The language of liquid, continued.

I have to say that I hold Robert Macfarlane entirely to blame for what you will read next.

For a while I have had in my head a desire to paint the twenty-six otters of the alphabet. Why? Well, in the Willow spell there is a line,

“but you will never sense our sap, and you will never speak in leaves,”

And also, at The Foundling Museum I drew an otter, in pencil, but then said,

“The thing is, I love pencil, but when it comes down to it liquid is my language”

And I think perhaps it is my truest mother-tongue. The language of liquid. For are we not all, mostly water?

So, it was not leaves I wished to speak, though I would love to understand the slow time language of trees. Rather, the language of otter. And wound around this is also my struggle as a child to learn to read. And the fact that we have been sent many a message from teachers and parents about ‘reluctant readers’ and how they have cleaved to our book.

I struggled to get the alphabet to sit in my head. Struggled to find a way to draw these figures I was show, to relate them to words. But I got there in the end. Many don’t.

So, let me introduce you to the twenty six otters of the alphabet, who came first in small sketches.

They have twined and twisted in my head for a while now, and the few people I have talked to about them have looked bewildered and changed the subject.

Today I drew them, in sumi ink, with water from the river beside Solva Woollen Mill, where otters swim. There’s a dipper there too, and kingfishers. Eels run the weir, pushing upstream and sometimes a heron hunts at weir sill.

I want to paint all 26 letters as big pieces also. This will act as my key, and my aim is to write Robert Macfarlane’s otter spell using the twenty-six otters of the alphabet. Hopefully The English Stamp Company will help me with this. Just seeing now if a set of stamps can be made to enable me to use them to write with.

And I also wondered whether to auction a word, or your name, painted rather than stamped, in sumi ink, in otter? The size would depend on how much the bid is, how long the word/words. A name, a word a phrase, in ink, and the language of liquid. And the money would go to one of the many crowd funders for The Lost Words, or be split between a couple.

This auction is now closed.

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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The language of liquid, continued.

  1. Seán Lysaght says:

    How much would an original cost, with my wife’s name ‘JESSICA’ written in otter alphabet? Otters are her favourite creature.

  2. I adore this. I can’t afford a bid but I wanted to say how much I adore it. I used to make up codes for pupils to decifer when we looked at the beginnings of language and writing. Cuneiform and hieroglyphs and here is an alphabet of great beauty. Wonderful mad lady that you are my friend. Please get stamps!

  3. Bernie Bell says:

    My, but you’re clever, Jackie – not just inspired and full of magic, but also….clever.
    As Karin says – this is a new form of script – animals making letters/letters making animals – word magic.

  4. Holly Webb says:

    Please could I bid £100? For my name, Holly. I’m starting to plan a book about otters, and have been researching them – your otters are beautiful. We gave so many children The Lost Words for Christmas, it’s a wonderful book.

  5. Rhian Wyn Harrison says:

    Ooh… this is amazing, genius… love, love, love it!
    Hope there will be a book?

  6. Sam Hicks says:

    Beautiful. Just love these.
    I’d like to bid £120 for ‘Twins’ please Jackie x

  7. Sylvie says:

    I would like to bid £2oo for ‘otter’, which I would treasure. My son has some beautiful signed books from you.

  8. Kate Fraser says:

    I’d like to bid £150 please, for ‘Honor’ (and maybe ‘Kate’?)

    Kate, Vavasseur Antiques

  9. Cecilia Hewett says:

    How beautiful! Please may I bid £150?

  10. Seán Lysaght says:

    Hi, I’ll go £150 for ‘Jessica’,


  11. Jackie says:

    There is an earlier bid of £200 above these two…. so any bids over £200 please…?

  12. Cecilia Hewett says:

    £250, please.

  13. Lauren Gilbert says:


  14. Katherine Slee says:

    Please can I bid £350 for “Inspiration”. I think the story abehind why you’re doing this, the fact that liquid speaks to you, where the money raised will be going – everything about this is just beautiful.

  15. Sylvie says:

    £300 for my 5 letter surname please.

  16. Cecilia Hewett says:

    £400, please.

  17. Astounding (do I use that word too often with your work? Well, it is that)
    I’m not bidding of course. It will have to suffice that I was fortunate to get Elmo from one of your early ink trials and it’s enough for me (Elmo fan and lifetime cat lover now living in changed circumstances sadly catless…he serves as my only feline companion)…but this Otter Alphabet is so your own and so fluid it matters not that I couldn’t decipher it unless you printed the letter too. Really, absolutely lovely, playful and elegant. I hope you will consider a postcard series someday soon. To you the praise and may Robert Macfarlane glory in his blame!

  18. Jackie says:

    This auction is now closed and winning bid is Cecilia. I will be in touch with details of who to pay.
    Thanks all.

  19. Sue Hatt says:

    Dear Jackie Morris

    I am not sure how to contact you and Robert Macfarlane but thought that you would be interested/pleased to know that we have donated copies of ‘The Lost Words’ to local schools and the local library and are hoping to engage with schools in a project inspired by your beautiful spellbinding book.

    Best wishes

  20. Katherine Slee says:

    Hi Jackie,
    I noticed that I was unsuccessful in the auction, but wondered if it would be possible to commission you separately?
    Thank you and regards,

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *