The turning year

January 5, 2011

This year, my Work in Focus posts will be monthly, including some of my current work and some from my archive. Much of my work is seasonal – or rather I enjoy responding to the changing light and the feel of the turning year – and I’ll be showing some progressing series of work, as we go along. In 1993 I made a dinner service, setting texts from John Clare’s A Shepherds Calendar with a plate or bowl for each month, and I’ll be starting the monthly features with his apposite observations.

I’ve already begun work on one of my major plans for this year: a series of Books of Hours, or contemporary illuminated manuscripts, setting different texts that explore the turning year in individually handmade, lettered and decorated books. I’ll be showing several of these in the coming months and discussing some of the processes, ideas and problems. I’m planning works on several different scales from small to very large, but the first in the series is a small concertina book made with handmade paper, setting a medieval latin text by Boethius in a beautiful translation by Helen Waddell. It’s called The flowering year.

The concertina book opens out to a full stretch of about 4 foot long, so it will stand along a shelf. The economical text conveys the feel of each season so accurately that it seems possible to experience the whole year in this short length, or the turn of a few pages, and the rainy winter page feels very right for today. I must work on a bit more snow.

Among the first of my Books of Hours, I’ve also made a one-elephant book, from a single sheet of handmade paper torn and folded to form the sequence of pages: it’s called The turning year, and the text is my own.

The whole sheet looks like this:

And like this, once torn and folded:

I’m planning some books in quite different formats, and some on a large scale, so I look forward to showing them as they progress.

Of course, midwinter’s a good time to be making pots too (warming work), and Helen Waddell’s translations from Latin texts have also provided inspiration there. On this large dish I’ve set her rendering of a text by Marbod of Rennes, which combines an encouraging glimpse of Spring with a little seasonal festivity:

For more information about any of my work, please leave me a note in the comment box below, or click on contact details for other ways to get in touch.

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