This week has been a particularly odd one ( in good ways) and I blame Jackie Morris. If you’ve been reading this blog for long enough you’ll know that almost exactly 7 Novembers ago I spoke about discovering Jackie’s work, whilst contemplating the universal imagery of “the bear and the girl”. My own “bear thing” was caused by a mix up in which I had my heart broken by a young bear-man who went to Canada, just after I’d based my entire final collection at University on bear related myths and legends. It was a weird time, including the worst winter for years, being snowbound in my beautiful cottage and subsisting on a diet of whisky, cigarettes and fruit cake. By the time I wrote that blog post I was starting to emerge from the forest and had begun to visit the Lake District with Rupert ( at which point I quickly realised it was unpleasant to climb hills with a hangover and downing neat rum before heading up Haystacks isn’t advised)
So, fast forward and somehow I’m living by these lakes and mountains, still dreaming of bears, still feeling a little lost in my new world, wondering who to be now that I’m grown-up, uprooted, finding myself, as if by magic, an occasional bookseller in the tiny treasure of a bookshop and then… who’s coming in to sign books but Ms Morris (that’s her pretending to be a snow leopard in the squeaky bookselling chair)
Ok, to be fair its not all Jackie’s fault. When I knew she was coming to Sam Read’s and that I’d be working that day I had tried to work out when I’d first mentioned her work on this blog and of course that meant I trawled through the past and my net came up full of pictures of “home” so my memory was jabbed and I lay awake all night listening to the owls conversing on the window ledge and lived most of the lines from that Talking Heads song …”this is not my beautiful life…how did I get here?” Anyway, Jackie and Robin arrived in the bookshop and we talked and drank coffee from Lucia’s and ate the peculiar bear shaped biscuits that I’d made and I’m pretty sure I was completely uncool, like an overenthusiastic puppy (I am excited about so many things and it’s a shame that shyness makes that feel awkward, I wish it was considered un-cool to be cool and that people could really feel free to express their joy without worrying that they appeared foolish and agonising about it afterwards). It was lovely to talk about art and nature, printing blocks, sketchbook paper, conkers, and the book “The Lost Words” ( a subject Rupert has often talked about as he returns from work sometimes with stories about children not knowing the names of trees, or animals, calling the lake a river or a pheasant a “ginger squirrel”!).
We also talked about some pictures she’d posted on Twitter of a painted stone hidden in a tree and so today I set off on a quest because I was pretty sure I knew where it was.
Even though I know being outside will lift my spirits and that walking is the best way to work through ideas and emotions, it is often the hardest thing for me to do. Actually motivating myself to leave the house can feel like wading through bread dough and yet, and yet…it never fails to work subtle magic, mood lifts and thoughts start to race. Today, because I wanted so much to find and photograph the stone I was not only inspired to get out but observing everything around me even more carefully. I had a mission, like arty geocashing, no wonder Masquerade caused such a stir. The first sight of the lake made me gasp out loud, it was one of those perfect, oily mirror days that send you off balance and made me wish more than anything that I’d brought my swimming stuff. Viscous water, that’s what it is; you can almost see the surface tension and imagine that it would hold you. I used all my Landscape Detective skills, learned in geography lessons where we were given a photograph and an OS map and asked to pinpoint the view. I got it wrong and set off from the wrong side of the lake.
I nearly gave up but then I worked it out and there, nestling in the crook of a branch was the golden treasure! Well hidden, not at all obvious if you weren’t looking. I invented a quick spell, toasted with a flask of coffee, which will hopefully channel some of Jackie’s skill and success into my own work via my “I am an artist” ring. Well, you never know. Of course I replaced the stone, making sure no-one but the raven saw me, because I’d had such a lovely time searching that I hoped other people would too. Returning, I passed another tree that had had flowers and a plastic notice tied to it with red ribbon last time I’d walked this path. It was a memorial to a lost loved one and moving in it’s own way but it made me think how many of us feel the need to leave these offerings and memorials and how fine the line is between honouring a place and damaging it. The red ribbon was all that remained on the tree, jarring in the soft winter light and what happened to the plastic? Jackie’s stone was as natural as the tree it rested in and will weather and fade, if allowed to, but people who find it will feel a little joy at their discovery.
On the way back to the car I lost my bearings and found a tiny creature on a wooden bench, another little treasure, on a path I would never otherwise have discovered. That sounds a little bit like life, so, now, by the stove (which needs another log) I’m trying to find the words to express this magical walk without straying into the sickly realm of motivational quotes and New Age, pseudo pagan bullshit but actually I’m not sure I can (talk about Lost Words eh) To me it feels as though it reinforced the fact that everything is connected , that getting lost can help you find what you really need and that the treasure you find, however tiny, is the reward for all the bad stuff.
Look, this bear found treasure too…
The kettle is about to boil and I have a parcel to carefully wrap as these two lamps are heading to new homes in the far North this week. I’ve added a custom order section to the website so it’s now possible to easily commission your own bespoke lamp to light up your winter. I’m also entering the Wraptious competition which was a spur of the moment thing so I’m not all that worried, but you’ll be able to vote and for a short time buy the designs on their website. It’s worth looking because there are some beautiful designs by loads of different artists (I’ve voted for lots already). Until next time x
Reading : ” The Keeper of Lost Things” Ruth Hogan Listening to: ” The Amber Spyglass” Phillip Pullman ( Audio Book) oh and this… “Tracking Treasure Down” Gabriel and Dresden ….my heart missed a beat, more memories and some kind of residual ecstatic rush.