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January 2011

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today, two women with two of the most beautiful voices in the world -- and they both come from Portugal. Above, Teresa Salgueiro of the band Madredeus, performing "Ao longe o mar." This particular video was made in 1994, but Madredeus is still going strong, creating music that ranges from traditional Portuguese folk and fado to jazz, electronica, and other contemporary sounds. Below is, of course, the queen of Portuguese fado: the incomparable Mariza, with an absolutely gorgeous video for her song "Cavaleiro monge." I chose these two pieces because I'm in a fado sort of mood today.... Not sad exactly, just loving the passion at the heart of these songs, the sense of longing so exquisitely expressed in two exquisite voices.

And last, a reading recommendation for you (via Ellen Kushner): reflections on writing and creativity from Sara Karr, author and keynote speaker at the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators' 2011 winter conference. You'll find it here.

"Your greatest creation is your creative life," Zarr says. "It's all in your hands. Rejection can't take it away; reviews can't take it away. The life you create for yourself as an artist, may be the only thing that's really yours. Create a life you can center yourself in calmly as you wait for you work to grow." 

Amen to that.


Paper Play

Jorinde-Joringel

Another quick post to pass on another recommendation, this one from  Chandra Cerchione-Peltier, who reminded me of the gorgeous, folkloric work being done by the English "paper artist" Su Blackwell. (Credit where credit's due: I first learned about Blackwell through Carl V., in the "Book Week" series he ran on his Stainless Steel Droppings blog. Thanks, Carl!)

”I often work within the realm of fairy-tales and folk-lore," writes Blackwell. "I began making a series of book-sculpture, cutting-out images from old books to create three-dimensional dioramas, and displaying them inside wooden boxes. For the cut-out illustrations, I tend to lean towards young-girl characters, placing them in haunting, fragile settings, expressing the vulnerability of childhood, while also conveying a sense of childhood anxiety and wonder. There is a quiet melancholy in the work, depicted in the material used, and choice of subtle colour.”

Visit the artist's website to see her utterly amazing dioramas and installations. (Even the work she does as an art director for commercial clients is magical.) She's also got a terrific blog, and an online shop, so please go look at all these marvels....

2008-the-girl-in-the-wood

2010-bronte2-detail1a

Blackwell's paper trees remind of an animation I absolute love created by my young friend Carmen Bromfield Mason: "How Much Do You Know?" (about stories, language, and the effect of the media's focus on bad and shocking news on our culture). Carmen is an animation student, and she made this exquisite little film when she was just sixteen. You can see it by visiting Carmen's blog, and then scrolling down the page until you reach the videos.


Wood Weaving

Patrick Doughtery

A quick post today to pass on a recommendation from Charles Vess: Stickwork, a new book featuring the creations of Patrick Doughherty, an American artist based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina who makes sculpture and installations out of tree saplings, willow, and other sustainable materials. There's a nice short article examining how Doughtery works here; and you can see more of his art, including sample pages from the new book, over on his website.

Sculpture by Patrick Doughtery


The on-going conversation...

Solitary Hare by David Wyatt

There's another good "Around the table" chat over on Howard's John Barleycorn blog today. This time Howard and his comics-partner Rex have dragged, er, invited our good friend and neighbor David Wyatt up to our house, Bumblehill, for tea, croissants, and conversation. David, as most of you probably already know, is an amazing painter and one of the best book illustrators here in England. He's best known for his illustrations for Peter Pan in Scarlet (the authorized Peter Pan sequel) and the deliciously steampunk "Larklight" series by Philip Reeve, but he's also illustrated many other things besides, including cover art in the fantasy genre for everyone from J.R.R. Tolkien to Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett. His personal artwork is also rooted in stories, largely stories inspired by the Dartmoor landscape.

Peter Pan in Scarlet by David Wyatt from Peter Pan in Scarlet

Training Day by David Wyatt
Training Day on Dartmoor

It was very, very hard to pick just a few pieces of David's gorgeous work to illustrate this post. You can see more of his drawings and paintings on his website, follow his art-in-process on his posterous blog (which I highly recommend), and glimpse the workspace where he conjures all these wonders in this photo in the "On Your Desk" series, posted here last month.

  David & TillySketch: A birthday drawing for Howard, with a dancing Tilly. Photo: David wth Tilly, January 2011.


On Your Desk

Anais nin's desk

The "On Your Desk" photo series is now up and running again, so if you haven't sent your desktop photograph(s) in yet, this is the time. For anyone new to this series, what I'm looking for is a photo or two of your desk (or work table, or easel...or wherever it is that you do creative work), and please don't pretty it up for the camera -- I'm looking for images of work spaces as they truly are when they're in use. Information on where and how to send the photos is here, in the first post of the series. The photo above, by the way, is Anais Nin's desk, during the later years of her life when she lived in Silver Lake, California in a house designed by Eric Lloyd Wright.

Our first two desks today belong to Jessica P. Wick and Amal El-Mohtar, the co-creators and co-editors of Goblin Fruit, my favorite source for mythic and folkloric poetry bar none. Jessica, who lives near Los Angeles, is a fiction writer, poet, artist, and bookseller. Her beautiful, charmingly cluttered desktop is pictured in the photograph below. Trust Jessica to work in such an atmospheric place, full of myth and magic.

Jessica Wick

"Do you see the little bird-girl sketch of yours," she asks, "hidden behind the March hares feasting on candlelight?  There is, in fact, quite a lot of from my trip to Dartmoor in this particular desk set-up."

Amal, who hails from Canada, is a fiction writer, poet, harpist, and academic. She currently lives not far from me in a small town on the Cornish coast, where she's working on a PhD in English involving fairies. "In spite of living in a perfectly lovely house with perfectly lovely housemates," she says, "I actually lack a desk; I do all my writing either sitting on the couch [first photo below] or at the dining room table [second photo]. My desk is presently my lap more than anywhere else." (I imagine there are other intinerant scholars out there who can relate to this!)

I like the candlelight that links Jess & Amal's very different work spaces...particularly as I'm fond of writing and musing by candlelight myself.

Amal desk 1

Amal desk 2

The next desk belongs to mythic artist Grey Walker, who lives in beautiful Colorado. (For readers unfamiliar with the U.S., Colorado is one of those Western states full of enormous mountains, large tracks of wilderness, and vast blue skies.) Grey writes: "I make all sorts of art in my work space, including wearable art, altered books and boxes, paintings, and assemblages. My art projects tend to bleed into stories and poems, which then spark more art projects. I don't currently have a public blog or web site, but they're in progress."

Grey Walker

"My work table is a repurposed -- and slightly saggy -- architect's drafting table," says Grey. "I work at it standing up. On the table itself you can see an old encyclopedia that I'm deconstructing to make a pocket book.There are also bits of other projects-in-process, such as a painting for the web site I'm building, an inside-out matchbox, and a tray I'm mending for a friend. On the wall I'm sticking up motifs for a scarf I'm crocheting as I finish each color group. I got the scarf idea from images of millefiori. My new kitten, Chipita, is eager to be a part of it all." Ah yes, the new kitten! Already fitting into her role as Studio Muse, I see.

Our final desk today comes in the form of a drawing and three photographs from writer, artist, and blogger Amy Sperry Faldet, who lives and works in a small historic grove town in Wisconsin:

Amy Sperry Faldet's desk

"I write fairy stories," says Amy, "and draw my imagination's whispers at this desk. It is a five-by-seven old draftsman table that can be propped up like an easel. I like to fill the top with flowers, usually pink, usually from my own garden. I am wistful and joyful as I work and the desk's old soft wood warms my heart. It sits next to the fireplace in the livingroom of our 1860s house, in a Craftsman-age addition to the building; there is much light in the morning, and it seems to almost glow at times. Tea or coffee and four young children are my constant companions."

On Amy's desk

On Amy's desk 3

To see more of Amy's magical, whimsical art, visit her blog: Such a Wondrous Place This Faerytale Space.

More desks to come....


Custodians of Place and Memory

Standing Stone by Helen Mason

"When we change the shape of the Land, we alter the contents and contexts of our collective, familial, and personal memories. Yet, stories can preserve both mythic and familiar elements of geography even when the physical features are forgotten, buried, or obliterated. And more than this: the stories can bring these elements back. If the Land can be preserved long enough for its stories to be told, and retold, perhaps we all — as custodians of both place and memory — stand a chance at real preservation."    - Ari Berk

At the crossroadsPhotos: (top) "Standing Stone on Dartmoor" by Helen Mason; (bottom) "At the Crossroads"

I met my old friend and brother-in-spirit William Todd-Jones for coffee in the village yesterday, and we were talking about how so much of the world we grew up in has vanished...except in our memories and in our art. (We were born within a week of each other, Todd in Wales and me on the east coast of the US.)

It reminded me of the quote above by Ari (who lives in Michigan but spends a lot of time with us here on Dartmoor too), and the standing stone photograph by Helen (who is also an honorary Dartmoorian, despite living in London). The second photograph, which I snapped earlier this week, represents the crossroad in time where we're all standing now, making decisions about the planet's future that will effect our children's children's children. And for me, personally, there's symbolic significance in the fact that the signpost points towards my beloved Dartmoor village, where I root my life and art; and that it points to a footpath, not a tarmacked road: to life lived at a slower, less mechanical pace.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

This week's first tune was recommended by author & editor Amal El-Mohtar, and I can't even begin to tell you how much I love it: Croatian cellists Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic playing "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson, which they've arranged for two solo cellos. Absolutely brilliant. I haven't seen this much passionate bow-shredding since the last time I caught a Seth Lakeman gig -- so I've included one of Seth's videos, below. He's a Dartmoor lad, perfoming a song steeped in local maritime history and folkore.