Japanese Anemone 2011

“No-one ever steps in the same river twice,
for it’s not the same river
and he’s not the same man.”

About a month ago, my computer crashed. I was about to buy a new one, but …

and I hadn’t been backing-up for some time.

Chaos, until the new one arrived. It wouldn’t be too bad. I had at least the work I’d stored on the external hard drive. I then found that my external hard drive didn’t work. I’d lost just about everything since the start of the millenium. But … I had a second external hard drive. I have been able to rescue much of what I’ve lost. And I will be opening up my comatose computer shortly, to see if I can discover its sickness and heal it. From now on, I will be working in the cloud.

An artist friend whose entire work was ruined a few years back in a natural catastrophe, took each damaged work and even fragment of work and turned it into a new work. To me, the rescues were more beautiful for the history of damage embedded and visible in the new piece.

And so I thought I’d like to revisit some images rescued from my own disaster. And Heraclitus was right – one can never step into the same river twice. For that particular present is no more and only accessible as memory, an encystment of memory, for each visit adds a layer to the previous. And at the time I took the photo above, I’d not heard of eco printing. That adventure was yet to come.

The photo above is of a Japanese Anemone that came with my previous garden. I inherited Japanese Anemones again in my current garden. Below are images of some eco prints I’ve made from the last of the flowers and some seedheads. They’re all either on silk or silk satin. Few flowers give up their colours, but may print well as resists. In the prints below the pink petals have printed grey. The gorgeous gold of the circles of stamina have however transferred beautifully.

The anemone is also known as windflower. This is because it is the wind that opens up the blossom, and gets rid of its dead petals. The metaphorical implications are enticing. Red and pink anemone flowers symbolise death or forsaken love. In George Ferguson’s Signs & Symbols in Christian Art, he relates how anemones are often depicted in images of the Crucifixion or alongside the Virgin Mary as she mourns the death of Christ, the red anemones included in these paintings symbolising the blood that Christ shed.The Rev Hilderic Friend in his Flowers and Flower Lore, writes in the chapter The Language of Flowers: “The frailty of the Anemone has led to its being taken as the emblem of Sickness. Pliny tells us that the magicians and wise ones in olden times attributed wonderful powers to this plant, and ordered that every person should gather the first Anemone he saw in the year, repeating at the same time this sentence: “I gather thee for a remedy against disease.” It was then placed in a scarlet cloth and kept undisturbed unless the gatherer became indisposed, when it was tied either round the neck or under the arm of the sufferer.”*

“Youth, like a thin Anemone, displays
His silken leaf, and in a morn decays.”

When gathered in the woods, they fade and droop almost immediately. Some have thought that their name was given them because they could not endure the wind. but Pliny tells us the reverse – viz, that they never open but when the wind is blowing. An English poet has alluded to this in the lines which follow:-

“And when I gather’d rushes, and began
To weave a garland for you, intertwined
With violets, Hepaticas, Primroses,
And coy Anemone, that ne’er uncloses
Her lips until they’re blown on by the wind.””

In his chapter The Fairy Garland he writes: “Although the Anemone is generally associated traditionally with Venus, it has also by some been made a Fairy plant, the elves having been credited with the work of painting the crimson veins in its petals. The flower is a natural barometer, and indicates the approach of the night season or of a   shower, by curling over its petals in a tent-like fashion. This was supposed also to be done by the fairies, who nestled inside the tent of their leaves, and pulled the curtains round them.

The Japanese Anemone originated in China. The kind in my garden is Anemone tomentosa and they develop large, pale pink flowers on tall branching stems. After flowering, they become fluffy seed heads.

*Be well warned, however: all anemones are toxic if eaten: to dogs, animals, and humans, because of a substance they contain (all members of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)) called anemonin. Their toxicity for humans is minor and eating them may cause minor illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea. The juice, sap or hairs of the plants can also cause dermatitis, or skin irritation. In respect of animals, eating anemones can be irritating to mucous membranes, cause blisters, hemorrhagic gastritis, shock, convulsions and even death.

And on that cheerful note, I will close.

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A Lot of Edges Called Perhaps

“I have a lot of edges called Perhaps
and almost nothing you can call
Certainty.”   Mary Oliver

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Work in Progress

Sample of layered work on silk satin using a range of eco, botanical, contact printing methods from Kathy Hays Design courses, and using plant matter harvested from my garden.

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Natural Dyeing: Making Green

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Linen and Silk Samples Dyed with a Decoction of Dyer’s Chamomile Flowers

Chamomile appears in a number of chapters in The Rev Hilderic Friend’s Flowers & Flower Lore.

Under Flowers for Heroes, Saints, And Gods he writes that it is to St Anne – said to be the mother of the Virgin – that the Chamomile is dedicated. The botanical name of the Common or Dog’s Chamomile is Matricaria, and the flower seems to have been dedicated to St Anne from a fanciful derivation of this word from mater and cara, or “Beloved mother.”

Within Flowers And Showers: Trees and Electricity he notes: “Many are the plants which were … used to ward off the evil effects of the thunderstorm, … Some trees and plants, however, were peculiarly liable to the stroke of the electric current. … we find that in Eastern Prussia wreaths of Chamomile-flowers are hung up in the houses on St. John’s Day as a preservative against storms.”

In The Language of Flowers: “The peasantry in Switzerland make the Poppy reveal their future. … It has been remarked by some that the flowers chiefly employed for these purposes have a star-like form, as the Daisy and Chrysanthemum, and are employed because people believed them to be associated with those heavenly powers which were supposed to rule the destinies of men. … It is true that the Daisy used to be employed, and still is, in some country places in England and France; while in Germany the same flower is the favourite among the anxious maidens for prognosticating their love fortunes. In the same country the Chamomile is also employed for the same purpose. “When Goethe represents Margaret plucking the star-flower, and crying, as its last leaf falls, ‘He loves me!’ and Faust saying, ‘Let this flower-language be thy heavenly oracle!’ he traces all our drawing-room fortune-telling with flowers to its true source.”

In Flowers And the Dead: Fresh Flowers On Graves: “No flowers or evergreens are permitted to be planted on graves, but such as are sweet-scented: the Pink and Polyanthus, Sweet-williams, Gilliflowers and Carnations, Mignonette, Thyme, Hyssop, Chamomile, and Rosemary, … many other beautiful flowers are entirely left out, through want of fragrance.”

Under Wreaths and Chaplets: “We have spoken of the use of garlands among the Greeks and Romans. That many of their garlands were made of flowers and leaves whose sanctity was Eastern we know. Even in Rome such wreaths were called ‘Egyptian.’. Among the flowers chiefly used were … and yellow flowers generally, Chamomile, …”

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Eco Print on Silk

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Another Test Eco Print on Silk Satin

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Eco Print on Linen

Learning how to print on linen (not easy) and how to resist print. I like the leaves of the Turkish Sage. They remind me of the heads of dervishes, whirling.

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Eco Printing to the Accompaniment of Quanta Qualia

Made this print today while listening to composer Patrick Hawes‘ sublime Quanta Qualia, which I’m rehearsing for The Isolation Choir’s virtual Summer School.

I’ve made this little sample print as part of an online course on eco printing run and taught by Kathy Hays. I’m doing three of her courses simultaneously. Kathy has not only an immense and deep knowledge of printing with plants, but also the ability to teach clearly this complicated art form, a combination of skills not always met with.

The print’s not perfect, and doesn’t do Kathy’s teaching justice (I’m such a bungler) but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not easy balancing The Elements, which is what eco printing is all about, essentially. I’m not a god, after all.

Here’s Hayley Westernra’s lovely interpretation of Quanta Qualia.

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Tannin and Tone and Chrome

I’ve just performed at the first virtual concert of the Self-Isolation Choir Summer School. It was a week learning and rehearsing – under the guidance of musical director Ben England – a selection of works from the repertoire of the great John Rutter and included the beautiful A Clare Benediction.

The next week of the summer school will include Patrick Hawes’ and Andrew Hawes’ (lyrics) sublime Quanta Qualia. And Patrick will be directing it personally. I’m a huge fan of Patrick Hawes and had the privilege of singing, a few years back, the UK premiere of his magnificent Te Deum.

It’s been a bit hectic as I’d thought the Summer School was in August and then discovered it was in June and I’m also doing three other hands-on courses, so juggling the art and the music has been difficult, but I like this very close proximity – and blending – of the two disciplines and they speak to each other.

It’s trite to say that music and art are interconnected – the terms Colour and Tone, for instance, are referenced in both visual art and musical contexts – but I’ll say it anyway.

Neither do I have to mention Kandinsky – the first artist to create artworks (often calling them Improvisation or Composition ) directly influenced by music – but I will.

Not trite is this Kandinsky app that enables you to draw shapes and colours which then can be played back as music. It’s been developed by Chrome Music Lab – an innovative web site for learning music through hands-on experiments. The app should have an  extremely addictive warning. The entire site. Whatever you do, don’t visit the Songmaker page.





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