I have recently been commissioned to make a Harry Potter altered book. I don’t know that much about the Harry Potter books and I’ve only ever seen Harry Potter films on flights, however, this seemed like a good challenge.
I wanted to make the Whomping Willow the main feature and got caught up in the detail of branches and leaves:
It was fun overlayering the crashed car with the top layer:
I added an owl in the foreground and Hogwarts in the background against a starry sky:
Along with the Harry Potter altered book, I created another ‘Into the Beech Wood’ altered book as part of the same commission:
To accompany this I put together a little booklet with a piece of my writing called Time in the Beech Wood. I wrote it when staying in the Forest Cabin last year. I’ve wanted to do something with this piece for a while, so this seemed like a good opportunity. I played around with my World Tree and deer illustrations to create the cover in Photoshop:
(I think there’s a hint of cave painting or Cretan vase in the design!) I’ll add it to the book as a little gift.
I have always admired the clothes of India Flint, the eco-dyer, alchemist and wanderer from Australia. A couple of years ago I tried eco-dyeing my own clothes following tutorials on various blogs, such as Threadborne, as I couldn’t find a workshop. This year, I’ve experimented once again.
I bought various chemicals – soda ash and aluminium acetate – from Wild Colours and foraged for leaves while out on a walk in the country.
I chose Turkey Oak leaves as I like their pointed shape and I didn’t come across a native oak on this particular walk.
My basic method was as follows. First I scoured the t-shirts to remove any greese and dirt they may have accumulated during the manufacturing process. This involved boiling the t-shirts for two hours in water with soda ash. I followed the method here. Then I mordanted the cotton with aluminium acetate following the procedure here. Following that I was ready to dye.
I laid out each t-shirt and arranged the leaves on one side. Then I rolled each t-shirt up around pieces of copper pipe and tied up the bundles with string. Ready for the pot. In they went with water, more leaves and some pieces of iron I’d found from somewhere. The iron and copper act as mordants helping the leaf pigments bind to the fabric. I boiled/simmered the pot for an hour or so, allowed the water to cool and then unwrapped the bundles. Here are the results:
I did some work with the organisation, Trees for Cities, back in the early 2000s. At that time it was workshops, now it’s a pleasure to do some illustration for them. I’ve just finished a Halloween poster for their Halloween party.
It was lovely receiving my copy of the new AEVA, Woman Earth Soul magazine in the post today. Formerly it was She Who Knows. AEVA means life, sound and voice. AEVA is different from your typical women’s magazine. It honours the beauty and wisdom in every woman and aims to empower, replenish and inspire it’s readers. It is full of wonderful words and beautiful art by women for women.
In this issue one of the themes is rivers. I have a few words on my relationship to rivers and a photo of me in the River Lot, France.
Rivers have been and still are important to me. My need for a river is sometimes a thirst and I do not visit rivers enough. I am a river person more than a sea person. The sea is too big, too overwhelming, too impersonal sometimes, but I need it as well. However, it is to freshwater I go and where I always feel welcome.
Below is a photo of the cover of AEVA showing women in a river :) How good is that!
Here is a spread of the article, ‘Entering the River’s Flow’:
You can get 10% off a year’s subscription with the code sharethelove8. See the AEVA website.
At my request I’ve received a wonderful bundle in the post, a series of poetry pamphlets created by poet, writer and artist James Roberts, who lives in Wales. Beautiful artwork and imagery accompany the poems. It is great to connect with other people creating with night, wood and river as inspirations.
James set up Night River Wood as “a space to explore the interaction between human creativity and our wild surroundings, particularly the qualities of hiddenness and mystery (night), creative flow (river), and communal growth (wood).”
Occasional poetry pamphlets are created and left ‘hidden in plain sight as pieces of inspiration’ in places to be found by passers-by. Then, it is hoped, the pamphlets will be placed elsewhere to reach more people.
James has also written some great essays. I first came across his writing in Zoomorphic journal with his piece, In the Eyes of a Wolf. It made an impression on me.
I think the poetry pamphlet idea is lovely and the project interesting. The poems are beautiful, thought provoking with a hint of the mysterious, elusive animals at the edges of our lives and psyches – owls, the last wolf, rooks. I’ll savour the poetry and then think carefully about where I’ll leave the pamphlets, or who I’ll give them to.
“… You enter the vanished wood last
where darkness prepares to idle through day,
iterleaved and understoreyed,
I’ve been creating mini box frames in natural wood. One is for my brother’s belated birthday, depicting a little badger scene, and the other is of the cabin where we stayed in France to give to the owners:
I’ve also recently created a larger box frame commission for a friend, a woodland scene with a badger, deer and owl:
If you’d like a box frame made, contact me with your ideas.
I’ve also just added a Woodland Gift Box to my Etsy shop that contains a mini box frame, a The Memory Tree book, an Owl Notebook and some Nightlife Badges.
“The world Tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld.” (Wikipedia)
Below is a photo of what is thought to be the ‘root’ tree above ground in the grounds of Pech Merle;
Inspired by the idea of a tree with branches in the upper world and roots in the underworld, I’ve created a collage, World Tree:
It also features a Cosmic egg, butterflies and a jumble of other images, letter fradments, poems etc. I wanted to add insects as we saw so many at the cabin, especially cicadas.
Cicadas spend years below ground in a larval stage, only living a few months above ground as an adult. They also shed their skins periodically – I found a few exuvia attached to bark with all the intricate details of the live insect, even the sheen on the insect’s composite eye. This is another link with the ‘underworld’, and metamorphosis too.
I’ve added bees and wasps to the collage as in Ancient Greece bees represented a link between our world and the ‘underworld’ as well. I found various pieces of paper wasp nest near the cabin – beautiful and intricate – which I might add to some creation (watch this space).
With the idea of bees and honey, I’ve played with the World Tree image in Photoshop. Here is a honey-coloured version:
This reminds me of the Mappa Mundi that I went to see in Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, a few years ago;
I like the idea of using maps in collage and plan to do more, perhaps adding some natural materials like eggshells, wasp nests and feathers. I’ll also have to do my own Mappa Mundi at some point :)
As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, while in France we visited three caves of palaeolithic art, Pech Merle, Cougnac and the Sorcerer’s Cave. Pech merle made the biggest impression on me and the frieze of the spotted horses especially. (I have written about the visit in detail for TOAST Magazine.)
We found some Pech Merle inspired graffiti while driving in the valley of the River Lot:
We were allowed to take photos in the mineral cave at Cougnac. It felt like entering a womb in the earth,
Many of the stalagmites looked like gatherings of people,
As part of the tour of the Sorcerer’s Cave we were allowed into some medieval cave homes in the rockface,
I’m always intrigued when I find a nest;
I didn’t make many sketches while away, just a few line drawings in my sketchbook;
But I found the caves very inspiring and I’ve started doodling images. Here’s the cover of my diary:
I made a small sketch painting on cardboard layered with brown paper pieces to give it a surface texture. I like the magic of spotted horses, they bring to mind circuses and merry-go-rounds and the art of Chagall.
I’ve experimented with overlaying tree photos in Photoshop to give a mystical, dreamlike quality to the image;
I’ve also experimented with creating textured surfaces. Here is a spread in a sketchbook:
I’ve added some animal outlines;
It hasn’t worked yet, but I’ll persist with the experiments :)
I’m not typically drawn to horses, but seeing horses canter aound a field one day while I was at someone’s house made quite an impression on me. It inspired me to draw the picture, In the Rock Cleft, in this post. (And all along I find that there’s a song in the back of my mind, Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones :) Listen here.)
A cabin on a wooded hillside with cicadas all day long; the forest song. Heat, there the sun beats. The sun beats and the grasses are dry, bleached. A hawk tilts over, dark and long against the blue. Then a kestrel. Drowsy butterflies drift over our glade – scarce swallowtails, white admirals, dryads. There are bush crickets. capricorn beetles, dragonflies patrol at dragonfly hour – ‘horse stingers’, ‘snake doctors’. Stag beetles emerge horns upright, haphazardly in search.
It’s the hour of the bat, or perhaps of the nightjar churring from a tall oak in the scrub. churring softly Softing churring – the purr of an engine.
Owl hour, the tawnies are about. The moon rises, a biscuit moon, buttery, warm, almost whole. Night.
In the little cabin, off grid in southern France in July, we immersed ourselves in nature, reading, writing and visiting the local palaeolithic cave art. It was a sort of retreat. The world above – the sun, the wood, the cicadas, the deer, the badgers, the moon. The world below – roots, caverns of calcite sculpted over time by the hands of water and ice; an underworld of beautiful beasts solitary or shifting in silent herds painted thousands of years ago.
Living was simple; drinking filtered water, washing in a bucket, cooking on a ring using a gas cylinder. I had time to think, time to dream, time to watch spiders weave intricate webs;
time to watch Jupiter rise in the south; time to revel in the constellations; time in the hills with the trees; time to contemplate deep time, listening to the sunlight through trees,
dreaming in gold and sweat. Dreaming in thunder.
We swan in the River Lot
and in the River Cele with butterflies on the bank for company.
I sat out at night in a storm while the sky ripped itself into shreds of white light and warmth came up from the earth all around. And it rained thick pillars of rain. So immediate it was, in the midst of it all – wood, hillside, storm, then darkness, the moon’s shadow and the milky way.
And on our last night the moon became shy and subdued into shadow. Red and warm bloodied it pulsed like an embryo in its swathe of sooty cloud, the longest lunar eclipse of the century.
The retreat was wonderful, relaxing, a little hot. Now, with all the images and the experience inside me I want to respond somehow – painting, writing, drawing… new projects.