What happens when I take time off

I’ve loved the music of Karine Polwart for a long time. She had been in touch with both Nicola Davies and myself, and offered us tickets for her amazing show, Wind Resistance. She had also sent me a copy of the cd and I’d bought the book, so I thought I knew what I was in for. I drove to Nicola’s then we went to Cardiff together, and I was nervous, not only because I would be meeting Karine, but also because we are soon to be working together on an amazing collaborative project, Spell Songs.

( More on that later, but if you can’t wait follow the link to the beginnings of a beautiful thing)

As I say, I thought I knew what was coming. No. What we experienced that evening was the very best creative protest, narrative non-fiction bound in beauty, music, light, vision, movement. Karine’s voice is strong and proud and fierce and brave and beautiful, and if I use the word beautiful too many times, all I can say is it’s never enough. Wow. As the geese flew and the moor talked back to us, and together in the auditorium we listened to the nature of the wild and the wild human nature, spell bound by brilliance, I knew it was the right choice to stop work, stop everything, and listen. The memory of it will live in the geography of my heart and soul.

“What is it that we hold most dear, and hold out for one another?” That’s what Karine says it is about.

For me it was a spellbinding weaving of natural history, history of place, a love story, so many layers, moving between found sound and spoken word.

On the way home on Sunday I brooded on the beauty of it. And stopped at The Works in Llandeilo ( not the dreadful shop that sells remaindered books and the like, but a weaving old factory filled with antique stalls. A good place to stop, stretch legs, and not be driving. I keep searching for old ink stones, but here instead found something else.

Hiding in a cabinet, a box. A wooden box. I’m not sure what I thought it was at first. It was pushed to the back, but it whispered.  I leaned in to look. A paintbox. Georgian it said. With lots of paints…. I moved away from it fast. The last thing I needed was more paints. But I had to walk past it again, and there was no harm in taking a second look, or asking the man to open the cabinet, just so I could take a better look.

It had a key.

And is was old, yes, but had been used and there were all those sleeping colours, and being closer now I heard them whisper….and I knew that if I didn’t take them I would regret it. It was, after all, a box of trapped dreams.

Everything about it made me long to introduce those paints to water and when I lifted out the paint tray, underneath there were more things, and a mysterious glass tube of black powder… and old old tubes of Winsor and Newton paint, and a mussel shell….

The Newman’s paints date the box to between 1800 and 1950 as Newman’s moved to Soho Square in 1800. But there are reeves and Woodyer paints also, and they make it no later than 1818…. I thought it was 100 years old, but perhaps it is 200, and these quiet voices of colours have been dormant in the box for longer.

And the glass tube, with the dark powder? That is Velours a sauce….. used by artists like Seurat, to make a deeper black, with stumps, and there are some of these also, and charcoal, or conte, of various types, old and old. And pencils and other drawing tools, a tool for drypointing, something I’ve never yet done. So many things to use.

So far I have painted only a small hare, and tested out colours, and found a tiny stick of Chinese ink that I painted two otters with.

Hare is for sale. He’s £350, the first song these paints have sung for a long time I think.

So far two otters have swum out of the old ink, which is dark, but scratchy, dry. It’s so small. there aren’t many otters left in it. One has already been sold for the Nottinghamshire Crowdfunder. The other is on reserve……£200

These paints have so many more songs to sing. And I have more to tell you of songs, and a card to paint.


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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6 Responses to What happens when I take time off

  1. What a trove!

    “Two otters swam out of the old ink…”


  2. WOL says:

    All the Otter Spells you’ve been doing have filled the well of your magic. Magic attracts magic, as is well known; it calls to the magic that others have imbued into special objects that they love and treasure. The paint box is one such object, adrift, bereft, once a repository of magic, looking to be so again. No surprise it found another artist to work the magic for it again. Be prepared for more such serendipity. Such is what makes magic magical.

  3. Bernie Bell says:

    I think you don’t have a telly? But…if you ever get the chance, watch this programme, about…the wind, and…………….

    Imagine what might have been painted, with those paints – and by whom?

  4. Christina says:

    How lucky you are, Jackie, to have been able to see Karine’s show. I just recently ordered the CD and booklet, and, watching the short youtube snippets, have managed to get a tiny glimpse into how heart achingly beautiful it must have been. The CD alone is just sublime.

    And what an incredible find! Sigh…living in Western Australia, I’m never, ever likely to come across anything like that…tea cups from the 50s are considered antiques here!

  5. Beautiful! Not surprised the paintbox called to you to unlock it, after who knows how many years!

  6. Jane Dorfman says:

    You were meant to have that box. I would love to come across one like it. Just beautiful, seems like a magic find.

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