All that glitters

When I was young I had few books. The Orchard Book of British Folk Tales was one. This book of birds was another.

I loved this book so much, the illustrations which I would slavishly copy, learning the shape of a bird, the words. And now I wonder, is this one of the things that influence me towards the idea of having no title on the cover of a book? Perhaps. It’s so old now that the rich brown tawny owl colour has faded leaving only black and white. The spine is broken, pages falling from it. And I wonder if in 50 years time a grown up child will look back at The Lost Words in the way I look back at this, with love and that link to my child self that still lives so strongly inside me.

Published in 1967 this book links to The Lost Words. When I was a child there were more birds. Pesticides, pollution, cars, cats, hunting, trapping, all have taken their toll. But these small, wild creature survive around us and some even prosper despite us.

Soon The Lost Words will be released into the wild and I am going on tour for the book, to London, Cornwall, Compton Verney, through South Wales. I’m taking a painting to Dulverton. Last year it was seven rooks. This year it’s a charm that connects with the spells and the gold of The Lost Words.

I started painting it a few days ago, tweeting a bird here, there, building it slowly, drawing out the design as I went, with only the idea of teasels, finch and seven in mind.


Part way through the piece Chris from Storywalks sent me some words. The Seven Rooks had been an answer to something he had left in my studio. The original was long ago sold, but Number Seven have prints of them, will have prints of this.


Seven quick finches go teasel threading

Carding their quivers at the weavers wedding

Widdershins working before loom-ward tending

Seven quick finches come teasel threading.

I will be in the shop in Dulverton on Friday 27th October, painting, reading, talking. Do come if you can. It’s the most beautiful emporium of delights, and Dulverton in autumn is just gorgeous. The finches will have flown before me, and will be for sale in Number Seven, and prints will also be available.


Now, time to paint more birds.





About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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12 Responses to All that glitters

  1. Thank you Jackie, seven finches gilded looks just wonderful. We are looking forward to your visit to Number Seven and I know our customers are too.

  2. Bernie Bell says:

    Spot the ‘real’ teasel, spot the ‘real’ conker.

    When we moved into our house, the garden was a large, thoroughly mown lawn and a steep bank of dockens and nettles. We let the grass grow, mowed paths and planted things. This encouraged bugs, of all kinds, which encouraged beasties, including birds – the number of different kinds of birds visiting our garden, increases all the time. The small birds, and beasties, encourages birds of prey.
    Yes, the birds and beasties are beleaguered, but………..we can help, even with a small patch. It all makes a difference. If you’ve got a reasonably big patch – the difference is astounding, and grows and changes all the time. A bit of water, for drinking and bathing, helps a lot, too – even if it’s just a basin of water.
    I encourage folk to have a go.

  3. Jane Dorfman says:

    Your childhood book looks wonderful, as do the birds on teasels. I really enjoy seeing your art step by step.

  4. Jane says:

    I remember your book with muck love. I didn’t own a copy, but I borrowed it from my local library so many times it felt like mine. I too copied the beautiful illustrations into my school books (it helped my marks as I couldn’t spell). Using photographs in the modern versions I know is cheaper, but oh for those breath-taking images.

  5. Bernie Bell says:

    From ‘The Joy of Little Things’ by Robert William Service – just because………….

    “Go couch you childwise in the grass,
    Believing it’s some jungle strange
    Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
    Where beetles roam and spiders range.
    ‘Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
    What dragons rasp their painted wings!
    O magic world of shine and shade!
    O beauty land of Little Things!”

  6. Jane Rudder says:

    Thank you Jackie. I have the same bird book on my shelf and I immediately took it down to study again. It was my Mum’s and well read. I do love a book with a book mark! Thanks for your blog. It gives me a lot of pleasure, especially the coastal walks as I am no longer very mobile and wouldn’t be able to get to these places myself. Good luck with all the travelling. I have an order in with the Mill.

  7. Barb Rogers says:

    Simply gorgeous…and yes, a great connection to your childhood through art of birds, being passed along to the next generations. Thanks so much for sharing here, because I probably wouldn’t have found it except for this blog!

  8. Compostwoman says:

    Beautiful,! I loved playing “spot the real teasel”!

  9. Stuart Hill says:

    Hello Jackie. Another stressful day of deadlines and then I found your blog post. What a beautiful book! And after that the image of your goldfinches followed. Inspirational! This poem came after:

    Shards of the sun,
    A soft, brittle glitter
    Of what should be fire
    But instead
    Is feather and bone.
    You’ve missed the flame
    You should have been,
    Like the carbon of coal
    Has missed its diamond
    By the mere chance
    Of heat and pressure denied.
    A soft little bird
    That I imagine would
    Lay calm in the hand
    Like tinder dreaming infernos.
    And you’d pulse too
    Like an engine
    Combusting within,
    Waiting to burst
    Into flight.
    A broadcast of gold
    Cast on the sky
    In a promise of harvests.

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