Stepping sideways, for a while

This was my week.

Last Thursday I picked up Eva John and we drove to Dulverton. Eva wrote the Explorer’s Notes for The Lost Words and is writing the same for The Spell Songs, so we had much to talk about on the journey there. We arrived in dusk light to the lovely Woodlands Cottage on Jury Road, beautiful house of many chimneys, and Jan and Davina had settled us in, lighting the fires, closing the curtains, cooking supper.

We were working together the next day at a teaching conference in Buckfast Abbey, where Hayden was handing out the first copies of The Lost Words to go to schools after successfully crowdfunding to get a copy in to every school in the county. Eva and I were delivering 2 workshops for the teachers with ideas of how to use the book in schools. It was exciting to see that half the teachers there weren’t aware of the book, which means we have much work to do to bring the book to more teachers, more children. Davina and Chris were there from Number Seven Dulverton to support us with books for sale, but also both are brilliant photographers. I asked Chris if he would come to one of the sessions to capture some of what it was like. Not sure quite what I had said in the image below, but love the reactions. We were going to be working with a visualiser, but non was available, and despite the numbers I went ahead anyway. Sometimes I think it’s best to see things ‘live’ and not through the medium of a screen. This is the scariest bit, when the paper waits.

Love how the faces have changed here, to concentration. All the time the brush moved I was reciting Robert Macfarlane’s Otter Spell.

So, that went quite well.

I painted two otters that day, one for each group, and one was given to Hayden, who worked so hard to make the Devon Crowdfunder a success and is still working, to bring the book to thousands of children. The second otter was a questioning soul and I love that Chris caught the echo of him in the ink that waited to become otter. This one became a raffle prize.

Later, Chris showed me a photo he had taken of the inkstone as I was grinding the ink, and there, written in light, was an echo of the otter.

It was amazing to talk to so many teachers, many very young, and to know that in speaking to them we were maybe speaking to hundreds of thousands of children through them. There was such energy and enthusiasm in the room as Eva unleashed ideas for how to make the most of the book.

Later I dropped off some new work at Number Seven. A flock of finches and a flight of swallows.

I love this place. It is so full with beauty.

A few days with my daughter, her dog and her cat were spent reading by the fire while she worked at her studies, short walks with small cat, some painting. And Chris and Davina and Jan came round and we made a podcast and Chris filmed me painting some luggage tag otters for Number Seven, including the word ‘holt’ in the 26 otters of the alphabet.

Chris’s film of the writing in otters is just lovely, with a soundtrack of ink, river and otter spell.

Jackie Morris: Otter Holt from Number Seven Dulverton on Vimeo.

There are still a few of the special edition Lost Words copies at Number Seven. If you get chance do go. If you can’t go then their website is also a place of visual delights.

On the way home I called in at my sister’s house. It was so windy I didn’t want to drive home. The wind was pushing the van all over the road.

And later, back home, I discovered a wonderful review of The Spellsongs in TLS.

Now it’s time to sit by the fire and read with creatures. I need to paint, make new books, finish a book by April. I bought a ladder on the way home, for the cats. Made perfect sense to me. Cats do like ladders.

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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