Thursday 13 October 2011

The Bagpipe Society

"Pan is the son of Mercury; His head and body form the sign of mercury of the Philosophers, 
at once solar and lunar. The star on the right is the hieroglyph for harmoniac salt, 
the third component of the Art (which is often called the Art of Music). 
Anon., 14th century, Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, Florence. Ms Ashburn 1166, f.18."
~ from Alchemy - The Secret Art - Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, Thames & Hudson 1973.
IN THIS ALCHEMICAL DRAWING from an anonymous 14th century manuscript in Florence, Pan, god of the wilds and of rustic music, plays a set of bagpipes.
A strange and earthy, wild and raucous instrument, the bagpipes evoke such old yearnings in us. In the words of bagpiper Andy Letcher:

"The bagpipe is an extraordinary instrument - half plant, half animal, a swine to play 
but will sing like a bird - and it's this old, nearly forgotten, rumpled magic 
of the thing that I want to share with the world."

Andy (my friend of Telling the Bees fame) works as part of The Bagpipe Society to rekindle in people a hearty love for this wonderful instrument. As part of this process, The Bagpipe Society has had a lick of paint here and there, and I was responsible for the decorations.
The initial request was for me to design a logo for the society which showed someone playing the bagpipes and the words The Bagpipe Society. So that's what I did...

They were pleased with it apart from a small request to make him a little more cheerful! So here's the final logo complete with (very slightly) turned up corners of the mouth:

And here's the whole page of my very rough sketch-workings:

I found inspiration from books of old illustrations and engravings...

All above illustrations from The Encyclopaedia of Illustration - Studio Editions 1990
There were also a few pennies left in the pot for me to create something extra for the website, and so with inspiration spewing from the mouth of a marginal foliate head...
Title page designed by Daniel Hopfer, Augsburg 1515
~ from Alphabets & Ornaments by Ernst Lehner, Dover 1968

... I created this:

A quite unexpected and penetrating-gazed Green Man Bagpiper, now piping his green song from the pages of the website. You can buy him and the Bagpipe Society logo printed onto various Items Of Usefulness from their merchandise page, or as prints from my shop.

Next year, March the 10th is set to be International Bagpipe Day, where everyone is encouraged to get involved and organise local grassroots bagpiping events. The Bagpipe Society also publish a quarterly journal called Chanter, which you get if you become a member. Do have a good peruse of the site, there's videos of all sorts of different pipes being played, and information of the yearly bagpipe festival Blowout.

I leave you with a video of Andy playing his English Border Pipes with Cliff Stapleton on hurdy-gurdy. The tune is one of Andy's and is called Asclepius (the Greek god of healing and an obscure hermetic text....)

The Wedding Dance by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1566 - source: Bagpipe iconography