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Highlights from “Circle of Trees”

September 16, 2019

I very much enjoyed my two days of stewarding at ACEarts in Somerton, spending time with the books/other works and with visitors.

Here are the books of the circle of thirteen trees of the Celtic calendar according to Robert Graves. We start with Pauline Pearce’s Birch: lino-prints, leaf prints, drawings and snippets of folklore in a large-format book with a wrap-around cover fastened with a section of birch twig.

Pauline birch
Pauline 2Pauline also made a chunky little zigzag book of prints.
Pauline small book
Next is Carol Wood’s Rowan (21 Jan-17 Feb), a book of intricately cut-out pages.
Carol rowan
Clare Diprose’s Ash (18 Feb-17 March) comes next: an ikon-like triptych and a small book of poems.
Clare 1
Clare 2
Clare ash
Thalia Brown made several books and booklets on the theme of Alder (18 March-14 April). She made good use of the startling colours found within the timber.
Thalia 2
Thalia 3
Karen Young’s book My Willow (15 April-12 May) is an accordion structure with inserted pamphlets.
Karen willow
Judith’s Naming the Hawthorn (13 May-9 June) is beautifully designed and made using a variety of handmade papers.
Judith hawthornJudith colophon
My book of Oak (10 June-7 July) is a single-sheet Coptic binding of  A4 photo-poems.
Ama oak 1
Ama oak 2
Jane Paterson’s The Holly and the Ivy is quite outstanding. The first photo shows the book, closed, with its Japanese-style case. The second shows one of Jane’s Mokuhanga prints. Holly represents the lunar month 8th July to 4th August.
Jane holly and box
Jane holly
Jane holly 2
For Hazel (5 Aug-1 Sept), Janine Barchard made a machine-embroidered tunnel-book to lead us into a hazel wood, a smaller book of wildlife associated with hazel trees,
Janine tunnel book
and a book of cocoon-silk pages with hazel photos printed on organza.
Janine silk book
For Blackberry (2-29 Sept) Caroline Mornement made a triangular book “Among the Brambles”, illustrating in watercolour and charcoal some of the creatures that depend on brambles.
Caroline bramble
Nina Gronw-Lewis’s book for Ivy (30 Sept-27 Oct) is inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde. In one version of the story, an ivy plant grows from Tristan’s grave and roots itself into Isolde’s grave, uniting them in death.
Nina ivy
Judy Warbey, whose tree was the Guelder Rose (28 Oct-24 Nov), made a set of triangular pyramids, one for each tree. Graduated in size, they nest into one another with Birch, the largest, as a container.
Judy Circle
Pat Wolseley’s book illustrates the characteristics of Elder (25 Nov-22 Dec).
Pat elder
These books were complemented by Charlotte Humpston’s exuberant banners of the Ogham names for the trees
Charlotte 1
and her book “Ogham”,
Charlotte book
and Bronwen Bradshaw’s very large book of etchings with letterpress-printed text.
Bron title page
Bron 3
Bron 2


Circle of Trees

September 2, 2019

Amazing Space

A Circle of Trees flyer

The latest exhibition of artists’ books by members of the Dove group ABCD opened at ACEarts in Somerton on Friday. As usual there is lots of fascinating work to look at/read. It’s on for a week, so don’t miss it!

Circle of Trees 1

This time, there is a single theme: the Tree Circle at Dove Studios, planted over 30 years ago, comprising 13 native trees. Each member of the group was commissioned by Dove Arts to research one of these trees, and produced work, both books and 2D, over a period of 7 months. The books will later form part of the Dove Treehouse Library collection and can be seen during Somerset Art Weeks this year, Sept 21 – Oct 6. Here you can see the ‘circle’, created by a ring of tables, each ‘hosting’ a tree. In the background against the arched windows are some of the Ogham Tree Scrolls made by…

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An Invitation

August 10, 2019


ACE flyer ABCD

In case you missed the small print: Private View, Friday 30 August 6-8pm. This includes, at 7pm, my sequence of poems “A Conference of Trees” performed by fourteen readers and two musicians. It’s an attempt to look at the climate emergency from the trees’ point of view.

And on Saturday 7th, the first ever Somerton Artists’ Book Event! I’ll be stewarding that day, and Thursday 5th, 10am to 5pm. Do come if you can.

NB the gallery is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Ace Arts is easy to find, opposite the church in the centre of Somerton. TA11 7NB.

found poem: on the coats

August 8, 2019

Another bit of wisdom from j.i.k.

chocolate is a verb

found poem © j.i. kleinberg

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With Bath Artists and Writers, 20th July

July 22, 2019

Genesis 9

It’s not my habit to introduce my posts with biblical passages. But these chilling verses from Genesis, quoted by Sue Boyle at the start of her audio-visual presentation on Saturday afternoon, do sum up pretty well how our species has used the earth and the other species with which we share it.

Sue’s presentation, of moving slides accompanied by Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas”, came to an end in stunned silence. It was magnificent, but applause would have been inappropriate.

For me, this was the high point of an outstanding meet-up.

At our meeting on 1st June, Ann Cullis proposed a project called The June Almanac. The object was to write a short observational piece for each day of the month, avoiding similes and metaphors and the use of the first person. Fourteen of us took part, and later submitted our choice of ten entries, which Ann collated and anonymised. They were read during the morning session by a team of five readers. Later, some of us read a few more entries. They were, on the whole, just as good as the chosen ones. Overall, a very high standard of observation and writing, taking in all the senses, and including notes on weather, human foibles, and activities of birds, animals, insects and  gastropods. Each one was complete in itself, and together they gave a wide-angled view of our lives over the previous month. All the participants enjoyed the process and felt they had benefited from it. We are grateful to Ann for proposing this project and for seeing it through. Below is a photo of the submissions laid out in date order. My June Almanac can be seen here.

122 pieces

The afternoon session of environmental writing was introduced by Peter Reason, starting with a showing of the film “Rise: from one island to another“. Do take a few minutes to watch this film, unplug from your daily distractions, immerse yourself in the beauty of our shared home, and let the poetry heal.

Sue’s presentation (mentioned above) was followed by an unrehearsed ceremony of readings in response to “Rise”. Each reader came to the lectern at what felt the right moment.

After two dear deaths in the past two weeks I was rather emotional, but even without this I think I would still have been moved to tears by many of the readings, and especially by Eileen Cameron’s short poem “A land laid bare”.

Conor Whelan brought the afternoon to a close with a performance from memory of Yeats’s  “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. The day was a heartfelt sharing of our deepest concerns. As a group we are moving forward into new territory, growing into a deeper knowledge of ourselves and of one another.


Posted by Ama Bolton on 22nd July 2019.

ABCD July: folding and sticking

July 21, 2019

Last Saturday we started to put together the first copies of the book to which each of us has contributed a double page. It was a day of folding and sticking with Pritt – which is made from potato starch, sugar and water! It’s non-toxic and archival. I can stop feeling slightly ashamed every time I use it in a book.


Folding and sticking

Judith brought some handmade baskets back from Tanzania, where she has recently been working. They came from two projects, Vikapu Bomba (“fantastic baskets”) and Womencraft‘s Refugee Feature Collection. The baskets are strong and beautiful, and they smell good, too!

baskets from TanzaniaConversation was wide-ranging, as usual, this time with grandparents, mysterious deaths and bizarre embalmings predominating. Lunch was a feast. Recipes were hastily noted. Clare has sent this link for her delicious Raspberry Bakewell. Afterwards we had a first read-through of “A Conference of Trees”, in which each of us will play the part of our own tree — in my case, the Oak.

July Dove-droppings

new passions for old hearts
I flew back from Tanzania to do this
not an occupation for the senile

I am doomed to watch the Tour de France
bits of wood everywhere
last time I was in the Pyrenees

some surplus basketry
I had three grandfathers
you’d have noticed an African princess

my Irish grandfather would be 168 now
bang it down at the stuck side
number 8 is going to be weird

chopped him up as a mark of respect
and preserved the pieces in alcohol
it was open coffin two years after

my greatest ambition was to be a ball-boy
Neale Fraser and us in the shrubbery at Queens
great uncle not found, presumed eaten

with chopped parsley and cubes of Comté cheese
that groovy guy who does the gardening thing
globe artichokes for bees and birds

Our next event:


Artists’ books by the ABCD group

AceArts, The Old Town Hall, Market Place, Somerton TA11 7NB.

31 August – 7 September

Private view Friday 30 August 6-8 pm, with first performance of “A Conference of Trees”, words by me, performed by ABCD and with music by Maya Love and Bron Bradshaw.


Posted by Ama Bolton on 21st July 2019


ABCD at midsummer

June 23, 2019

Eleven of us met at the Dove on Saturday to see what progress we’d made with our Ogham tree books. Most of the books have already been described here, so I’ll just show a few new works for the Ace Gallery exhibition.

Judith could not be with us – she is in Tanzania I think – but she sent me this image of paper contact-dyed with hawthorn leaves, along with some interesting ideas for a script of thorns …

Judith hawthorn 2

Thalia (Alder) has made seven little books and a box to house them,

Thalia box

and  a resource book/sketchbook.

Thalia notes

Clare (Ash) has made  a book for her poem about bringing the woodland to a friend in hospital.


Here is a withy-bundle from Karen, showing several different coloured varieties of willow and tied with the traditional rose-knot.

Karen withy bundle

Bron is making a large (33x40cm) book of seven etchings, with letterpress-printed text on the facing pages. Here are some of them drying.

Bron a love of trees

Jane has been on a course at West Dean, making cyanotypes on paper and linen cloth. She has printed her mokuhanga illustrations for the Holly and the Ivy; they are really special, in soft glowing colours. Janine has made a couple of small books to complement her Hazel tunnel-book, and has started a book with silk-paper pages dyed a luscious lettuce-green. Carol brought her wonderful travel sketchbook. Caroline brought a prototype of the collective book we’ll be putting together at the Dove at our next meeting on 13th July. Pat has been getting inspiration from a gorgeous book from the Natural History Museum. It has illustrations of all the Waterhouse botanical ceiling panels. The price has been reduced to £5: a real bargain.

Lunch was a treat.


And some of us went out to see the orchids in Whitefield. Another treat!


Masses of Pyramidal and Southern Marsh orchids, several Bee orchids and a few spikes of the green-flowered Twayblade that springs from two oval leaves at ground-level. Meadow Brown and Common Blue butterflies, grasshoppers and various bees. We learned from one another. Pat noted that none of the Bee orchids we saw had yet been pollinated. Clare pointed out a bumble bee who, too burly to reach the nectar in a Comfrey flower, was cutting a hole in it. The Yellow Rattle is all going to seed, and we were too late for the Butterfly orchids. Meadows like this are so precious. I gave silent thanks to the spirit of Patrick Whitefield.

Here is my found poem cobbled from fragments of the day’s conversations.

June Dove-droppings

a collection of cauldrons
and a few small flexi-things
soaked in fish soup

unravelled lobster-pot rope
iron makes it very dark
could it be more blue

in the sea for a long time
they pulled her out of the loch
but she’s disintegrated

I went to Sorrento on a school trip
I went to the local gasworks
I asked them not to come with ideas

borrowed keys and sprockets
hand-painted birds and animals
a cork and sealing-wax

the Western mind is trained
to set the colophon again
it seems to me quite normal

I do a lot of hanging
I was printing at 4am

they lose their hollyness
without the pines and the poplars
in the garden at 8 o’clock eating roses

very sticky glue in a squirty bottle
and a bit of bryony out of the hedge
performing like a flashmob