M(ann) Meets M(ann) in Stamford

Lincoln Cathedral

I had to be in Lincolnshire a couple of weeks back and dropped in on Lincoln. The first and last time I visited Lincoln’s cathedral was a staggering 46 years ago. All I could recall of that visit was the approach, an ascent so steep there were iron handrails to aid the less able and the awe-inspiring interior of the cathedral.

Aptly named Steep Hill still has those handrails and I was pleased to note that I still had no need of them.

Steep Hill, Lincoln

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to be awestruck by the cathedral’s interior a second time as the cost of entry was prohibitive. A visit the cathedral’s shop was free, where I bought a bag of barley sugar sweets. The night before my visit I dreamt that I was handed two white, oblong pills (from beyond the grave) and told I needed to take glucose. The sweets I bought were golden, oval-shaped and transparent. I wondered why the cathedral shop was selling barley sugar sweets. Had the shop’s buyer unconsciously linked their appearance with stained glass?

Lincoln Cathedral, Front Facade

Why was I to take glucose? Isn’t glucose just pure sugar, and carcinogenic? A web site devoted to the health benefits of glucose oxidase lists seven and is selling expensive pills in which glucose oxidase is an ingredient. The other ingredients are foods which you will be eating otherwise as part of a good diet.

Blue House, Lincoln

Barley sugar was originally made from cane sugar and barley water. These days, barley is an option.

I don’t believe I was led all the way to Lincoln’s cathedral shop to buy barley sugar sweets. There are more interesting aspects of the dream to explore.

But I was reminded of a different dream in  Stamford – where I was to meet artist Tim Mann. In St John the Baptist’s church in the town which dates to Roman times, Tim was creating a group portrait Crowded Room Stamford of people native to or passing through Stamford and by making an outline of each on a huge sheet of paper, drawing with a stick of red pastel. I had a flash forward to the end result of the work – resembling in my mind a huge living flame. And if you visit Tim’s Instagram page you will see another such group portrait which looks just like that.

I was reminded of a favourite passage from   J B Priestley’s autobiographical work Rain Upon Godshill.  It describes a dream. I’ve written about this in 2012 in A Collision of ChemicalsIn the dream, Priestley is standing at the top of an immense tower, looking down on a vast river of birds, all flying together in the same direction. Time accelerates and dream turns to nightmare as he is forced to watch bird become generation of bird. He watches as each bird hatches, flutters into life, soars away, grows weak, falters, then dies.  He watches as wings grow and crumble, bodies swell then shrivel.  Everywhere is death, striking at every second.  He watches and can perceive in all he sees … all the striving to live and keep on living – only an immense futility.  He … becomes sick at heart. Then time speeds up even more and the flow of birds becomes,  “like an enormous plain sown with feathers;…” and “…along this plain,  flickering through the bodies themselves,  there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling,  dancing, then hurrying on,…” As soon as he sees this,  he knows the flame to be, “…life itself,  the very essence of being.”

It was wonderful, in Tim Mann’s group portrait, to be reminded of this dream, which was a revelation and celebration of spirit and in this corresponds with what is writ large on Tim’s home page: “For me, the spirit is more important than the physical.” And his work also takes the genre of group portraiture to a whole new level, just as Rembrandt did in his famous Night Watch. 

But wait – Priestley’s dream is not the dream I was reminded of! It was one of my own.

It must have been 1998 when I had this dream.  It was one of a huge cluster I had over a period of months and following on from the successive deaths, in under a year, of a (second) younger brother and both my parents. One series of dreams within the cluster besides foreshadowing my move to France, led me, when I got there, to visit the shrine of Ste Foye, in the abbey of Conques, southern France (Occitanie). But that is another story.

All of that cluster of dreams had meaning for me, except for one, in which appeared a personage called Dr Mann. An interpretation eluded me, except that, with its twon ending, it fused man and ann (my name) to make mann (Mann). Researching Dr Mann led me up Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. Looking up the mountain again I read of the novel – for the first time – that the only italicised text in the entire book is, “because of charity and love, man should never allow death to rule one’s thoughts.” That might have been an apt message at that time, given my circumstances.

And thus from Tom Mann to Tim Mann via J B Priestley in whom all three I find the gift to surmount death with ” … charity and love.”

Tim Mann was born and raised in Stamford and was able and keen to give me lots of information about the town. I was struck by the honey-coloured stone that constituted many of the (18th century) buildings. Tim told me it’s Collyweston (a stone slate that’s not slate but limestone but used to slate roofs). Walking Stamford’s streets gave me a strong impression of military activity and inexplicably, the American War of Independence came to mind.

Tim didn’t confirm the military thing. Unconvinced – I could hear shots in my head – research led me to His Majesty’s Tenth Foot (N Lincolnshire). I read, at www.redcoat.org:

“The Tenth Regiment played an important role in the early events of the American Revolution. On April  19th, 1775, the Light Infantry and Grenadier companies were part of the expeditionary force sent by General Gage to capture the arms being stockpiled by the militia in Concord, MA. On that day, the Light Infantry Company was present at both Lexington Green and Concord’s North Bridge when the First Shot and the Shot Heard ‘Round the World were fired.  Both companies were engaged in the skirmish at Bloody Angle, near Lincoln, MA, and the desperate retreat back to Boston along what has become known as Battle Road.”  

The regiment also played parts at other battles before being drafted back to England in 1778. Had an 18th century native of Stamford been one of the number of His Majesty’s Tenth Foot? And by the way, I didn’t put the bits about the shots into bold – that was the work of the author of the post. I am very spongy. And if I ever get into including people in my artwork, they might well  resemble honeycombs. 🙂

Tim Mann draws round people (outlines them) as an act of respect.  After he did my outline, he said – and he does this with all of his subjects,  “you are special.” It sent a shock up my spine. And my spirits soared. This is portraiture that is a real engagement by the artist with his subject – a loving one – and, for me, it makes his work great art, because it is a new departure in the genre in that there is no distance between the artist and his subject.

I mentioned to Tim that I was also an artist and I also draw round things. This painting – Site – dating to about 1999/2000 – was arrived at by drawing round objects found while digging in my garden in France. I believed I was fixing them in place. Stilling them into now. I moved them around to indicate their histories – histories of past human activity – in various times and spaces. I see now that I was also honouring their histories, which, although the specific details are forever lost, could nonetheless be registered, and contained within their outlines. It was also like adding a gravestone to a grave. I see now that it was, too, an act of love, this outlining.

I abandoned this approach because I couldn’t justify it at that time. And I couldn’t validate the colours I was using. I am going to take up this technique again, using not oil colours, but encaustic waxes and authentic colouring – the colours of nature that are turning up in my eco prints.

“The ‘Crowded Room Stamford’ exhibition will open in the Arts Centre on Monday 27th March [2017] and will be on display for two weeks. Tim is keen to invite everyone along to view the final portrait and the accompanying works of art, which he has created in collaboration with local students.”

For more information visit www.timmannartist.com











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I am London – Requiem

Poem to the rhythm of Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu

I am London – Requiem

I am London
I am Westminster
there yesterday
plans changed today I am alive I am alive
I am alive I am alive

I am London I am Westminster
I am
yesterday yesterday plans changed today
I am alive they died

I am alive
they died


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A Fine Pickle

A recent eco print experiment. This is an iron blanket (or carrier cloth). It ought to have had prints from plant material on it. Didn’t work. Hmmm.

As usual, I sprayed the cloth with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution. It was already carrying iron as I’d soaked the cloth, overnight, some time ago, in a ferrous sulphate and H20 solution.

The only thing I did differently was to use white pickling vinegar. (I didn’t have any other). Was the pickling vinegar the culprit for the failure? Fellow eco printers help me out here!

The leaf sandwiches were bound very tightly between two ceramic tiles then boiled for two hours in madder root dye. I do like the result however. There is plenty of space to animate one way or another, between those dark patterns, the result of the string and rubber bands I used to bind the parcel of prints for boiling. It’s accidental shibori.  The orange is iron.

Forces and energy (pressure, heat, chemicals).

I’ve been working on my artworks web site. I’m linking the little works, experiments, to the blogs in which I’ve written about them, where I have done that.

It is time to take the images and the words and pickle them.

Do go and look at my artworks web site. I’ve cleared the cobwebs.
















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Twitter Charity Art Auction and Exhibition

eco-print-encaustic-watercolour-postcard-ii-21-february-2017I’ve just sent off my contribution (left) for the Twitter Art Exhibit 2017. It’s an encaustic eco print and will be on sale for £30 between 2-19 April 2017 at The ArtsHouse, 14 Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon. 10:00-4:00.

The proceeds of the exhibition will go to the charity Molly Olly’s Wishes.

“Molly Olly’s Wishes was founded in 2011 by Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw. Their daughter Molly Ollerenshaw was diagnosed aged 3 with a Wilms tumour and despite a long and brave 5 year fight, died in 2011.

They spent a large part of those years in and out of hospital and soon realised that many of the patients they met did not have the emotional or financial support that they had for Molly and her siblings. Molly wanted to help these children and so Molly Olly’s Wishes was born.”

Tickets for the opening night are available via Eventbrite. From Eventbrite:

“TWITTER ART EXHIBIT (TAE) is being held in the UK for the first time! Next year it will be somewhere else in the world supporting another worthwhile charity.

The Opening Night of TAE17 in Stratford Upon Avon is a great opportunity to buy some amazing art from our TAE17 artists from all around the world and, at the same time, to support the charity Molly Olly’s Wishes who help support children with terminal and serious illness and their families. This year TAE has had it’s biggest uptake since the event started 6 years ago with 1300 artists registered from 62 countries!

Artist David Sandum will be attending the event from Norway and will be giving a presentation about how and why TAE was set up and about the charities it has helped over the years and what the future holds for TAE.

You are invited to the OPENING NIGHT on the 1 April 2017 in Stratford upon Avon and we hope that you will invite others you know who could enjoy the event. Please come along to purchase the cards and help us raise funds for Molly Olly’s Wishes. (Cost of cards – £30 each of 4 for £100). ALL the proceeds from the sale of the cards goes direct to the charity.

There will be an AUCTION of a wonderful original etching by Norman Ackroyd RA and a sketch by Sir Ian McKellen on the night.

FREE entry. Light refreshments available. Disabled access and facilities.

The TAE17 Exhibition will run 2-19 April 2017 at The ArtsHouse, 14 Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon. 10:00-4:00.  For more about the TAE – www.twitterartexhibit.org

Friends, if you can get to the opening, or the exhibition, please do and please think of buying my work for this worthy cause. And let me know if you do. Let me know if you get to the exhibition. Send me your photos.




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Nature as Reliquary – or Cup Cake

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-iii-5-march-2017Here are three recent eco prints on watercolour postcards, mounted on MDF board.

Afterwards, I enhanced the prints with encaustic medium.

Quite a process. I gathered the leaves to make the prints. I sandwiched the gathered leaves between the watercolour cards, then the cards between two ceramic tiles, bound the parcel tightly with rubber bands and string and boiled it for two hours in madder root dye, which stained the edges of the prints.

After mounting the cards, I added the encaustic wax in layers, fusing each layer with a hot gun, then when cold and hardened, I polished the surfaces to a high sheen.

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-i-5-march-2017The mounts are three from 12 I bought for next to nothing in 2009 from an outlet selling secondhand furniture, household goods and collectables. It was called La Trocante – it’s a franchise and there are stores scattered across France and Belgium.

This Trocante (Trocante is a fusion of two words – brocante (flea market) and tri from trier (to sort)). It was a big metal warehouse, 20 minutes from our then home, which was situated halfway between Paris and Chartres.

There weEncaustic Medium Cup Cakes 18 Feb 2016re already pictures mounted on the MDF boards. There’s a groove on the back for hanging. After replacing the original pictures with my own work, I polished up the back and edges with liquid beeswax.

I also made the encaustic wax – a mix of unbleached beeswax and damar (tree) resin. I made a big batch of encaustic cakes a year ago this month. I blogged about the process here: The Ginger Echternach Gospels, Ginger Cup Cakes and the Dream of the Ginger Kitten.

I wrote this: “These encaustic cup cakes looked (and smelled – as they smell like honey) delicious. I admit to putting one into my mouth, biting down gently on it, licking it. Sorry, couldn’t resist it. And in my dream that night, a plump little ginger kitten was doing just the same. He was eating and eating.”

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-ii-5-march-2017I think in that dream I was the ginger kitten, eating and eating. Starving, eating food for the soul. Art as spiritual nourishment. Was the dream also premonitory? A promise that if I persevered, I would be rewarded with an abundance of spiritual food? For I am experiencing abundance. Yes, while these little works do not in themselves express the things I want to say, they are a part of those cycles of communication.

One thing, contemplating these, and all my recent prints, I was drawn to look at reliquaries – beautiful containers for relics deemed holy.  I have been looking at eco prints on one level as relics. Relics of Nature. But it came to me that maybe they are not the relics but the reliquaries. For while we continue to damage Nature – biodiversity – when we have finally wrung out of Nature the last drops of anything of use to our survival, we will become extinct. Nature, however, will continue, as a beautiful reliquary for humankind.

Or cup cake? Shall we have Nature as reliquary or cup cake?


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Eco Print on Silk


Eco Print on Silk: Eucalyptus, red Maple, Bramble, Plane, Pussy Willow Buds on Stalk; Boiled in Arcanet and Red Onion Leaves. 25 February 2017

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Faerie Narrative: A Suite of Two Eco Prints

eco-print-on-cardboard-backing-paper-ii-25-february-2017What the photos don’t show are the mica-like specs embedded in these papers, which are the cardboard backings of watercolour-faced boards, separated into sheets by peeling when wet.

Some of the specs are pink. They glitter constantly reminding me of tiny lights in the depths of a wood. This alters the scale of the pieces. The stalks (bramble still with their dead and dried fruits attached) become trees. The tiny red maple leaf print becomes undergrowth. The conical indentations are actually Pussy Willow buds on their stalks (yes, spring is coming). They have acted as resists in the dyeing/printing process. What are they? Fire torches – a procession through the forest.

eco-print-on-cardboard-backing-paper-25-february-2017Where am I today? Why, I’m in the realm of faerie.

The prints are mirror images of each other. They were part of a mixed fabic/paper batch boiled in a dye of alkanet and red onion skins.

Narratives of faerie and of mirror.

In these, I’m reminded of the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.



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Eco Print on Watercolour Backing Board Sheet using Found Bramble Leaves, Eucalyptus, Found Japanese Red Maple

Eco Print on Watercolour Backing Board Sheet using Found Bramble Leaves, Eucalyptus, Found Japanese Red Maple

Another from a recent eco print batch. The paper ground is one of the layers from the cardboard backing that fell away, after the boiling process, from my eco printing experiment using watercolour board.

The wet cardboard fell apart into separate sheets. I peeled apart those that didn’t.

Cardboard is a conglomerate of sheets of paper adhered together usually with a starch adhesive. Here’s a link which explains in greater depth, without in any way striving to entertain, the making of cardboard.

I like the chalky (starch?) and archaic look of  the print above. Together with the indentations from stalks and other ghost prints, it looks like fossil remains. The stains around the edges are from the agrimony in which this batch of prints were dyed.

Yeh, so, Derrida? Well, I got this strange feeling when I was peeling those wet sheets apart. I almost expected to find things sandwiched between them. Definitely, I wanted to. When  later I used the sheets as grounds for the batch of eco prints that included this one, and was separating them after the boiling process, I missed one of the leaf sandwiches.

When I came across it later, I got the idea that it was my hope and expectation – my mind – that had created the find. It was like I’d slipped in time into the future to make the print that I’d come across later in the past. Another oddity in this, is that this phenomenon of slipping in time into the future seems also to have happened elsewhere a couple of times in the very recent past.

We like to watch University Challenge on TV. For non-UK viewers this is a quiz show between student contestants of universities/university colleges. So the questions relate to advanced levels of the whole spectrum of academic subjects.

Peculiarly, twice last week I answered questions correctly that were wrong. Uh? Yep. My right answers were wrong because I gave the right answer to the question that was going to be asked next. In the situation, this is a bit too extraordinary to call a coincidence. The following example (which are genuine UC questions) illustrates why:

1. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, what relation is the murdered Tybalt to Lady Capulet?   My answer would have been: Butane.
2. Alkanes are hydrocarbon compounds with only a single carbon bond. The first four members of the series are: methane, ethane (molecular model above), propane and which other? 
My answer: Potable.

My answer to question 1 (butane) was the answer to question two and my answer to question 2 was the answer to question 3.

(Incidentally, the above are the first three questions out of a short UC test of 10. I got 7/10 right – not bad for an old dame).

This oddity I made me think about how we access answers to questions when we go looking for them. Or access meaning. And peeling.

Derrida was an Algerian philosopher who developed Deconstructionism, also known as Post Structuralism, a method of interpreting text. Scholars are going to groan and possibly froth at the mouth here, but to me, in the proverbial nutshell, Deconstructionism means that the interpretation of text is a subjective matter.  And lo and behold, I find I’ve been deconstructing all my life. And not just text, though to a Deconstructionist, everything is text.

So, when I start feeling strange when peeling two sheets of wet paper apart, it’s like I’m on a walk and I’ve come to a crossroads where there’s a signpost. In this case, one of the signs reads: Peeling. So off I trot down the road to Peeling. And I come to Derridaville.

Tomorrow I might take the same walk, come to the same crossroads with the same signpost, and it will lead to another ville. I might even find myself in the meta-ville of Revealing. As peeling can equal revealing.

Deconstructionism would have us on a sort of Möbius Strip kind of walk. There is a constant, or meta-constant, however that Deconstructionism doesn’t embrace. The purpose of textual interpretation is to find one’s way home.  It might involve slipping time. I’d better read some Hawking.

Define home.

Somehow I have to manifest this in artwork. Poo! For now, it’s time I slipped into a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.




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Eco Print/Encaustic Watercolour Postcard IV


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Eco Print/Encaustic Watercolour Postcard III


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