Sunday 20 April 2008

Telling the Bees

A WEEK after the Sunday-of-Lost-Data I have a little honeyed tale for you. Yesterday the postman brought a thrilling package of CDs, all printed and proper... my first ever album artwork for the fabulous debut release by Telling the Bees ~ a band of four lovely Oxford based musicians who might describe their music as ...darkly crafted folk, classical, cinematic, prog, acoustic-chill, psychedelia!

Untie the Wind, as the album is called, is a wonderful conjuring of a darkly imagined England, and for me has a very strong flavour of something friendly yet strange, and it is this folkloric old and yet not old world that I have tried to conjure in my drawings for them.

I was inspired by the old folk custom that inspired the band's name: that in English villages back in the days of superstitions... it was very important to inform the beehives and their inhabitants of any news: changes of ownership, births, deaths and marriages, otherwise they would take umbrage and leave their hives en masse. The custom was for a newly bereaved widow or heir to go up to each hive, tap it three times with an iron key and then inform the bees that their master had died. Sometimes the hives were adorned with black ribbon to show that the bees were in mourning, or left a small piece of wedding cake to share in matrimonial celebrations.

Telling the Bees will be performing at gigs and festivals across the country and if they buzz through your corner of the woods, I urge you to go along and dance to their evocative mandolins and English border bagpipes, fiddles and cellos, concertinas and songs.

Do click on the pictures to enlarge them.

"A Bedfordshire woman was telling me the other day," says a writer in a Northern daily paper, "how her son had been stung all over by bees. 'And no wonder,' she said, 'he never told them he was going to put them in a new 'ome, and everybody knows that before you goes to put bees in a new 'ome, you must knock three times on the top of the 'ive and tell 'em, same as you must tell 'em when anyone dies in the 'ouse. Ef you don't, they'll be spiteful, for bees is understanding creatures, an' knows what you say to them."

Just the same as a month before,--
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door,--
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away."

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:--
"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"

some verses from TELLING THE BEES by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)


AC said...

HI Rima.
Love your artwork on the Telling the Bees CD cover:-)
Do you know were we can get hold of the CD on the net?
I really liked the tracks on their Myspace page.
Take care,
Alison x

Gail said...

Lovely to have some good news and a pleasant suprise in the post - the CD cover looks splendid - I bet you're pleased with the result.

I hope they manage to recover the data on your hard drive - we're thinking of you down here in Devon ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your fabulous illustrations for this cd-cover, it looks so great!
And I am so sorry about the data-problems, I hope you`ll get all your lost work back again...

Ted Marshall said...

These illustrations are wonderful, and I love the story of keeping the bees informed.
I've just been listening to the tracks on MySpace. The Worship of Trees sent shivers up my spine.
I echo Alison's query, do you know where we can buy the CD?

Rima Staines said...

Hello people.. thanks for your compliments and encouragements :)

I have been informed that until the bees' website is up, those who want a CD should send £12 via paypal to: with their address and a CD will arrive on their doorstep!

Many thanks! Grab them while you can!!

x Rima

Unknown said...

Sweetly delightful post Rima, and so informative ; ) I was intrigued as I love old customs and superstitions, the older the better ; ) I am so happy to hear the day of data disaster is dimming and that you are able to sort things out. I have not yet been able to frame up your prints but still stare in fascination and with pride that I have such beautiful artworks from you - your CD illustration for Telling the Bees is perfect and just lovely :)

Elva Undine said...

The illustrations are intriguing - I want to go into their world and explore!

Tess Kincaid said...

Rima, this band has fabulous taste in design! should be so proud! Really exciting to see your work on this album. :D

AC said...

Thanks for that info Rima.
Take care,
Alison x

Gretel said...

Utterly gorgeous artwork, I love it!

Anonymous said...

Amazing artwork! I particularly love the twisty twiney tree roots. I'm off to visit them on myspace now! :)

Amy Short said...

Brilliant...just brilliant! I love it and you should feel very proud. Don't you just feel so good when it is so finished like that? So cool!

I am so happy you got some donations for your computer too! People are good. I am hoping you get all of your hard work back. keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your work for the album -- everything looks superb! Oh dear, losing all your data is so horrifying -- this happened to Heidi Burton a couple of weeks ago too!

G said...

I'm looking forward to hearing their music. They certainly have great taste in choosing the artist for their CD design. :)

Ciara Brehony said...

Congratulations! It must feel great to see the finished piece. It looks fantastic!

Elizabeth said...

I had heard this legend somewhere before and find it fascinating. What with the collapse of bee colonies etc
we must be kind to them.
I'm so glad there is a little chance of you getting your data back.
Please send me your adddress c/o
greetings from sunny maroc

d. moll, said...

I hope your data has been recovered. Too bad we can't send bees out to retrieve lost pixals.

Rima Staines said...

Thanks very much people for your nice words about my bee drawings :) Glad folks are enjoying the music too :)
x Rima

Ulla said...

Your artwork tells this tale so beautifully! What a treasure... I am also so sorry to hear of your computer woe's and hope that things are surely on the mend now for you. Technology can be such a blessing as well as a beast!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful illustration, they're just perfect. And I love that bit of bee folklore. Have you ever come across Slovenian painted beehives? (you can google for more interesting pictures but this is an interesting article about them)

Mmm said...

Love the artwork for this album. Reminds me of an old Genesis' album... the name escapes me now but bet you know!

Anke Weckmann said...

I love it! It's So beautiful. x