Eco Print/Encaustic on Watercolour Postcard II


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Eco Print/Encaustic Postcard on Watercolour Paper I


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Dramatic Narratives: More Eco Print Experiments

Bramble leaves in conversation wth a Plane tree leaf

Bramble leaves in conversation wth a Passion-flower leaf

Nature in conversation. It is happening all around us. I think the pre-industrialised world could hear it. Indeed, we were part of Nature’s conversation. We knew it. Because we knew that we also were Nature. Then along came The Enlightenment – oh, if ever a word was a lie – and we divorced ourselves from Nature; Nature became something separate, a commodity, to be exploited, to its exhausted limit. The limit is on the horizon. And thus, so are we.


And so, when I unbundled these latest eco prints, they reminded me – they spoke to me – of this. They said, “We are here and you are here. And we are in conversation with each other.” And I thought, “there can’t be anything better than this.” (For somehow, being in conversation with Nature is the same as being in conversation with the Great Loveaka G-d – it’s a form of prayer, more real, more dynamic, than gathering in dusty, musty buildings once a week reciting creeds.

Unbundled isn’t quite the right word, as these prints were sandwiched between two ceramic tiles and bound with rubber bands and string, then boiled in Alkanet for two hours. I mixed the fabric with watercolour paper postcards and other grounds, just to see.

eco-print-iii-on-cotton-lining-fabric-17-february-2017The fabric is from a Paris street market. I call it lining fabric because it came in a bundle that had been cut to the shape of a jacket. The jacket clearly never got finished. I wonder why? An incomplete narrative.

eco-print-iv-on-cotton-lining-fabric-17-february-2017They are also over-dyes, as I’d tried eco printing them before and so they carry the marks – or scars! – of former attempts to converse with Nature. Seems I got better at it. I hope. Because it’s what I want. Not making pretty patterns merely, but images that remind me of all the above.

P S  The Passion Flower leaves are from a climber we planted last spring in front of and to grow up the front of our allotment shed. It’s covered one side and has even continued to grow through the winter. A few beautiful, intricate flowers even blossomed on it last summer. I didn’t realise it was evergreen and was astonished that the leaves print bright yellow.








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Below the Line and Back of the Cosmos – Some Eco Prints on Watercolour Board

eco-print-xii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I have art papers and supports of every kind and in every size, just about. Examined under a microscope, some will be found to be dusted with the sands of Dubai and Grand Cayman, the Isle of Sheppey, the D-Day beaches of Normandy, the Moon.
Sand from the Moon?

eco-print-xiii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017No, my art materials and I have not been to the moon, sadly – that would have been my most memorable poetic walk – but some of the materials in my studio date back to the time I held a moon rock in the palm of my hand.

That was at university when I was doing my fine art degree. I’d gone to a public lecture in the Physics Department. It was delivered by a guest speaker from Geneva – the European Space Agency – Cern – Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire – now Organisation Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.

eco-print-viii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017The lecture was about Halley’s Comet, which means it was 1986. That’s when the comet was last visible in the sky. As it turns up every 75-6 years, it’s possible to see it twice in a lifetime and there was one man in the audience who stood up and announced he’d seen as a boy its previous appearance, which must have been in 1910-11.

eco-print-xi-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017What’s Halley’s Comet got to do with moon rocks?

Well, nothing. The lecturer went on to talk about the work of CERN in relation to moon trips and had brought the rocks along to show us.


eco-print-x-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017He also talked about an idea to colonise the moon for the production of oxygen to transport back to earth, since we were struggling to produce enough here on earth, due to deforestation, the expanding global population, pollution …

The costs of colonisation were prohibitive however, so the idea was going nowhere. I wanted to stand up and ask why the cheaper solution, of leaving the trees alone, was not an option.

eco-print-ix-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I didn’t really hold the moon rock in my hand. They were sealed off in a glass case and all we were allowed to do was to file past them at the end of the lecture.

I thought they had a kind of atmosphere, however, which was a bit odd since the moon has no atmosphere.

eco-print-vii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I wasn’t thinking of that kind of atmosphere, though. And I think these eco prints have an atmosphere. Each print has been made by sandwiching leaves between a pair of two watercolour paper boards. The process transfers the dye from the leaves to the watercolour paper and creating on each board, a mirror image of the other.

I like the way the leaves react with each other, sometimes orbiting, sometimes attracting sometimes repelling one another. Some seem to be disintegrating, burning up like meteorites entering the earth’s atmosphere; others are little more than ghosts in the background, like the cosmic microwave background from the beginning of time, that is only now just passing by as I write.

Image four has a moon presiding over it. A chestnut moon. It’s actually a print from a green eucalyptus leaf. Other leaves I used in this suite were maroon-coloured bramble, a chervil-type leaf, fern and the lovely and surprising yellow is from St John’s Wort leaves, from a bush in our garden. I scavenged the others from nearby woods, slipping and sliding on paths made muddy by recent rain.

eco-print-v-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017Maybe the chemicals in the rain helped get such definite transfers of the leaves’ colours onto the paper. Then, the watercolour boards were thick and so when I placed tiles either end of the pile and secured it – with a lot of rubber bands – I was able to get a really tight sandwich.

I boiled it for two hours in an agrimony dye I’ve had for a couple of years and not used. I like that it’s stained the edges of the paper and here and there, bled further into it, creating muddy tributaries.

I also like the embedments created by the stalks of the leaves being pressed hard down into the paper. I like that I can have a variety of mirror images, depending on which way I arrange the cards. Oh and PS, the cardboard backing falls away from the watercolour paper during the boiling process. It falls off in layers, leaving only the first layer remaining.

eco-print-vi-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017There isn’t a single leaf here that isn’t descended from what the cosmic microwave background has recorded, from that great first explosion of nothing into something. Nonsensical of course, the notion of nothing exploding. You know what I mean. Mind you, our model of the universe is under revision following last year’s discovery (possibly) of a fifth force, to join the four other forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces. If true, Physics will undergo a revolution.

These prints have the atmosphere of etchings, aquatints.

Mitakuye Oyasin,” as the Lakota/Dakotas would say; “We are all related.” Why is it that our aboriginal cultures have always known what science has taken centuries to catch on to?


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Koza Han (Silk Market) Bursa, Turkey:

Silk Market (Koza Han), Bursa, Turkey

At the same time I made the eco prints on watercolour postcards at the end of January, I did some eco print experiments on raw silk bought in the silk market – Koza Han – in Bursa, Northern Turkey.

Koza Han (literally meaning Cocoon Inn) dating to 1491 is famous and I was able to get hold of a good quantity of raw silk at a very reasonable price. And make good contacts for future purchases into the bargain.

eco-print-ii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017Bursa (a few hours due south of Istanbul) has a rich history. It was the first capital of Ottoman Turkey. The city was referred to as Hüdavendigar (God’s gift) during the Ottoman period. Now, it is Yeşil Bursa (Green Bursa) because of its proliferation of parks and gardens and the vast, richly varied forests which surround it. Folks go there to ski at the resort of Mount Uludağ. (Sublime Mountain). The mausoleums of the early Ottoman sultans are located in Bursa. The city’s landmarks include numerous buildings dating to the Ottoman period. There are also thermal baths and several museums, one of which is a museum of archaeology.

From Turkey Travel Planner:  “Nearly all silk would at some point pass through the Old Silk Market in Bursa which was home to dozens of caravanserais known as Hans. Even as late as the 1960s one would see people transporting countless sacks filled with silkworm cocoons to the Koza (cocoon)
These days, the ground floor level of the Koza Han has been tastefully turned into a lovely tea garden with plenty of seating available.”

I got some interesting prints from my Bursa raw silk. I used the yellow plane tree (Platanus) leaves I collected and froze last autumn, and red Cotinus, green Eucalyptus, red Acer palmatum (Maple) again from a batch I froze.

And I used Kathy Hays’ basic bundling technique from her eco print video workshop. (See yesterday’s blog for a You Tube sampler of her course).

eco-print-vii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017While these are experiments, I did try to arrange the plant matter into satisfying compositions on the squares I cut from the silk, which meant I could note what the dyeing process added to a particular arrangement.

And figure out why so I can try and reproduce, or eliminate an effect or effects from future work.

This way of working  seems to scratch more than my artistic itches. In the eco printing process I am also scientist/chemist. Alchemist? Witch?

And finally 34e4r.  What?

Keeks at Rookery Nook Diss August 2016The characters in italics were made by my cat -Keeks – who walked over my computer keyboard while I was typing this blog.

34e4r has a certain symmetry, visually, with that e flanked on either side by 4. It has a lyrical sound, too. Try saying it over and over: three four ee four ar. I tried singing it and will include it in my vocal warm-up as it includes three different vowel sounds (ee, oh, ah) and two consonants (th and f).

34e4r is also composition – musical composition. In terms of my work, it expands it to encompass sight and sound. I am already thinking compositionally in terms of sight and sound.  Am I being reminded of this, with 34e4r? To make certain to consider, when arriving at compositions using eco prints in composition with other elements, not to forget to think in terms of sound, of music? Maybe it is a nudge, even, to get on with it.

As daft as it may seem, I have had many experiences to suggest that inspiration and ideas – and prods to get on with it – often come in strange forms, including cat-shaped ones. I mean, it does seem rather much of a coincidence that, while I am in the actual process of writing about composition, my cat should choose to walk across my keyboard, typing with her paws, 34e4r.














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Kathy Hays’ Eco Print Video Workshop and Experimenting on Raw Silk from Koza Han

I keep writing about Kathy Hays’ video eco print workshop in my recent experiments with eco printing and natural dyeing, so I thought I’d post a You Tube video taster of the workshop.

eco-print-iii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017In my next blog I’m going to write more about recent experiments on raw silk purchased in the Koza Han (silk market) in Bursa, Turkey, using Kathy’s basic bundling technique.

The image to the left is one of the suite. Some of the more interesting marks came from leaves I’d left (hmm – accidentally) to soak in ferrous sulphate solution for a week.

I’ll be arranging more of these accidents, oxymoronically, in future. As long as you survive it, an accident is a gift in disguise.

Enjoy the video.





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New Year’s Clarification: God and the Seagulls: Subtitle: God (The Fisher King) Changes His Mind

“Exciting to see
but soon after comes sadness
the cormorant boats.”   Basho

2016 is over by a whole month. I didn’t make resolutions. I’m making a New Year’s Clarification.

I was walking through a park, early one morning about a month ago. It was fogbound; the grass was frosted and despite being well inland, the white ground was peppered with the whiter white of seagulls – a small flock, hunting worms. The scene was a second prod in a week to finish this blog post.

I started writing this about two months ago, in fact. It was, then, a response to a topic posted in one of the groups of which I’m a member on LinkedIn. It was posted directly on the back of and responding to the massacre of 50+ folks in the Pulse gay club in Orlando, Florida (6 December 2016). The Christian author of the topic used the massacre as a vehicle to mount an argument against homosexuality and backed himself up in the usual shallow way with the usual biblical quotes. I was incensed at this Christian’s insensitivity. Another Christian did similar more recently following the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey. (P.S. I have no affection for or affiliation with the Russian political regime). I was again incensed. I surprised myself by telling him to eff off, I was so incensed at the insensitivity.

What’s all this to do with God and seagulls? And God changing his mind? (Please exchange God for whatever you call the source of all things (and I’m assuming that the reader who has persevered thus far will believe in a source for the universe)).

Me, I’m going to get really biblical here.

Part of the answer lies in Leviticus. Leviticus is the third book of the Bible, attributed to Moses but research suggests it was a later addition. It is about the Levite tribe (one of the 12 tribes of Israel). The Levites were the tribe of priests. And Leviticus summarises rules and ceremonies pertaining to the ministry of the priests and the social and health-maintaining conduct of the Israeli people (that Moses brought out of Egyptian slavery and led to the Promised Land).

Bear with me, this is exciting. Please read on:

leucocarbo_bougainvillii_qtl1Leviticus, 11-15 are instructions to the Israeli folk on purity stroke cleanliness. “Eating certain animals produces uncleanliness, … “. At Leviticus 13: These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean (there’s a long list, but specified are “… the gull, [and] … the cormorant, …”

But God changes his mind about the above.


Yes, he does.

It comes after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when the Apostles have gone out into the world to disseminate the message of the life, death, resurrection of Jesus. The story of the triumph of Love.

Their adventures and achievements are reported in The Acts of the Apostles. And Acts 10 records a vision that Peter had (Simon Peter whom Jesus referred to as his rock (of whom it is also recorded, denied knowing Jesus, after Jesus’ arrest in Jerusalem, betrayed by Judas Iscariot, three times before the cock crowed (dawn) the following morning. Forgive me if you already know this).

Acts 10: (9-16):  About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

So in Leviticus, in the Old Testament, you don’t get to eat seagulls and cormorants are mentioned specifically. In the New Testament, you do. Here’s the point, which isn’t about seagulls. It’s about God changing his mind to better suit purpose. Acts 10 was at the time, hugely pivotal, because it opened up the Apostles’ ministry to include non-Jews, aka Gentiles. And thus enabled the Christian message to be spread beyond the Jewish world.

And so, when Christians choose to condemn, say, homosexuality, with seemingly incontrovertible quotes from The Bible, (homosexuality being a blanket term covering a huge spectrum of states of being) Acts 10 isn’t about something dirty being made clean, it’s about that you can’t today judge, condemn and cast-off folk by selecting verses from the Bible to suit your particular (fractal) world view, because tomorrow, God might change his mind about your chosen verses.

Where will you find yourself, condemners of … whatever? Not on a rock, not on Peter, but on very precarious foundations indeed. (Read Luke 6:48).

Oh, and the Basho quote at the top of this post? Why the sadness about cormorants? First, it turns out that cormorants are rather special.

From Cliff’s Notes:  Many cultures consider cormorants a symbol of nobility and indulgence. In more recent history, the cormorant is considered a good luck charm for fishermen, or a talisman that will bring a fisherman a bountiful catch.
In China and Japan, humans once exploited the fishing skills of the cormorant by tying a snare to the bird’s throat and sending it to sea. The snare prevented the bird from swallowing fish, and when the bird returned to the fisherman’s boat, the fisherman removed the fish and kept it.
Some specific stories of cormorants in literature include:
In the Greek tale of Ulysses, after a storm broke the mast of Ulysses’ raft, a sea nymph disguised herself as a cormorant and handed Ulysses a girdle to keep him afloat while he swam to shore.
In Norwegian myths and folklore, three cormorants flying together are said to be carrying messages and warnings from the dead. In northern Norway, cormorants are considered to be good luck when they gather in a village. Norwegian myth also states that people who die at sea can visit their former homes in the form of a cormorant.
In Polynesian mythology, Maru-tuahu used feathers to make himself “as handsome as the crested cormorant” when both young daughters of Te Whatu declared their desires to marry him.
In Ireland and some other places, seeing a cormorant perched atop a church steeple is a warning of bad luck to come.
In England, the mythical “Liver Bird,” the symbol of the city of Liverpool, is thought to be a cross between a cormorant and an eagle.

The cormorant is also a symbol of greed and deception in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, as the form Satan took to disguise himself to enter Eden before tempting Eve.

The cormorant makes his appearance in Shakespeare: Coriolanus, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Troilus and Cressida.

Here is the origin of Basho’s sadness, regarding the rather special cormorant, which is about fishing with cormorants. The You Tube video below may upset sensitive folks, which shows how cormorants are used (tortured) to catch fish. A snare tied round their necks prevents them from swallowing a fish they might catch, which is then taken by the fisherman from its gorge.

The method is not as common today, since more efficient methods of catching fish have been developed, but is still practiced as a cultural tradition.

I’m going to repeat my paragraph 17 here:

And so, when Christians choose to condemn, say, homosexuality, with seemingly incontrovertible quotes from The Bible, (homosexuality being a blanket term covering a huge spectrum of states of being) Acts 10 isn’t about something dirty being made clean, it’s about that you can’t today judge, condemn and cast-off folk by selecting verses from the Bible to suit your particular (fractal) world view, because tomorrow, God might change his mind about your chosen verses.

If my Clarification offends your idea of cultural tradition, your spiritual sensibilities, then unfriend and unfollow me. In other words, eff off. I’m trying (er, in this, read failing miserably) to lead a loving life, which is the message of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. And that means keeping my door open to all, of whatever race, creed, sexual predilection, or physical attributes.

Stuff cruel cultural tradition. I would love it if my kitchen resembled the Cantina (the bar in Star Wars).

Happy 2017


P S  The Fisher King


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Rorschach as Poetry: A Suite of Eco Prints on Watercolour Paper Postcards

Another experiment using in part a technique (creating mirror images) from Kathy Hays’ video eco print workshop. Instead of silk fabric, I’ve used a book of watercolour paper postcards whose blank faces have been awaiting activation for a couple of years.


I’m very pleased with the results. I can say that without risk of seeming vain, because all I did was to bring some materials together and subject them to extraneous forces (heat, water, steam, time).  I pulled all the postcards from the book and to create mirror images, sorted them into pairs, placed one of the cards with its watercolour paper front facing upwards, arranged the leaves on it in pleasing manner, then placed the second card of the pair face side down on top of the first.


I did this with each pair of cards. Then sandwiched the lot between two square ceramic tiles. I made a parcel of the sandwich using tons of rubber bands to get as tight a contact as possible between leaves and paper.


I then clamped each side of the sandwich with large bulldog clips and boiled it in madder root dye. I would have used onions skins, but didn’t have any. One is always more likely to have a little bag of madder root dye powder to hand, than onion skins, isn’t one?

I could only just get the strange, wingéd-looking object into my dye pot and then, not flat. I could only just wedge it in at a tilt so I was doubtful of a good result. I did flip it over halfway through the two-hour boiling process.


Some of the leaves I used were from my autumn stash, frozen. The eucalyptus leaves were from a dried bouquet from my local florist. I’ve used red Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) leaves salvaged from a park. And autumnal red Cotinus (smoke bush) stolen from a hedge overhanging a street. The householder was driving out of the garage and caught me red-handed. He beeped his horn at me. I snatched a few more and ran away, just like a naughty kid (of 65).  I also used bright yellow plane tree leaves and where possible, included the leaves’ stalks, which in the printing process have been pressed into the paper creating a lovely embossed texture.


I’m not quite sure of all the reasons I so like these images. I like that they are delicate, fragile, have a kind of melancholic poesy. A mirror image is always an alternate through the looking-glass reality. In these, this is enhanced where a leaf has transferred its dye onto one page and in its mirror image, has resulted in a negative, resist image, with only its outlined edges as proof of its reality, otherwise it would be invisible.

It is as though mirrored, an object is drained of some of its reality.

And the image and its mirror together create a music, a dancing rhythm.

I like where disease in a leaf has transferred only in pocks and spots in its mirrored self, and all that that might mean.

It is also about twins and that often mysterious relationship.

I like where the madder has bled and the mystery of the watery blue. Where did that blue come from? And if I were to flip the twins from left and right to up and down,  that again, creates another reality.

Comes to mind the expression As above, so below. From the website
“When modern science extended the reach of its observation to the galaxies above and the microbes below, it made a surprising discovery: an atom proved strikingly similar to a solar system. Both … comprised … particles kept in orbit by the gravity of an energetic core. Modern technology had reiterated the wisdom of the ancients, who coined the very same discovery in the adage: As Above so Below.”


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Women’s March, London 2017: Uplifting, Inspiring, Very Happy to be One Among the Young, Old, Dogs in Coats who Attended

Women's March London 21 January 2017. The lad on the right is carrying an Amnesty International poster which reads: "We Stand Against Hate" (not Hats!)

Women’s March London 21 January 2017. An unfortunate shot – the lad on the right is carrying an Amnesty International poster. It reads: “We Stand Together Against Hate” (not ‘Hats’!) I know because I also carried an Amnesty poster throughout the march, which I would not have done had it read ‘hats’. I have no axe to grind with hats, just hate. I like the shadows of other marchers and their placards. It is, I think, a portent of the ‘shadowing’ that is to come.

Women's March, London, The speeches, US Embassy

Women’s March, London, 21 January 2017, listening to the speeches, US Embassy, noon, before heading off towards Trafalgar Square.


Women's March, London 21 January 2017 - Woman in Faux Leopard Outfit.

Women’s March, London 21 January 2017 – Woman in Faux Leopard Outfit. One of the more subtle ‘pussies’ on the march. There was a myriad types, sizes, shapes. I don’t have to explain further, do I? No, I thought not. Again, I like the portentous shadows of other marchers.



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A Recent Experiment in Eco Printing on Khadi (Cotton) Paper

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-vi-16-january-2016I knew when I discovered khadi paper, 10 years or so ago, that I’d find something creative to do with it.


It is such a seductive material, being textile (cotton) as well as paper.


Well, it’s taken all that time to find that creative thing, but eco printing is it.


I made this suite of images using the same combination of leaves I used in my recent eco print experiments on silk satin. And I tried out Kathy Hay’s bundling technique using tiles.

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-v-16-january-2016And boiling instead of steaming. The rubber bands I used to keep the khadi paper tight to the tiles weren’t large enough to wrap twice, but too large to get a really tight bundle, so the prints were less defined than I would have liked.

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-ix-16-january-2016They grew on me and now, I like their delicacy. The effect – mood –  reminds me of the illustration work of Arthur Rackham. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s because for me they have a fairy tale quality. And I do like their three-dimensionality, with forms seeming to come and go from background to foreground. They float.

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-ix-16-january-2016The pink round the edges should have been due to boiling the bundle in onion skins. I didn’t have any onion skins, but I did happen to have some powdered madder root (as one does!) and used that instead.

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-iv-16-january-2016 The madder root dye is most apparent in the last of the prints below, which is the back of the print above it. The stripes resulted from the rubber bands, which acted as resists.


It was a fluke! The two tiles I used were not the same size. Had I used two of the smaller tiles I would have had more of that delicious pink-red fringe round the prints. Still, I do like those edges that are just edged with colour. The faded orange/peach colour is from Eucalyptus leaves.

Where there are stalks, these have been embossed into the paper, adding another texture.

eco-print-with-madder-dye-on-khadi-paper-ii-16-january-2016 I added encaustic wax to the very top print and spoilt it, so boiled out the wax. There is an almost imperceptible residue, which enhances the colours a bit. And proves that the prints are fixed not fugitive. I think I’ll do that to all the prints.

The last print with its deep fringe of madder root dye has no distinct print inside. It is begging to be re-printed. I’m a sucker for beggars.

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