Only Connect

Art, books, craft, illustration, poetry, wellbeing

You would think nothing would be easier wouldn’t you than to be able to create connection – but it isn’t always. So when something comes along in your week to lift you up , something that prompts you into that exalted state of thrilling to create, its a big bonus.

I was in a slump, but keeping going, as lots of us are in this limbo existence of Covid lockdown. Nothing really bringing savour to the day, when a message arrives in my Etsy mail asking me to produce a book to present a poem. That made me sit up , and as I dug deeper into the project, it sat perfectly with my own sensibilities. Tom Pickard established the Morden Tower reading series in Newcastle in the 1960s and ‘70s with his first wife Connie, hosting readings by international and British poets, including Basil Bunting, Allen Ginsberg, Heaney, Hughes and his poetry is published by Carcanet Books as well as being available at the Poetry Foundation. I was awe struck by that history! I have included a few pictures of the book gift that his wife commissioned for Tom from me to show the finished project. It does not show the complete poem.

Tom’s poem took me to the places I go when I scout the beaches in Scotland, and find myself nourished by the invigorating sense of belonging in nature, and existing as part of a much greater consciousness outside my own.

The poem is protected by copyright belonging to Tom, and is available from Carcanet Books ‘Winter Migrants’ and my thanks to Gill Pickard for letting me share this here.

Please let me know if you have any project you would like me to make a book from – I am happy to discuss any ideas! If you want to see the sort of books I have created to date, please pop to my etsy store https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/modestly

Keats et al

books, etsy, poetry, poets, writers

Beauty is truth, truth beauty

John Keats ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’

What a week of loveliness – I have invested some time in finally getting around to researching, designing, printing and binding my homage to John Keats. It has been a splendid time of learning and remembering – I listened to the fabulous Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature podcast to deep me in the mood of ‘negative capability’ and was pretty pleased with the end result. Thanks have to go to my lovely customer who prodded me into creating it as I had forgotten that it was on my to do list. ( To do lists live in my head and rarely see the light of day). Years ago I was in Rome with my husband, enjoying the vibe and drinking in the sights and sounds that saturate, when we came across the tiny museum that houses Keats memorabilia, and which were the rooms where he had removed himself when his tuberculosis was at a stage he understood as life threatening. He spent some happy moments there before the disease totally incapacitated him, and spent the final days and weeks with his friend and companion Joseph Severn. One of the remarkable insights you get into Keats by reading his letters is the intensity of the connections that he made – his friends were incredible at giving him care and celebrating him. Whilst I was moving from room to room in that museum, I was struck by a very powerful sense of the poet – an almost uncanny sense. I was entranced really, and extremely moved by the experience. I later wrote a poem about it, and that has made it’s way into my homage too. It can’t be called poetry in the same sense that John Keats wrote poetry – but it does record my moment of transcendent delight and sadness that day.

The facts that surround Keat’s young life are themselves a fascinating insight into a young man of genius – his early life of losing a father at 8 years old, a mother at 14 , then going on to nurse and subsequently lose his beloved brother Tom to the same disease that killed him – form a character that goes on to dedicate himself to the power of the imagination . He trained as a medical practitioner, but changed his choice of career to become a writer – although financially he was always on a back foot, having been swindled out of his inheritance (another Dickensian sub plot.

And so he goes on to write some of the most memorable lines in English poetry ever written . Thank goodness. Please check out the podcast I mentioned if you are interested – it is such easy listening. http://historyofliterature.com/208-john-keats/

Homage to John Keats

If you want to see more from my book, you can find it at Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/891592042/john-keats-handmade-artist-book-of

…. and then there is that poem about finding Keats in Rome…. here it is!

Booking now!

Art, books, craft, etsy, Life

20191109_140031Tree Timeetsy promo1a

This is a shout out to all my existing customers of my hand made books – thank you for your continued support over the year, and a gentle reminder to put your orders in for any you want me to make for Christmas as my order book gets a little busy and there’s only so many hours in a day and days in a week! I make all my handmade books myself so that’s why I am shouting out now!

For a reminder of the books available  – and remember I collaborate too, and can personalise any of the existing titles with a dedication – please go to my book section at Etsy   – My Handmade books at Etsy    

etsy promo1abcdapril19w

If a book doesn’t appeal, how about one of my watercolour paper prints from Etsy, which are printed on a heavy watercolour paper to retain the character of the original artwork.

untitled-1abcde

Janeites unite!

books, craft, etsy, illustration, writers

etsy promo1

Slip cover to Jane – a tribute to Jane Austen

etsy promo1aetsy promo1abcdetsy promo1abcdeetsy promo1abcdefetsy promo1abcdefgetsy promo1abcdefgh

Just a few pictures of the work I have been doing this week – I loved designing and making this handmade tribute to the well loved novelist Jane Austen – quite rightly she continues to be enjoyed across the globe – Pride and Prejudice has sold more than 20 million copies world wide!  I like her because of her wit – and her recognition that self worth is more valuable than external validation albeit knowing that money also makes life far more comfortable!  If you like what you see, head across to my pages at Etsy – you may find something you want me to make for you!

My shop at Etsy of handmade books, cards, and prints

Spring fever

Art, books, craft, poetry

maywmaywemaywee

Sharing a few images of my work in progress – I am making a new title to sell in my Etsy store – handmade coptic stitched books that connect you to the beauty already in the world – I have found amazing solace and inspiration from writers down the ages – and this little volume focuses on work by Emily Dickinson and Thoreau – both loved observers of the natural world. I have found inspiration for illustration from historical botanical painting, and found the natural complement to the written word. A celebration of new life, from old – Spring always follows Winter. I was recently very moved by a dedication requested by a customer  for my Mindfulness book – and it reminded me why I love making my keepsake books – sometimes we all need a time for reflection and consideration of what is really important – the connection I make with my customers is special.

Etsy store of Handmade books

‘Was I a man or a jerk?’

Art, books, literature

 

art.jpg

Saul Bellow’s own words on his impending death…and who to judge? But the man was a tour de force in his own lifetime and this is a portion of his speech when he received the Nobel prize for Literature.  He says it best.

 

‘What is at the center now? At the moment, neither art nor science but mankind determining, in confusion and obscurity, whether it will endure or go under. The whole species – everybody – has gotten into the act. At such a time it is essential to lighten ourselves, to dump encumbrances, including the encumbrances of education and all organized platitudes, to make judgments of our own, to perform acts of our own. Conrad was right to appeal to that part of our being which is a gift. We must hunt for that under the wreckage of many systems. The failure of those systems may bring a blessed and necessary release from formulations, from an over-defined and misleading consciousness. With increasing frequency I dismiss as merely respectable opinions I have long held – or thought I held – and try to discern what I have really lived by, and what others live by. As for Hegel’s art freed from “seriousness” and glowing on the margins, raising the soul above painful involvement in the limitations of reality through the serenity of form, that can exist nowhere now, during this struggle for survival. However, it is not as though the people who engaged in this struggle had only a rudimentary humanity, without culture, and knew nothing of art. Our very vices, our mutilations, show how rich we are in thought and culture. How much we know. How much we even feel. The struggle that convulses us makes us want to simplify, to reconsider, to eliminate the tragic weakness which prevented writers – and readers – from being at once simple and true.

Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for. At the center humankind struggles with collective powers for its freedom, the individual struggles with dehumanization for the possession of his soul. If writers do not come again into the center it will not be because the center is pre-empted. It is not. They are free to enter. If they so wish….

The essence of our real condition, the complexity, the confusion, the pain of it is shown to us in glimpses, in what Proust and Tolstoy thought of as “true impressions”. This essence reveals, and then conceals itself. When it goes away it leaves us again in doubt. But we never seem to lose our connection with the depths from which these glimpses come. The sense of our real powers, powers we seem to derive from the universe itself, also comes and goes. We are reluctant to talk about this because there is nothing we can prove, because our language is inadequate and because few people are willing to risk talking about it. They would have to say, “There is a spirit” and that is taboo. So almost everyone keeps quiet about it, although almost everyone is aware of it.

 for every human being there is a diversity of existences, that the single existence is itself an illusion in part, that these many existences signify something, tend to something, fulfill something; it promises us meaning, harmony and even justice. What Conrad said was true, art attempts to find in the universe, in matter as well as in the facts of life, what is fundamental, enduring, essential.”’

 

Saul Bellow acceptance speech

 

 

Finished!

blogging, books, literature, poetry, poets

A Tribute to W.B.Yeats

yeats

Every now and again I manage to complete one of my ongoing projects!  This one has been on the back burner for some time – I already have a title that includes three of this poet’s work , but I wanted to investigate the poet a little further.

I was an early fan of his poetry – the musicality within it is magical – and I really do know how much my life has been influenced by listening to the power of the written word by a genius.  I count my poet influencers amongst my friends – they have informed my thinking and feeling for the majority of my life.  I truly believe they are life savers.

What I really find out when I dig deeper about any of my literary heroes, is how human they are – how full of paradox and confusion – and that endears me more. They above all others have shown me how truly miraculous it is to be human and alive and suffering as well as exalting. I lead a secular existence – and I am no apologist about that – but the spiritual exists within and poets help me to embrace that side of my nature.

 

A deep gratitude to artists everywhere, for the attempt to connect.  And to Mr W. B Yeats – the everlasting love of the listener and the reader.

 

‘Like along-legged fly upon the stream

His mind moves upon the silence’

 

If you are interested in seeing more of my finished tribute, it is going to be available here    Tribute hand made book at Etsy

 

Spells of shivelight and shadowtackle

books, illustration, Life, literature, nature, poetry

Untitled-1

Beyond hyperbole,’ The Lost Words’ is a book that demands attention.  It is a classic in it’s infancy – an about to be great. A spell book that weaves it’s magic with immediacy , like shivelight and shadowtackle – Gerard Manley Hopkin’s term not mine, it reminds me of those feelings when I am immersed in nature. Fleeting moments of lightness, beingness, the commonplace miracle.

“We must look a long time before we can see….’ Thoreau told us, exhorting the value of feeling ‘the marrow of nature. As a close observer he wanted to bridge the apparent gap between science and art,  valuing the poetic in the endeavours of the scientific classification of plants and animals prevalent in his age.  “Facts fall from the poetic observer as ripe seeds.”

This is genuinely a gift of a book from a joint venture between wordsmith Robert MacFarlane and the stunning illustrations by Jackie Morris. To share this book with anyone is to share in the joy of being alive

If you are near  you may want to try this –  The Lost Words Exhibition at Compton Verney

From <http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/thing-to-do/lost-words/2017-10-21/>

Alternatively , to get more of a close look at this joint endeavour and to find out about the author and artist , this link is a fabulous introduction, I hope it inspires you to find the book out. Penguin books Q and A

The Handmade Maiden

Art, blogging, books, craft, illustration

9584137_10919191_lz

Just a quick post to remind my readers (!) that creative endeavour can be life enhancing – a dancing in the dark sort of preoccupation, the moments that transcend time.  Lost in flow, all appears in balance – the world is a more comprehensible place to inhabit. In focusing on the small things, the big things seem to appear in greater perspective.  I like losing myself in my handmade projects which I sell on Etsy. Each handmade book is designed and made by me – every one is unique as I like to make something different each time , so the covers you see on the photos may differ from the book you receive. But don’t worry – I pour oodles of care into each one – and I haven’t disappointed yet! All my reviews from sales are viewable on the Etsy site and I am extremely grateful to my customers for their generosity in sending me them. It is always moving getting feedback that tells you of delight and astonishment!

Some of the designs you will find on the Etsy site are books I have wanted to research and produce myself – many of them arise from lifelong interests in nature and in poetry. Others are created in collaboration with customers who ask me to research a them and produce a book around it. The book celebrating Moths was created on behalf of a customer wanting to surprise a lepidopterist family member! I have created books that illustrated a wedding proposal – a young man had written a poem to his fiance which he asked me to create a book around. She said yes! He even sent me photos of the ring he commissioned!

I think handmade creates connection – between the commissioner, the maker and the recipient. It is as though it has imbibed love – much like houses do, we have all felt the difference between houses that have been filled with love, and those that are just places to function in. It may be strange, and somehow difficult to quantify, but it is real.

I have lots of pictures on the site at Etsy, Storefront  

There are cards that I design too, and that I can personalise if required. They are printed on a wonderful textured watercolour paper, and look great mounted and framed too.

The Voynich Manuscript

Etsy link etsy.me/2sRAG1s

Tree Time

Link etsy.me/2sR7

cica

Bitten by the Moth bug

blogging, books, craft, illustration, Life

I don’t always get round to sharing my handmade books which I make on Etsy – but this time I thought I would .  The book came about from a conversation with a wonderful customer, who often orders from me to gift to her ( numerous) grandchildren and friends.  One grandson had recently graduated and specialised in moths, and she was curious whether I could make a book to celebrate his interest.  That is always a great starting off point for me – someone else’s interest. It stimulates and challenges me to research a subject that I wouldn’t have necessarily considered.  This was going to test me, because I could not possibly tell this young man anything he didn’t know about his special interest.  But I decided that coming to it from the angle of art history may be a way in.  And it was.  I was blown away by the fine work that Wencelaus Hollar produced in 1646 in Flanders . I found the drawings in a collection by Gothard Monrad at Te Papa.

Gothard Monrad (1811–1887) was a prominent figure in nineteenth-century Denmark: a bishop in the Lutheran church, he was also a noted scholar and politician. Privately, he was a connoisseur of art, collecting fine prints by numerous European old masters and paintings by contemporary Danish artists.
Monrad’s collection includes engravings, etchings, and woodcuts, beginning with two engravings from the 1470s by Italian artist Andrea Mantegna. The collection’s sixteenth-century German engravings form a significant group, and include works by Albrecht Altdorfer, Albrecht Dürer, and the brothers Hans and Sebald Beham.
The collection has now been reassembled at Te Papa according to Bishop Monrad’s own catalogue of 1869.

Two facts I discovered about the Moth world that I will share – moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth and scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species. Wowzer!

I was delighted to send this little volume to my customer, and was thrilled to receive in return these lovely comments;

 

‘The MOTH book arrived safely and in fine time. How very astute you were for the covering of the moth pages. It is perfect for a young man, very handsome. As I look through the pages several times, I am beginning to wonder if John will appreciate this work as much as I do. Should I or should I not? Oh, I guess so, I will gift him with it with the stipulation I can view it off and on. I must quit looking through you web site, as I soon will spend all my pennies on your art. Thank you for this piece especially since I ordered it and you came through with flying colors

Appreciation is a wonderful thing!  So if you have any subject you want me to consider adding to my bookshelves over at Etsy, send me a line.  Or you could browse the items I make to order here  Coptic stitch books at Modestly at Etsy