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ABCD July 2020

July 7, 2020

Ten of us (Artists Book Club Dove) Zoomed together on Saturday, thanks to Thalia who hosted us again.
Bron could not join us but her latest blog post tells a magical story of encounters with walnuts.

Bron walnut-leaf-wine-2

Clare has been busy picking redcurrants, making redcurrant buns, eco-printing with grasses, herbs and rusty tin cans, wild-swimming, drawing cows and keeping a close watch on a local family of kestrels.

Clare ecoprints

Judith has been printing with wooden type, and bottling globe artichoke hearts from her garden.

Judy has been doing more calligraphy, and it looks exciting. The Dante-related works will be shown later in an online exhibition.

Caroline has sent pictures of her pond and its ‘plump of moorhens’. She has had her book of family history printed by Mixam and is happy with the quality and service. She uses Indesign for page layout. (NB you can also download a template from Blurb.) She’s now working on a book based on her gap-year diaries and sketchbooks.

Carol has made a set of little books contrasting decorative papers with pithy topical words and statements.

Here are an Elephant hawkmoth and a Privet hawkmoth, photographed in her garden by Carol.

Jane told us she had returned to childhood, making scrap-box puppets (Rapunzel and the wicked witch who imprisoned her in a tower) and cardboard constructions (Covid Towers). Politicians “looking thoroughly intelligent” inhabit one tower,  nature has taken over another, and the third is full of terrified citizens.

Janine has made another embroidered box using the last of her dyed silk scraps.

Pauline has been busy printing. Mokuhanga, lino and eco-prints. The results are delectable.

I (Ama) am still dyeing Khadi paper with red cabbage (blue) and red onion (green/brown). This time I dipped one half and then the other in the jam-jar dyebath, producing some accidental icebergs, seascapes and landscapes. These are intended to be book covers. But I might frame one or two.

Our next Zoom meeting is planned for 1st August. We have a bold new project!

Finally, here are some of the random quotes from my notebook.

July Dove-droppings

I’m trying not to kill any ladybirds
two funerals next week
pandemonium contagion isolation

three globes covered with fish-skin
sitting in the field drawing cows
and swimming in the brook

the blobs turned into ladybirds
the collective noun is a plump
dreamy aren’t they

ten minutes with a kestrel
smart feathery jacket
white fluffy long-johns

I’m doing “Charter Hand”
it looks angry
sitting on the roof of the barn

planting thyme for the bees
I haven’t been in a shop
time has lost its value

suddenly it was summer
racing towards autumn
I’m living in 1966

she was imprisoned
and I lived in a cave
with pretty paper and words

liars are in charge of the truth
lurking in the garden at night
an elephant hawk-moth

every day it’s raining
alum and hot water
a cup of white vinegar

spring back into life
communing with the hens
coming to our senses


Up betimes

July 5, 2020


Half an hour in the early morning
with lines from Radio 4

here is the weather forecast for inshore waters
Stav takes me clockwise
from Cape Wrath to Shetland

where I dive from the rail
in a northwest 3 or 4
to swim ashore

meanwhile back on dry land
Pudsey Surprise Maximus
clamours from the Pierhead church

I can’t afford to waste so much time
says Dame Judi
so little of it is left

and few of us can have
a second chance to play Hamlet
and get it right

nothing would surprise me
after these timeless months
when will the curtains rise?

Pudsey Surprise Maximus” is one of millions of  ways of ringing the changes on a set of church bells

Weather forecast for inshore waters

As I was out walking, part 2

July 4, 2020

On my walk home from Launcherley yesterday I made a note of the wildflowers I saw: Sweet Woodruff, Meadowsweet, Agrimony, Camomile, Pineapple weed, Yarrow (both white and pink varieties), Creeping Cinquefoil, Yellow Trefoil, Spear Thistle, Hawkweed, Common Mallow, Field Convolvulus (both the white and the pink-and-white varieties), White Deadnettle, Sowthistle, Herb Bennet, Herb Robert, Willowherb, Ragwort, various docks and sorrels, Water Hemlock, Spurge, Redleg, Fat Hen, Wild White Clover, Field Scabious, Burdock, Teasel, Marjoram, Hedge-mustard, and a Mullein when I was almost home.
Below: Camomile, Field Scabious, Sweet Woodruff, probably Dwarf Spurge.

03 Redleg sml
Persicaria maculosa
: Heartweed, Smartweed, Spotted Knotweed, Redleg, Redshank, Willow weed. The dreaded Japanese Knotweed, which I spotted in Park Wood, is a fellow members of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, which includes docks and sorrels.

03 MulleinVerbascum thapsus: Common mullein. These fine specimens, unusually, show no sign of the black, white and yellow caterpillars of the Mullein Moth which can strip them bare. I’m happy for the plants but a bit concerned for the moth.

My family moved from London to an isolated cottage in a rural part of Surrey when I was ten. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and, not knowing anyone locally, I spent my days happily wandering alone looking for wild flowers. My aunt in the Isle of Skye, a keen amateur botanist, sent me Collins Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers, newly-published, far too big and heavy for any normal pocket, but just what I needed. I learnt a lot of names that summer.

As I was out walking

July 3, 2020

17 Jbts sml
Just before the storm broke on 17th June. I was 20 minutes from home. I made it back before the rain that refilled our empty water tanks.

28 Wingnut
Afternoon light through a magnificent CaucasianWingnut tree in The Combe at Walcombe, just north of Wells city centre. An awe-inspiring place to walk in any weather, any season. I feel it is a secular, outdoor alternative to the Cathedral.

26 shadows 10 sml
Morning light on the footpath from Wells to Haybridge.

Hollyhocks have appeared in unlikely places: in St Cuthbert’s churchyard (left) and near the moat (right).

01 Palace fieldsI went to Tor Wood on 1st July. A pair of ravens made a great to-do above Palace Fields. I didn’t catch them in this photo, but I did notice how out-of-place the Giant Redwood looks: far taller than any other tree nearby, and probably planted not much more than 100 years ago.

01 Vipers Bugloss
Echium vulgare: Viper’s Bugloss, Snake flower, Blue devil. Growing in the gravel near the entrance to the old Mendip Hospital Cemetery, now a wildlife sanctuary.

02 Mallow
I walked to the spring in Coxley the other day. Beyond Keward the verge was bright with clumps of Malva sylvestris, Common Mallow.

02 Milestone sml
As I passed the old milestone I noticed that the spelling of Bridgwater has changed.

02 Littlewell
Every time I fill my water-container at Littlewell I have an irrational impulse to turn off a tap.
Every time!



Thank you Dad

June 21, 2020


My dad and my little brother who is now a grandad, on the roof of 17 Norfolk Street, Sliema, Malta c1953. St Gregory’s Church in the background.

thank you Dad

Summer solstice

June 20, 2020

14 evening light sml

Lines found in my Twitter feed on the summer solstice

this zombie world
see what it looks like
share the urban space

a whole family of dead cats
at least four of them
in a tub of rainwater

who decides?
who’s in control?
there’s nothing for me

I’ve missed you
unless you’re a heron
dreaming of your great escape

a little tree
raindrops in grass
will lead you back home

feeling brave
heading north
thanking the universe for Bob Dylan

ABCD: June 2020

June 7, 2020

Twelve out of fourteen members of Artists’ Book Club (Dove) met on Zoom yesterday. Thanks to Thalia for hosting the meeting. “We were like pages of a sort of 3D book … our faces in our rooms each a page with our stories.” – Kate.

There was much talk of gardening, watering, growing fruit and veg, noticing invertebrates, birds, grasses and trees. We seem to be turning into a nature-study club. Some of us had worked on books, and some of us had books to recommend. There was sadness, rage, playfulness and some rather dark humour.

Thalia, inspired by World Bee Day, is working on a herbal for bee health. Here are some of her sketches and photos.

Bron recommended Braiding SweetgrassIndigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She has been making mugs and burnished pots, mourning an apple tree sucked dry by woolly aphids, watering the garden and the newly-planted trees, and identifying grasses in the meadow. She is proud of her lettuces!

Judith spent a week binge-watching the Hay festival online. She too has been busy in the garden.

Judy recommended The Overstory by Richard Powers. She has made a hexaflexagon and labelled its surfaces, with a view to using this structure in her Dante calligraphy project. She has taken a Zoom workshop with Simon Soncino, and is looking forward to the follow-up meeting,

Jane recommended The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. She has been looking at old sketches and photos of the sea wall at Lyme Regis, and recreating the colours with indigo and rust dyes. Oh, and her bee-hotel is now fully occupied.

I (Ama) recommended Educated by Tara Westover. I stayed up till 3am to finish reading it. And spent most of the next day watching interviews and Q&A sessions on Youtube.
While cutting back a willow I found a branch that I used as a loom to weave a mask. I think its function is to protect not from the virus but from the sadness. I’ve done some more dyeing of rag-paper with red onions skins and red cabbage. Better results this time, accidental landscapes. Here are a couple of them. And some photos of my garden. The lettuces are Barba dei Fratri from seeds Clare sent me. The tomato seeds were squeezed from a mouldy tomato on its way to the compost bucket. The gorgeous roses come throuth the fence from next door. We now have five old crash-helmets converted into hanging gardens. They used to be on the front of the house and were often a talking-point for passers-by, but I no longer feel safe leaning out of windows to water them. I am proud of my chick-peas (last photo).

Caroline’s pond is home to a family of feisty moorhens. She is making pages for a book of family photos and anecdotes. She recommended Family Echo for creating a family tree, and  Mixam for reasonably priced printing. She also told us about the Great British Hedgerow Survey. It sounds a truly worthwhile project.

Clare recommended A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes.  “There’s a lot about honeybees, but it also reads as a story, an account of her first year as a bee keeper, and how that alters how she experiences things.  Beautifully written.”

Here are some photos of Clare’s garden and her hedgerow sketchbook.

Carol has made a book of sketches of her walks, coloured on one side and monochrome on the other,

and a book of monoprints of the marina area of Portishead. If you unfocused your eyes, she said, you could imagine it was Barcelona.

And a photo from Carol’s garden:

Carol 6

Janine has made a family of boxes from scraps of silk and velvet. “The smaller they are, the harder it is.” Someone pointed out that they have a hairstyle very similar to mine and Clare’s!

Kate showed us a recent commission – a painting of a friend’s grand-daughters in Australia.


Pat has been dyeing wool with lichen and other vegetable dyes and handspinning it, and has started her hedgerow-themed weaving, inspired by Anni Albers and Alice Fox. It looked wonderful on Zoom but unfortunately I have no photos to show you.

Pauline was unable to join the meeting, but she has sent a photo of this lovely mokuhanga print, which to me looks like an illustration to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.


Next meeting: Saturday 4th July.

June Dove-droppings

I spent the week in Hay
me and William Dalrymple
feet in different worlds

moths we have seen
waiting for inspiration
waiting for ever

first aid for bees
they switched off her life support
this week it’s been family

there’s massive evil going on
and I study the grasses
oh god I’ve retired

I lit a fire
it was like putting down a pet
I cried

drawing is the best way of looking
stag-beetles in the woodpile
tiny blocks of writing

I feel like a slug
no backbone no incentive
indigo and rust

it’s wrong, so wrong
a round-the-clock chick watch
which is handy if you’re thinking of ending it all

an invasion of moorhens
cinnabar moths
and family history

scattered plastic
and the government has driven me bonkers
I wrote to my MP

skippers on the bird’s-foot trefoil
swimming in the brook
then I got a bat-detector

I have lettuce envy
I can only worry
it keeps me happy

codes and puzzles
a take-away coffee
the joy of small things

ask the botanist
it looks like a brome
the other is a giant fescue

watering flowering buzzing
I could fill it with treasure
wishes and prayers

Ama in mask


Letters to Iraq: “listen to the hope and beauty”

May 18, 2020

A slender, elegant handmade book slipped through my letterbox last week.

This chapbook is the latest volume of Beau Beausoleil’s poetry, beautifully produced in an edition of 200 by Andrea Hassiba’s Intermittent Press (719 Lisbon, San Francisco, CA 94112). The price is ten dollars in the U.S. and twelve dollars in the U.K. Shipping is included in the price. Inquiries: overlandbooks(at)earthlink(dot)net

4¼ x 11 inches, black card cover, dark grey flysheet, 24 pages.

Raw with shared pain, these are not angry poems. They are cries of hope and compassion, demanding change/not the promise of change/not a panel to study change/not a worthless piece of paper

Full of questions, they do not offer slick answers; how much light asks the poet, does each falling body take with it as it hits the groundhow many days does one have to wake up with less dignity … how many years can you look for the one who is still missing … I want to open every fist they put around your heart/and listen as you tell me again how close liberty is to where you are standing.


“Just give us a country, we just want a country to live in.” (A phrase repeated by many Iraqis during the demonstrations.)

In his introduction, Beau writes:

As a poet and activist, I have been emotionally compelled to respond to the ongoing revolution that started in early October 2019. Iraqis are seeking a country that is free of corruption, one that sheds its entrenched political parties and politicians, one that offers freedom, equality, justice, and an end to all colonial influences.

I have followed the news reports describing the momentous acceleration of people into the streets: workers, students, women, academics, professionals, cultural workers, and even the elders. In spite of their victims being unarmed, government forces and sanctioned militias have killed over 600 people and wounded over 18,000. There have been arrests with accompanying torture, kidnappings and targeted assassinations of Iraqi activists.

I continue to be profoundly affected by the courage and determination of the Iraqi people. When I wrote the first poem on October 8th, I thought it was a singular response to all that I was watching and reading on social media and in the news coming out of Iraq.

The continuing struggle of these heroic and resolute people has motivated and inspired me to write 28 poems as of March of this year. This chapbook presents the reader with 11 of those poems.

This small effort is dedicated to every Iraqi who has risked his/her life for freedom, and for those who have been wounded or killed in this country-wide movement.

ABCD: May 2020

May 17, 2020

Artists’ Book Club (Dove) had a second Zoom meeting yesterday. Nina was the only member who could not join in, so there were thirteen of us on screen.

Thalia was the first to report. Her work has been inspired by vivid dreams and Irish folklore.

Judy has been writing a friend’s English version of Dante’s Divine Comedy in what she described as angry calligraphy. She showed us a small blizzard book housing name-tags for every crew-member and passenger aboard the Mayflower.

Carol has been playing with paper-folding. And she is printing and collaging in an old book to make a lockdown journal.

Clare has been painting in a field near her home.

Clare another hedge

Kate has a project for her next book. She’s meeting , drawing and interviewing craftsmen. She mentioned a dry-stone-waller and a farrier, and showed us some paintings and charcoal drawings.

Kate dry stone waller

Jane has been drawing on Chalice Hill and the Tor.

Janine is making stitched boxes and books, using up scraps.

Janine box

Caroline is illustrating her hedge and the birds that appear in it. She’s started making prints from cross-sections of branches.

Pauline’s folded book alternately conceals and reveals aspects of life under lockdown.

Judith took an online tutorial by the London Drawing Group. This one was about Matisse. Here are some examples of her freehand drawing with scissors.

Judith drawing with scissors

I (Ama) have made a second leporello, Deepwords, a companion to Downwords. Digital print and rubber stamps on recycled papers. Closed, the book is about 15x20cm. Open, it is 20x167cm. Deepwords is inspired by this animation.

“The deep sea is the least explored of all habitats …
an estimated 33 to 91% of species in our oceans
remain uncollected or undescribed.” – John Spicer

And I’m dyeing Khadi rag paper with red cabbage (blue) and red onion (yellow/brown).

Clare and I have been knitting. Here are Clare’s version of Katie’s Kep by Wilma Malcolmson, and my version of Sarah Swett’s Sweater Somewhat Slanted. I love both the aesthetic and the content of Sarah’s blog A Field Guide to Needlework, and recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in spinning, dyeing, knitting and/or weaving. I am now two inches into a Katie’s Kep.

Pat made her entrance wearing a mask of fresh leaves. As I think I have mentioned before, she is weaving a hedge. Dyeing wool with (pickled) walnuts and lichens, spinning and weaving it. She showed us a basket of luscious colours.

Lastly, Bron, who has been “busy doing nothing”. The nothings are quite something: a Scarecorona guardian for the Tree House and other willow sculptures. And a rather mysterious serpent.

And because we are all missing our visits to the Dove, here is Bron’s photo of cowslips in the Tree Circle.

Bron cowslips

Next Zoom meeting: 6th June.

May Dove-droppings

life’s not too short for
my magical relationship
with mutable pale people

disembodied learning
drawing with scissors
the eye of the dragon

up Chalice Hill
sky and weather
a lone piper

squirrels and moorhens
modern stoicism
just staying alive

ivy and a few oak leaves
a little blizzard
for the Mayflower

I went out with a lot of old craftsmen
I’ve broken the law
I’ve run out of thread

the descent into hell
no work no money
the empty room

a sadness all the time
I’ve forgotten how to speak
here comes the cat

prints from the wood
they do smell a bit cabbagey
try pickling them

cows huffled all around me
a fox came and peed on it
deer have eaten the orchids

a special map
an angry virus book
a star book and a cascade

Irish fairy-tales
English cantos
angry calligraphy

in the evenings I spin
lichen colours
red and purple willows

his house is full of chicks
click and collect is the most exciting thing
an hour’s drive across Dartmoor

a memory box
the way it opened and closed
both sides of the story

ABCD: April 2020

April 26, 2020

We missed our March meeting, but Clare provided virtual flapjacks.

Clare flapjacks

And now we are all Zooming.

Masks on Zoom

Since our last meeting, Judith has introduced a theme of magical thinking. This led Bron to make a Brigid’s Cross, a home-made talisman. Bron has also been making coiled pots in a woodland marquee.

Bron brides-cross

Caroline draws a rangoli daily at her threshold, with blessings for the visitors who no longer come.

Caroline rangoli

I (Ama) have made a book in response to Nina’s 2.6 challenge to raise funds for ACEarts. it has a brief entry for each day from April 1-26. It is pamphlet-stitched in a Khadi cotton-rag paper cover dyed with red onion skins and turmeric and splashed with drawing inks.

Here is a spread from Carol’s hedgerow book-in-progress.

Carol hedgerow

And here are some pages from Clare’s hedgerow sketchbook.

Janine has made a colourful book using scraps of silk and velvet.Janine scraps 1

Some of us had made masks. Here are Judith as a hawthorn tree, Caroline as a rangoli and Carol as insect life.

Nina has been rescuing and recycling old books and prints,

and here are some glimpses of her hedgerow book.

Pauline has been taking a sketchbook on her daily walks.

Pauline sketchbook 1

Our next virtual meeting will be on May 16th.

The Dove-droppings are full of our current anxieties, frustrations and struggles, but there are plenty of trees, birds and other wildlife too.

April Dove-droppings

we can’t see you yet
it just goes round and round
turn on the audio

only one right answer
make do and mending
using up scraps

thrushes wake me
we are locked in
serves us right

dragons emerge
and there are bitterns
the names are disappearing

I’m living in paradise
time goes slow and quick
there are no markers

listen to the trees
the beeches roar
the pines whoosh

we are overwhelmed
in a battle with squirrels
things are consuming us

but we gained some long-eared bats
and we heard the nightingale
and tiny bees in the conservatory

passing time
we have all this time but where is it
you get more done by doing less

feels like yesterday
this is just the beginning
don’t waste anything

I couldn’t concentrate
walking every day along the riverbank
blue ink all over me now

the hedge is two fields away
just sitting quietly
I’ve fallen asleep

grease and chili powder
a blessing and a welcome
and electric vibrations

having a bath with a Japanese devil
we couldn’t go to India
I had to find a flight home

bees keep digging little holes
my garden buzzes
a dandelion lawn

a copy of the Mappa Mundi
just a few scraps
just a few words