Posts Tagged ‘elephants’

The downs in snow (and the city too)

December 17, 2010

Another snowy post, because I can’t resist it. Late this morning we were waiting for a bus at the bottom of Highgate Hill when the snow suddenly started. Five minutes later it was already 3″ deep and blizzarding. I’ve never seen snow fall and settle so fast; as we walked we were snowmen almost immediately, and the streets and trees and houses instantly took on that wonderful black and white look (mostly white) – and then the sun came out and it was an Alpine scene in north London.

Virginia Woolf also couldn’t resist describing the beauty of the downs in snow again in her diary of January 1941 (as she did almost every year), and her evocative, understated text inspired this one elephant book, made from a single sheet of paper torn and folded to form the sequence of pages. The composition of the painted whole sheet reflects the folded squares of the paper, as well as the graphic layout of the fields:

With the pages torn, folded, and opened out, Frost looks like this:

As you can see, the text starts in the middle, to allow for the sweep of the downs’ skyline in the right place at the end of the sequence.

For more information about my one elephant books, or 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.

Autumn trees

November 19, 2010

I’ve been enjoying sweeping the leaves in the yard, gathering them in a golden heap for the recycling collection, then sifting through them and choosing ‘good’ ones to press – trouble is, they’re all good, the more ragged and marked the better.

I very much enjoy seasonal work, responding to the movement of the year and the changing light. I’m starting work on a series of artist’s books – or perhaps illuminated manuscripts – called Books of Hours, reflecting the turning year and the cycle of the seasons; I’ll be talking more about the work in this series at the turn of the year. Meanwhile, I’ve just made another One Elephant book called Circle of light:

The book is made from a single sheet of handmade paper, torn and folded into a spiral to make the continuous sequence of pages. Here, the paper I’ve chosen is a very pale gold cotton-rag paper, rather soft, which gives a glowing ground for the painted spiral of light and the luminous text by Jeni Couzyn:

I’ll show you the book page by page:

The method of tearing and folding is shown in some pictures on the Bookworks page; Circle of light torn and folded, looks like this:

For more information about Circle of light or 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.

Light fantastick

October 28, 2010

Light fantastick is one of the largest works I’ve made in my Elephant books series. It’s still made from a single sheet of handmade paper, but this time the sheet is a double elephant, 1metre x 70cm. The sheet of paper is folded first, then painted, then lettered, and when dry, torn and folded into the book’s pages – at this point the covers are lettered, and the slipcase made. Before tearing, the sheet looked like this:

– and you can see the lines of the folds that define each page. It’s important to me that the design should work as a coherent whole before the sheet is torn in a spiral to make the sequence of pages; this spiral movement is related to the inner spiral set up in the clay when throwing pots – a movement towards and away from the core. I’ll show you the book page by page now; this double elephant sheet makes 12 pages instead of the usual 6.

If you’d like to know more about this book, or 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.

One fresh spring abiding

October 1, 2010

Though it’s suddenly October, I’m still on the riverbank,

by the waters, all the summer long

(Wordsworth, from the Prelude)

enjoying the watery green shade. Moss is another little elephant, made from an A3 sheet of handmade paper, painted, lettered, torn and folded:

Before it was torn and folded, the sheet looked like this:

The brushwork, the colours and the setting of the lettering combine to give a strong feeling of the beautiful text by Coleridge, as you turn the book in your hand, following the flow of the words in the spiral of the design, to the source.

There are now more than 20 elephants in the herd – and more come along all the time, so it’s been a good summer for them since I made the first ones in early Spring (see Shelley’s Cloud and the Bookworks page). Later in October I’ll be showing you the largest (so far) – a double elephant called Love flows. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished two new Riverlight paintings:

There is ever one fresh spring abiding

(Thomas Campian)

Now the salt tides seaward flow

(Matthew Arnold)

All these works are signed one-offs, for sale. The little elephant books like Moss are £150, and these two watercolours (42cm x 30cm) are £80 each unframed or £120 framed in beech. If you’d like to know more, please leave me a note in the comments box below, or click on contact details for other ways to get in touch.

Light music

August 6, 2010

We first discovered the films of Margaret Tait at the NFT in the 1990’s, and I was very pleased recently to be able to buy a collection of her shorter films on DVD. My all-time favourite is the short reel/reel John McFadden – an exercise in joyous anarchic subversive wildness – and I also love Colour Poems. I find her open, poetic, penetrating vision very inspiring, and I’ve just made one or two works based on her texts, including Light music (a one elephant book) from her lyrical voice-over in Terra Firma, a section of Colour Poems.

Light music, one-off artist’s book, signed, open 80cm x 60cm, closed 20cm x 20cm, with cover; handmade papers, watercolour, acrylic and ink. This work has been acquired by the National Library of Scotland for their collection of artists’ books, and I’ll be adding details of shelfmark and visiting opportunities when it has been catalogued.

For more information about this or any work, please leave me a note in the comment box below, or click on contact details.

River names

July 23, 2010

Since we’re still enjoying the effects of The lovely blue, I thought a cool dip into the river would be appropriate. River names is another double-sided elephant book, the text from Geoffrey Grigson’s wonderful Shell Country Alphabet, just reissued in a retro-ish cover – but we’ve got a battered original. The text is set to reflect both the meandering flow of the rivers and the spiralling-cyclic form of the book, torn and folded from one sheet of handmade paper – and it begins on the cover: 

River names… include some of the more ancient names on the map…

The text continues on the other side:

Obvious rivery qualities have given rivers their names…

I so much enjoy the inconsequential, restrained poetry of this text. The sheet of paper, torn and folded, looks like this:

There are lots more One Elephant books in Bookworks, and in previous Work in focus posts (Shelley’s Cloud,  Bank Holiday weekend clouds) – and there will be more to come soon. For information on any work, leave me a note in the comment box below, or click on contact details.

Shining Sky

July 2, 2010

Following the resounding and somewhat unnerving success of my spell for a heatwave last week (see The Lovely blue below) I’ve decided not to tinker with the actual weather this week but just to hope it keeps going, while I turn my attention to the night sky. This folding book is another elephant, made from one sheet of paper, painted, then torn and folded.

The pleasure of turning the book to follow the sequence of pages is somehow increased by the feeling of it being a single sheet, with the text flowing towards the core of the spiral, a form quite closely related to that of my thrown pots.

I love this wonderful text; I have also set it on a pot (‘of earth indeed’) – a large bowl, with the text falling into its dark blue interior. Meteor can be seen on the Water Vessels page (link above left). I don’t often repeat inscriptions – but here I felt that both forms were so strongly suggested to me by the text that I had to do both.

More summer pots next week.

If you’re interested in buying this work (or any shown on this blog), please leave me a note in the comments box below or click on contact details.

The lovely blue

June 25, 2010

Considering what a drastic effect my One Elephant book Shelley’s Cloud had on the weather the weekend I made it in March, and the equally inevitable result of the reckless Bank Holiday Clouds, I felt it my duty as a good citizen to make The Lovely Blue – hence this unprecedented sunshine for Glastonbury. If you’re going to make a spell for a heatwave, you might as well make it a good long one, so it’s double-sided, and 12 pages instead of the usual 6; I’ll show it page by page as usual.

In unending beauty the blue sky spans the earth.

It is as if this blue were fathomless,

as if its very depth were palpable.

The variety of its tints is infinite;

it changes from day to day, from one part of the sky to another.

What can be the cause of this wonderful blue?

What are these particles of matter that scatter light in the atmosphere?

In the summer after long drought the air is filled with dust and the sky seems less blue and more whitish.

But after a few heavy showers, the air becomes clear and transparent, the sky a deep and saturated blue.

Whenever high cirrus clouds appear filling the air with ice crystals the lovely blue disappears and changes into a much whiter colour.

Therefore it can be neither the dust not the particles of water and ice that cause the scattering that colours the heavenly vault.

The only possibility is that the molecules of air themselves scatter the light, causing a brightness many miles deep with a decided preference for the violet and blue rays.

Text by M. Minnaert, from Light and Colour in the Open Air

The sheet of paper before tearing and folding looked like this:

And like this when folded:

Let’s hope it lasts; the only bit that worries me is page 9.

Beyond Dunkirk

June 9, 2010

My online interactive installation The Dunkirk Project has reached a new stage. The River of Stories, the daily unfolding online of Dunkirk stories on the day they happened 70 years ago, ran from 26th May to 4th June (involving an unwonted amount of early rising at Potters’ Yard), and I’ve been astonished at the response – hundreds of people followed the stories daily, contributed something of their own or added a comment, and more contributions keep coming in, either via the comments boxes on each day’s page, or by email to the project at Some really interesting and unexpected questions have been raised by contributors – someone even asked what right we have to re-evaluate our national myths in this way. I think this is more of a duty than a right – but it’s a very interesting question. You can still add a comment or join the discussion – and every contribution adds to the scope and diversity of the collective story.

Many people have also responded to my 17m paper sculpture, Thames to Dunkirk, and I’d just like to mention again my blog on the making of this work hosted by Artists’ Newsletter – Towards Dunkirk.  I’ve been writing this blog throughout the ‘live’ days of the installation, and recording its progress, as well as talking about some of the making processes, problems and inspirations.

The real-time aspect of the daily stories live online has been a very effective part of The Dunkirk Project – but many people have also asked me about the real-space aspect too, wanting to see and experience Thames to Dunkirk in the flesh, having seen it in the photo sequence on the project. I’ll be giving details about the installation later in the year. I’d like to thank everybody who’s responded so generously and with such interest to The Dunkirk Project, which is obviously going to run and run…

Bank Holiday Weekend Clouds

May 30, 2010

Taking a brief break from Dunkirk, we watched Oh what a lovely war and as usual I got Maggie Smith’s song on the brain. So I made this little elephant, which was certainly an accurate depiction of last bank holiday, but I hope won’t affect this one too badly.

The half-elephant sheet before it was torn and folded looked like this:

And once torn and folded like this:

(It’s blowing a gale now…)