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Holyest Erth

January 28, 2013


Bronwen Bradshaw was invited to show her etchings of the Abbey Ruins and to choose a group of craftspeople to exhibit alongside her. I was one of the book-artists lucky enough to be chosen.

Please contact me if you would like an invitation to the opening on the evening of February 8th.

There will also be a “Meet the Artists” event at 7pm on Tuesday February 19th. See the Abbey website for details.

While designing work for this exhibition I have been preoccupied with thoughts of the Abbey’s lost library of mediaeval and earlier manuscripts: unique and irreplaceable books written, illuminated and bound by hand, by men dedicated to their craft.

yellow leaves

The last abbot of Glastonbury was hung, drawn and quartered for treason. There was no good evidence against him. One story is that he was being punished for refusing to hand over the contents of the Abbey’s library.

This winter, my kitchen has become my scriptorium. My books for this exhibition are constructed in monastic styles of binding. They are pocket-sized, chunky and very physical volumes.

Some are blank notebooks bound in hand-painted, printed or dyed covers made from paper, linen or silk. Dyes used include indigo, pomegranate, madder and logwood. In the monastic tradition, I have made some of the paints too from natural materials, and have re-used paper from other projects to line the covers.

Below are notebooks in early (Coptic) and late (link-stitch) monastic bindings.

Coptic and link-stitch notebooks

And long-stitch:


Other books are handmade, hand-written editions of new writing inspired both by the Abbey’s library and by my correspondence with Beau Beausoleil. Fragments/Variations is a meditation on falling leaves and lost manuscripts, Winter Pilgrim is full of colour, and Moths is a meditation on translation, the fragility of text and the mutability of language. 

“Doing it is what excites me — seeing a metaphor materialise in my hands” – Richard Minsky, on making books

paper drying


The photo above shows pomegranate-dyed Khadi paper sheets drying over the kitchen fire. My family is less than enthusiastic about the container of gently fermenting pomegranate skins … oddly it has almost no smell, unlike indigo which is quite pungent.


I am no calligrapher, but it has been satisfying to write the text – a haiku sequence – with a scratchy pen dipped in a bottle of ink. It certainly made me examine every word! The music I listened to was Gregorian chant.


The pen-drawn illustrations were coloured with paints made from paprika, turmeric, cocoa and charcoal.

5th spread


Here is the finished book – 10.5×14.5x2cm. For the cover I have used straw-paper from The Exotic Paper Company.



To colour the pages of this book I’ve made a paint from logwood extract. I dyed the silk for the cover, first with pomegranate and then, using a resist, with logwood. Iron and Wine accompanied the painting.

Moths 2

The binding is a single-sheet Coptic sewn with four needles. It’s a fiddly but meditative process. I listened to Arvo Part’s Missa Sillabica.




4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2013 11:28 am

    Wow. Lovely to see accounts and photos of the process – and the music listened to. Thank you, and yes please, I’d love to come the launch. I can use it as research for my next 3D/ceramics project too… Joxx

  2. February 3, 2013 11:43 pm

    Thank you Jo. See you on Friday!

  3. February 9, 2013 1:30 am

    Wonderful work (and wonderful music…)!

  4. February 9, 2013 1:56 am

    Thanks for visiting!

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