Wednesday, 25 November 2009

An English Arcanum

A WHILE AGO I told you of three mysterious hares who shared between them just three ears and yet had two ears each. All over Dartmoor these hares can be seen, in the roof bosses of churches, on shop signs and plaques on buildings. And now they can be seen leaping around the second album from Oxford folk band Telling the Bees. You may remember my artwork for their debut Untie the Wind. And just one year later these four talented musicians have put together another exquisite collection of music. An English Arcanum is a mossy basketful of eleven sonic tales made with bagpipes and concertina and voices and mandolin and cello and a good deal of acorns, and it is just wonderful. I was delighted to be asked again by this lovely foursome to make the artwork for their music and this time I am even happier with the result. And so, I am pleased to say, are they. It is all rendered in fine fine pencil. An old one-toothed man, a wayfaring musician, walks out of the woods carrying a barrel organ / cabinet of curiosities which bears a compartment for each song. (The lone tooth was inspired by the one swinging gnasher of a rural farmer called Ivan who we met on a windy hilltop in Wales!) From under his hat poke oak leaves and he wears a pilgrim hat badge of a bee. If you look closely you'll find all sorts of little puzzling details which will make sense when you hear the songs.

(please click to enlarge)

Inside the three strange hares circle the CD deftly as the music plays...

Oak twigs entwine with lyrics...

Old riddles are unravelled by the four winds...

And the four musicians look on proudly...

The new album is already receiving deservedly glowing reviews and the official album launch is this Friday 27th November at the Queen of Clubs cabaret, Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, if you should be in the vicinity. Otherwise you can have a listen and order a copy of the album for £12 from the band themselves here, or find news and buzzings on their blog.

For me there is something intrinsically right about combining music with imagery, if you listen to this beautifully crafted music whilst looking at the drawings I hope you can almost imagine the pencil strings thrumming.
An English Arcanum is exactly that - a beautiful evocation of an old and strange yet wildly familiar England.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The November Clock

THE NIGHT has begun to nibble at the tail ends of the days more and more, so that at 5 o'clock the chickens have retired to their coop and our lanterns must be lit - we are getting through lamp oil faster than ever.
The walk through the woods to the village is auburn now, and beautiful in its shedding.

November is here, and with it comes a new Once Upon O'Clock! This one is for Tess, a dear lady who ruminates inquiringly on a miscellany of spiritual paths and ideas over at her excellent blog Anchors & Masts. Tess asked me to make her a clock to celebrate her stepping into the autumnal phase of her life. She asked for a white haired wise woman in a forest or a cave mouth, and stars and moon, she asked for regenerative ivy, and colours of autumn, with a hint of winter. This crone-clock was a lovely commission, and I hope I have managed to make what Tess hoped for. The white-haired woman opens a round door in the roots to an Underground Place. What magics take place there we can only guess at by the smoking of the chimney. Perhaps it is the root-door to time itself?

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This November Clock is painted on a delicious slice of Yew. Finding interesting pieces of wood for my clocks is a job in itself, and I was lucky to be offered some slices from a well seasoned Yew log in the workshop here. The wood is dense and orangey in its colour, which compliments the autumnal pallet, and the grain positively undulates! The inner area of the tree (another circle of time) is outlined by a natural dark edge which I used for the border of the image.

(please click to enlarge)

A little while ago I wrote to all those on my Once Upon O'Clock order list to say that I was unable to continue making clocks at the rather low price of £150. I found that I was favouring other paid work over fulfilling clock orders as they take over a week to make each and £150 is not really an adequate exchange for my time. So the price has gone up to £250, and this is the first clock I have made at that price. I was delighted that so many folks were so enthusiastic about these Once Upon O'Clocks, and I wanted to make them affordable items for people, but now I am able to look forward to painting the next custom clock and know that I will earn a reasonable little purseful of money from it too.. unfortunately a necessary consideration for us as makes a living by hand this way.

Anyway, the November Clock is on its way to Tess now, and I hope she delights in its ticking away these leaf-rustling, trick-or-treating, apple-and-chestnut days.