Friday, 29 August 2014

In which I turn 40.....



I've spent a magical few days at Rivenstone - Festival of Bones,  which takes place on Dartmoor, at the home of  Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw.
 This year, the theme of the festival was the honouring  of our ancestors, symbolised by the White Horse Hill Woman (an extraordinary recent archeological find here on the moors).
I had a stall there, selling my work, ably assisted by my sister Angharad, and met so many lovely people, even some who knew me through my blog, so Thankyou, for coming to talk to me :)

In the heart of the moor, in the misty rain, wind sang through the heather, buzzards wheeled and mewed overhead, and drums sounded like the earth's heartbeat underfoot.


 I spent three days listening to haunting music that sang of the land, and the sacredness of the earth.


I sat in a smoky roundhouse in the middle of the night, where the story of 'The Uninvited Guest' told by puppets in the firelight, was wondrous indeed! 
I walked in procession by candlelight, and added my voice to the honouring of the ancestors.
And I danced - to English and Breton folktunes, and trancey drumming, and tribal chanting.


 


On the final day, there were a series of deep immersion workshops. Most of these were journeying workshops, and although I was sorely tempted by Manda Scott's workshop - 'Ancestors of the Island Dreaming', in the roundhouse, I chose to immerse myself in experimental archeology instead and spent the day with Kate Fletcher and Corwen Broch, of Ancient Music, learning how to make reed pipes and deer bone flutes and a whistle from a cow's toe bone!

  

It was the most fun I've had in a long time - really! Lovely, lovely people, and we laughed all day. I even managed to make a decent sound with my reed pipe and flute, although I couldn't master the toe bone.

And then it was home again, to turn 40, which feels quite momentous and amazing. I feel grown up, wiser and serene, and I can wear my grey hair as a badge of honour. I feel as if I am finally ready to step into my true self.

I am lucky to live a life where I can do the things I love. I can work my garden and grow my herbs. This is White sage (Salvia Apiana) which I have grown from seed. To my surprise, it has grown well and strong, and I have already harvested a small amount for drying and using in smudge sticks. I imagine it will be hard to keep alive over a dartmoor winter, so I am planning to take cuttings and move pots into the cold greenhouse.

Here it is, dried and combined with mugwort, alongside my homemade ginger and rhubarb cordial.

This is oil of St John's Wort, which has been macerating in the sun for the last six weeks. I love the way it has turned the greenish olive oil a rich red colour.

And this is the last harvest of milk thistle seeds from the garden, beautiful and useful plants, but vicious to extract the seeds from!
This is how I am happiest - here on these moors, in the rain and the wind and the sun. Walking and riding, painting and planting. 
I am blessed indeed.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Divination Deck project


It's time to introduce you to my latest project! I've been working on this since the beginning of the year, and I reckon it will take a couple of years to finish.
It is a 'divination deck' - a set of cards for helping to show you the way.
 I've never been particularly fond of Tarot cards. They spooked me a little when I was a child, and I still feel uneasy around them. However, these cards are NOT a tarot deck.


Early this year, while meditating and communing with the muse, this deck was laid out very clearly in my mind's eye. The 3 types of cards, the names of each, and the plant or animal connected to each of the higher cards. I scribbled copious notes and symbols in my sketchbook, while it was still fresh in my mind, and then sat back and thought about it all.


The 2 sets of 'higher 'cards are calendrical. One set of 13 are called 'The Lunar Cards' and they represent the 13 full moons of the year. The other set of 8 are called 'The Wheel Cards' and they represent the wheel of the year, the Celtic festivals and cross quarter days.


It immediately became apparent that I would need to paint each of these images at the correct time, to actually capture the energy and sense of the exact point in the year. This has put the pressure on! Some of the wheel cards are pretty large and complex, and I'm not used to working with such tight time constraints. It's been exhausting at times, but very satisfying.


What has been really interesting is how the meaning of the card has developed as I paint it. I know exactly how the image should look,and usually have a very broad sense of the meaning when I begin, but often it has crystallised into a very specific meaning ( sometimes depending on context) by the time I have finished.


It's endlessly fascinating, as if each card has a life of its own!
 
IMBOLC


SPRING EQUINOX



BELTANE
 



The beltane painting was very complex and intricate, and took days to finish!

 

SUMMER SOLSTICE


So, there you are. It's a work in progress, and although I'm pleased to show you the images, I'm reluctant to give away too much detail about the meanings of the cards, and the workings of the pack, as I hope to find a way to publish it once completed.

The downside of this project is that it has left me very little time to create anything else - much less new work to sell, which has been a bit tricky financially. I'm trusting that it will be worth it in the end ;)

However, I do have a few outings to sell my wares over the next few weeks. The first is at Chagford Show, on Thursday 21st August.

Then I head for  Rivenstone festival which I am SO excited about. It's promising to be a wonder-filled weekend, and I'm treating myself to a workshop too, as my 40th birthday present!
I think there are still a few spaces left if you want one :)

And finally, I shall be taking part in Devon Open Studios in September.

Do come and find me to say 'Hello' if you are at any of these events.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A profusion of wild flowers and herbs (or 'Why I haven't blogged in ages' !)

Well, it seems the cobwebs have been gathering here.
I've been away for so long that I think I may have forgotten how to use Blogger!

I'm sorry to have abandoned you all - I really didn't mean to - it's just I get so caught up in the 'here and now' that there never seems to be enough time to blog. Still, I'm here, and I'm dusting away busily. There is so much to catch up on - new projects afoot, pony news, that I've been scratching my head for weeks and wondering where on earth to start.
So, for today, I thought I'd show you the reason WHY I spend so much time away from my computer. 
There is so much to see and do outside, that I spend almost every waking moment out under the skies, grateful every moment that I live where I do.
These stone lanes, green woods and steep valleys are just bursting with life. It seems there is more this year than ever before. A walk around the footpaths takes hours as I stop to examine each and every new plant, delighted whenever I find a new one.
Today I took my camera with me, so I could document the abundance of wildflowers.

Herb Robert, Foxglove, Dog Rose, Stonecrop, Water Dropwort (I've a story about that - remind me to tell you one day)  Nettles and Goosegrass.



 Honesty, Hogweed, Wood Woundwort ( my least favourite wild flower - it's foliage is truly stinky) Red Campion, California poppy (must have escaped from a garden) and Feverfew.


Beautifully glowing California Poppies.



 Yarrow, Wood Sage, Spear Thistle, Pig Nut and Wild Oat, and Hedge Bedstraw.




Goatsbeard, with their seed heads the size of an orange!


Bumblebee and Bramble


Wormwood, Tansy, Yarrow flower, Tufted Vetch, Honeysuckle and a yellow vetch - I think it's Meadow Vetchling, but I'm not certain.



The path to the stepping stones is overgrown that we had a job to get down it.


Greater Plantain



And a pause to paddle and play in the river in the mid-day sun. The stepping stones are precarious, but it's lovely to wade across. The river is alive with the sound of whirring wings. Dragonflies and damselflies in every colour imaginable dart and swoop across the water.


And we pass the village pool - river fed, and beautiful, nestled in the valley beside the river.

Meadowsweet





Here, in the large swathes of wildflowers, left in the rougher corner of the hay meadow, is the plant I've come looking for today: St John's Wort


Golden clumps in amongst the many wild flowers.


 More Wood Woundwort (beautiful mixed in with the golden St John's Wort), White Campion, and, to my excitement, a solitary Wild Valerian plant.

 

We stopped to look at the Beaver Tree, and the names carved therein. We spent our childhood summers in this tree, the limbs spiralling up like a staircase.


Pennywort flowering in the walls.



Bindweed, Green Alkanet, Speedwell, ivy leaved toadflax, and my most favourite wildflower of all, the Orange Hawkbit.


 

This is what I brought home with me today.



St John's wort is steeping in oil, and the others are on racks to dry.



Next time I'll show you my new work :)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A Dartmoor Harvest

 
We have been walking the late summer days. Picking and gathering, wandering across the ridges and clambering in the gullies,  sitting in the heather with a flask of tea, surrounded by pots and buckets and the quiet roar of a thousand bees.
 

 
The first harvest is the whortleberries. The earliest berries ripen on my husband's birthday, and we always head out across the moor then. I could have been a gleaner in earlier lives. I am happiest with the sun on my back, and my feet in the heather, picking whortles. It's a slow process, they are tiny and well hidden, but it soothes my soul like nothing else. It takes an afternoon to fill a basket, but it is immensely satisfying.
 
 
 
My children used to call them 'heatherberries', because they grow in amongst the heather bushes, purple flowers and dark blue berries together.
After the first week my children  lost all interest in picking them, and refused to come, but Steve and I and the Wolf spent many evenings alone gathering berries. It seems no-one does this any more. In all our time out there we have never met another person taking advantage of this incredible bounty.
 

Some were frozen, and some made into pies, and many have been dried for the winter, but the best use of all for them is to make fruit leather. I have cooked and dried sheets and sheets of it, sweetened with a tiny bit of heather honey, and then cut into strips and put in the cupboard. Perfect for a sweet treat, or pack lunches, and good for you too :)
 
 
 
We are part way through picking apples, and many of those are turned into dried apple rings (but the children eat these faster than I can make them if I don't hide them away!) . And we had a glut of yellow dwarf beans in the allotment, which weren't nearly as tasty as the wonderful Cosse Violette purple beans which I love best of all. So I experimented with a salty, chilli style of pickling, reminiscent of Japanese pickles. They are delicious, and disappearing fast!
 
 
 
Then came the blackberries. The ponies like to go blackberry picking too, and it's useful to be taller so you can reach the higher berries.
 

 
 
Piper ate as many herself as the owl daughter could pick.
 
 

 
 
And I gathered rowan berries. The hills are scarlet with rowan at the moment.
 


 
 
The children helped me thread the rowan berries into strings to dry.
 


 
 
 
 
They are hanging in my shed to dry. The owl daughter calls it the apothecary. I call it my dreaming space.
 
 
 

 
 
I have wood stored for a winter project. I have been gathering pieces all year, all labelled with provenance and put away till I have time to work on it.
 

 
I made the dried mugwort and sage into incense sticks.
I love the smell of mugwort.
 

 
And I have had deer on my mind, in many ways.
Painting, reading, dreaming.
 
 
 
 
I walked to a special place today, past the cloven stone, to the Deer Rock which looks over the valley.
 Thoughts and ideas are coming together and slowly a plan is forming.
In the meantime, there are still blackberries to pick, I have a deer mandala to paint, and I think I need a deer drum.
 

 
Here is an autumn addition to the 'Blessings' series.
You can find it HERE :)
 
 
And I realised it was time to make prints of the Deer Guardian too, which you can find here HERE
 
 

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails