East of the Sun, West of the MoonFront and back coversI began working on this book months ago when I was artist in residence at Oriel y Parc and went round and around in circles to get the cover right. (And here.)

Title page with necklace by Hannah Willow

This is the third time now that I have ‘finished’ East of the Sun, West of the Moon. When the type was set with the images I found that 3 small ones had escapes and there was space for another double page spread.

But now I think I have finished and just need to do that final read through and try not to change things too much as it goes off to press on Friday, at last.

Moon snagged in tree branches with owl.Meanwhile I have been listening to a wonderful Griot singer called Sona Jobarteh. Her new album is soul soothingly beautiful. The Griot tradition is one that should be celebrated more, and she comes from a family of brilliant musicians. She was brought to my attention by one of the best radio programs I have heard for ages, a real balm to those fed up with jubilee and olympics: Modern Day Griot, on radio 4, presented by Gaylene Gould. Wonderful song, music, magic. I remember meeting a man in America who spoke of the importance of story tellers in this way, how they were close to the rulers, how they held their people’s history close, so that people would learn from the mistakes and successes of ancestors. Kept me painting all day yesterday.

Thistle down coat, Adrain Bannon

And while looking at thistledown for my painting I found a remarkable coat made of thistledown by Adrian Bannon. Like something out of a fairytale it hangs. And while walking towards it on the web I also discovered Bird Skin Shoes.

Below, the last image painted for this book and the words that live near it.

Spinning with wool and hair in thistledown

“A long day ahead and one more chance. Three women had given her three gifts, and said she would know how to use them and when. Now she began to wonder if she had used them in the right way. She had made mistakes before. She had lit the candle that her mother had given her. Maybe what she did now was wrong. Maybe she squandered her gifts.  How could it be that anyone could sleep so deeply.

She was so tired.

Out of her bag she took the beautiful spinning wheel, so delicate, so intricate with its many coloured gold, treadle and maiden, flyer and whorl, wheel and axle. In the sun, by the wall she sat and began to spin the wool she had carded the day before, and into the thread she spun the hair she had combed as she untangled the pattern of the wind from it.

After a while she realised that the barren landscape around her was changing. The white anemones still blossomed and their faint perfume hung in the still air. Now, all around where she had sat and combed grasses grew, small shoots greening the earth.

She sat, and spun, and thought of the wind. How he carried life all around the world, how he stroked like a cat, roared like a lion. How he planted seeds and brought great giants of trees crashing to the ground. The wheel turned, hypnotic, and her thoughts turned with it. The thread she spun with the wool and the hair was the finest. The golden wheel flashed patterns of light onto the tall castle wall. Around her thistledown lifted in the almost still air, hanging and falling as the wheel turned and the wind whispered an almost imperceptible love song. The gold coloured the castle wall.”


East of the Sun, West of the Moon will be published in the UK and USA by Janetta Otter Barry Books in association with Frances Lincoln in August of 2013 ( and don’t worry, Evelyn Watt, it will also be available in Australia).


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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9 Responses to Thistledown

  1. It looks utterly beguiling, I look forward to flying east of the sun and finding the west of the moon. This is one of the worlds most lovely stories and you have done it proud.

  2. marilyn ritter says:

    A long wait but a treasure to look forward to reading.

  3. Maryom says:

    Another year to wait! At least it’s on its way 🙂

  4. Joy says:

    Oh my, this is wonderful!!! As a spinner, I particularly *love* this picture and text – lovely!

    • Jackie says:

      Have I spelled ‘flyer’ right? Worrying about that now.

      • Anita says:

        Yup! Flyer is right 🙂 Though, your spinner is sitting sideways to how spinners normally sit at wheels, and she mysteriously has her fingers on the drive band, not on where the yarn forms (at the bobbin/flyer between her sleeves). Have you heard Emily Portman’s song Tongue-Tied, a version of the the Seven Swans legend, about a sister who freed seven princes turned into ravens, by spinning and weaving thistledown into shirts for them? Your lovely picture makes me think of it.

  5. Such beautiful artwork Jackie, this will be a very special book! I especially love the picture of her spinning..
    Love the necklace too 🙂

  6. Leonard bannon says:

    My son the creator of :Thistledown: is a kindred spirit

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