Finding Balance no 2: Things that are beautiful

Some days are filled with thought. And much like other days.

At Aber Mawr I gilded two stones, one large, left standing, below the tide line.


The second was smaller, placed at the crossing, where people look down at their feet.

The sun was warm, the sea was calm. Another time I will swim.

And coming home, a message from a friend saying he was going stone hunting. The stone from a few days ago was gone, maybe taken by the sea. It was big, heavy. I wondered who would get these ones first, the sea, Andy, or a passing walker.

Back home I worked on a proposal for a new book, my first since finishing The Lost Words a while back. Andy messaged to say they had found both stones, taken them home ( cone must have been a challenge).

Meanwhile I worked on the words and the gold souls of the two stones. Stitching, threading, weaving words. Slightly flawed in its stitching, but isn’t it always so that souls are slightly flawed, with silk threads hanging, which I love, and words from things seen, heard, tasted today, written on paper flecked with gold that has travelled from China.

Soul of a labyrinth with words. £250 to The Lost Words for Yorkshire campaign.

This one was sold before even it was made, and what I love is that Andy is going to take the stone and the words and soul of the stone, framed, into the care home where his mum lives, so that it can bring something of its quiet peace to that place.

I’m sending him the small soul stitched together also. Because this has been a curious day.

There will be more of these, but I’m never sure what they might say until I make them, nor how big they will be. I still have one to make for yesterday, if I find the time.

If you want to reserve one email me.

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Stitching souls and a different way to blog

Yesterday I took the dogs to Aber Bach. In my bag I carried white gold leaf, a dog tooth burnisher, an old brush and some gold sizing.

At the beach I found a stone. Someone had balanced it on a rock, below high tide, in the way that people do these days. There were other stones balanced too, but I wanted a large, smooth stone, to heavy to carry away without difficulty.

In the sunshine, with the sound of the sea I gilded a labyrinth onto the stone.

Then I put the stone back on the rock and sat and wrote for a short time, then, leaving another, small stone in the stream, we headed home.


Water over stone and gold

A post shared by Jackie Morris (@jackiemorrisartist) on

Today I stitched together the golden soul on my sewing machine, in my studio.

Soul stitching. See website for more details.

A post shared by Jackie Morris (@jackiemorrisartist) on

Then I typed up what I had written, sitting beside the sea ( with the odd edit).

Then I stitched together the soul and the memories.

This piece, called ‘Gold Soul From a Balanced Beach Stone, Aber Bach, Pembrokeshire’, made from white gold, Chinese paper, a typewriter, time and thought, is for sale to raise money for the Yorkshire campaign to place copies of The Lost Words into schools. 

£250 (SOLD)

(each small square of gold is 8cms sq, so hat will give you an idea of size)

Email me to secure BEFORE donating as the piece is and always will be utterly unique.

The stone was placed yesterday, below the high tide line and there have been three turns of the tide since. It may have been picked up by human hand, more likely taken by the sea.

There is something very contemplative about creating these fragile and curious pieces. Hope you like it.




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On the Way to the Foxes Wedding it Began to Snow

Each year I paint a Christmas card for Help Musicians. The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow began as cards painted over about seventeen years, and became a book.

This year’s card is late as I have had so many other things to do. This blog post is a photo essay of its progress.

First, sketches.

Then, draw out, and paint.

Trying not to dip brush in tea.

Almost done. Need to do something else for a day or two and let the snow settle.

This year’s card is dedicated to Tamsin Rosewell who works at Kenilworth Books, who works tirelessly to connect readers with writers and illustrators, paints a fearsome bookshop window, works really hard to try to bring about a fair wage for authors and, understanding the importance of authors and illustrators in the book industry lobbied to bring an award at the #Nibbies ( British Book Awards) for an Author and an Illustrator of the year ( This year’s were awarded to the wonderful Axel Scheffler and the marvellous Philip Pullman). And also because she loves music and foxes.



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Small Giants for Yorkshire.

Last night I stayed up too late playing with ink. I had found a small stick of old ink in my new /old paintbox, and in the afternoon painted two otters, one of which sold, and the other was reserved, but I said that I would paint an otter that was done just for the person who ‘might’ want the old ink otter. So, with river water and my new inkstone from the Dragon’s Tail Mountain in China, a ‘she’ stone, and with my favourite ink that smells of incense I inked an otter or three.

So now I am offering three small giants for sale to raise money for the campaign in Yorkshire, to place a copy of The Lost Words in schools in Yorkshire.

The first is the one made during the afternoon from the old, old ink. It’s a tiny stub of ink, beautifully pressed but old and scratchy with dryness and age so I was glad I used my old stone. Even after all these years, perhaps 100, perhaps 200, it was possible to draw out an ink dark beauty and conjure an otter, with a sparkling chine of bubbles.

10 x 25 cms this otter is £200. SOLD, swift as an otter, already, with money donated to  The Lost Words for Yorkshire.

This is the same piece again. I thought I had lost it, but the otter had camouflaged itself, swimming against the calligraphy on the cover of my Chinese art book. I keep thinking about cutting myself a signature stone. Maybe.

Next is a questioning swift swimmer, curled. Again 10 x 25 cms, on rough paper, but this one is using the she stone and the pine scented Japanese ink, dark and different.

£200, (SOLD) and money donated via the link above to the Yorkshire campaign.

And then there is this: Infinity Otters no 3: a spell in ink and river water from Aber Mawr, Pembrokeshire, in the hope that there will always be otters.

10 x 25 cms or 25 x 10 ( whichever way up you wish) £300: email me to secure and once confirmed donate to Yorkshire campaign.

If you want to make a donation please do, with the same link above. Every donor has a chance of winning a pair of Dratsies, as everyone, no matter how big or small a donation, will be entered into a draw for the picture below ( again resting against the Chinese art book, and again 10 cms x 25 cms).

It was a late night playing with ink last night, and I need to focus on the very late delivery of the Help Musicians card design I will be continuing work on tomorrow. Almost there, just a couple more days. Last night my desk looked like this:

Tonight it looks like this:

And if you want to see more otters, there are some in The Golden Sheaf in Narberth, some in Richard Booths Bookshop in Hay on Wye and some here, in a visual otter essay with Five Dials.

Coming soon, an article in Elementum Magazine about The Shape of Otters.

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What happens when I take time off

I’ve loved the music of Karine Polwart for a long time. She had been in touch with both Nicola Davies and myself, and offered us tickets for her amazing show, Wind Resistance. She had also sent me a copy of the cd and I’d bought the book, so I thought I knew what I was in for. I drove to Nicola’s then we went to Cardiff together, and I was nervous, not only because I would be meeting Karine, but also because we are soon to be working together on an amazing collaborative project, Spell Songs.

( More on that later, but if you can’t wait follow the link to the beginnings of a beautiful thing)

As I say, I thought I knew what was coming. No. What we experienced that evening was the very best creative protest, narrative non-fiction bound in beauty, music, light, vision, movement. Karine’s voice is strong and proud and fierce and brave and beautiful, and if I use the word beautiful too many times, all I can say is it’s never enough. Wow. As the geese flew and the moor talked back to us, and together in the auditorium we listened to the nature of the wild and the wild human nature, spell bound by brilliance, I knew it was the right choice to stop work, stop everything, and listen. The memory of it will live in the geography of my heart and soul.

“What is it that we hold most dear, and hold out for one another?” That’s what Karine says it is about.

For me it was a spellbinding weaving of natural history, history of place, a love story, so many layers, moving between found sound and spoken word.

On the way home on Sunday I brooded on the beauty of it. And stopped at The Works in Llandeilo ( not the dreadful shop that sells remaindered books and the like, but a weaving old factory filled with antique stalls. A good place to stop, stretch legs, and not be driving. I keep searching for old ink stones, but here instead found something else.

Hiding in a cabinet, a box. A wooden box. I’m not sure what I thought it was at first. It was pushed to the back, but it whispered.  I leaned in to look. A paintbox. Georgian it said. With lots of paints…. I moved away from it fast. The last thing I needed was more paints. But I had to walk past it again, and there was no harm in taking a second look, or asking the man to open the cabinet, just so I could take a better look.

It had a key.

And is was old, yes, but had been used and there were all those sleeping colours, and being closer now I heard them whisper….and I knew that if I didn’t take them I would regret it. It was, after all, a box of trapped dreams.

Everything about it made me long to introduce those paints to water and when I lifted out the paint tray, underneath there were more things, and a mysterious glass tube of black powder… and old old tubes of Winsor and Newton paint, and a mussel shell….

The Newman’s paints date the box to between 1800 and 1950 as Newman’s moved to Soho Square in 1800. But there are reeves and Woodyer paints also, and they make it no later than 1818…. I thought it was 100 years old, but perhaps it is 200, and these quiet voices of colours have been dormant in the box for longer.

And the glass tube, with the dark powder? That is Velours a sauce….. used by artists like Seurat, to make a deeper black, with stumps, and there are some of these also, and charcoal, or conte, of various types, old and old. And pencils and other drawing tools, a tool for drypointing, something I’ve never yet done. So many things to use.

So far I have painted only a small hare, and tested out colours, and found a tiny stick of Chinese ink that I painted two otters with.

Hare is for sale. He’s £350, the first song these paints have sung for a long time I think.

So far two otters have swum out of the old ink, which is dark, but scratchy, dry. It’s so small. there aren’t many otters left in it. One has already been sold for the Nottinghamshire Crowdfunder. The other is on reserve……£200

These paints have so many more songs to sing. And I have more to tell you of songs, and a card to paint.


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The Lost Words for Lincolnshire and #EmpathyDay

So many people have set up crowdfunders since Jane Beaton successfully raised enough money to place The Lost Words in schools in Scotland. So many have been successful and the books are working their way into schools. Now Lincolnshire have come on board with a campaign.

It’s #EmpathyDay today.

The Empathy Lab focusses on using books as a tool to build understanding, between people. How better to learn what it is like to be someone ‘other’ than yourself than through reading? And I feel this also extends to learning about the value of the wilder world. How better to understand the wild life of creatures than through reading?

I love how The Lost Words has brought people together; booksellers and readers, wildlife charities and crowdfunders, schools and charities, and the crowdfund organisers and the community of people who have generously donated books for complete strangers. I love the inventive way different crowdfunders have worked.

In order to support the Lincolnshire campaign I have painted otters.

The first piece, an otter with a chine of bubbles, painted with my favoured Japanese Sumi ink is to be offered up as a kind of ‘raffle’ prize, so that anyone donating to the campaign is entered to win this small piece ( valued at around £300). It’s 25 x10cms

The second piece is the word ‘Hope’, written in the wild language of the 26 otters of the alphabet, a piece of wild calligraphy painted in Korean ink with a goosequil brush, well, keep an eye on the crowdfunder page to find out. I chose the word ‘Hope’ because I feel that one of the things The Lost Words has given people is hope. Hope that things can be changed and that we can move towards a better relationship with the wilder world, that a new generation might see the world through different eyes, that the nearby wild can come into focus. We all need hope in our green hearts in these dark times.

And because yesterday I was tired and trying to do too many things at once  wrote Love, instead of hope, by mistake. But Love and Hope are so similar, it’s easy to see how this mistake could be made. ( Both Love and Hope are written using Korean calligraphy ink- and in these times perhaps you can draw your own conclusions about this, reading between the ink).

So, I am going to offer Love ( below) for sale, at £450 with all the money going to the Lincolnshire campaign. It is 41 x31 cms. To buy email me, and then I will let you know if Love is still available.

And for #EmpathyDay I wrote ‘Love and Kindness’ using the stamps from the 26 otters of the alphabet.

I am going to offer 5 of these stamped images for sale at £75 each. (nb: only 1 left) They are on Arches hot pressed paper, 41 x 31 cms. As each is hand stamped it will be slightly different. All will be signed. Email me to secure before donating. Again 100% of the money will go to The Lost Words for Lincolnshire. ( Should anyone feel the need to have a large calligraphic version of this I will attempt to paint the words in sumi ink and river water for £3000.)

And one more thing for sale. My blog post for today would have been this ( see below). Instead I wrote it on some beautiful Chinese paper that was sent to me when I bought my new inkstone from Inkston. The paper is called Extra Fine Flower Bird, and the writing will take you on our walk, through the woods, in the greenlight, and out onto the beach at Abermawr in Pembrokeshire. The bluebells in the wood are almost over now, but out from the trees they are still bright blue. The martins have made new nests after the cliffs were eroded by winter storms and the reed bed is lacy with angelica. If you want this fragile piece of writing, typed on my dad’s old typewriter ( which fascinated children so much at Hay I had to put it away. I do love it so) you can purchase it, signed for £65 to the Lost Words for Lincs campaign. Email me to secure though. The next paper in the typewriter has gold flecks, but no words as yet.

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Hay Festival, before and after.

The last few weeks have been a curious roller coaster of days, from London to home, missing the wonderful opening of the exhibition at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh where the Lost Words artwork and words are currently residing, to Hay, then London, again! I’m home now, and home is scented with roses and honeysuckle, with too many things to do. So, I will try to show a little of my time away, mostly in photos, and then begin to move through things that need to be done.

Hay Festival for me began with heading to the festival to set up my studio in the Illustration Gallery, which turned out to be rather larger than I had anticipated. For the first couple of days the gallery was closed, but on Thursday I signed and doodled on 80 prints for Paul, from Aquarelle, while outside rivers of children moved between events. The atmosphere of the festival was joyful, amazing. So many children.


By Saturday the gallery was open, I was gilding a barn owl and the hard work had begun.

Somehow I found the time to sign prints for Graffeg, also, for The Old Chapel Gallery and Number Seven Dulverton.

I had meant to go to lots of events, but soon realised this was not possible, for one cannot be in two places at once. But I did hear the wonderful musical alchemy of Catrin Finch and Sekou Kieta. And we did have a meeting with Sekou before hand. But more on that soon, soon.

On Thursday I took the morning off to do an event, parachuting the wonderful Nicola Davies in to chair the event at the very last minute. Kerry Andrew began the event, spellbinding our audience into the theatre with her music for Robert Macfarlane’s Wren spell. And she closed the show too, leaving the audience with the scent of bluebells. Her music is available to download and buy from iTunes and you can hear the beautiful bluebell on youtube. Live, she is magical, her voice carrying clear and beautiful notes, building sound, wrapping a room around the tune.

2 1/2 hours of signing then straight into the studio,  talking with students from Hereford College of Art.

Next day I was painting otters in Booths. Ampersand otters, and more, signing books and talking. And there I met with the wonderful Rachel Clarke

Rachel wrote Your Life in My Hands and was speaking at the festival and we plotted and planned.

On Saturday I took people down to the river, talked about The Lost Words, drawing, looking, took water from the river to paint an otter. As we arrived it almost began to rain then the sun shone and it was beautiful.

And then I painted again in the festival. And during the week there were many otters, a  fox and a badger. I gilded small children, had my photo taken with Sofia, Queen of the Selfie.


I talked to people of all ages, some authors and illustrators, some students, from Cardiff, Swansea, Hereford, had a meeting with Tiny Owl, one of my publishers, signed prints for Graffeg and had short meeting with them, chatted with Tom Bollough who spoke of how he was wrestling with his new book, and all of these things were things that might usually happen in the Green Room, but people could listen in, and all were part of the business of being an illustrator.

Many otters were painted, some with thunderous rainwater from the roof of the tent, caught in a rolled reservoir of canvas.

Above is still for sale £1 500. Email me for more details.

And below is Hay Festival, written in otters, which was a present to the festival for inviting me. ( a bit huge, and I am still unused to the script, so it looks like the early writings of a child where they left not enough room for the last letters)

The otter below is the one painted on stage, in front of a large audience while reciting the words of the otter spell, summoning an otter out from the mind’s eye in ink and water. This will soon be auctioned by Hay Festival to raise money for their amazing program with young people. So watch my blog for more details. The paper traveled across to Cambridge, where Robert hand-wrote the spell against gold leaf letters.

In the Green Room I chatted with A C Grayling who talked to me of the nature of the origin of the word water until I felt I was drowning a little, but loved eavesdropping on his conversation with the very beautiful and marvellous Anita Sethi.

I read Gillian Clarke’s ‘Stone Hare’ to a new friend, Val, from Gillian’s iPad and then compared rings with Gillian’s daughter.

And I think that despite interruptions to sign books I got more work done than I could at home, because of the need to focus and inability to wander the cavernous hallways of social media.

So, thank you Hay Festival, for inviting me. More news on this soon, as the otter I painted on stage while reciting Robert’s spell and being watched by about 600 people is due to be auctioned to raise money for the festival. Many thanks to all who came, Peter Florence for the invite, Becky and Isaac for looking after me on the riverwalk and feeding us flapjacks.

The exhibition is still on in Booths Bookshop, and I must thank them for sponsoring our event on the Baille Gifford stage, and looking after me so well when I was in the shop painting, AND for the gift of the stuffed heron who is now watching me in my studio. So utterly perfect. They have originals, prints and framed otters for sale, including work from Tell Me a Dragon and Song of the Golden Hare and The Ice Bear. The shop is magnificent, the cafe just wonderful and they’ve signed copies of many of my books, though we sold out by the end of Friday of The Lost Words.

And most thanks go to Hannah, for as we drove away on the Sunday, tired and relieved we learned that Little Pi had encountered a Lost Word in the flesh, been bitten by an adder. I can joke now, for she is fine, will keep her life and all her paws, but overnight in the vets with anti-venom while I was miles away was difficult. So thanks to Hannah for her care of the Golden Dog Child, and to the gods of small dogs for not letting her die.

Back home now, unpacking head and boxes, painting a spell of otters. This is a new series, Infinity Otters, a wild river spell so that there might always be rivers and otters to people them, and that somewhere the rain will always fall to make rivers flow.

Small Infinity Otters#2 sold in moments on twitter for £300

Large Infinity Otters#1 are £2000

Painted with sumi ink and rainwater from home.

Time, now, to sit in a field and watch the birds fly.

Oh, and then there is the beautiful Hay Festival Medal for illustration. I love the way it was quietly given, and believe me when I say, it is very warmly received.



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Soul stitching

She walks, and if

A small piece of her soul was missing,

Isn’t that always the way?

In darkness the soul stitcher worked,

Piecing the remnants together with silk thread,

A stitch at a time.

And all that remained of her soul was purest gold.

Meanwhile the gold souls of birds are also a work in progress.

These are the remnants of the leaf left when gilding. And often I have sold off small piece by auction, to help raise money for charities, for crowdfunders. But now at last I have found ways to stitch and they are seeding new ideas, working images and words in tattered fragments of fragile things.

And if the one who walks is perhaps a ghost then she is more like the ghosts I have seen. Not a fan of the cult for dystopia, I seek out beauty. Appalled by the zombie films I know that treating dead in such a way dishonours us all. for those who are dead are not to be feared, but remembered, with love, with honour. Like the gold souls the memories build in our minds.

The kindness of ghosts.

I can feel a new exhibition coming on.

Meanwhile I have the moongold soul of a bluebell, stitched onto the wordpress of the Lost Words spell written by Robert Macfarlane.

And I have a draw that contains sleeping golden souls.

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Stitching souls

For a while now I have been wondering about gold leaf fragments. Sometimes they are lovely. And for a while I have been wondering about stitching them together to make quilts of leaf.

As Lambeth and Wandsworth is now fully funded ( thank you so much all who contributed) all sales in this will go towards the Sheffield Campaign organised by the Vernon Oak and friends.

First, one fragment of gold, from a painted stone labyrinth. £35- (Sold) the gold is 8cms x 8cms.

Email me , with the subject title of ‘stitched souls’ if you want it, then donate fast to the funder.

Second, two; again just one labyrinth, a bigger stone. £50  Stitched together with silk, these are fragile things, but they glow, holding the light of evening.

Third, three. Three stones, placed on the beach, somewhere in Pembrokeshire, and these are the echoes of their gold souls. Three, moongold, stitched with silk. £75 (SOLD)

Fourth, and we have four, in greengold and yellow and redgold I think. £100 ( SOLD)

And then there is this, flawed, but somehow really like a piece of gold magic. Fourteen stones gilded, fifteen squares in various shades of gold, greengold, moongold, red and yellow. Really inexpertly stitched ( I missed a bit at one point), but would work in a frame as a curious creature. There’s something about the flawed and fragile nature of this that I like. £300 (Sold). It’s the first of something new I hope, big pieces, stitched together. Next time I will mark where the stones were placed. Some of these will have been picked up, others will have lived in the sea, as tide finds before human.

I’ve more souls to stitch, some big pieces, some small, but I need to get better. I think I have the tension right on the machine now and I love the sound it makes as it stitches. I’m in need of learning, it’s also in need of a good clean, but it seems to me that stitching the gold souls of creatures might be a little akin to magic.

You can if you wish, in the next couple of days, donate to the crowdfunder here: The Lost Words for Sheffield Schools.

Do email me before donating if you wish to secure one of the pieces as they are all one offs.

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Imagine The World: Hay Festival

So, imagine the world.

It seems as if the human world is in quite a mess at the moment, getting deeper in, not deeper out. And the trouble with this is that because as a species we are, or feel we are, so dominant on the planet we endanger every living thing, not just ourselves.

It seems to me the way forward is to find new ways, learn new behaviours and in order to do this we need to imagine a better, not a worse future.

This year’s Hay Festival has as its strapline Imagine the World.

It seems counter-intuitive to me that at a time when we need the dreamers, the thinkers, the ‘imaginers’ in order to find and design a way out of our predicament our government continues to underfund the arts and undermine the teaching of the arts in schools. It’s a joy to my heart that The Lost Words is finding its way into schools and doing its best, through the power of brilliant teaching, to undermine the government’s attempts to do this, inspiring children to find a voice.

So, imagine a child who loved to draw being told that she couldn’t make a living as an artist and had better just stick to it as a hobby. That child was me. This year I have been awarded the Hay Medal for Illustration, for my part in The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane. Our subversive creature of a book continues to unite, to be read across generations, to heal, to be read at weddings, at funerals.

To thank Hay for this, and I hope to help to inspire a new generation of young people to have confidence in their bright minds, to aspire to work in the arts, I have agreed to set up my studio table in the new Illustration Gallery at Hay and work. I will be there most days, gilding at times, playing with ink, writing with otters, with some of the things from home around me, with sketchbooks and with stories. I’m happy to sign books, but happier to answer questions, chat, and most of all work. Obviously when I am engaged in the events on stage, I won’t be in the studio, but otherwise, appart from maybe Tues 22nd and the afternoon of Friday 25th ( on 25th I will be painting in the beautiful Booth’s Bookshop.) For those who know me from Art in Action it will be a bit like a solo version of that.

I will try not to bring the filth, and cobwebs from my studio, but may bring my da’s typewriter, brushes, polar bears and their shrine, and odd bits and pieces.

Below is the start of a trial piece. So far in otter, reading vertically it says….

Well, maybe I will let you work that one out. For ease I will put the code beneath. Think I need a bigger piece of paper!

So, come if you can. There are no tickets left now for the walk I am doing, but still tickets to see and hear me and Kerry Andrew….we hope to make some magic happen. And for those far, far away I will try to remember to tweet, but I hope I will be wrapped up in gilding. I’ve an image almost ready for gilding now. It’s huge. It began as a sketch and a search for lost wings and an owl’s foot.

It began as an image to accompany Robert Macfarlane’s Barn Owl. But then as the wrens sang sharp thorn song outside my window they crept in too. Hunted.

More balance will be added after gold leaf.

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