Library cards, with owls.

Three more cards for library authority. Three more to do.

These are owls because owls are symbols of wisdom. They carry keys because library cards are keys to kingdoms of knowledge. The white owl is Hedwig, as a tribute to the Harry Potter books. J K Rowling did a great deal for a new generation, making books exciting, cool.

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A typical day.

The day began with 30 minutes reading of the third of Robin Hobb’s Liveships. Wonderful. Book, in bed and coffee, with cats. And this, because i am working on cover art, is work.

Then time to prep prints, because my prints arrived from Jane and people are waiting for them. Some needed doodling on, all needed signing.

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That done it was off to Mr Stenham’s house to sign books. And down to the mill to deliver the first 60 books to the book seller. Signing at the mill was aided by the mill cat, who usually keeps a close eye to be sure that all is done right and well. Anna now has the Wentworth jigsaws online.

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One book has all three stamps and a signature and I wonder where it might come to rest after it has been through the hands of a bookseller.

 

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Home, and online, and posting new artwork in the House of Golden Dreams and thinking and arguing and even just a small time painting.

I intend to finish the day under a pile of cats discovering again what happens to the Paragon.

And on Saturday I will be in Solva Woollen Mill at their christmas fair between 2 pm and 5pm. Between now and then I will be signing more books and trying desperately to make time to paint.

( Oh, and I lost my purse and had to do all those things like cancelling cards etc and need to get replacement driving licence etc and brought in logs and all the blah of life that gets in the way of painting. All that, too.)

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Snow Leopard

Each time I have visited independent bookshops, galleries there has always been a demand for my books in hardback, especially The Snow Leopard.

When I first began illustrating books there was a received ‘wisdom’, or should I say folly, that 2 000 was the maximum number for most hardback sales and then a book should be paperbacked. It seemed like folly to me because the population is not static. Children grow up, new children are born. Maybe they might have parents or grandparents who might want a hardback too. So far Barefoot Books have sold about 30 000 of Classic Poems ( this despite being told poetry doesn’t sell), Tell Me a Dragon is in its 7th or 8th edition, and East of the Sun is in its 5th edition.

Anyway, after much nagging of me by booksellers and then so much nagging from me of my publisher, so much so I thought their ears might start bleeding soon, I now have 1000 hardback of Snow Leopard to offer. This has been made possible by loyal indie bookshops agreeing to take between 30 and 50 of this title alone, a big ask I know, and I really appreciate their commitment to this.

So, if you wish to buy a copy, move fast. They will be available only through indie bookshops. They will be signed with stamps designed by me, and my hand written signature. ( The stamps were produced by KR Stamps, with great speed!) The photos below show what they look like. If you are a bookshop and want to order them do so quickly through Frances Lincoln as if they ever reprint again it will take 3 months for them to arrive.

I fail to understand the economics of bookselling. I have at least 2 contemporaries whose latest book sold out within a week of publication. As authors we are beginning to hang our heads and ask, what is the point? Why does no one look at the economics of not ever printing enough copies because they are too cautious when year on year we sell out?

I could rant. But what I want to do instead is get these 1000 copies into bookshops and into the hands of new readers, who want a hardback book they can keep and treasure and share.

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Not sure how the above image snuck in. It was me being filmed for ITV something or other about Ffion’s falcon.

Meanwhile below are the drawings used to make the stamps.

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stamp2 stamp1It takes 14 hours to sign all these books.

At the end of the signing I will have 3 stamps left still, rubber stamps designed by me, unique. Leave a comment on the blog below and share something about the snow leopards, or this post, or my blog and I will pick a name from the comments and post them one of the stamps by way of a thank you. One I will send to a bookshop that orders a minimum of 30 copies. The other I will keep and play with here. So, share, leave a comment. And thank you.

So far books from this edition are available through

Solva Woollen Mill

The New Hedgehog Bookshop

 

 

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Come for a walk, down to the Sea, with Me and Mary and Little P

And Little P said, “Let’s go to the sea.”

And Mary said “Please, can we?”

And I said yes. So Me and Little P and Mary went down to the sea to see.

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It was cold at the sea so Little P wore his warm woolly hat to keep his head warm.

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And I wore mine.

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And what did we find as we walked by the sea?

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We found a place where the light came down to the beach and painted it bright.

 

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We found a giant feather from a curious creature, maybe a bird, maybe a dragon.

 

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We found a place where the sea’s hand had smoothed rain prickled sand.

 

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We found a place where river met sea, tumbling over stones in its rush to be free from the banks that bound it narrow on the land.

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We found a sea pixie’s hat and the frozen tear from a mermaid’s eye. It was smoothed by the sea as the sand had been smoothed, frosted by time, its reason forgotten.

And Little P said, “If I hold it, will it melt?”

And Mary said, “No, it’s a moment of sadness frozen forever in time.”

And I said, “Little P, hold it if you will, and maybe the warmth of your small lovely heart will warm up the tear and somewhere in the cold grey sea a mermaid will smile for a moment and never know why.”

And so he did.

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November, Pembrokeshire. Music.

The day had been frustrating, wet, cold. Not enough work done. Visit to the vet with sick cat. Worry. And on top of it all we were going out. One of those rain washed evenings when you want to stay home by the fire but you have said you would be somewhere, have tickets booked. So, away in the car to Little Haven village hall for the latest in a series of Pembrokeshire Intimate Gigs, all of which I had promised to go to and each one I have missed. Until now.

We arrived, Mr Stenham and I. Little Haven was rain-lashed and there was no one there. But this was because we were early.

Soon the hall filled up with people, including 16 fiddle players on a course. And what happened next was magic. Bruce Molsky. Amazing. How he made the air vibrate with such beautiful music and gentle heart. I sat and drew, for the first time in years, and how it changes the way you hear as you watch a body move to make music and the subtle changes on a face. I used to draw all the time, where ever I was, and not worry at all what it looked like, just learning the shape and the movement and looking. Back to my roots.

Empty stage, waiting for life

Empty stage, waiting for life

tuning

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Two of the audience, listening.

Two of the audience, listening.

Playing the banjo

Playing the banjo

Thinking, while doodling

Thinking, while doodling

So glad that we came out to listen to this man play. I met old friends and new.

So wonderful, and yes, intimate. Thanks Guy for getting such wonderful things together. And now I realise what I have been missing I will try and make an effort to peel myself away from home and hearth for the next event.

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10 000 miles, bookshops and friends

Over the past couple of years I have travelled approximately 10 000 miles around the UK working in galleries and independent bookshops. I have been told wonderful stories and met amazing people. Now it is time for me to stay home, with the cats and the land and the sea and the birds here in Pembrokeshire. I have 2 big projects that I am so behind with, a cat calendar and cat book to write, a calendar painting to do and four book covers for Robin Hobb. Busy, but I count myself fortunate in these difficult times to have so much work pressing at my soul and a heart full of ideas for other things, so crazy, some elegant.

I need to work like I haven’t for many months, so next Saturday I will be at the Supreme Cat Show in Birmingham, with sketch book, signing books and drawing cats and people and being bemused. Then on 23rd I will be in Crickhowell at Book-ish with Celestine and the Hare and many a norty weasel, and Nicola Davies. There will be painting and felting and singing if we are lucky and also reading from the odd book, so come. It’s kind of a last chance to see for a while.

The following Sat I will be in The National Botanic Gardens of Wales painting all day (6th December), I have an exhibition of work there, and then final appearance for a long while at Cover to Cover in Mumbles. So come. Share. Talk to me and tell me stories. Bring feathers.

Meanwhile the thing I have loved most about the travel and seeing so much of beautiful Britain is the meeting new friends. Jan at Number Seven in Dulverton reminds me so of one of the women in East of the Sun. And now she is knitting me something for when I launch Wild Swans with Number Seven in Somerset ( there will also be a book launch in Solva Woollen Mill, heart and home of my books). This makes my heart sing. So beautiful.

So, I just wanted to say a thanks to all the bookshops who invited me in to their shops, let me paint and tell stories, gave me tea and cake and have really championed my books and my jigsaws. And also helped to empty my wallet by having amazing books for sale. I love you and hope that you all continue to thrive because you are the heart and soul of the high street and you sell dreams and wishes and knowledge and beauty and you do it so well. Thank you.

Here’s some pictures of Jan, knitting for me. I will wrap myself safe in this when I venture out on my next trips.

jan4 jan3 jan2 jan( Photos of Jan are from Chris Jelley, her son in law)

 

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For sale. One van. With dragons.

shineyvan

She’s travelled far, was born in 1998. Underneath the wrap she is red, an old Coca Cola delivery van. Before she was mine Ffion drove her. Once she was shiny bright.

Now she’s for sale.

I have driven from west to east, Pembrokeshire to Norfolk in this van, Pembrokeshire to Cornwall, across the Lake District, into Mousehole, up hills and down dales in Yorkshire, over bridges and into Scotland. And never once has she let me down.

In her back she has carried paintings, dogs, a life sized tiger.

She’s met wolves, Jane Johnson, Robin Hobb. I have slept in her ( with the tiger, and listened to howling wolves. I have read in her, written in her, cried and laughed in her. And now she’s for sale.

And I know people usually clean their cars and say all kinds of things about them but this is how she is. It’s been raining and she’s a bit dirty. The roof is patched with gaffer tape where she needs sanding down and priming and patching. The sunroof is glued shut because it leaks if it’s opened. She’s got full mot, 160 000 plus on the clock. She needs work doing on her bodywork ( don’t we all). And she wants to go to a home where she will have adventures, travel far, see things and hopefully pick up curious creatures and meet interesting people. But then all people are interesting if you open your ears to their stories.

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Above is how she began for me. A vinyl wrap which is now a bit tatty in places. Ideally I would like whoever buys her to keep it on, but would also understand completely if they want to remove it. She is sold as seen.

So, here are some more images. And if you want the tiger as well, well, we may come to an agreement.

 

Passers by tiger cuddling.

Passers by tiger cuddling.

 

Sometimes the tiger likes to read. Often the dragons will listen.

Sometimes the tiger likes to read. Often the dragons will listen.

A tiger in the back of the van is useful hen driving long distances. It makes tailgaters back off.

A tiger in the back of the van is useful when driving long distances. It makes tailgaters back off.

Looking like she needs a good clean having driven on the rain running roads

Looking like she needs a good clean having driven on the rain running roads

The back of the van is a jumble at the moment. It was fitted with cooker, but I took it out. Is lined and insulated.

The back of the van is a jumble at the moment. It was fitted with cooker, but I took it out. Is lined and insulated.

A dragon in the engine?

A dragon in the engine?

This is the best side, with the star dragon.

This is the best side, with the star dragon.

Peeling wrap. Not sure how to fix. Maybe patch it?

Peeling wrap. Not sure how to fix. Maybe patch it?

Again wrap peeling.

Again wrap peeling.

This is the wonderful engine that drives the machine. Diesel.

This is the wonderful engine that drives the machine. Diesel.

Once shiny bright. This is last autumn in Ennerdale. October. How green the leaves were.

Once shiny bright. This is last autumn in Ennerdale. October. How green the leaves were.

Price? £3 000 but only to the right person.

Please help me by sharing this post.

 

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All the Bears in the Wild Wide World Tour 2014# Week two, part 1:Swans

From Tiverton we drove to Slimbridge, where the van came to rest in a beautiful farm b&b. We had to wait a while and Mr Stenham found what we thought was a quiet country pub, The Old Badger. 6pm, Friday evening and we opened the door to find the world and his mother had come out for a drink. Amazing pub, warm, light, lively with all ages and tapas. Gorgeous food. We sat in a corner and I read the second of the Liveships books by Robin Hobb, which was after all work as I am still chasing the cover. I had stuffed badger envy.

Next morning we went to Slimbridge where I signed a few books and sat for a while looking and drawing swans. There is a special peace to be found in studying the shape of such a beautiful creature. Especially after such a busy week.

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All too soon it was time to move on. Now, I don’t know whether you have ever spent a long time on the road, but a certain madness creeps into the soul. So, whatever it was possessed me to enquire of Mr Stenham what it was about myself that irritated him just as we set off on a 4 hour drive I can’t say. By the time we reached our destination I was relieved to step out of the van.

road

tunnockeyes

And what a wonderful place we had arrived at. Out harbour for two nights was the amazing Quaker house at Briggflats. We were to stay in the warden’s flat, in the meeting house. We were the guests of Phil and Tess and their family. I don’t think I have ever spent time in such a quiet, peaceful beautiful place. In between time sitting quiet in the meeting place Toby showed me stunning photos he had taken on his trip across Africa, I learned about Journey of a Lifetime Trust,  Mr Stenham ‘helped’ Hugo with his homework, we went for a glorious riverside walk with Phil, Tess told me a Quaker story about a while feather and we learned about the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

Tess also told us about an amazing silver swan automaton, made in 1873 and in a nearby museum. We looked at film of this creature online, but time was too short and we were heading North to meet bears who were just about to sleep. So frustrating to be so close and yet not have time to see this wonder.

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Onwards via lunch at Audrey’s where we were fed beautiful bread and soup and it was great to see Tom and all of Audrey’s beautiful art on the walls including a wonderful painting by Jeannie Tomanek

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scotland

Back on the road again, to Scotland and All the Bears were excited now. Here we would be meeting bears and I had 4 days of hard work ahead. The bears need a blog post all of their own, brown bear, sun bear, panda and polar bear, and that will happen soon I promise. Still trying to think and gather up impressions and hold all in my mind. Enough for now to say that I had the great privilege to meet Carmen and Susie, two brown bears at Five Sisters and feed them St Davids honey with honeycomb from a spoon. They were sleepy. Almost about to hibernate. If you find the cage offensive then know this. These bears had lived the first long years of their lives as circus bears. They now have a woodland where they could roam, to look for food and also hide, and this cage, with space, far more than they had known before. But best of all they had food, enough to build up the bulk they needed to hibernate. And they had the peace to do this. Imagine living in a cage so small, with scarce enough food and having to perform and never being able to hibernate. Awake when you should be sleeping. Never knowing the feel of running water through your paws. They were in this part of the cage because this is where they were denning up. They had chosen this bit. Peggy had already curled in a bears nest in the woods. And the look in the bears’ eyes as they ate the golden honeycombe was enough to break any heart. The bear people. Amazing. More later. They photo doesn’t do justice to the closeness and safety and peace in a bear’s eye. The next day they were both sleeping and their lives have haunted my dreams since that day.

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After Scotland, Durham, with an escaped lemur from Five Sisters, and painting in the beautiful cathedral shop. Not many books to sign as they had sold so many, which was wonderful but I felt a connection with the medieval manuscript painters as I sat among the vaulted arches painting a hare. Beautiful cathedral, wonderful shop.

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In the evening I talked for a short while as part of a panel for the YLG, and later went to the YLG supper where the winners of the Carnegie and Greenaway were presented with their awards.

The next day we were driving across to the Hedgehog bookshop in Penrith to work with the wonderful Liz, and our route took us straight to the silver swan where I spent an hour just looking at this stunningly beautiful piece of silver. She swims on a sea of glass rods and silver fish swim before her. She wakes now for the shortest of times at 2 pm every day, so we did not see her move as I was due to be in the bookshop. But I think she has swum her way into my book. Just beautiful. You can find out more about her here and watch film of her moving.

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At the Hedgehog Bookshop I painted and people came and went and had books signed. Cecelia came, with a present for Little P. A new hat! He was so pleased and she said had it not been for the power of  All the Bears in the Wild Wide World she would have been to shy to stop and to talk. And it was lovely to meet her. I love Liz, she’s fierce and takes no nonsense and makes good scones so Mr Stenham was very happy.

Liz had the ‘Cupboard of Jigsaws’ ready for Christmas, but has told me she has had to order again as people just keep buying them.

jigsawcupboard littlepshat maryknitting knitting34 bearearsIn the evening I read from new work and old and talked about books. I bought a copy of Animalium for a friend. Such a beautiful book.

animalium

Then all went strange as my mum called to say my dad was in hospital and we headed south to be there and a few days of worry and being with my folks, then dad out of hospital and fragile but hopefully all well then home. A strange end to what had been an amazing two weeks. We did jigsaws with my parents and All the bears in the Wild Wide World were pleased to meet them.

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So, more about bears in part 2. Coming soon.

For now I have painting to do, a van to sell, pages to make on the blog for new books. And here is why I was drawing Swans.

wilds backcover knit

 

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Hares in the Gardens.

From 4th Nov until 13th January I will be exhibiting work at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, near Carmarthen in Wales.

Work includes drawings, two paintings of peregrines and work from Song of the Golden Hare. Books are for sale in the gardens shop and i will be painting in the gallery from 10 am-4pm on Saturday 6th December.

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The gardens are beautiful, any time of year. The great glass dome is astonishing.

Inside the gallery it took a while to steady nerves before hanging began. But I had wonderful help and the paintings seemed to take their places with great ease.

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Signed books then walked just a little around the grounds where I found some beautiful lichen died wools. Then home, to cats and fireside. Home and hearth. Seems like the best place to be at the moment.

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To read more about the peregrines in the exhibition have a look at this article in the Western Mail.

This is the third exhibition I have had in the gallery. Here is the one from 2006.

 

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Pieces for Christmas

It seems a long way off, but then it creeps slowly forward like a monster and before you know it, it’s Christmas.

So, ideas. Well, idea really. Jigsaws.

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40 piece jigsaws make an alternative from cheap crackers to put beside each place setting over Christmas dinner. They can be made on your own, or put together sharing…Also great stocking fillers.

All the jigsaws are made with wood, laser cut, made in the UK.

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Bigger jigsaws will work well to keep the whole family amused, from 6 to grand and great grand parents.

I know people who spend time with ageing parents who struggle with memory, piecing together the images, giving them a way to pass the time.

Many of the images come from books, so a package with the book and a jigsaw could be a good present. The 40 piece ones can take 15 mins to 30 mins to do, depending on the design. Long enough to take a break from all the things that ‘need’ to be done and rest the mind for a while. The 250s can take an hour or two, depending on whether you wish to share or make the puzzle on your own ( I like both)

And then there are 500, 750 and 1 500 piece ones. A family present, for everyone. But these are not cheap and they have to be ordered specially, and to get them in time for Christmas, now would be the time to order.

So…….here are the designs:

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At the moment you can get them from:

Solva Woollen Mill

The Hedgehog Bookshop in Penrith

Book-ish in Crickhowell

The Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance

Number Seven, Dulverton

The Cathedral Bookshop, Durham

Seaways Bookshop, Fishguard

The Golden Sheaf, Narberth

Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge

and the great and good news for all indie booksellers is YOU CAN’T GET THEM ON AMAZON.

So, if you want jigsaws contact one of the above or better still if you can go in to visit the shops.

If you are an indie bookshop and you want a product to compliment my books, something of quality, made in the UK that will sell faster than you can order it in send me or Andrew at Wentworth Jigsaws an email. ( Have a look at Wentworth’s site. You won’t find my puzzles there yet, but they do have some lovely ones and you can order their designs direct from them.)

And if you are an indie and get the jigsaws in send me an email and I will add you to above list, with links.

Liz at Hedgehog books said, “I would mark in gold the day that Andrew from Wentworth’s phoned about your jigsaws”. This is what her stock cupboard looked like a week ago. Now she is re-ordering for Christmas ( the second time I think). For a small indie bookshop in Penrith in winter this is amazing.

hegehog

 

I phoned Liz to ask her for a quote about the jigsaws. She made me laugh.

” When an order comes in from Wentworth, and i order so many jigsaws at a time, the smell of jigsaws fills the shop.” ( I do love booksellers!)

Liz has a cafe with scones and coffee and a jigsaw on each table for customers to do while they sit and eat and drink. Few people leave the shop without buying one and she has introduced so many people to my books through the jigsaws.

” I don’t understand why bookshops aren’t falling over themselves to buy your jigsaws”, she said.

At a time when bookshops are being encouraged to diversify and sell ‘non book product’ at least these are book related.

jigsawwine whimsies display edge bigjigsaw  jigsaw2 bj2

To help people, shops, to find the jigsaws I would ask you to share this post, on twitter, facebook, by introducing your local bookseller to the idea. As a way of saying thanks I will give away 3 forty piece jigsaws to 3 people. ( Which design will depend on what I have but there will be some choice) Leave a comment below and I will pick a winner in about 4 weeks time. And meanwhile take a bit of time to step sideways from the business and piece together a puzzle.

Thanks for reading. I’m off to paint.

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