Roll up! Roll up!

(Watch in full screen mode for best effect.)

Last night was the great unveiling of the crowdfunding campaign for Hedgespoken: a magical new project created by artists/writers/performers Rima Staines and Tom Hirons.

A few weeks ago, they called for a Vagabond Tribe of friends and neighbors to gather 'round: raggle-taggle musicians and circus magicians; gypsy dancers, moonspinners, and fortune tellers; jugglers and clowns and children and crows; a faery harpist and gentle fey folk who arrived riding ribbon-bedecked ponies.

While we ate, drank, and made merry, filmmaker Annabel Allison gentle but firmly corralled us into the footage that would be used for Tom & Rima's Indiegogo campaign: music, dance, songs and laughter to summon the Little Gods of Luck, Travel, Coin, and Story. If the magic has worked, then you shall find yourself entirely unable to resist supporting their magnificent scheme for a Mythic Arts centre on wheels.

Vagabond 1

Vagabond 2

"With its drop-down stage, fancy awning and proscenium arch," Tom & Rima say, "Hedgespoken will serve as a stage wherever it goes. Whether it’s us telling tales and making mischief with handmade puppet shows, or it’s other actors, musicians or sword-swallowers using the stage-space as part of a Hedgespoken Travelling Show, our aim is to spread a little old magic by doing what we love.

"Hedgespoken has the wherewithal to act as a mini-theatre, a cabaret stage or acoustic music venue, anywhere. Perhaps your village green, or that disused urban space, wayside or park – Hedgespoken arrives, makes magic, plants seeds of imagination, and then leaves, in the tradition of wandering bards, travelling storytellers and itinerant puppet theatres and circuses that are so much part of our heritage."

Hedgespoken painting by Rima

Vagabond 3

Howard and I participated on the beautiful day of filming near Stone Lane Gardens, during which I snapped the photos here....

Vagabond 4

Vagabond 5

Vagabonds 6

Vagabond 7

Vagabond 8a


Vagabond 9

Vagabond 10

Vagabond 11

Vagabond 12

Vagabond 13

Vagabond 14

Vagabond 15

Vagabond 16

Vagabond 17

Truck plan, side view

Vagabond 18

To help all this become reality, please put on your best motley clothes and head over to the brand new Hedgespoken website ... where you can learn more about what makes it so special, and how to contribute to the dream.

I'm biased, I confess, because I love Rima and Tom, and also because my husband has done puppet work with them and is likely to be involved with their theatre-on-wheels in the future. But biased or not, Hedgespoken is an extraordinary project, created by extraordinarily lovely people ... so I hope that all you Mythic Art fans out there will dig deep to contribute if you're able. Or, conversely, if your pockets are empty, please give Tom & Rima your blessing and help them by spreading the word.

Even Tilly is doing her bit.

Vagabonds at home

Puppet by RimaMore photos here on the Hedgespoken blog.

Tunes (and puppets!) for a Monday morning

Toby Froud

One of the loveliest things about growing older in a small Dartmoor village is watching the next generation grow up and take on the world themselves. Last month at Lillian Todd-Jones (photograph by Brian Froud)the Chagford Film Festival, for example, we had the great pleasure of watching Toby Froud's first puppet movie, Lessons Learned. Toby, the son of my friends Brian & Wendy Froud*, grew up in Chagford and now lives with his wife and son in Portland, Oregon.

Lessons Learned was made with funding from Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams, as well as a Kickstarter campaign, and has already won a slew of awards from film festivals in the US and Europe. Chagford puppet master William Todd-Jones performed the character of the "The Boy" in the film, and the music is written and performed by his daughter Lillian Todd-Jones (pictured in the glorious "faery steampunk" photo by Brian Froud to the right) and her musical partner Gordon Mills Jr.

Above, the trailer for Toby's Lessons Learned. Below, the theme song for the film by Lillian and Gordon. There's also a video of Toby talking about the process of making the film after a screening in the U.S. here.

Lillian, too, is part of that younger generation of artists strongly influenced by their Chagford roots -- although in her case, music-making is just one part of her life, for she's also an Oxford-trained zoologist who has studied lions in the wild in Africa. In the magical video below, shot near Chagford, she teams up with Welsh singer-songwriter Siôn Russell Jones for "Guillotine." (More about the collaboration here.)

If you'd like a little more of her music this morning, go here for Lillian's cover of  "As the World Falls Down" by David Bowie. (The song comes, of course, from the film Labyrinth, in which Toby Froud was the baby in the striped pajamas.)

Moving from Chagford to Cardiff, Wales (because I love this young man's music), here's one of Siôn Russell Jones' solo videos: "So Long," from his 2013 EP of the same name, which was recorded on Dartmoor.

* And speaking of the Frouds, Brian and Wendy have a gorgeous new book out, Faeries' Tales.



I am awed and inspired by the work of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who creates "sand beasts," kinetic sculptures that roam on the coast near his house in the Netherlands.





Jansen's sandbeesten remind me of this passage from Caspar Henderson's essay "Rereading The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges":

Such creatures, he writes, "remind us of what is beyond dream – the real forms of living creatures that exist without human agency....For we who live in the light of what paleontology, evolutionary biology and genetics are revealing about living forms, our response to the real may – will, if we are truly awake – be one of astonishment and wonder at life's inventiveness. Even ordinary-seeming animals are marvellous in the light of evolution: the chicken, for example, is the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. Extraordinary ones make those in the pages of a medieval bestiary seem poor indeed. Compared to the leafy sea dragon (a cousin of the seahorse that looks very much like seaweed and yet also like a dragon) and the sea slug Elysia chlorotica (which photosynthesises with genes stolen from the algae it eats, and is as green as a leaf), the mythical Barometz, or vegetable lamb of Tartary, is a dull affair.

"The contemplation of natural history allows us to marvel at our place in the universe. As Charles Darwin wrote early in his career, 'If, as the poets say, life is a dream, I am sure in a voyage these are the visions which serve best to pass away the long night.' "

(Casper Henderson is the author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary.)



Dutch artist Theo Jansen

In the very short film below (by Georgi Banks-Davies & Lucy Campbell Jackson), Jansen discusses his "animals," and you can glimpse one of the smaller Standbeesten in motion.

(For a more in-depth look at the artist's creative process, listen to his 2007 TED talk here.)

The next film, "Strandbeest Evolution," from Jansen himself,  shows numerous examples of the beasts as they've evolved since 1990, with the music of Khachaturian's Spartacus.

The power of story

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns discusses the art and the power of storytelling in the video above. The team that made the video discusses the subject further in an interview in The Atlantic. This video is wonderful, and relevant to all of us who create stories in our various ways. Please don't miss it.

The Boyhood of Raleigh by MillaisThe painting above is by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

This Sunday, at The Picture House in Exeter:

The Laidley Worm



I'm still on my "online hiatus" this week, but wanted to pop in briefly to post the flyer above, for the premier of the new fairy tale film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group. We'll all be there (our daughter played the dragon in the film, and Howard's mum worked on costumes)...and perhaps we'll see some of you who live in the West Country at the premier too...?

I'll be back on this blog on Wednesday, May 2nd. In the meantime, a few quick recommendations, if you haven't come across these items already:

New Portrait of Janey Morris; Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell; "Dear Daughter" by Mur Lafferty; "Girls Who Read" by Mark Grist, and Axel, the thatcher's dog.

Tilly sends her regards.

Bluebells3 Click on the picture for a larger version, in which you can see the bluebells....

Sir Lanval in Exeter



The poster above is for the English opening of the French/English "Sir Lanval" art exhibition, which had its French opening in Brittany earlier this year. It is connected to the new "Sir Lanval" film (based on a medieval fairy tale by Marie de France, scripted by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry and Ari Berk), and is part of the English/French "Shared Legends" project. For more information, please see my previous posts on the subject.

The film itself was premiered in Brittany in October, where it was very well received -- and will have its first English screening (at The Picture House in Exeter) in March, 2011. In the meantime, you can see a snippet from the start of "Sir Lanval" on YouTube, here -- featuring purple-clad fairy maidens in the magical local landscape as it passes through four seasons.  (Some of the film was shot in Brittany and the rest of it here in Devon.)

The "Sir Lanval" exhibition is based on the original Marie de France story, rather than the film, which none of the artists had yet seen. Each artist was asked to read the 12 century tale and to interpret it in his or her own way. Brian Froud's contribution, for example, was "Guinevere" (the large image on the poster above): a dark version of Arthur's queen, who is dark indeed in the fairy tale. The smaller image on the poster is by the French painter and graphic novel artist Olivier Ledroit.

Rima Staines drew on medieval art and traditional Breton costume for inspiration in the beautiful paintings below; you can read about their creation on her blog, here. My own contribution was a fairy tale collage, which you can see and read about here.


Lanval doorways

Artists in the "Sir Lanval" exhibition (curated by Virginie Ropars & Kelly Martinez)

English: Ian Daniels, Brian Froud, Wendy Froud, Alan Lee, Kelly Martinez, Jaqui Martinez, Ed Org, Marc Potts, Linda Ravenscroft, Gentian Sims Revill, Rima Staines, Josephine Wall, and me.

French: Brucero, Erle Ferronniere, Didier Graffet, Olivier Ledroit, Jean Lemonniere, Yoann Lossel, Severine Pineaux, Jean-Sebastien Rossbach, Virginie Ropars, Erwan Seure Le Bihan, Anne Smith, and David Thierree.

A number of the French artists will be coming over for the opening of the exhibition this weekend, and we'll be hosting them here in the village for a few days. They're hoping to see some of the mythic sights of Dartmoor, so my fingers are crossed that we're not snowed in. . . .


And while we're speaking of France and fairy tale films:


The magical and sumptuous home of Jean Cocteau (writer, artist, dramatist, opium dreamer, bon vivant, and director of the fairy tale film classic La Belle et la Bête) is now open to the public, just south of Paris. You can read more about it here.

And if you can get somehow your hands on a copy: Beauty and the Beast: A Film Diary, Cocteau's journal about the making of his famous film, is an absolute treat.



The Fairy Handmaidens

In the Meadow by Terri Windling "In the Meadow," full size: 16 x 20 inches (click on the art to view a larger version)

The collage above is the piece I've contributed to an exhibition that will appear at venues in France and England when "Sir Lanval," a film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group, premiers this autumn. It's all part of the Shared Legends Project, a collaboration between the CFG here in Devon and the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany.

Ten French artists and ten Devon-based artists were asked to contribute works based on "Sir Lanval," a 12th century lay by Marie de France about a poor Arthurian knight and a beautiful fairy queen. I struggled for inspiration at first, for my art these days is a long ways away from Arthurian castles and knights in armor. . . but Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (the film's director) assured me that they weren't looking for illustrations of the film, but rather wanted each artist to interpret the lay and depict fairyland in his or her own personal style. In other words, they'd known they would get a "Windling" and not a "Burne-Jones" or an "Alan Lee" when they asked me. Whew!

In the Meadow detail

I originally sketched out some ideas for paintings, but then my thoughts turned to collage instead. There are many other painters in the show (along with sculptors, dollmakers, and other artists), and I thought perhaps one of my hand-sewn assemblages might be useful in striking a slightly different note. I collect old damaged books of myths and fairy tales as source material for my collages (I wouldn't want to rip up a book otherwise) -- and you can imagine my delight when I found a retelling of "Sir Lanval" in one of them. Perfect! Considering the obscurity of the tale, this felt like a gift from the fairies themselves and made me feel I was on the right track.

IMG_0423I chose the scene in which two fairy handmaidens appear in a meadow, carrying a golden basin and a towel. Later in the tale, we learn that the fairy queen rides with greyhounds, so I put a somewhat comical fairy greyhound in there too. And some bunny girls, because in my version of fairyland there are animal critters who follow in the fairies' wake. The twigs and pressed wildflowers come from the meadow behind my studio. The lace comes from my mother-in-law, a theatrical costume maker, who was busily sewing medieval costumes for the film while I was working on my piece.

Four of my village neighbors have also contributed to the exhibition: Alan Lee, Brian & Wendy Froud, and Rima Staines. You can see a preview of Rima's gorgeous, gorgeous Sir Lanval paintings over on her blog, and read a fascinating post about how she created them. For more information on the show itself, go here. There will be a "Meet the Artist" event in Brittany in July; I'll post more information about that as it becomes available.

Edited to add: Here's a link to the promised post on the Sir Lanval event in Brittany.

Sir Lanval update


The Chagford Filmmaking Group is wrapping up the filming of Sir Lanval here in Devon this weekend. The film has been shot in both Devon and France as part of the Shared Legend project created in collaboration with the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany. Sir Lanval is based, appropriately enough, on a story by Marie de France (a French poet who lived in England in the late 12th century), directed by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, with a script by Elizabeth-Jane and Ari Berk. Good luck to everyone involved -- including my stepdaughter, who is catering the film (as well as acting in it), and my mother-in-law, who's working on the costumes. May your energies, and the weather, hold out for two more days!

For more information, visit the CFG's website, or follow the progress of the film on Facebook, here. The CFG is a nonprofit group that was created to support fairy tale films and involve local kids in the filmaking process. They are always in need of funds, so if you can donate to their Feed a Fairy campaign, the fairies would be grateful indeed.

Happy Solstice

Brother and Sister film

Lisa Stock's short film "Brother and Sister" is set in a magical, snow-covered landscape that is perfect for a dark Solstice Eve. Inspired by a poem of mine, which in turn was inspired by a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, the film stars Seth Harris and Michelle Santagate, with gorgeous music by Priscilla Hernandez. Shot in New York City last winter, the completed film can now be viewed online.

Lisa recommends starting with the "Brother & Sister: Behind the Scenes" clip, and then moving on to the film itself. Both can be found on the Vimeo site.

My heartfelt thanks go to Lisa and the InByThe Eye crew for turning a few simple words on a page into a dreamlike, haunting, and myth-shadowed vision on film. I feel honored indeed.

Chagford Fairy Tale Films

Chagford Fairy Tale Films

"Cherry of Zennor," a film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group (and starring William Todd-Jones' daughter Lillian as Cherry) is now available for purchase on DVD on the CFG's website. Hooray! The video is available only in a PAL format, so American viewers will need a universal video player, or to run it on their computers.

"Peerifool" and "The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh" are current in post-production.