What is Art in Action? Hard work. Beauty. Meeting people. Making connections. Learning. Art.
I made this, for Robin Hobb, with the help of Natasha Bardon, Emma Coode, Jane Johnson and Dominic Forbes. Harper Collins dress fantasy Fiction in beautiful clothing making brilliant reads beautifully covetous.
Thank you The Reading Agency for choosing me as their Author of the Month.
Next week I will be packing and traveling to Art in Action.
For anyone who doesn’t know it, hasn’t been it is THE most amazing feast of beauty and art.
Here’s links to a few past ones.
And an image or two from past times.
Come along to this year’s show. Bring friends. Say hi. Mary will be there, and she might just be meeting some of her sisters.
The irony is it all started with a ginger cat. You know how something brews away at the back of your mind and then all of a sudden motivation strikes and good things happen? Well, one day, in a bookshop in Aldeburgh, a thought struck me.
I saw a wooden jigsaw in a window. It was from Orlando, the Marmalade cat by Kathleen Hale. And I thought. I could do that I thought.
So, I looked on the web and checked out the manufacturer and I sent an email. Wentworth’s Wooden Puzzles. Five weeks later I took delivery of beautiful jigsaws, made in the UK, to sell at Art in Action next week.
Beautiful wooden jigsaws that I have been playing with with friends over a few weeks.
The jigsaws compliment the books, from the tiny 40 piece ones, that take about 30 minutes to do unless you are a jigsaw wizz, to the very expensive limited edition 1 500 piece jigsaws ( price on application: email me). The larger jigsaws, from 250 upwards, come in a cloth bag, lovely box, all sourced in the UK. And the jigsaws have wonderful Wentworth Whimsies.
I gave one to Karin, Mother of Mary as a late birthday present and she and Emily (Mary’s sister) did it together. She said it was wonderful to just stop rushing around and focus on building a picture. She sent me photographs of their progress.
My hope is that people will buy them, for themselves, as presents, for teachers when they leave school, to say thank you, just to say I love you, to make together, to take to supper parties, to thank staff for wonderful work, for all kinds of occasions.
There are many people I know who have a secret passion for jigsaws. Robin Hobb for one. It’s an unusual and innovative way to promote books, indie bookshops and also to get more space in bookshops for my books.
So, here are some of the jigsaws. My hope is that independent bookshops will take them up and run with them. My sister wants to buy the small ones to give as gifts when she goes out for supper. The larger ones are perfect for doing together as a family. A tiny jigsaw and a copy of the accompanying book make that perfect present. And there is a problem, because they are addictive. Once you have one you want more. Once you do the small ones a few times, you want the bigger ones. And the bigger ones take a good deal more time.
So far you can find them in:
Cover to Cover in Mumbles, Swansea
The Hedgehog Bookshop, Penrith
Coming soon, I think, to Solva Woollen Mill.
If you are an indie bookshop/gallery/giftshop and want to sell them contact Wentworth’s jigsaws, and when you get them in let me know and I will add you to the list.
I love my jigsaws and working with Wentworths is a pleasure. Now, I’m off to pick one to keep and do. Maybe see you at Art in Action next week?
At some point we are going to have a speed contest of who can do the Dragon Egg Hatchlings jigsaw the fastest. For now here are a couple of jigsaw films from Celestine and the Hare:
So, I decided to product test the jigsaws, step sideways from work, relax, unwind.
First I chose a jigsaw. Little Red, Reading to the wWolves. Originally painted for Kids Need to Read, they used it in their calendar and then made a wonderful print, still available to buy.
With a pile of pieces in front of me I turned the hour glass and settled down to peaceful picture building.
One hour later and I was finding things a bit tricky.
Another hour in and all the ‘easy bits’ were done. With Wentworths there is no such thing as an easy bit.
In this one all the whimsies are wolves, and I have had another idea. I want to draw the whimsie shapes too, to make them even more bespoke.
There is something masochistic in the pleasure to be gained from piecing together a difficult jigsaw. There is a sense of satisfaction in fitting a piece in. I am hoping to bring about a revival of the jigsaw, although I think Wentworths are ahead of me there. I want these jigsaws to be the new 50 Shades of Gray. They are, after all, very sexy.
…went to the library and saw some dragons.
I talked to lots of children, mostly about dragons, sometimes about cats.
Mary and I met a pirate who makes tea.
I went to the House of illustration, with Mary, and Mr Stenham.
I met with my editor and designer to talk about swans and it was good to be in their company.
Mary and I and Mr Stenham went to The House of Illustration, which was wonderful.
I sat in a deckchair in sunshine and breeze beside water dancing fountains.
I visited the British Library for the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge.
I looked upon the face of Medusa and lived, because I am beloved of dragons and therefore can come to no harm.
We found a shop that was a cabinet of curiosities and fortunately for my bank balance, closed. But I do think that there might be a story hidden inside it.
I signed books at the Natural History Museum and walked among dinosaurs and polar bears and met a wonderful woman who seeded a magical story into my mind.
And my very favourite thing amongst all that was there that I saw was the smallest of smalls, a pygmy shrew.
And then I came home, found notebooks and notecards, sold a fox and a hare and wrote a blog post or two.
Must be time for me to sit in the sun, and then do a jigsaw.
Mary said, “What’s a library?”
And I said, “Well, it’s like a big house where there are lots of books. Some people are lucky to have private libraries at home, but not many people. And some schools have libraries. And there are things called Public Libraries.”
Mary said, “What’s a Public Library.”
And I said, “It’s a library that is owned by everyone, where all the books that are made are kept. You can go into a Public Library and request and borrow any book that is in print.”
“Any book?” said Mary. “They must be very big then. Because there are a lot of books in the world.”
“They don’t keep every book in the one library, Mary, but they have lots and you can ask for a book and the library will search for it and find it and then you can borrow it. And there are huge libraries, like the British Library in London, The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. They have so many books, some very old, very precious.”
And Mary said, “Do they have books about bears?” And I said, “Yes.”
Mary was quiet for a while. She must have been thinking, because then Mary said, “Can I take a book out of the library?”
So I said, “Yes, but first you have to be a member of the library. Let’s go and see if you can join.”
So together we went to the library in Hornsey.
In the library we found a special children’s section, filled with picture books and novels and games and things. We walked up to the counter and Mary said, “Hello”. At first Ashley was surprised to find a talking bear, but when we explained that Mary wanted to join the library and take out a book Ashley welcomed us and showed us how to join.
First there was a form to fill in, with address and details, and Mary had to put her age, which was a little difficult, as, like Paddington who also comes from South America, Mary doesn’t have an age as such. So we put down ‘wise’, in the age box.
And because I am Mary’s legal guardian I filled in another part of the form, and signed it. Then Ashley checked my signature.
Mary chose a library card, with Ashley’s help. Ashley liked the polar bears best so Mary chose that one, as she couldn’t decide.
Mary had already looked around the library and chosen a book, so she pushed it towards Ashley. It was a story about polar bears. Ashley said she could have twelve books at a time, but Mary said she only wanted one for now, thank you.
And then Ashley scanned Mary’s card.
Ashley went to stamp Mary’s book, and Mary was so excited she asked Ashley if she could help too, and Ashley said “Yes”, so she did.
“It’s such a good time for you to join the library, Mary,” Ashley said. “The Summer Reading Challenge starts tomorrow. You can pick up a pack for the Reading Challenge in any library in Britain and join in. All you have to do is read six books.”
“Just six?” said Mary.”Not the same one six times?”
“Just six,” said Ashley. “But you can read more if you want. And the Reading Agency have recommended books to read. This year’s theme is Mythical Maze and is all about magical creatures like dragons. When you have read six books, any six, they don’t have to be ones on the scheme, they can be short, they can be long, with pictures, without, you complete the challenge and win a gold medal for reading.”
Now Mary loves books, she didn’t need to be offered a gold medal to read, but she does like a challenge and a shiny gold medal might be a good thing to have.
“And,” Said Ashley, “there’s a website all about it and you can find recommendations for all kinds of books and set up a profile online and add reviews. There’s a book sorter than can offer up ideas and suggestions of which book to read. And all sorts of competitions to enter.”
So Mary joined the library, and went home happy with her book and her card and her pack from the Summer Reading Challenge.
On the way home Mary said “How much did it cost to join the library?”
And I said, “Nothing Mary. We all pay for the libraries with our taxes. They are a national treasure, part of our common wealth. They are something shared by everyone, no matter how rich or how poor.”
Mary was quiet again. And then she said, “I like Ashley. She’s very beautiful. And she has a special job. I can learn a lot in the library and Ashley can help me. She told me about the Reading Challenge. And she told me about some books I might like about Paddington. He was a bear too. He had a suitcase like Emily’s. I like the library.”
“So do I, Mary, I said. “So do I.”
When Mary got home she unpacked her reading challenge maze and had a look at it.
Then she read her book and filled in the first section. Only five more to go.
And Emily sent Mary a film, all about playing libraries, with creatures and books and The Weasel.
The paintings will be there for a while and I will be joining them for a launch of the #SummerReadingChallenge on 8th July, 6.30- 8pm. Please do come along, bring friends, tell people. The Big Green Bookshop will have books for sale and I am happy to sign.
It is #IBW2014 this week. For those not in the book trade this means nothing. Independent Booksellers Week.
So, here is a short story about one, or maybe it’s a book review.
Over the last year and a half I have wandered the country roads of Wales and England visiting indie bookshops, signing books, sometimes painting, sometimes talking, sometimes just simple stock signing passing throughs. In one shop inNorwich I enquired about a book I had been hearing about on the radio. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Independently published by Galley Beggar Press and winning all the prizes. 9 years to find a publisher with the courage to put something out there, something new, something that respects the reader. Nine years and now published by Faber.
I signed the stock in The Book Hive and then the man behind the counter handed me a copy of the book. When I went to pay he waved my hand away. “No, take it. Read it. See what you think.” Beautiful. Simple typographic cover, French folds, red endpapers. Good to hold. ” Thank you.”
I took it back to the flat we were staying in, started to read and thought “Oh my God, I can’t read this!” For it made no sense. I decided to give it away, to a friend who writes, to see what she might make of it. But I found myself going back, and back, reading over the first few word tangled pages until one sunny day it caught me. Caught and held.
It’s not an easy book to read, not because of the prose style. Four pages in and it catches in your brain and carries you. Intrigues. There is something about how McBride writes and the only way I can find to describe it is that she is the writer who is closest to catching thought in words on paper that I have ever read. The book gets inside you. Inside thought, inside your head, your heart. And it twists your heart so tight. It’s about love, about growing up, about fear, about self, about family. Not an easy read. But one that pays back the reader so much.
There is a beauty to the roll of the language that tumbles into the mind’s eye. And you care. You care about the girl, about her brother, about them. And you drown in the pages every time you find and make the time to pick it up and read until it won’t let you go and you have to read to the end, the very end.
I guess when I was first interested I wanted to find out why the book was gaining so much attention, find out how it was written, see if it was a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Having read it I think not, and I would say it is more of a Cloth of Dreams, but nightmares would fit better. And the word ‘fierce’ keeps coming to mind. A fierce, furious, dark book. Do I understand how it is written. No. But I can see myself being drawn back in again and again, to look and taste the poetic prose of it as I have been with no other book recently. It inspires curiosity.
I saw the book, over and over in every indie bookshop I visited, usually given pride of place. This prize winning storm of a first novel that no other publisher would touch because they didn’t know how to market it, by Galley Beggar did. Every bookshop. So, I want to say thank you to Galley Beggar for having the courage to put this into print and having the respect for readers to know that what is good will find its way. For giving the publishing world a kick in its bland backside where publishing houses are led by marketing and respect for readers is at a low. I will be taking a good look at more titles on the Galley Beggar list, and eagerly wait to see where Eimear McBride will go from here. Where ever she does go she will walk her own path.
I think John Self catches it best in his review. “Terrible beautiful”.
At the beginning of this year’s card for Help Musicians I moved my desks in my studio. I do this sometimes. It’s a restlessness. Something to do with settling in to new work after a long period of working. A change.
By the end of the painting new additions had entered the studio. I had been to Fishguard to buy a book. It is, after all Independent Bookshop Week, though few who do not work in the industry would know this. So buy a book from an indie bookshop now.
I also visited the wonderful Edelweiss Antiques and became haunted by a dress. The satin white dress of a long dead bride, dancing forever with a delicate fan in a case of glass. At some point the ghost bride wishes to ride on the tricycle horse, her tiny buttoned boots turning and turning the tricycle pedals.
Also, a pram, a child’s pram.
Inspiration. A wonderful shop.
In Frome I bought a cage for Duck.
Duck now feels safe from the cats, though she says that it is a trifle small and perhaps meant for a smaller bird? I also learned that Frome has a Sunday market on the first Sunday of every month. Hmmmm…….. amazing indie shops, a great bookshop, Owl, where Gladys Paulus exhibits and more, much more.
Love my wedding dress and my pram. Love Gladys Paulus’s stag and doe head that you can just see in the window of Owl. I love that both Frome and Fishguard have an independent bookshop in Hunting Raven Books and Seaways. Long may they prosper.