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ABCD July 2021

July 17, 2021

Ten of the thirteen members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met in Dove Meadow on 10th July for a bookish tea-party. Books old and new were passed around the circle, or (in the case of Judith’s monumental book Microseasons of the Dart) displayed on a table. Bron had baked feather-light scones, Clare provided a tin of her famous flapjacks, and others brought cakes, strawberries, cream and jam. The rain stayed away and it was almost hot at times.

Here is Microseasons of the Dart, by Judith Staines. Summary of a year of walking by the river Dart and collecting plant and other materials. You can read about the 72 Japanese microseasons here. Front view of the book:

And back view. The cover is collaged from papers coloured with botanical inks.

Here is Bron’s book, The Turning Year, finished that morning! It includes mokuhanga prints and handwriting in botanical inks.

Clare brought her current wild-swimming journal, watery covers enclosing observations in words and watercolour. Coptic-sewn with four needles.

Journal, Clare Diprose

This is a family of small books folded from cyanotypes by Janine. The second photo is her colourful silk appliqué accordion book.

Cyanotype books, Janine Barchard
Silk applique accordion book, Janine Barchard

Pauline and Jane brought some of the fruits of a course with Kathryn John.

Botanical inks by Pauline Pearce

Some of Jane’s samples are shown below.

Those who did not see it last time were able to handle our great album of ancestresses, Grand Women, beautifully bound by Bron and Judith, with cover title embroidered by Janine, cover linings by Kate and title-page by Judy.

A few more pages were added to our pandemic blizzard book, Strange Times.

Next meeting, by zoom or in person (who knows?), 4th September. And here are this month’s eavesdroppings.

July Dove-Droppings

I had to buy more bottles
in the middle of nowhere
on the mineral railway line

what stitch is that
with no shoes on
a date with a bottle of gin

raining in Glastonbury
between the hills
wedding bells

what are your weeds
bindweed I hate it
it’s a beautiful strangler

not making hay
come and glean
a handful of something

the front is the back
waiting for pages
they will come

it seems a distant dream
no point stopping there
nobody is a problem

A binge of books

July 11, 2021

I recently won a small amount of money in a poetry competition. Poem here. I have spent the prize money, many times over, on books.
I’d like to show you some of them. First up is Untravelling, an achingly beautiful new book by Mary Frances from Penteract Press. On each page a found landscape is paired with a few lines of cutup text. Every page is a meditation. It will mean something different each time it is read. It would be the perfect companion to take on a long journey, actual or metaphorical.

Mary Frances, from Untravelling

Next, two collections from Shearsman by Em Strang: Bird-Woman and Horse-Man. In these grounded and uncompromising poems the wild and the domestic run side by side, with all that implies: unease, strangeness, violence, mystery.

I recently read four of Erin Murphy‘s demi-sonnets in the online magazine Alba. I wanted to see more. I found one of her collections available in UK second-hand. Every poem in this book is a demi-sonnet (her own invention.) In tone, they range from heartbreak to wry humour. Below is one that caught my eye and my heart. I love the internal rhymes and the subtly implied, absent rhymes (eg nipples/ripples; need/seaweed; neck/wreck; take/break) and of course the subject. I like this poem just as much for what it leaves out as for what it says.

These poems pack many layers of meaning into their seven lines. They are worth reading again and again. I am so glad to have discovered this hugely talented American poet. You can find a wide variety of her poems on her website.

My recent long run of rejections has been interrupted by a few acceptances, for which I am grateful. I have two silly poems online here and here, and a more sensible one here. The poem below appears in the anthology Horses of a Different Colour from Dempsey & Windle.

On Monday we travelled to Surrey for the memorial service of a much-loved cousin who died over a year ago. This sonnet, written in a moment of grief and rage, was published in the anthology Locked Down from Poetry Space.

ABCD June 2021

June 27, 2021

Bron has saved me the trouble of writing most of this post! She writes:
“Yet another lovely meadow meeting of ABCD. Half of the group present: Ama, Judy, Janine, Bron, Caroline, Thalia and Jane. The weather was dry but no sun this time, so we sat in a green jungle, mostly in coats! It was very pleasant.
I described how Judith and I had bound the Book, and Jane had made a calico bag to keep it safe in. I also put it to the group to decide whether they wanted to look at it now or wait till July when more people might be present, including Judith who had a great deal to do with it, but who had also told me she didn’t mind whether we got it out this meeting or next. So there was a unanimous decision to have a look, especially as it meant that half the group will have seen it by the next meeting, leaving more time for others to also go through it. I’m not posting a photo as it is really best encountered for the first time ‘live’, so here is Jane with the mysterious bag….”

Photo by Bronwen Bradshaw

Bron and Judy have been taking an online course with the one and only Guy Begbie. Do have a look at his website.

Secret Belgian binding by Bronwen Bradshaw; French case binding by Judy Warbey
Buttonhole binding by Judy Warbey
Secret Belgian binding by Judy Warbey
Soft-cover architectural zine by Judy Warbey

The Gallery Upstairs at Upton House near Poole has been showing Judy’s intricate calligraphic interpretations of some of The English Cantos by James Sale in The Wider Circle: A Journey with Dante. “An exhibition inspired by the startling yet accessible epic poem HellWard by James Sale. With Dante as our guide we journey into hell and back, accompanied by evocative artwork by artists Linda Sale, Angela Perrett, Judith Warbey.”

Calligraphy by Judy Warbey

Caroline brought some of her travel sketchbooks and an album documenting the progress of her straw-bale house.

Turkey sketchbook by Caroline Mornement

Jane brought two of her driftwood books.

And Janine showed us some embroidered boxes.

Judith was in Shetland – she has been sending fabulous photos and I am sick with nostalgia!
She made and photographed this magnificent book “Microseasons of the Dart” before she went. One big book combining Guy Begbie techniques and Alice Fox thinking and making for winter placemaking. Loosely based on walks along the Dart.

Carol could not be with us. She has been enjoying a butterfly and moth course, found by Judith, at Halsway Manor in the Quantocks. 

I (Ama) brought the Blizzard Lockdown Book’s spine and cover, with some of our pages inserted, but didn’t think to photograph it. Next time!

Bron continues:
“And then we turned to the future…stepping out….
Caroline said she’d enjoyed the research involved in the Grand Women book and also the Tree Circle book. She had brought along a photo of a giant Teasel which had arrived in her garden, and has been looking into all things Teasel. Could we perhaps make books about plants that interested us? To which I added the idea of having an exhibition in the Tree House Library next year, and that I had originally imagined the house as a Field Study Centre, specifically for our fields here in the Butleigh East Field. A new exhibition of books about wild plants other than trees would be wonderful in respect of this. I also said that I am in talks with SAW about a Walking project for next year, i.e. guided walks round the countryside here. An exhibition at the Dove would be a great addition to this, and I’m sure other ideas would grow from this too. Amazing Space 4.
Thalia said she would like to do a book based on a place, rather like the Place Making some of us have been doing with Alice Fox. This could perhaps be married with the idea for the exhibition. More discussion needed next time.

We also agreed that the research for the Grand Women book had been fascinating too. How about we (next year as well) have an exhibition elsewhere, centering on the Grand Women book but with other books that go more in depth into social history that was revealed. For instance, I’m planning a book about the Welsh Drovers.

The next meeting is July 10th, our last Summer Meeting: it is going to be cream tea and cake!
And finally, but most importantly, Saturday was a day of celebration. Not just solstice: Nina and Mark got married! And Pat had a birthday! So congratulations to all concerned.

Our Blizzard Lockdown book is looking good but needs a couple more pages to complete it.”

Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, the edited highlights.

June Dove Droppings


not even had any thunder
rounding up sheep
too much yellow rattle

a year and a half of survival
I lived three weeks in a cave
the beds were tombstones

Somerset cannibals
piles of skulls
fire engines with pumps

I’m interested in next year
that’s optimistic
it needs finishing

take a year
take a book for a walk
the most difficult binding on the planet

ABCD late May 2021

May 29, 2021

Last Saturday, 22nd May, was Artists’ Book Club Dove’s first in-person meeting since September last year. We have had ark-building weather recently, but by great good fortune this was a warm sunny afternoon with very little wind. We carried our chairs and picnics through knee-high buttercups in Dove Meadow to a clearing beside the Tree House (visible top right in the photo below, taken by Bron) and passed books and ideas around. What it treat it was to be together. Heartfelt thanks to Jane for giving Clare and me a lift there and back.

Kate brought a large-format single-sheet coptic-sewn collection of charcoal drawings done by young children during a school residency with a local willow basket maker acting as artists’ model. The liveliness of the drawings and the variety of artistic approaches are captivating, and some of the drawings are astonishingly sophisticated. Some are minimalist – a few expressive strokes on an otherwise empty page. Others lovingly depict every detail of the background and the man’s patterned jumper. One is quite disturbing: a tiny figure seemingly imprisoned in his basket and surrounded by the velvet blackness of charcoal. I’d be happy to have any one of these drawings on my wall.

Bron writes, ‘Here’s the book I circulated at our meeting … “Signs of Life”. My computer keeps trying to say “Sings of Life” which I rather like. The format was Guy Begbie‘s lesson on pamphlet stitch (he always surprises), and the content is an old etching plus other related bits and pieces. I really enjoyed converting my 2D prints to 3D and will do more.’

Judith arranged her paper tepees around the fire-place. They look so much like moths!
She has enrolled on this year-long course with Australian eco-printer India Flint.

Bron, Judy and Judith had been working on our book of foremothers, ‘Grand Women’, during the morning. I delivered Janine’s embroidered title; it will be recessed into the front cover. Here, Judy is in the print studio writing the title-page.

Here are some images of Judy’s sculptural book of mokuhanga prints.

I (Ama) brought my two winter books, both inspired by the Shetland webcams, currently a great place to observe puffins and pufflings.

Carol has been on Radio 4 talking about the moths that turn up in her garden moth-trap.

Clare brought her current sketchbook, rich with watercolour sketches of local wildlife. She regularly swims in the company of kingfishers and dippers.

Later we went to meet the newly planted trees being nurtured by Bron in Wild Lea – formerly a ryegrass monoculture, now a forest in the making.

… and over the stream into Whitefield, a carpet of buttercups and cowslips.

The next meeting, also outdoors, we hope, will be on 19 June.

And now for some fragments of conversation that found their way into my notebook.

Late May Dove-droppings

I’m only half-way through India
I’d rather do the washing up
if I were a reptile

in between the showers
a bit of deckle-grooming
cuckoos bitterns warblers marsh harriers

hot chocolate with a dash of brandy
hedgehog highways and rabbit lintels
your mother sounds so posh

the mothing community
clinging to the suspension bridge
a few brimstones

breeding might not happen
Julia draws eels
catch them on the way out

ABCD May 2021

May 9, 2021

Thanks to Thalia, ten of us met yesterday on Zoom, some already all but zoomed-out after a morning of mokuhanga with Robin Frood.

Bron and Judith have been on Les Bicknell’s online course, and have made bookish objects in response to ‘A place you love: no words, no images’. Here is Bron’s treehouse library book. Stripped willow wands from the trees below, khadi paper and Hedi Kyle’s piano hinge binding. A collaboration with light.

Judith placed hers in her allotment. Two are made from paper pulp, one just pasted papier mache style. Reminiscent of moths, tepees, fungi … work intimately connected to place.

Judith shared images of work done on Dave Armes’s course in low-tech printmaking, using carbon paper, corrugated cardboard and inked shapes cut from greyboard.

Bron, Jane, Carol and Judy have been on Guy Begbie‘s online workshop. Below is Bron’s book, extended, then folded.

Judy has finished making her “Hellward” sculptural book. It can be looked at from both sides with different openings.

Carol‘s book incorporates some of her insect prints.

Judy has been on another online calligraphy course, this time with Carry Wouters.

Janine showed us embroidered designs for a title panel on the cover, Kate has designed the endpapers, and Judy has been working on lettering for the title page of our collaborative book, Grand Women.
Clare showed us a delightful letter-cum-envelope (designed by Rachel Hazell) made for her by her sister, celebrating sisterhood. Thalia is busy getting ready to start teaching yoga again.

And I have been slowly working on another quilt about Park Wood in winter. Trees in cross-section, the space between them criscrossed with mycelial strands. Cotton cloth and silk thread, all dyed in a variety of botanical brews, some modified with iron-water. The circular patches are where I tied found beer-caps in. Some had rusted at the edge, giving a nice dark line. The bigger dark patches are where I tied in lumps of rusty iron from a bicycle half-buried in the wood.

We have dates for our next three meetings before the summer break: May 22nd, June 19th and July 10th. We hope thay will be in-person meetings outdoors. Finally, a collage of lines from my notes on the meeting:

May Dove-Droppings

when you dive into
paper print stitching
shall we hum

oh Clare have you got flapjacks
no it’s gingerbread
you’ve frozen

what I’ve been missing is
stepping out
smelling human beings

everything has to be planned
Kate from two angles
diluted some ink and wrote it small

it will be something else
stitched on velvet
dropped into a window

a dialogue with time
in the facsimile world
made by George Washington’s mother

the book emerges
with its own aesthetic
swearing in Cyrillic

it opens here
that comes up this falls out
a staircase in the middle

an evolving book
the red line takes you through
a secret communist workshop

Posted by Ama Bolton on 9th May.

Dangling

May 7, 2021

“A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.”

“Parking near the beach, the sun began to creep above the horizon.”

Have dangling modifiers ceased to matter? I seem to be bumping into them more frequently than ever. Perhaps I am the only one who cares. Unlike split infinitives, it’s not a matter of mere etiquette: the words do not convey the meaning the author intended.

Today’s Daily Poem from The Paris Review includes one. I heard one last week at the zoom-launch of a recently-published anthology, and read one this week in a respectable poetry blog. I recognised the otherwise excellent poem and I remembered mentioning it to the poet during a workshop. I don’t think she knew what I was talking about.

A recent issue of a long-established literary journal featured several dangling modifiers in the same long poem – a poem that had been translated by one of the editors of said literary journal.

Perhaps I’m just a grumpy old fart with nothing better to do than criticise writers more successful than I am. Who cares about dangling modifiers? Do you, dear reader? If you have light to shed, please shed it now!

Slightly henpecked and loving it

May 2, 2021

A poem doesn’t need much content to survive. Its bones are hollow, like a bird’s. That’s what allows them to fly.

John Glenday

Pindar says the poet must guard the apples of the Muses 
like a dragon, but …

if anything, we need a hen,
the creature that hatches the egg of verses:
white for the void, yellow for the words.

Antonella Anedda, tr. Patrizio Ceccagnoli & Susan Stewart

These two old birds have earned their treats. Over the hill, due for the chop at 18 months, they have laid fourteen eggs between them in the past seven days. And what in the world is more perfect than an egg?

They really want to come indoors. Sometimes I relent and let them in. Can old hens be housetrained?

Yes, Marigold, you are the fairest of them all.

I’ll never forget Hari, my first and best-beloved hen. But these two have become very dear to us. They always greet us when they see us. They are a constant source of entertainment. And, it seems, of eggs.

ABCD March 2021

April 4, 2021

We zoomed on the 27th with a strict agenda. Having chosen a female forebear born in the Victorian era, each of us had already completed a single album page and sent a photo of it to Thalia, who showed them to us in a Powerpoint presentation. Each of us had a few minutes to introduce our ancestress. Then came the serious business of agreeing on a title. This was achieved by a Quakerish/Greenham-Common-ish process of arriving at a consensus without leaving a disgruntled minority.

I haven’t many photos to share this time. Here’s Judith’s “Granny Buttons” in Chaplinesque mode.

Jane has chosen her Bloomsbury playwright grandmother Laura Pendred, but this is a photo of “My great grandmother, born in 1856. Widowed in her 20s with 6 very young children she emigrated to Vancouver in 1900 and later to California. She sent this photo of herself to my grandmother in the 1940s. On the back she has written “Just home from snake hunting, 2 snake skins over my arm”! She died just before her 100th birthday, a daunting lady to the last.”
Note the Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia) in the background – possibly more poisonous than the snakes!

Here is my own grandmother Phyllis Cundell, born in December 1894 about 50km SE of Moscow, with her older sister and their grandmother (born in Manchester in 1835.) See this post for Phyllis’s letters.

On my album page I have hinged a poem printed on tracing paper over my grandparents’ wedding photo, obscuring my missing grandfather. I confess to being influenced by the unforgettable last line of a poem about a saw by Dave Bonta.

In my grandfather Freddie’s defence I will say that he was not yet two years old when his mother died. By the age of 8 he was already at boarding school (’nuff said.) He survived the horrors of a war in which his step-brother was killed at Ypres. His father had shot himself in 1915, and Freddie and his stepmother didn’t get on. Since he was living in Canada before the war, it seems unlikely that he would have met Phyllis until he came back to England after the war. He was captured in Guyencourt in northern France 27 May 1918 and taken to a PoW camp in a fortress in Graudenz (now Grudziądz in Poland – on the river Vistula), about 1500 km away, getting there six weeks later, via Karlsruhe. The camp was evacuated at midnight on 13 December 1918. This gives only a few months before their wedding in April 1919 and suggests a whirlwind romance.

Next meeting: May 8th (postponed from May 1st.) I hope there will be more photos and stories to share. Meanwhile, here are the sweepings from memory’s floor, aka my notebook.

March Dove-droppings

the flying botanist
discovered the truth
a ring and a basket

fifteen children
not allowed to be christened
died on the kitchen table

prospecting in the Yukon
he ran off with a barmaid
it was love at first

things that are half-lost
stories in a box
disable you

on the first of May
a long time ago
I was ritually sacrificed

Posted by Ama Bolton on 4th April 2021

“Heart of a Man”

March 29, 2021

From both sides of the Atlantic there has been news of horrific acts of violence by men against women. Bystanders of both sexes are shocked, hurt and angry; many women are incandescent with rage. It has become impossible to ignore the fault line between the sexes. I believe this rift to be a product more of learned attitudes than of chromosomes. And it damages men as well as women.

How timely then is the arrival of this rich and thoughtful anthology, which seeks to foster peace and understanding between the sexes. I read it and was granted unexpected insights into the lives of the other half of humanity. But it’s not for women only. Men I know have read it and thought deeply about the quality of the fathering they recieved and gave. The way we bring up our children, and the examples we set them, are vitally important – potentially a matter of life and death.

As a lover of books as aesthetic objects, I am delighted by the quality of the paper, the print, the layout and typographic choices, and the idyllic illustrations. The writing itself is as varied as you’d expect; the best of it is strikingly good and transparently honest. You can dip in and spend five minutes with a story, or an evening with one of the themed sections, each of which is introduced with humour and sensitivity by the editor. It’s not a difficult read but it will raise some difficult questions. Some of these stories will have you laughing out loud. Some could make you cry.

You can buy it from Vineyards Press. Or, if you must, from Amazon.com. Or, if you’re local, borrow it from me!

ABCD February 2021

March 8, 2021

Eleven members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met in the land of Zoom on 27th February. Thanks to Thalia for hosting us. Those of us who live close enough have been socially-distantly planting trees at the Dove. 494 trees have been planted so far in the field called Wild Lea, formerly a ryegrass monoculture. All planted with love and mycorrhizal powder. It will be many years before the fungal network is fully established, but the powder will get it off to a good start.

L-R Ama, Caroline, Janine, Jane
Here I’m planting a pin oak, Quercus palustris
Bron’s map of the planting at Wild Lea

Bron, Judith and I have been taking Alice Fox’s brilliant online course “Place-making: Winter”. Below is my quilt-map of a local wood I’ve been walking in for 41 years. The squares are roughly 2″. Fabrics are a pre-war damask table-napkin complete with laundry-mark, an old pillow-case, a green-and-white striped linen tea-towel and dressmaking off-cuts of white cotton and silk, all dyed with foraged materials. The second picture is of two small pieces worked with dyed yarns on scraps of dyed woollen blanket. The lichens are crocheted. I found the rusty chain in the wood, entangled with ivy stems. The ring-pulls were from a cache of empty cans in the wood.

And here is a letter I wrote with Quink and a cola pen. I folded it and left it on my pet hen’s grave in the garden for a week, lightly covered with some oak leaves I’d used for dyeing.

Carol and Judith are taking an online course with Les Bicknell. Here are some of Judith’s constructions.

And some of Carol’s work. The third photo shows paper prepared for use in Guy Begbie’s book construction course later in March.

Clare has been making books with Rachel Hazell, The Travelling Bookbinder.

Pauline has just completed a year-long book based on our title ‘Strange Times.’ It is a concertina, with a double page spread for each month from March 2020 to February 2021. Drawing, lino cut, letterpress and collage. ‘Strange Times: a year like no other.’

Caroline is taking a course with Newlyn School of Art. Here are her beach collage and a page from her sketchbook.

Thalia, Bron, Jane and Judy are still making mokuhanga prints with Robin Frood. Some of us have taken advantage of the amazing free resources offered by Book Paper Thread. All of us are gathering information and illustrations for our collective book about our foremothers. The pages will be finished and ready to bind by the time of our next meeting, Saturday 27th March. Finally, a little heap of eavesdroppings.

February Dove-droppings

orange flies on the sheep-poo
butterflies on snowdrops
brimstones on crocus

a ladybird in my bed all winter
all over my duvet oh dear
disdained by the family

Arthur the Aardvark
took on another life
he tells me nothing

a troll made of lichen
dreaming of elsewhere
goldcrests in his hair

married the man next door
older than her father
to sew banners for the freemasons

the sun travelling round Somerset
can spell but just can’t write
letters from Burma

a brushmaker near Bruton
coconut in an ash handle
no therapy for that

a mysterious box
strip poker in the kitchen
but that’s another story

disowned by both families
one had an ear-trumpet
and sent 2/6 postal orders

grandfather walked with his cow
from Wales to London
three Scots pines were a sign

I think it’s a fact
the women knitted as they walked
and famously never talked