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ABCD July 2022

July 26, 2022

Eight members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met in the print studio on Saturday.

Janine brought her beautiful and very tactile triptych “Sanctuary”: collage and machine-embroidery on green silk. Front and back views:

Janine Barchard
Janine Barchard

Jane has been to the Henry Moore exhibition at Hauser and Wirth. She brought a weighty and beautifully-produced book “Back to a Land” about Moore’s work in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

I (Ama) have now finished my hand-written Khadi paper book of Graeme Ryan’s poem “O”. The individual pages are pamphlet-stitched onto the mountain folds of an accordion fold, the outer ends of which form the covers. Then I sewed the spine with indigo-dyed thread using the 2-needle Coptic method. All the colours are derived from plants. The black walnut ink was made by a friend. Closed, the book measures roughly 15x21x2.5cm.

Ama Bolton
Ama Bolton

Here are my latest small editions (of 26 and 50 respectively), both of them graced by the lettering of John Rowlands-Pritchard. One is an elegy, the other a response to The Waste Land in its centenary year.

Ama Bolton

Thalia has been inspired by a recent visit to Iceland. She’s begun by sketching on a folded strip of paper.

Thalia Brown

Judy has made several books. Here are two blank hard-cover books, one with a buttonhole binding and marbled paper on the cover, the other with mokuhanga prints covering the boards, and an interesting rune-like pattern of stitching on the spine.

Here is an ingenious small book that Judy made on a course with Ewan Clayton. Do have a look at his website.

Judy Warbey

Judy’s intricately folded sculptural book, “Glimpses of the Sea”, using mokuhanga prints, with folding techniques taught by Guy Begbie.

Judy Warbey

This mokuhanga print by Judy now hangs on my studio wall and reminds me strongly of a sailing trip with daughter Mary in the Hebrides in 2019. Thank you, Judy!

Judy Warbey

Here is Bron‘s latest fold-book using methods of obtaining blue from red cotinus leaves, learnt from Elisabeth Viguie-Culshaw. Another website well worth a look.

Bronwen Bradshaw

Bron writes “I’ve been asked to produce a 3 part work for an exhibition of exquisite corpse – or picture consequences as I call it. So here is the Cotinus bird with Malvolio yellow stockings of bamboo (very sustainable.)”

Bronwen Bradshaw

Clare has been doing more knitting than book-making. All of us wanted to stroke this gorgeous jumper made from a mixture of Jamieson’s wool from Shetland, and Jillybean yarns.

Clare Diprose

Carol was unable to be with us, but she has sent photos of her very exciting work-in-progress, a book of alchemical birds.

We had our picnic lunch in the new field-shelter in the Tree-house corner of Dove Meadow. A place of dreams! Jane’s summer pudding was irresistible. The resident wasps enjoyed licking our plates clean.
Our next meeting will be some time in October. But before then some of us will be exhibiting in the print studio for Somerset Art Weeks on the themes of Sanctuary and Alchemy. I’ll end, as usual, with a selection from my notes:

July Dove-droppings

if you wait long enough it sinks
pressing bones into clay
starting with the word

Kimmeridge Bay is like another planet
a silk sanctuary
a handwritten book

I went to Iceland
it’s a little beginning
a different landscape

a brand new island
shapes reappearing
as if they are moving

an iron blanket
yes but no
it wouldn’t fit in the box

meadowsweet yellow
a yarn made from seaweed
to find the way back

the deer ate my roses
let’s go down to the trees
I know you all by your trees

coming up through the cracks
the first wasp of summer
think how big a wasp’s mouth is

on the equinox
the alchemy of
canoeing in North Saskatchewan

each page talks to the next
the blueness
sinking back into the landscape

If you’ve read this far, congratulations! And thanks for reading.

“Add some Greek drama to your home”

July 3, 2022
Photo: British Museum

in my inbox today
a range of tasteful items
with highlights from the ten-years’ war

on a cotton tote-bag
two bearded warriors argue
over a game of chess

on a tea-towel
a coffee mug or a tee-shirt
Achilles slaughters Penthesilea

blood spurts from her pierced jugular
on an exclusive coin
a charming souvenir

Luhansk bookmark, anyone?
Azovstal fridge magnet?
Putin’s head on a plate?

ABCD June 2022

June 26, 2022

Six members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met yesterday in the Print Studio to share news, recent work, and advice on work in progress. In terms of traffic congestion, it was probably the best day of the Glastonbury Festival weekend to be travelling. After a wet start the day was bright with a lively breeze.

Bron has continued to explore colours from trees, leaves and flowers and to make her results into books. The three books shown below were each made from a single large sheet of paper, folded into sixteen and selectively cut.

A second book of circles, drawn on softer esparto-grass paper from Two Rivers.
These red camellia prints have shifted to subtle buffs and mauves.

Bron painted the Khadi paper pages shown below with many layers of ink and a nature-friendly fixative. They are substantial, earthy in both colour and texture, and quite noisy when handled! They are the pages for a piano-hinge book about mycorrhiza.

Caroline showed us a model for a large sculptural book about Jaisalmer Fort in Rajastan. I was in Jaisalmer in what seems like a previous life, 45 years ago!

Janine has made a family of exquisite containers (sanctuaries? reliquaries? spirit houses?) from richly-machine-embroidered scraps of silk and velvet. We admired Janine’s colour choices and her attention to detail.

I, Ama, brought an unfinished book. The Khadi paper pages are dip-dyed with layers of “dyes from the compost-bin” – red cabbage leaves, red onion skins, avocado stones and skins, and beetroot cooking-water. On them I have written in walnut ink with a bamboo pen the words of Graeme Ryan’s poem “O”, with his permission. Each of the seven folios is stitched to the mountain folds of a zigzag spine printed with seaweed fronds from the beach at Kilve. There will be hard covers and an exposed-spine binding. Graeme’s poem speaks powerfully of the experience of war and displacement.

I like this little off-cut, an accidental landscape. From the top, the colours are red cabbage, avocado, red onion, and beetroot with iron-water.

Thalia has just returned from Iceland with tales of light midsummer nights, fields of wild flowers, hot springs and shifting tectonic plates. She told us about the Living Art Museum, and (in another museum) a lively collaboration between artists in Iceland and Hungary.

Judith showed us samples of a thick shiny ink she made from bamboo leaves.

Judith is just back from a working visit to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, bringing carved spoons and embroidered felt purses, and tales of a potentially lethal tick-bite and dodgy medicines. She was wearing a glorious silver-grey stole, fine wool felted onto cotton gauze printed with petroglyphs.

We had a picnic lunch in the meadow, surrounded by hogweed (not the giant variety) – at least one insect on every umbel. It was good to see.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday July 23rd. This will be the last meeting before Somerset Art Weeks, which begin on September 24th. This year’s theme is Sanctuary. Meanwhile, here are the

June Dove-droppings

eaten by carpet moths
zigzagging from the sky
I lost the thread

it’s bewildering
in different houses with our G&Ts
a light in a window

everything is changing
too many possibilities
I had to block that Belgian woman

the roar from Bruce Springsteen
when somebody fell on me
where they have planted indigo

a remote site with snakes
I stayed in a tree-house
ticks were an issue

the paper grabs the pigment
sea-buckthorn orange
the hugging has stopped

I used to like hugging
Paul McCartney at the Cheese & Grain
spine like an armadillo

I soaked the leaves in alum
a good peaty black
at the back of the front

a polar bear had arrived
holding the baby
but would you want to?

The Waste Land Revisited

June 12, 2022

Yesterday’s programme of words and music was a celebration not only of Eliot’s great work but also of the collaboration and friendship of twenty four writers and performers, some of whom had never met in person before. Faces remembered from on-screen boxes turned into three-dimensional human beings with extraordinary skills. We have been working on this for the best part of a year, mostly on Zoom. The five editors got together twice in a cafe in Bath to work on a script collated by Sue Boyle, who has inspired and guided the project from its beginnings. Some excellent writing had to be omitted due to the limited performance time. I don’t doubt that it will find its place in the world.

I had the privilege of singing the rather mysterious song below. The words are by Sue Boyle, tune by me. I have a recording on my phone, but I entirely lack the know-how to make it available here.
My thanks to Peter Reason for giving me a D-minor chord to start me off.
Peter’s own song, Dark Times, had me in tears. Miranda’s songs were spellbinding. Sylvia’s feat of channelling Marie Lloyd was uncanny. Sally’s embodiment of Madame Sosostris and Graeme’s chillingly unhinged Tom Eliot were awe-inspiring. Mark and members of the cast made sure that everything ran smoothly. Everyone did their best and it was pretty dam’ good.

Thanks for a wonderful day to all the cast, to Morag Kiziewicz for her support, and of course to the audience for generously giving up most of a beautiful summer’s day to sit under the fabulous painted ceiling of The Elwin Room and listen to us.

Three poets and a rain-stick. Photo by Verona Bass.

The Waste Land centenary

June 7, 2022

A hundred years – that must be some kind of Jubilee! Plutonium? Lithium? Lead?

After months of writing, research, editing and (in my case) singing to hens, twenty four writers and performers will be presenting our collaboration The Waste Land Revisited at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution on Saturday (11th June), inspired by Sue Boyle’s series of zoom explorations. Do come!

Toward the end of the afternoon I shall be reading this poem, written in January this year, from my sequence Searching for Stetson.

Tom meets the Sibyl                                   
…  a public bar in Lower Thames Street (The Waste Land, line 260)

I have a name. It’s not for you to know.
To you, young man, I am the Gipsy Queen.
And oh, dear boy, I’m chilled through to the bone.
A whisky wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you.
Come closing time I’ll be out in the rain.

So kind of you! That’s better. Liquid gold!
Show me your palm again. The other hand.
What was it, now? Oh yes, you said before,
you’re looking for a friend you thought you saw
in Lombard Street today. Wait – I can see –
dark eyes? Salt-and-pepper beard? A Greek,
or maybe Lebanese?        I’m sorry, dear.
He’s not the one. No good will come of him.
But let me see if I can find your friend.

Another whisky, quick! It clears my mind.
It brings the visions into focus.       Ah …
the seafarer you’re thinking of was drowned.
You mistook him in your eagerness.
We tend to see what we are looking for.

But you are young; your line of life is long.
You’ll travel far; this is the harbour, see?
And this the ship, and this the distant port.

Love may elude you, or deceive your heart,
but friendship is a stronger bond, I’ve found.
You’ll have all the friends you need. The star
here, in the centre of your palm, is proof.
Yes, since you ask, why not? Let’s have one more.
I’m no Sosostris, but I have the Sight.
Thank you, dear boy. You’ve a good heart. Goodnight.

Huge thanks to John Rowlands-Pritchard for his beautiful lettering.

ABCD May 2022

May 15, 2022

Nine members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met IN PERSON in the Dove Print Studio yesterday. Back and front doors were open, letting in air and birdsong. Clare’s flapjacks, which sometimes seem to be our raison d’etre, were as good as we remembered.

Clare showed us her new Herbin (established 1670) fountain pen, whose engineering we all admired. Her three bottles of Herbin ink have delightful names: Corail des tropiques, Bleu myosotis, and my favourite, the delicious Larmes de cassis.

Here are a few glimpes into Clare’s sketchbooks. Click on any image to enlarge it. The fourth shows an exercise in turning numerals into cats.

Janine brought her three Coptic-sewn double-concertina books of family history. The photos and text are printed on artists’ transfer paper and ironed onto silk pasted to Khadi paper.

Here are Janine’s three small square books of abstract painting in oils on Khadi paper offcuts from the project above. They embody her emotional response to a recent bereavement.

Judith has been busy with online and in-person courses. One was on paper-marbling. Marbling the head, foot and foredge of ledger books was a safeguard against pages being removed, added or substituted – a thoroughly analog anti-fraud device! Judith chose her colours to match the covers of these paperbacks.

It was good to see Judith’s big blue book in the flesh.

Three views of Judith’s ‘Leaves of Broadley’ and its slip-case.

Jane has made a batch of lovely-looking Sewn Boards bindings. Photo below. She is researching the far from ordinary life of her father, Loughnan Pendred, wood-carver and sculptor. Affpuddle church in Dorset is full of his work.

Jane Paterson sewn-board bindings

I (Ama) showed some recent books from late last year, and a new one. ‘Broomfield’ is 10.5x15cm, six double pages folded at the foredge. ‘Postcards’ (my life in 50 tercets) is 15cm square and ‘Shining Sister’ is 15x21cm: thirteen poems with full-page titles painted by John Rowlands-Pritchard.

Carol has made two cut and folded books from multi-layered lino-prints; one very precise, lively and surprising in the hand (front and back views shown), and the other more random and unpredictable.

Carol was impressed by a Kurt Jackson exhibition, ‘Biodiversity’, at the Natural History Museum in Oxford. It finished today, but there is plenty to see in this interactive online show, and it will be opening in Southampton City Art Gallery soon (27 May). We talked briefly about a forthcoming exhibition at the Arnolfini in Bristol, ‘Forest’ (9 July-2 October).

Thalia has painted another big banner – the Madonna of Glastonbury – which will be out and about on Jubilee Day.

Bron showed us her big book ‘Essence of Trees’, and an informative sketchbook in which she recorded the various botanical dyes and inks she made to colour the pages, spine and sewing threads. We talked about the many variables, the use of mordants, the importance of the paper’s pH, the need not to over-boil berries (releasing too much tannin and browning the colour).

Kate has spent the last two and a half years visiting, interviewing, drawing and painting thirty local craftspeople for her latest book, ‘Crafts’. She called it “My tribute to people who make things.” A magnificent tribute it is, too, a mistresspiece. She very generously gave each of us a copy. The big charcoal drawings and smaller paintings are on show at the Somerset Museum of Rural Life in Glastonbury until 5th June. More information and photos here. You can meet Kate there on 29th May.

We went out to the tree-house corner of Dove Meadow for our picnic lunch. The meadow was once again knee-deep in buttercups.

Scots pine shadows on the marquee roof

After lunch we went out to admire the progress of the recently-planted wood in Wild Lea.

The next two meetings will be on 25th June and 23rd July. Then before we know it the summer will be over and we’ll be into Somerset Art Weeks. Meanwhile here are some snippets from my notebook:

May Dove droppings

a miniature Central Park
in broccoli and cheese-graters
birds and potatoes

starting with yellow
one colour a day
can elevate a book

I’ve dropped out of castanets
to turn numbers into cats
positivity can be wearing

with hatchet-faced officials
raking up the last brain cells
in reverse order

printing on spoilt paper
I disobeyed all the rules
in a basement in Bloomsbury

I finished the Madonna
that’s the bamboo again
between aluminium plates

little purple mushrooms
chew it a bit
pop it in the undergrowth

talk to the wasps
trapping ideas
hunting for the impossible

Sunday walk

May 8, 2022

May is out
white blossom everywhere
and I’ve cast a layer or two
of winter clout

I came this way a day ago
and thought I heard a flock of angry geese
it was the screech of machinery
a tractor and plough

today harrows
have broken up the clods
and shattered stalks of maize
litter the furrows

white drifts of stitchwort
in the narrow field-margin
vetch and speedwell
buttercup and herb-robert

I pick up a Fanta can
pour out the lurid dregs
whose twelve ingredients
include a source of phenylalanine

Gate Lane
we walked this way to school
new buildings on both sides now
but the queen-anne’s-lace remains

A poet looks at the war

April 24, 2022

… unless you are already dead you need to understand that it is precisely your innocence that makes you a target

Image by Felicia Rice

My friend the indomitable poet Beau Beausoleil has been writing, almost daily, poems about the war in Ukraine. Fierce and prophetic poems full of wit and rage.
Felicia Rice of Moving Parts Press has collected them on her website.

Here is the first of the series:
In Ukraine


at a

February 22, 2022

And here is a very recent one:

Putin is
on a
fly that
has flown
into his

April 22, 2022

A Walk in the Woods on Earth Day

April 22, 2022

It begins with an arrow and a rusty chain

rusty padlocks on the pump-house.

Unseen birds call from high in an old coppice

rivulets and moss-covered walls criss-cross the woodland

trees have fallen across the paths and the brook

ferns unscroll and bluebells reflect the sky.

Ancient oaks shelter spring flowers.

Honeysuckle, moss and ivy clothe a dead stump.

A Laocoön moment!

A stone bridge spans the brook.
A little further down the valley, the water disappears into the ground, leaving a dry stony bed.

Near the bottom of the woodland a derelict lime kiln is almost hidden behind a curtain of ivy.

The Fabulist

April 19, 2022

Ana Silvera is a fabulist – a teller of fables. I heard her first on Radio 3’s The Verb on 28 February 2020 and have been haunted ever since by her song Exile, with her own sruti-box (Indian harmonium) accompaniment. It starts one and a half minutes into the broadcast. Tree seeds carried in the mouth – what a strange and potent image. I carried her song in my mouth, and found myself writing new words to the tune. I sent the words to Brittle Star, a magazine that consistently published excellent poetry and prose until about 18 months ago. I was overjoyed to have my song accepted and published.

I received Ana’s brand-new CD in the post today. Marvellous story-songs, full of mystery, beauty and sadness, accompanied by a handful of outstanding musicians including Ana herself on a variety of instruments. She’s touring these songs soon: in Shoreham-by-Sea May 4th, Basingstoke May 5th, Oxford May 6th, Bury May 7th, Scarborough May 8th, Cambridge May 10th, Reading May 11th, Bristol May 12th, Colchester May 13th, Aldeburgh may 14th and London May 15th. Links on the Bandcamp site.