We gathered at the Dove last Saturday in warm sunshine. Some of us had visited BABE – the biennial Bristol Artists Book Event. My finds included a large and jolly picture book with a blackly humorous message (from OttoGraphic), a lovely little hand-painted floppy zigzag from Andrew Law, and some simply beautiful, but hard-to photograph, books from Pauline Lamont-Fisher and Julie Johnstone.
I had finished two more books on this year’s themes – Backwards and Winged. The former opens into a series of little rooms, each of which contains a mirror-poem. The latter is made of cardboard from the recycling box, painted with home-made indigo paint, with added collage and words. The central raven image is a separate revolving piece.
Jane’s take on this month’s theme, Repetition, is a set of boxes with part of a Peruvian-inspired design on each face. When finished, they will be able to be assembled in endless variations on a repetitive theme. The soft colours are remarkably zingy.
Jane is part of an Oxford University project, Redesigning the Mediaeval Book. She has been to the Bodleiean Library for a day of close encounters with a range of mediaeval books, large and small, sacred and secular. We look forward to seeing the book that she will make. There will be an exhibition in December of selected books by the participants.
Judy showed a zig-zag of Rhenalon prints in a box, and some interesting calligraphic experiments with ink on selectively dampened paper.
Carol counts butterflies for the Avon Wildlife Trust. For “Winged” she brought a box of marbled paper butterflies, each on a tiny hand-made spring. They tremble in the slightest movement of air. One of her books on “Repetition” also makes use of movement. Its single page is cut into horizontal slits that spread out when the book is opened. The other is a zigzag of drawn twigs.
Pauline’s “Winged” is a hanging book, and her “Repetition” can be opened either side to reveal repeated folds. The cover is printed with a lino-cut title.
Karen has made a little book about repeater pocket-watches. It has its own velvet pocket.
Clare has made a slip-case for the book she showed last month, and has started on “Repetition” a wavy book of short poems inspired by her many visits to the sea. Photos next time, I hope.
Bron showed us a sample-book she has recently acquired, of Sandersons 1950s designs of wallpaper and fabric. Wonderful! Below: Dandelion Clocks, a classic design by Fiona Howard. And, of course, an instance of repetition.
Judith was recently in Singapore, where she was given a Coptic-sewn notebook and a length of printed cloth cleverly folded and transformed with a couple of stitches into a book. Another instance of repetition.
In the afternoon we went for a walk over some of the land – part of “Butleigh East Field” where in mediaeval times each family had a strip of land to cultivate – that is the subject of this year’s “Amazing Space” exhibition during Somerset Art Weeks.
White Field was covered in cowslips.
Excavations by badgers show that the soil is actually white. It is tufa, a porous calcareous rock, in this case quite soft and crumbly.
Many fruiting trees were in flower – here are a crab-apple and a quince.
Below: Wych-elm flowers, a Speckled Wood butterfly and one of the local dryads.
Next month the theme will be “Tracks”.
butterflies are on my mind
the pages rise to meet you
they do not strike on demand
back to the sea
torn edges and indigo
trees made of date-stamps
bright green parrot feathers
run by Mormons apparently
Five members of Artists’ Book Club Dove met in Wells on Wednesday to give our outdoor book “Dove Tales” a new incarnation. We began by sitting in the sunshine in Janine’s garden and pooling ideas. I didn’t have any ideas, so that made the process a bit quicker.
Karen’s idea of dovetailing the pages together worked on a small scale but the pages themselves with their layers of paper, scrim, glue and varnish were too stiff. The structure clearly had potential, though. Worth keeping in mind for another project.
Clare brought a shoe-box full of basketry experiments with strips of paper. Again, a lovely technique, but the pages were not flexible enough for this to be an option.
Jane brought books with pictures for inspiration. One of them had a photo of the lattice walls of a yurt. By an amicable Quakerish vote-free process we worked toward a design, made a maquette and started measuring and cutting. We used four of the six pages. Details of weathered indigo-dyeing and fragments of faded handwriting and block-printed text acquired fresh significance and beauty.
When we ran out of steam we had some lunch. By about 3pm it was finished and rolled up ready to take to the Dove on Saturday.
It’s odd how these collaborations invariably start with a burst of creative thinking, move on into lively discussion, and settle into a pattern of physically taxing repetitive tasks. Measure, make template, mark, cut, measure, make template, punch holes, assemble, insert paper-fasteners, suck sore thumb, rub aching back, repeat, repeat, repeat. Ah, but the pleasure of working in a sunny garden with good friends, and the satisfaction when the job is done!
Yesterday we set out on foot, past the Bishop’s Palace and up through Tor Wood,
along a track that was once a coaching-road
to King’s Castle Wood, a hill-top nature reserve with an Iron Age hill fort at the summit.
It was awash with flowers and unscrolling ferns.
We emerged from King’s Castle Wood into a beautiful field called Lyatt. This name may be Anglo-Saxon. The field is long and narrow, following the contour, with one strip of woodland to the north and another down a steep drop to the south, so that the lovely view toward North Wootton and Pilton is seen across the tops of the trees. Here we found orchids. Some had blotched leaves and some did not, but the flowers looked the same to me.
There is no boundary between the woodland and the field, and this I think is one of the things that make Lyatt so special. A few old trees that came down in recent storms had been dragged out of the wood and cut up. One had polypody ferns growing along a branch.
At the far end of the next field a cart-track becomes a lane down into the village of Dinder. The name is Celtic and probably means “hill with a fort”, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names.
As we passed the village hall (where we dance on Wednesday evenings) we saw a notice – Sunday Bar Open – so naturally we went in. We learned that there is an 11am service in the village church on the 3rd Sunday of the month, and that the village hall bar is open on the same day at 12 noon! People were very welcoming. A friend of a friend bought us drinks and I met two people who shared my interest in wild flowers. Eventually we walked on down to the pretty little mediaeval church, which is dedicated to St Michael and all Angels. There is a carving of a winged figure carrying a child while subduing a dragon. I wonder if it represents Bishop Jocelin (d 1242) killing the Worminster dragon, or perhaps it is St George. There is also a dragon on a rain-spout.
The north door has splendid hinges. Inside the church is a small sculpture which I imagine depicts St Michael.
We walked back to Wells via the village cricket field, a few more fields, a bridge over the River Sheppey and a well-maintained track across the Palace Fields, with views of Glastonbury Tor. Wells Cathedral and St Cuthbert’s Church.
This is one of the best approaches to Wells.
Today, Easter Monday, we took the bike to the Westhay end of Shapwick Heath nature Reserve and walked the couple of miles to the Railway Inn at the other end. And then back again, fortified with Abbot Ale and Wilkins Cider. We shared the track with runners and cyclists and birdwatchers and photographers. Bitterns were booming and we heard a cuckoo. This is a wild and lonely place even on a Bank Holiday with people about.
There is a white egret in the first photo above. I couldn’t see it but the camera could.
Two of mine, for the last day of a month of bookmarks and memory.
Finally, here are some useful links to the other branches of this project: broadsides, artists’ books, printmakers, music, readings and exhibitions.
Artists’ Book Project (An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street – Click into a gallery and then onto any book image to see more views of the book and read the artist’s statement.
Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadsides – http://www.library.fau.edu/depts/spc/jaffecenter/collection/al-mutanabbi/index.php
In the spring of 2016 we had an 11 venue exhibit in the Washington D.C. area – http://www.amsshdc2016.org/
2014 reading at the Arab British Centre in London – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBVmLKd9jIU
Review of our anthology in Jadaliyya, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/12368/al-mutanabbi-street-starts-here
A musical piece that was composed for the project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3x8juVd14g