Busy, painting.

There is too little time to blog, but I’ve so many things that I am keeping ‘under my hat’ I need to let a few out. But first thing to say is that the exhibition at Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is still on until 2 Sept, so if you can go, do. It is such a beautiful place and I would like to say a big thank you to all at the gardens for supporting the show, doing such an amazing job curating the work, and being wonderful.

And a big thank you to the lovely Anji Spangle, who looked after us rather delightfully.

Huge thank you to Rob Bushby, forever to be known as The Fixer, not just for getting us tickets to see Amanda Palmer in the astonishing Pianodrome. Rob has been a tremendous supporter of The Lost Words and the exhibition at Inverleith House would not have happened without him.

And this was me being very bad outside the Gardens. Sorry Robert.

So much to talk about, but no time, as one of the other things under my hat has been a huge commission to adorn the walls of a hospital. I’ve so much to do, and only 2 weeks to accomplish the work, which includes a new spell, Buttercup, written by Robert Macfarlane, specially commissioned for the children’s ward. My work for this was to first find buttercups, second, lie down and draw them, and third, to paint. I’ve butterflies and ladybirds to add, but also many other things and there’s an ongoing thread on twitter of works in progress.

And every day I need to walk, even though I’m struggling to do so at the moment. Too much travelling, not enough exercise. I need to stay home and paint! And the world is beautiful and green, and I want to swim….

And there are still ongoing crowdfunders. In support of The Lost Words for Powys I am printing this scarf. It will be an original piece, hand woven in India, in partnership with Maiwa, khadi cotton, a shawl, scarf approx 37 x 78 inches. Hand stamped with the wren stamp made for me from one of my drawings by the English Stamp Company, it will be unique.

I am offering this piece for auction, starting at £50. To bid please leave a comment on this blog post. The winning bidder will be the one that is highest approx 48 hours after bidding stops or an hour before the crowdfunder finishes, and I will contact them about donating to the crowdfunder. You can also, if you wish, donate £10 to be entered in to a draw to win an inked otter, but, make sure you chose the ‘reward’ option when donating.

I will be monitoring comments regularly, but as I need to action them, sometimes there can be confusion!

There will be more scarves.

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It’s taken a while, but I have finally got around to putting some signage on my van. Not as flamboyant as my old dragon van,

but I think it looks quite elegant.

Both vans were done by Sigma in Haverfordwest. they are brilliant to work with. The dragon van was a complete wrap. This one is just signage.

There were two spare wrens left over from a trial printing. They are pixelated, but look ok, just not as sharp as the finished birds. I can cut around them with a scalpel if you wish, so you can peel off the backing and stick on your car, a wall or anywhere. I’m offering them for sale at £60 each (SOLD) for Lost Words for Powys. There’s only two so email me first to secure before donating. Put Wren in the subject matter.

And it would seem the van works as a magic charm, for who should appear beside it, but Mr Macfarlane himself. Not sure whether he was trying to rub the letters off!

I put him to work, writing, with ink made by his dad from oak galls and a quill made from the feather of a greylag goose. The first, below, on a card from The Lost Words, was a test to see how the ink flowed……and this also is for sale for The Lost Words for Powys. £50, and again, email me to secure, with ‘ink’ in the subject title.

The second was the start of a spell, Acorn, written in the oak gall ink, but the chaos of what was whirling around us led to mistakes. I think it’s still curiously beautiful. It is edition 6 of the book, and carries an extra line on the Magpie page and £125 will secure this copy, (SOLD) with words from Robert and acorns and leaves from me…… we both forgot to sign it, but in our own way, with hand written words and drawn image, both have. So, email, with Book as subject, to secure before donating.

There’s something about mistakes made that I love more as I get older, and make more mistakes, I guess.

Driving to Edinburgh via Ludlow tomorrow. Watch out for us on the road. I will be painting at Inverleith House on Saturday, and talking at Edinburgh Book Festival on Sunday, Golden Hare Bookshop on Monday.


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Old dogs, new tricks.

I met Tamsin Abbott first in the pages of Earth Pathways Diary. Her work shone out from the pages. We met in person at Art in Action and became friends, and so we met Mike Abbott, her husband. I’ve stayed with them many times, and love them both very much.And ever since I have met Mike I have wanted to go on one of the courses that he runs.

Last year I realised that years were going by and I wasn’t giving this time, so, with Robin and Nicola Davies and Astrid De Groot we block booked a week in July.

So, what did we learn?

I learned the names of some tools, some familiar, some new. The saw (hasume crosscut saws from Japan), the froe and the greenwood club, the draw knife, the push-knife, spokeshaves, tenon cutters, sawhorses and auger bits, clamps and vices.

Then there’s the chair. Rungs, seat rails, legs, spindles, crest-rail, cross-rail.

How to measure. That’s another thing I learned and how to use the tools to take greenwood logs and make a chair, in the company of good friends and with the help of a marvellous teacher, because that is what Mike became for us during that week.

He took three people who were convinced that by the end of the week they might have made some curiously shaped firewood, and one woodworker, Astrid, and he gave us the knowledge and confidence to fashion the most beautiful chairs. As I write this I am sitting on the one I made.

Sometimes we worked together, helping to site lines and angles for drills and saws, lending weight to cleave logs.

And this was one of the most fascinating things to learn- how to go with the grain to use the growth of the wood to split the log and use the strength of the wood and the shape of the drying to hold the joints. No glue, no screws, just the natural material of the drying of the wood, holding all together.

When to cut with the grain, how to saw across the grain, when to work together, when to work alone. Learning to size things by eye and not to be overly worried by measurement.

And through it all Mike was patient with us, empowering, never laughing at our failure to understand how to do the simplest tasks, but showing us again until we understood. Bending the wood for the legs and the crest and the cross rail, after steaming it was amazing, then holding its shape with drying.

And most of all I loved these things:

Using the draw knife, which silvered the wood and smoothed it.

Hearing how the wood sang, from the spokes to the legs and then how the squeezing of the separate parts, with the force of the vice made the wood sing.

Learning to go with the truth of the wood.

Working on the seat weaving while Nicola sang.

The frog that we found, under a platform, so green, like a jewel.

The robin and the wren, the blackbirds and the butterflies.

The wonderful company and the lunches and suppers we shared.

And the moment of confusion on Robin’s face when he stood back having squeezed together his chair, and realised that what he had thought was random collection of sticks he had been shaping and sanding was now a thing of beauty. That he had, indeed, made a chair. And that is is, indeed, beautiful. And even now, with the woven seat, and the chair complete, he still seems beautifully bewildered by how that happened.

Mike’s knowledge of wood and the growth of trees is wonderful. He reckons to have facilitated the making of over 2000 chairs over the years he has been teaching. Probably more when some people go on to be chair makers. I wonder if some time a ‘bring your own chair party’ could happen, a celebration of so much learning given to so many people.

This blog post could also have been entitled The Philosophy of Wood.


And there’s something more. Nicola Davies wrote the most powerful book, as a reaction to our government, our parliament, voting against allowing 3000 lone child refugees to find a home in our land. 3000. That’s not many. But even one child left alone and vulnerable in this world where mankind can be monstrous is one too many. She is going to auction the chair that she made to raise money for Help Refugees. There will also be many drawings of chairs for sale.

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Being on holiday

On the way to ‘being on holiday’ we called in at Booth’s Bookshop in Hay, to sign books and pick up a painting.

And then we wove our way to a place near Cradley, a beautiful place with a view of a willow tree, duck, and distant wooded hills where buzzards call and overhead, high, high in the sky, swifts scream with the delights of hunting and flying.

I seem to think that holiday is a time for sleeping…. but also I have pitched an idea for a  book to my agent, painted some otters, written a blog post, or two, if you count this one, and, well, given myself some time to pull otters out of my head with a brush and some ink.

Below is a small giant, £150, 10x25cms,  a questioning hunt for a small fish.

Below, two small giants, 10x25cms, in an infinity spell, £200.

And below, large, flirting otters, 105x 75cms, with dark sumi ink, a love spell at £2000.

Inking otters is a curious meditation that brings me peace of mind.

And on Tuesday, on my holiday, I will be in Blue Ginger near Cradley, with Nicola Davies, talking about books. Almost full, now, as there is supper also, but still a few tickets available. Sue has a set of the premium Lost Words prints for sale.

More of the holiday soon. I’m almost certain there will be drawings of ducks at some point.

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Read Between the Lines

A long time ago I lived in Hereford. I was 19 years old, with a heart full of hopes. My first time away from home. I’d been to my interview at the college dressed ( by my parents still) in a grey flannel suit, pleated skirt, waistcoat, blazer. It was an interview, after all. I needed to be smart. Hereford College of Art for a Foundation Year. School was behind me. I had ‘achieved the rather modest A level results of an E for English, a D for Art and a B for History, but also had the require pass at English and Maths O level, which was all I needed to enter the course. And I had a heart full of dreams.

I loved this place, with its cathedral and slow river running through it. Within weeks of being there I was dressed in Millets dungarees, granddad shirts, Dr Martins and a donkey jacket.

It was all a long time ago. At some point I was taken aside and told that I would never pass the Foundation course, nor achieve a place on a degree course. ( Later, at Exeter College of Art which had been my first choice, and where I had completed two terms, it was loudly pointed out to me that I had been very lucky to secure  transfer to Bath Academy as my work was as substandard as my attitude, I would never make it as an illustrator and they were going to throw me out).

On Thursday I joined a small and select group of artists and makers and became a Fellow of Hereford College of Art. This involved wearing a cap and a gown ( for the first time, as I didn’t go to a graduation ceremony at Bath) and making a short speech to the wonderful students who had made it through to the completion of their courses.

Such an honour. And I was a bit nervous. I muttered away at some things, sidetracked myself, got a laugh here and there, but this is, in retrospect, what I should have said:

1. Be brave. You will need all your courage to be an artist in this world.

2. Artists contribute so much to society, are often undervalued. You take your places among a long line of dreamers, many of who are only recognised after their deaths having lived a life of poverty. Many people will ask you to, expect you to, work for free. They will say that what they are offering you is ‘good exposure’. I’m here to tell you that people die of exposure. Value your time- even artists need to eat. You can pick your causes, when you choose to give your skills for free, don’t let others bully you into it for the ‘exposure’.

3. It is possible to earn a living as an artist. Usually this takes a long time. Doing other work to facilitate your move into being a full time artist can be very good. Some choose to keep this balance their whole lives. Treat all the work you do as you treat your creative work, it is all a part of the whole. 

4. Check out Arts Emergency. They are there to help.

5. Whatever your discipline make work that makes your soul sing. Speak from the heart. Find your voice and know that your voice is as relevant, as deserving to be heard, as anyone’s. Don’t follow fashion. Create work that excites you.

6. Look. Read, read, read. Stories from near, from far, from long ago, fiction, non-fiction, poetry.  And do not ever forget to listen to the voices of others.

7. You will have to learn how to make friends with your monsters. Mine has always been self-doubt. Making the monster your friend is a part of the working process, but this has been one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m learning to dance with my demons, to embrace it as part of how I work.

8. Understand that as you walk out of college, degree in hand, that your learning has only just begun. Every day of your working life you should be learning, with each thing you do, each mark you make.

9. Don’t chase money, or be flattered by this false idol. If you earn enough to feed yourself, your family, house and clothe them and buy materials you need to then spend your time making work, creating. You can always get more money, but once time is spent it’s gone. You can never reclaim those lose minutes, hours, days, years.

10. Do not ever underestimate the power of daydreaming. This is the space where ideas dwell.

11. Whatever you do, do it with a real passion.

12. Be open hearted, open minded. Eyes wide open to the whole world. Believe in the arts as a powerful tool for change, to communicate ideas, to bring about change, to educate, inform, as a harbour for the soul, as an expression of what it is to be human.

And above all question everything, even advice given in good faith. Question, interrogate, read between the lines.


So, that’s what I should have said.

Thank you Hereford College of Art. I hope I can help you to inspire a new generation of makers and dreamers.


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Selling Hope

I have, as much as is possible, avoided listening to the radio. Seeing the protestors in London gave me hope. Seeing Trump and Putin, metaphorically hand in hand, if not physically, dashed it again. So I turned to hope.

The Yorkshire Crowdfunder for placing copies of The lost Words in schools has met its target, but the stretch target will see the book in doctor’s surgeries, hospitals, other places. Two days to go. I offer you hope.

If you pledge £55 to the crowdfunder I will send you the word ‘hope’ stamped in four of the twentysix otters of the alphabet. If you go to the crowdfunder page and scroll down you will find the link on the right hand side.


If you want some Love & kindness, at £75 it is not too late. Also on the same page, to pledge.

And if you feel you need a larger hope there is this one, at 106 x 75cms, handwritten in deep, dark Japanese calligraphy ink that is slick and dark as the black otter. Too big to get a decent photo until it is dry these photos below give something of the idea of what it is like. £2000 for this would buy a good many books.

 And there’s also a small handwritten otter ‘hope’ at £150, because everyone does need a small hope. Also in the slick, dark ink from Japan. Please email me for these two pieces before making a donation as they are originals.

We all need hope. Without it we become lost.

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Otters for books

It’s like a curious trade. I paint otters to sell, and the money becomes books that are given to schools, to green the classrooms and act as a catalyst for learning natural literacy.

I’m working on three things at the moment. Maybe four.

The first is two large walls at Compton Verney. I’ve never done anything like this before, and am hoping that with the help of Penguin Design we can make something beautiful.

Meanwhile I have been chasing words to go with the image. Every day, all day, trying to find the right ones. And I think, perhaps, now I have them. Finding them has involved listening to the spaces in between the song of finches, and watching swallows fly. The White Cat took a look. He thinks they are ok.

Meanwhile the campaigns for The Lost Words in schools continues, and as the sats results come out, telling many children that they are just not up to the mark, that they haven’t achieved the correct standard, then I think there’s even more need for it.

So, I have otters for sale, at the moment all the small ones are for Nottinghamshire, where they have three days left to raise enough to place a copy of the book in all schools in Notts.

Above, £175. (Sold)

Below, Small Giant Twisting, £150 ( Sold)

And below, Mother and Child, (175). All of these are 10 x 25cms ( despite Mother and Child looking huge!) Please email me first to secure before donating to The Lost Words for Nottingham.

And then there are two large pieces. The first, a Twister with a chine of bubbles,  on cream handmade paper, with sumi ink.

Beautiful sand coloured paper, called Two Rivers,  (the colour doesn’t really show in the photo). This piece is £1000, donated to Notts, and will go half way to placing a copy in all secondary schools in Nottinghamshire. Do email first to secure, although should this sell, I can do another piece, similar, never the same, on request.

The second is an otter for Yorkshire. A diving splash of an otter painted in Sumi ink on Arches paper. This piece is also £1000. Both the Splash and the Twister are 56 x 76 cms.

There’s also words still, for sale, if you click on this link.

Thank you.




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Selling time….

I will sell you my morning memories, and the gold soul of a sea-smoothed beach stone.

£250 for The Lost Words for Powys


Email me to secure, as this is an original piece. Made from time, memories, white gold transfer leaf, Chinese paper, typewriter, sewing machine and silk, between the wingbeats of swallows.

Also for sale for £75, the gold soul of a beach pebble labyrinth. Two pieces of white gold transfer leaf stitched with silk, fragile.

The stone was left in running water at a place where the sweet and the fresh meets the cool and the sea, where earlier, in dusk light, otters hunted swift fish.

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A most exciting thing

Just the most exciting thing. And I would write more but I’ve so much work to do. So, have a look at this, Spellsongs.

Browse the website for more. I’m so very excited.

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Four Otters for Lincolnshire

The first, below, painted with Japanese ink, brought back fro me by Katherine Rundell who writes wonderful books, painted on Khadi Paper.

£250 (sold)

The second, stamped with 26 otters of the alphabet spells ‘love & hope’ and is £65.

The third is ‘love and hope’ handwritten from the stamped rough and is £150.

And the fourth is &, handwritten in the same Japanese ink that is dark as can be and flows beautifully and is £250. (Sold)

All the money for these will, for now, be donated straight to The Lost Words for Yorkshire Schools, which only has a few days to go.

If not sold before they will be offered for a different crowd funder.

Email me BEFORE donating as each piece is unique. The paper is 35 x 31cms.

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