bottom- 25cms-10cms- SOLD.

Again email me first to secure before donating, with ‘hare’ in the subject line.

Have I painted myself back to a peaceful mind? No. Not yet. But I guess that’s what keeps me painting.

Outside now it is dark and wet. The road sings as the stream tumbles down it. Time to read.

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Away from home.

I travelled, leaving behind a small flock of swallows souls waiting to be stitched.

I stayed for a while in a small house where I drew, and wrote and thought and watched the birds.

The small house was a harbour to rest, but then back out onto the road, and to Compton Verney, where the walls are now decorated with a flock and a charm.

Below, though, are the limited edition prints from The Lost Words, produced by Aquarelle, and now for sale through Compton Verney.

Then on to Kenilworth books where Tamsin had one of the three known perfectly ironic copies of The Lost Words.

( and meanwhile Robert was holding the fort doing a wonderful radio interview for Canadian radio with Sabine Jessen) 

Love this photo of Tamsin, who never ceases to astonish me with her wisdom. She had helped to put books into a school, building a library, for children who have no books at home, changing lives. This is the power of a great indie bookshop, that they care enough to help a school find funding for a library ( Siobhan Dowd Trust and Foyles Foundation) and then help them choose the books.

Back then to Dulverton via a visit to my Child in Plymouth and via otters.

 

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Beauty Lutra lutra

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At Number Seven Dulverton the shop looked beautiful. Working with Davina and Jan and Chris is like working with family. They create enchantment and the evening with Kerry Andrew and Nicola Davies was just that. Blissful, wild magic.

Kerry began with the wren spell. Listen. Listen. Hear the bird’s wings.

 

The Lost Words Supper with Number Seven Dulverton and Loyton Lodge from Christopher Jelley on Vimeo.

Kerry Andrew’s You Are Wolf set was just the most amazing thing. Listen with headphones. She sculpts sound.

In the shop next day I painted hares and otters, played with Bideford Black, a pigment found locally and 300 million years old! So black, deep black, dark as the darkest moonless night and darker still.

Home, after Dulverton. Davina still has a few signed copies of the special edition Lost Words, with goldfinch print enclosed. And more can be found at Solva Woollen Mill where they have signed copies of all my books in print, and Bookish in Crickhowell, where Emma successfully fundraised to buy 163 copies for schools in Powys.

There’s now a wonderful map of Britain that lights up where The Lost Words has been funded into schools.

Home now. There are Christmas cards for sale, for The Suffolk Wildlife Trust, with goldfinches.

There is an audio book of The Lost Words. It’s beautiful. The sonic illustrations are by Chris Watson. You can only find it on Audible at the moment, but physical copies will be available after Christmas. It is balm for the soul, beautifully spoken.

 

Time, now, to sit by the fire and read.

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Read between the lines; learning the shape of home.

It’s the shape of a cat curl.

 

It’s a golden dog on a high hill.

It’s a grey dog with mischief on its mind.

 

It’s a blue plate on a wall.

It’s listening to wrens stitch the hedges together with song

and

watching the bluetits,

finding peace in the shapes of small birds, learning the shape of a sparrow.

It’s the lie of the land and the fall of the light and the turn of the tide.

It’s the wings of a raven in flight and the rise of a pair of chough, from land, to sky.

It’s conversations with friends, and the silences between them that hold comfort.

It’s knowing, more or less, where the right book is, on the right shelf.

It’s log fires and its winter washing that always smells, just a little, of smoke.

It’s a small dog running on the beach.

It’s time to think, and peace to draw.

It’s reading by the fire while the rain beats on the roof.

It’s familiar mugs, cups.

It’s washing up, cooking.

 

And for you? Take a moment to think, then tell me, what is the shape of home for you?

 

 

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Two Rivers, Otters and Rest

Far away from home, hiding in a beautiful house, over the last few days I have settled to work, although I find myself painting when I should be writing. I’ve hung a bird feeder in the garden and have been rewarded by a slate-blue and peach coloured nuthatch, chaffinch, wren, robin, sparrow, both hedge and house, bluetit, coaltit, greattit, and all the while pheasants. I can hear blackbirds too and an owl calls at night.

My work table has changed over the few days I have been here. I’ve prepped a print to take to Kenilworth for a customer, and one to leave for Number Seven to add to their stock of my work.

On Monday I visited one of the few hand made papermills in Britain, Two Rivers, with Chris and Davina from number seven and saw how they turn cotton rag to the most beautiful textured watercolour paper.

It is a great delight to me that the paper is made from stuff called ‘stuff’. A great porridge like barrel of it, mixed with water from the two rivers well.

With trays they lift the stuff, and water is sucked away, then the paper is bedded onto felted sheets and placed in a press for water to be squeezed out and away. It is then air dried. Thicker sheets are easier to make I am told. I love the organic quality to this hand made artefact. The ink sits differently on the surface. I’ve not yet used it with watercolour. I love the deckled edges of it. Going to see how it takes to gold leaf next.

We had picked up a warm but dead pheasant on the road on the way there and Chris cooked it for our lunch.

I painted otters onto the paper, with well water, the same that is used to mix with the stuff to make the paper. With left over ink I painted a couple of otters on some of my usual Arches, to sell to add towards the crowdfunder total for Devon. Dulverton is so very close to Devon. Bellow are the two for the crowdfunder: £180 each. Email me before donating to the crowdfunder, with Devon Otters as subject matter, and top, or bottom otters, as desired..

There’s a wonderful map of the UK, created for us by Harry, and it shows where campaigns to place the Lost Words in schools has succeeded. So many people have worked so hard to get our book into schools so that all children and teachers can have access to it.And there are new ‘Challenge Cards’ for teachers, parents, libraries, anyone who wishes to use them, again written by Eva John and supported by our wonderful publisher, Hamish Hamilton.

I will be in Dulverton, signing books next Thursday 25th October. We have a Heartwood stamp we are using. If you can’t come you can still order signed books by calling the shop, Number Seven Dulverton. If you can come you will be sure of a warm welcome in a beautiful place.

My owl has been watching over me, beautiful Heathpoult, tawny, wise.

I need to go. I need to see if I can catch a nuthatch in lines of a pencil. Chris found a dead dipper after the storm. The feathers on its back shimmered like dark damask. Beautiful creature. Built to dive, swift in the streams, a dark and waterproof dart of a bird.

We didn’t eat it.

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A soundscape of the natural world

Listen.

Coming soon.

It is beautifully crafted with sonic space and human voices.

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Two days. And a lark. A Song of Ink and Water.

Days at home are precious. This is a short post, about two days, and about a book.

Yesterday I took the dogs, walked through the woods and down to the sea.

In this small part of the world where I live autumn usually comes as a fierce wind that strips the leaves from the trees, tears them off. But at Abermawr it is more sheltered. Here, autumn happens more slowly, but leaves that fall are the colour of a small golden dog.

The wind braids and pleaches tree branches of beech beside the beach.

At the beach a bank of pebbles is a wonderful hunting ground, though not so good when your small golden dog child discovers a dead seal to roll in.

Back home I worked on prepping prints that people have waited for for so long. Peacefull work.

Also, time to pack up otters, bought by Cecelia  and Graham, the word Slopsh, written in otters. Love how otter language swims on a page. This was for a crowdfunder. There have been so many now I can’t remember which. So many, and that means so many books given to schools.

There’s new crowdfunders every day, for schools, hospice, carehomes. Here’s a link to some:

Our book, one year old now.

So, today I walked where the golden grasses grow, and the smallest dog ran wild and crazy, nose to the ground searching for birds. She put up a snipe. Autumn is coming. Goldfinch flocks are in the fields and edges. Bramble leaves flash crimson, as do the hawthorn berries.

The Icelandic horses are so gentle, and smell like sweet grass. Their coats held the warmth of the sun.

Back home I packaged up more things to post tomorrow. These included Bramble, won in another crowdfunder and delivery long overdue….

There’s a crowdfunder for London. I decided to paint them a lark. This, painted on one of the letterpress proof pages from the Compton Verney exhibition, is a lark, painted with sumi ink. The lark changed as she dried and this last image in these three is more accurate.

The yellowing is because the light is fading from the day, so not natural.

This lark is to be a ‘raffle prize’ for the London Crowdfunder. Donate any amount to be entered into the draw. I will send the painting to Robert Macfarlane to sign also. The words are his, from The Lost Words. Anyone who donates, from anywhere ( happy to post to any address) will have an equal chance to win, whether it’s a £5 or a £5000 donation. The draw will be done when the funding target is reached.

The small inked hare (25 x 10cms) below is also for the London Crowdfunder. £200, but email me first to secure before donating, with ‘hare’ in the subject matter.

Also this otter with butterfly at £225.

It is a curious thing for one’s work to be at the centre of this ‘movement’ of people passionate about making a gift of the book, to schools, hospices, carehomes. It’s also very humbling. How to say thank you? The only way I can is by trying to contribute. For me, my access to books was through libraries in schools and libraries changed my life. I’ve been watching how the crowdfunders help each other, teach each other how best to do this, how best to place the books in the right hands. I’ve been seeing the response of teachers and the astonishing and powerful work of children created around the book. The Lost Words is becoming a powerful community, working for change.

There are two lots of teaching resources now, both crafted with skill by Eva John. One is hosted here, at the John Muir Trust, the other in a few places. Please share. They are free to download, and i would like to say a huge thank you to Penguin Books for supporting this. For the first time ever I look forward to seeing World Book Day Costumes, if children follow the challenge on one of the challenge cards.

And there’s a wonderful piece from Rob Bushby on the Penguin Books website, about this first year of The Lost Words. It’s been quite a year.

I will be in Number Seven Dulverton on Thursday 25th October. Mine and Kerry Andrew’s event the evening before has sold out and there’s a long waiting list for tickets, but if you’ve a mind to you can watch our performance with Nicola Davies at Hay Festival. It cost £10 to subscribe for the year, but there is a wealth of wonder in that archive, a treasury.

And I will be in Yoevil on 27th at the festival. Tickets still available I think.

Dark outside now. I’ve much to do, otters to wrap, things to think about.

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665:14hours and 2 minutes:days like this

Comfort is so much what I turn to at the moment. I’ve a small book of grasses that I carry in my pocket, to learn the names of grass, and the comfort of books has always brought me peace. And I love this bowl, from the exhibition at The Canwood Gallery, an exhibition to raise money for St Michael’s Hospice near Hereford where I visited on my birthday, before heading to Symonds Yat.

I left there a small stone, gilded, beside one of my pieces of work that is included in the show.

And I just adore the frame that John, from Robel in Haverfordwest adorned my otters with. How that man makes my work shine! I’d not seen it until then as I had left it wrapped. I know that people expect me to have carefully chosen the frames myself, but with John I leave all the framing to him. Together we have learned our craft after years of graft, and he knows the balance, colour, weight and finish that will make my work shine.

Next to my work on one side, the beautiful work of Simon Dorrell who I was at college with, and the images of Pembrokeshire tugged gentle on my heart. We had a long road to travel and I am becoming unravelled by distance from home and hearth.

   

On the other side the beautifully lit woodland paintings of Richard Bavin, a place to rest the soul.

It was lovely to meet up with Janetta, one of my publishers also. And The Canwood Gallery is in such a beautiful place, a green bowl of land.

In the afternoon Robin and I drove to Symonds Yat. It was my birthday. We walked along the riverbank. A kingfisher flashed past, ‘too fast to follow’ and then we saw the bright white of egret. But it flew with a raven and when we looked again a creature of myth had landed light beside a dark raven. A white raven. And when she opened her wings to fly it was as if time slowed, stopped, and a window opened into another place. Pure beauty.

 

So beautiful a place. And the second night we rested in the harbour of friendship at Tamsin and Mike’s house, before heading on the long road north. But what magic awaited us there and how rich is life.

We collected Robert from the train station at Penrith, drove to the beautiful Greta Hall to meet with The Spellsingers, for two days of magic.

I painted, we spoke of The Lost Words, its origins and travels, and listened as Kris Drever read Raven, Fern, and Jim Molyneux read a barn owl. Julie Fowlis, lit by an inner light, read a song spell of a grey seal, and the musicians all listed their many languages of song and instrument while Robert and I sat back in awe.

Later they sang, played, and Robert made a fire and again it felt as if we had stepped out from time to a small slice of heaven.

 The next day The Spell Singers went their separate ways, for now, Robert ran off up a hill and we headed to Grasmere where I was due to work in a small school the next day, and do an event for the bookshop in the evening.

I don’t do many school visits these days, but I have a very soft spot for Grasmere, both the school, the place and the bookshop. And although I visit many bookshops there’s something about the stock in Sam Reads!  I can’t remember the last time I went into a shop and bought so very many books…. If you find yourself in the Lake District, go to Grasmere. There is something very very special about this place.

I accidentally met with Wordsworth, not realising he was buried there, beneath the shade of a yew tree he planted.

And thank you so much to Elaine and Paul for looking after us and opening up your hearts and home to us, and to Polly Atkin for taking me swimming in the lake and arranging a flypast of a heron….to see the hills from the silvered surface of the lake was a very special thing.

The day in the school was hard work and wonderful, and thank you to all the people who turned out to listen to Polly and I in conversation.

I left Grasmere with a heavy heart. Something about this place draws me back. The light? And now the water. And new friends, and old.

665 miles in all. And more travelling to go before I can enter into painting again. Along way. And I need to work on a spell to speak to the wind to call to the heart of a wild raven. Not a summoning spell, for I would not seek to summon, just a wild wish and prayer to see such a creature again, to watch her spread wide her wild, white wings, to dance in the sky in the clear salt air.

 

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An exhibition at Canwood Gallery

I have work in a mixed exhibition at The Canwood Gallery in Herefordshire. The exhibition is organised by St Michael’s Hospice an a percentage of the sale of all work goes to the hospice.

 I have 12 pieces in the show. The exhibition runs from 8th-16th September.

I can also invite 4 people to the preview, so, if you would like an invitation, and can go ( please remember there are only 4 invites) then email me 

The preview is Friday 7th 6-8pm. Sadly I will not be there, but hope to visit the show some time on Saturday afternoon, all being well.

The work I have in the show is new, and only one piece has been shown in public before. It includes the gold soul of the walking woman, as above.

 

 

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