On Your Desk: Michelle Barnett

Michelle Barnett 1

Today's workspace photos come from Michelle Barnett, a very talented young illustrator and animator in the English Midlands. She says:

"I was born in Norfolk, England, but currently live in Leicestershire where I rent a room from a friend. We just moved in a month ago and I love it. I'm ten seconds from a park (which you can see out my window), ten minutes walk from a canal, and ten minutes drive from a lot of big empty fields. I'm told that an aspiring illustrator should go to London to find work, but I refute that idea rather strongly. If I don't have my daily fix of green growing stuff I get very cranky. Illustration by Michelle Barnett

"I'm an Illustrator Dabbling, which is to say that at the moment I have a day job and will take whatever comes my way to do in the evenings and weekends (all experience is useful experience and beggars can't be choosers). So I've done storybook drawings, logos and branding, birthday cards, worksheets and painted canvases, but what I like most are narrative illustrations. I love the editing options digital art gives me, but I've always found I think best when I'm doing things manually. Something about the feel of a pencil under your fingers, the pressure on the page, the inevitable mess I make when I do anything practical, helps me get to grips with my subject.  Basically I make a tangle with my hands, then use my computer to tuck in the stray threads.

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"At the moment I'm finishing off a personal project, upcycling a garishly purple bookshelf into something a bit more to my taste.  I've been chipping away at it in the evenings, painting on dancing bears, wasp salesmen, frog people and accordion players. You can see part of it here on my desk, ready to have ruddy-coloured oak leaves hand-printed onto it, then be varnished and finally assembled into a bookshelf again.  I can’t blu-tak pictures up on the window, but the small frame on the top left is a print of Rima Staines' Atching Tan, which I picked up when I had the privilege of meeting her this summer.  How awestruck I was!  I have another print by her, and some by others, hiding somewhere in a pile but as yet nowhere to put them.

"These pictures show my desk mid-bookshelf project.  This is a reasonable level of tidiness for my desk.  I like to keep things organised...until I start work, at which point I need mess.  Unpacking the art materials helps me unpack my ideas as well, spreading the contents of my brain out so I can see them.  I've become very good at stacking objects into increasingly precarious pyramids as my desk becomes more and more cluttered while I work, and then packing it all away again when I finish for the day.

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Above is a close-up of my reading corner, which I was determined to have in my new room.  The cushions were upcycled from some battered old ones by Amy Allwright.  This is just my 'core' selection of books, the vital ones that travel with me and get switched (with the rest still at my parents house in Norfolk) whenever I go home.  As well as my grown-up books you'll notice that at least a third of them are written for young folk.  I think they often get the better stories, so I steal them.  The current cycle includes Rosemary Sutcliffe, Neil Gaiman, and Dianne Wynne Jones.  Also up here are other knick-knacks; a spoon hand-carved for me by a friend (I'm still trying to bring myself to use it to eat.  It's too beautiful!), a big sappy pine-cone from the Weird and Wonderful Wood festival that still smells fantastic, a collection of robots.... Everything to keep an active mind happy. "

Below is Michelle's video documenting the process of creating her charming and wonderful "Folklore Bookshelf" -- but be warned! You're going to want one too! (I know I sure do.)

To see more of Michelle's magical artwork, please visit her blog: Out There.


On Your Desk

Josephine Pennicott 1

The next workspace in the "On Your Desk" series belongs to Australian writer and artist Josephine Pennicott. Josephine is a multi-award-winning author of mystery, crime, and fantasy novels, including four of particular interest to mythic fiction readers: the darkly enchanting "Circle of Nine" trilogy, which draws upon Persephone/Kore myths, and Poet's Cottage, a terrific mystery inspired by the life of children's author Enid Blyton. Josephine was born in Tasmania, spend her early years in Papua New Guinea, and now lives in inner-city Sydney with her husband and daughter. To learn more about Josephine's writing, art, and life, visit her blog: Tale Peddler.

Here's her description of the charming "writing shed" in her garden, pictured above:

"No matter what time of day or evening, it is always tranquil in my garden office shed. There’s no internet connection or telephone. Instead there’s the rustle of trees and sounds of birds. I can hear currawongs, magpies and the occasional plane passing over. When it rains, the shed becomes womb-like and cosy. But in the humidity of Sydney it is also a good place to be, in between large cool palms and a tea-tree.

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"Inside my garden writing shed I’m surrounded by past, present and future project inspirations. At the moment there are a lot of books on 1940s Australian artists as I’m writing a mystery novel in that time period. The blue butterflies on the window remind me of my father who died last year and who encouraged me to live a creative life. The Thesaurus he bought me when I was seventeen is always at my side to remind me of our shared love of words.

"There are several awards placed around the office that my writer husband, David Levell, and I have won; and an old china teapot which has flowers in it to honour the muses.  On the wall is an inspiration board of photographs and images for my current book, including lots of photos of the Australian bush.

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"Also in the shed: Piles of scrapbooks with clippings from newspapers. Crystals. Jean Cocteau prints from Menton. A tribal mask from New Guinea, where I spent my early childhood. A limited edition print of “Charles Dickens’ Dream,” signed by a descendant. My muses in the form of photographs of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Enid Blyton and the wonderful Elizabeth Taylor, who is the patron saint of my shed. A framed certificate for love of reading which I received from Bulae Primary School in Lae, New Guinea. Nothing has changed so many years later; I still love words and books.

"Above the desk is a beautiful Laura Ashley wallpaper which features birds and butterflies. My German publisher used it for the cover jacket of Dornen Tochter (the German version of Poet’s Cottage); I love the fact they used my wallpaper. In the photo above, you can see the bag that Ullstein Publishing made for the book, inspired by my writing shed.

"Our house is a small brick historic worker’s cottage, and so the garden shed is necessary for space. I share it with my husband, but luckily he's accustomed to my penchant for florals and pretties. My workspace doesn’t actually reflect some of my current writing, mystery and crime (which can get very dark, tinged with gothic and supernatural elements), but it’s my frou frou refuge where I truly feel not only inspired but at peace."

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photos) at the bottom of the first post of the series. Please view the full series to get an idea of what kind of material to send in. If you've already contributed to the series, but you've changed your workspace, you are welcome to contribute again.


On Your Desk

Katherine Langrish's workspace, 1

Here's the latest entry in the "On Your Desk" photo series, featuring the workspaces of writers, artists, and others in the Mythic Arts community. (If you'd like to contribute, there's information on how to do so at the end of this post.)

The photos today come from Katherine Langrish, the author of several magical books that all fans of mythic fiction should know: the enchanting "Troll Fell" trilogy, set in the Viking age (and collected in an omnibus edition, West of the Moon); Dark Angels (US title: Shadow Hunt), a gorgeous faery novel set on the Welsh border in the 12th century; and Forsaken, a haunting, lyrical novel based on Scandinavian mermaid lore. She also writes a terrific blog, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles; contributes to The History Girls and An Awfully Big Blog Adventure; and she's the folklore editor for the online fairy tale journal Unsettling Wonder. Her most recent tale (about London under water) has just been published in the YA dystopian anthology After.

Katherine grew up in the Yorkshire Dales and now lives in the Oxfordshire countryside. She tells the story of how we first met here...and I'm so very glad that we did!

The pictures above and below show Kath's writing den in a house overflowing with books, music, and art:

"The first picture," she says, "shows my desk and workroom in a (rare) tidy state, with some of the bookshelves, and the curtains drawn to keep out the morning sun. I always work with the curtains drawn to get a better light on the screen. I enjoy the way the light glows through these curtains, with their design of old fans, which have been mine since I was a little girl. Our next door neighbour passed them over the fence to my mother, and (aged seven) I loved them so much I made up a poem about them:

I have got
New fan curtains,
New fan curtains,
New fan curtains!
I have got
New fan curtains,
Hooray, hooray, hooray!

"If a poem is defined as a perfect expression of your feelings, this is probably the best I ever wrote.

Katherine Langrish's workspace, 2

Katherine Langrish's workspace, 3 & 4

"On the windowsill is an Indonesian shadow puppet who gets the sunshine I decline.

"Up in the top right-hand corner of my room, sinister Mr Fox dangles with an enigmatic grin in front of an Escher print called ‘Three Worlds,’ where a fish turns slowly under a reflective surface dotted with the curled boats of fallen leaves, and upside-down trees reach long black fingers into the depths. I write fantasy, which is also a mysterious mirror to our world. The world is water. The world is air. The interface where they meet is an almost non-existent membrane of a world, containing and transforming both. As for the fox, one of my favourite fairytales to tell aloud is the English tale of Lady Mary and Mr Fox. Be bold, be bold, but not too bold…

Katherine Langrish's workspace, 5 & 6

"Here, on the left, is my cluttered wall space, a pin board with all kinds of notes on it, and above it a magical David Wyatt pen and ink drawing of trolls, the chapter heading illustration for the British edition of my first book, ‘Troll Fell’.

"The map beneath it is a version of London, showing the extent of flooding you’d get if sea levels rose by fifty feet. The Thames would be three miles wide in the centre of the city. That’s all part of the background research for my work-in-progress (whose main characters appear in a story called ‘Visiting Nelson’ published in Ellen and Terri’s new anthology After).

"On the right: books, books, books…. This is why I find it hard to write anywhere but here in my den. I’m forever pulling books down, checking, consulting, getting inspirations.

"Below: a more truthful picture of my desk: the muddle and clutter that shows work really being done."

Katherine Langrish's workspace, 7

All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photos) in the first post of the series. Please view the full series to get an idea of what kind of material to send in. If you've already contributed to the series, but you've changed your workspace, you are welcome to contribute again.


On My Desk

NY desk 2

Here's another entry for the "On Your Desk" photo series: The desk where I'm working while I'm in Manhattan, in Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's magical, rambling, Arts-and-Crafts filled old apartment near the river on the Upper West Side. The drawing on the desk is by my young friend Magda Hackney--a picture of the hills of Devon to remind me of home. (Tilly, Howard, Magda and I are in it, along with a couple of enchanting Dartmoor fairies.)

Jane Yolen sent me this beautiful poem today, and gave me permission to share it with you. She's been writing a poem a day for quite some time now, and I'm honored to have inspired one of them.

Letter to Terri in New York

So you are in the exact right place now,
where William Morris meets Riverside,
where fantasy and reality are tree and holly,
where love is the knobbed trunk
sorrow grows like ganglion,
and Devon informs the rest.
Long after you are home,
both spine and spindle will remember
this place, this last homely home
where comfort surrounds you,
coffee sustains you,
and welcome is always on the mat.

NY desk 1

"Letter to Terri in New York" is copyright c 2012 by Jane Yolen, and may not be reprinted in any form without the author's permission. My photos of the guest room in Ellen & Delia's apartment also appear here with permission.


On Your Desk

Brittany's desk 2

The latest entry in the "On Your Desk" series comes from another member of the world-wide Mythic Arts circle: Brittany Warman. Born in rural northern Virginia, Brittany has lived in Florida; New York; California; Oxford, England and Galway, Ireland; and is now back in Virginia working on her Master's degree in folklore and literature. A fiction writer as well as an aspiring academic, her latest story (a beautiful little tale based on Japanese "kitsune" folklore) can be found in the last issue of Jabberwocky magazine. Several other publications are forthcoming.

"The first picture (above) shows my desk and workspace for all of my projects," she says. "I'm a bit of a packrat and am currently at home while I work on my Master's degree at a nearby university so, while I don't have a great deal of space, I try to make do! I've hung postcards and prints of of art that inspires me on my window curtains, the desk is constantly covered with writing notebooks, and there is of course the necessary cup of tea!"

Brittany's desk 1

"The second picture (above) is a close up of my laptop; my wallpaper is one of the amazing 'Lady and the Unicorn' tapestries. You can also see a little print out of one of Su Blackwell's incredible book sculptures, a big cut of crystal, a candle, some fake flowers that remind me of briar roses (inspiration from my favorite fairy tale, 'Sleeping Beauty'), and a great pin of a witch and her cats by Molly Harrison.

"The third picture (below) is my slumbering muse :)."

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"Fairy/faerie tales, myths, and folktales are my passions and are almost always the chief inspirations behind the creative and academic work that I do. I am particularly fascinated by retellings, both writing them myself and researching them, faerie and witch lore, folklore and feminist theory, and conceptions of magic and spirituality."

To learn more about Brittany and her work, please visit www.brittanywarman.com.

And speaking of Jabberwocky magazine, a great new issue is up online.

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series, and you can view the full series here.


On Your Desk

Karen's studio

Today's desk comes from Karen Squire, who lives just up the road in the city of Exeter. "I noticed that Blog_girl and cat in chair you still sometimes run posts about people's workspaces and working methods," she writes, "and as mine have changed quite significantly since the last time I sent a photo for the "On Your Desk" series, I thought I'd update you...

"I have moved house and studio since Christmas; I'm still living in good old Exeter though, and my new workspace is at EVA Studios on the outskirts of the city. There is a lovely community feel to the place, it reminds me a little bit of art college!Studio witch blog I've also started my own blog, Two Little Pigs, which I try to update as often as I can -- but I'd much rather be painting than scanning and formatting pictures. (I'm sure you can appreciate that!)

"I've very recently signed up with an illustration agency specialising in children's books, so hopefully at some point in the future my work may make it into print. I've certainly been getting a wriggle-on in the past few months and hope to spend the rest of the year progressing further still!"

The charming illustrations here are by Karen. Follow the blog link above to see more. (And be sure to take a stroll through her older posts...there's some lovely work on this blog -- and sketchbook pictures too, which I always love.)

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series, and you can view the full series here.


On Your Desk

Desk1

Today's desk comes from Brian Anker, who writes:

"Here is my submission for On Your Desk. It's put up with a touch of sadness because we've just moved out of our Edwardian home of 13 years, in Eastleigh, Hampshire (UK). I am a graphic designer and stalled artist, but because of illness I'm not working at the moment -- hence the decision to sell up and downsize to a smaller rented house.

"The picture over the fireplace is by Ed Org, who is a favourite artist of mine. The fairy in the globe was bought by my wife, as a Valentine's Day present, to watch over me."

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Books

"The next three photos are from our new house, located on the outskirts of a attractive market town not far from Winchester.  It's amazing how having your favourite things around you can transform a characterless 1980's box into a home.

"As you can see, it's a lot greener here and I have my morning coffee looking at a grand old Oak tree which fills me with joy. Hopefully this will give me the peace and inspiration to get the pens and paint out again."

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Thank you for contributing to this series, Brian. I'm sure everyone here will join me in the wish that your new home be filled with health, joy, and abundant creativity!

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series, and you can view the full series here.


On Your Desk

Background

Today we have workspace photographs from different sides of the world: Christchurch, New Zealand and Oxford, England. First up: Joel Le Blanc in Christchurch, who says:

"I am a freelance writer, poet, book reviewer, editor, herbalist, reiki teacher and unofficial dog-sitter. I live with my partner in a hundred year old cottage -- and I don't think the house is haunted, but you never know.

"The photo above shows the oak desk where I work, which is a storm of chaos -- so much so I think I could divine the future from the configuration of receipts, papers, books and mementos that tend to populate it. I keep textbooks on medicinal plants, natural medicine and nutrition close by for my health articles. But if the science and health all gets a bit much for my brain, all I have to do is turn to my left and stare lovingly at the growing collection of fantasy and mythology books accruing on my bookshelves. As you can see in the close-up photo below, I am working towards a full Charles De Lint Collection...."

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"The office I work in doubles as an art studio for my partner, so the room is filled with the delicious smells of oil paint and turps at various times of the month. Amongst all this I write my poetry, stories, blogs and get my freelance work done. Sometimes I sit studiously at the desk, but after a childhood growing up in the empty and wild north of New Zealand it is difficult to stay cooped up in the studio/office all day. Because of this I get out and about as often as possible with a notebook to a library or cafe (one day I dream to be a writer gypsey on the road, like Rima Staines in her wagon!). If it's a rainy day, like today, I will probably just curl up on my sofa with a hot cup of coffee and a blanket and get a bit of my writing done there."

"I wanted to include one photo at least of my dogs -- this one (below) is called Latte. While I am working hard at my laptop he often will curl up on my toes and sleep, hardly ever leaving my side. We have other dogs, but Latte is the one most dedicated to the 'cause'. At some stage I hope to include him as a character in one of my short stories."

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"The newest addition to the team is my Samsung smartphone. I remember quite clearly announcing to my partner in our kitchen that I wanted to disconnect from technology more and distance myself from the online universe. Sometime in the week that followed, it appeared clear that I absolutely needed to spend a week's earnings on a new smartphone. I am not sure how I came to that conclusion, but it's been a great ally to my writing ever since, enabling me to go out to parks and cafe's and get my work done there. I often need the Internet to read medical research or talk with clients, and this little guy helps me do just that and get out of the house at the same time."

Joel is the founder and editor of Wildberries, the online journal of mythic fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. You can learn more about Joel and his work by visiting his writing blog, The Rabbit Hill.

Next, we go to Oxford to visit the workspace of Dr. Juliette Harrisson, who says:

"I'm a writer, freelance editor, Classics and ancient history lecturer and blogger. My desk is where I edit, write lectures, blog, attempt to write novels, research, mark electronically-submitted essays, etc., etc., etc...."

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"I rent a single room in a friends' house, so the first photo (above) is of the room where I sleep, eat, work and pretty much do everything!"

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"The second photo is a slightly closer view of the desk, during a rare burst of spring cleaning, with my music on."

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"The third photo shows the view from the desk chair, complete with stuffed animals, coffee, fridge magnets."

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"The fourth photo, above, is a close-up on the Latin and Greek books (and chocolates!) that live under the computer."

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"I always have a cup of coffee (sometimes tea) on my desk and, as the final photo demonstrates, in the evening it is sometimes joined by a glass of wine!

"On my blog, Pop Classics, I review all sorts of bits and pieces of modern popular culture that feature anything Greek or Roman -- the 'Mythology' tab is quite over-used! Readers of this blog might also be interest in my Mum's website: she's a fine artist who moved into textiles when serious neurological illness made painting incresingly difficult."

Thank you, Joel and Juliette, for contributing to the "On Your Desk" series! There are more desks & workspaces coming up next week, so stay tuned....

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series, and you can view the full series here.


On Your Desk

Womb1

Our next set of intriguing "On Your Desk" photographs comes from reader Icarus! Quinn, who says:

"I'm a writer, photographer, musician, shaman and chaos magician from New Jersey, and my creative/sacred space is called The Womb. It's a two room finished attic which houses all of my books and instruments and computers and assorted toys and stimuli.

"The first photo (above) is of my music/Mac desk. Pretty self explanatory. The second photo (below) is a wider shot of my PC/writing/photoshop desk, with a sneak peek into the front room, where the drums live. The light is always bright in the front room, and always muted in the back, which is a wonderful contrast, especially in the winter."

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"There are two websites I'd be happy to share. One is my blog, My Icarus Moment, which features a lot of my photography, the occasional poem and daily reflections. The other one is for The Idirlion Project, a shamanic/magickal initiative I co-founded with my teacher last year, taking the sigilization techniques of Austin Spare and bringing them into the 21st century."

Thank you, Icarus!

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All readers of this blog are welcome to contribute to the "On Your Desk" series. You'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series, and you can view the full series here.


On Your Desk

7

Today's photos for the "On Your Desk" series come from two of my favorite people from the younger generation of mythic artists: painter/designer Yoann Lossel and writer/potter Claire Briant. They live in an old stone farmhouse on the edge of the Forest of Broceliande in Brittany, France (a landscape thoroughly steeped in Arthurian and Celtic myth), creating art out of paint, clay, words, ancient legends, symbols, spells, and the mysteries of nature.

In the photograph above, we see Yoann at his desk in the studio room the two artists share. Below is a close-up photograph of Claire's desktop: 

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"This is the place where I write, draw, and dream," she says. "You can see some of the many pictures covering the wall, as well as some quotes. I like to let my eyes wander on this wall; it really does inspire me when I write. At this time, I keep only two books on my desktop: one on pottery (the red one, which is kind of a bible) and the other dealing with ornamentation. I use them to create designs for my pottery."

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"In this next picture (above), you can see both of our desktops and the pictured-covered wall."

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"Here is Yoann's desk. It's twice as large as mine, as he does spend a lot of time here. This desk is dedicated to graphic art, and composing designs for books and websites. Obviously (as you can see from the speakers on his desktop), Yoann likes to listen to music as he works. On the left are some of our books, especially the ones we use as reference for our projects. These include Arthurian legends, myths in general, illustrators we love (like Dulac, Doré, Rackham, Beardsley, and Alan Lee), Oriental philosophy, cosmology, and quantum physics (which is truly Yoann's field)."

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"When you look on the other side of the room you can see Yoann's painting place. The painting on the right is called Imperial Twilight. The other canvas is still white, waiting...for a snowy landscape.... In the middle are all the different preparations and secret recipes of the painter, waiting to be used. What a smell!!"

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"Here is my very filthy pottery workshop. This is what I first see when I enter the place from my house. All the pieces you see here are drying, waiting to be fired."

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"Above, another picture-covered wall, with reproductions you'll surely know, and some of  my creations of patterns. On the work table are more bowls and cups just finished, drying."

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"Here's my wheel, kind of neat for once. The big lazy black cat is Dude. He is forbidden to come inside the workshop, because he is my most demanding art director. Some mornings, I enter the place and see broken pieces of what use to be a pot."

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"Above: more pots, and a sculpture as well. This is my first sculpture, and a second is coming soon."

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"This big blue thing is my kiln. It sits just outside in a shelter made of windows and wood."

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"So, here we step outside the workshop, directly into the garden. You can see six big green bottles of gas, which are here not to blow up the place, but to get my kiln working! Two at a time will be enough."

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"And this is our garden. We spend a lot of time out here, just listening to the birds, watching the sky and clouds. It looks a bit dry these days, however, and those clouds aren't bringing any rain...."

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Yoann Lossel's paintings have been published in L'Univers des Dragons II, Le Chaudron Magique, and The "Sir Lanval" Exhibition Catalog, among other places,; and there is an "Around the Table" interview with the artist forthcoming on the John Barleycorn blog. (I'll post a link to it when it's up.) To see more of Yoann's beautiful paintings and drawings, please visit his website.

Sir Lanval by Yoann Lossel
Claire Briant's pottery is exhibited and sold in Brittany; she is currently at work on a variety of magical writing projects; and she is also associated with the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien in the Forest of Broceliande. The photograph below shows a lovely pot that Claire made for me and Howard, inspired by the lines and lore of swans.

Swan Pot by Claire Briant