Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Return

THESE FEET, shod in second hand boots from New Zealand, are once more reunited with beloved Dartmoor soil from which, unaccountably, primroses spring! It is strange and lovely to be home. Our seasons and bodyclocks are all upside-down, and I have a bagful of experiences to unpack still. The journey was incredible, and I have much to tell you. Those tales will come in time. But for now, these feet have taken me back into my working life, and my studio beyond the trapdoor.

My shop is having a long overdue overhaul. All the prints are HALF PRICE for a limited time, so I encourage you to zoom over there and help me spring clean my shelves to make way for new works and prints of a different ilk. Many of these designs will be available here for the last time, so grab them while you can!

I am back in my studio, which has warmth at long last (something we have not been short of these past months in Pacific Summer but, thus spoilt, are now craving even more!) Projects varied and exciting are bubbling away in that kettle. I am returned remade by travel in distant lands, with renewed energy for creating.
More soon. For now, a few words about some things I'm up to over the springing months:

April 18th - Spring Artisan Fayre - Chagford, Devon - 10am - 4.30pm  

I will have a stall of wares here alongside my fellow wonderful artisans Danielle Barlow, Lunar Hine, Virginia Lee, Miriam Boy-HackneyAngharad Barlow, Damien Hackney, Diana Dench, Sonny Parsons and Sharif Adams - there'll be woodcraft, herbcraft, stitchcraft, paintcraft, metalcraft and, of course, tea.
May 17th & 18th - Weird & Wonderful Wood - Wetherden, Suffolk 

I will be proffering wares in my fire-warmed tent as usual this year. Do come along to sample the many wondrous wooden wonders of my favourite fayre of the year.

May 23rd - 25th - Ocmundtune Creative Arts - Okehampton, Devon

This arts weekend boasts many creative delights not to be missed, including a Storytelling of Gypsy Traveller Tales from Eastern Europe by Tom and me on the Saturday, and an all-weekend Art Exhibition where some of my pieces will be on display alongside other (quite incredible) painters from the South West.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Albion to Aotearoa

THE LITTLE GIRL in this picture is my maternal grandmother Lois Florymel Thorn Hunter (née Shutes), with her parents Elsie and Arthur (and a bear). It was taken a century ago in 1913 in Cornwall where my great grandfather was mining tin. Lois was born in New Zealand, as was my mother. And now I write from just outside a Stannary Town in the West Country where the mined tin would have been brought to be weighed and valued, preparing to make a journey of my own to the other side of the world where it is summer now, to the land of my mothers - New Zealand!

This is how I remember my grandmother Lois; she died ten years ago aged 93, and her ashes were scattered off the headland of the subtropical idyllic Northland coast she lived on and loved so well, and where I remember blissful days swimming as a girl when our family visited her there.

This will be our first holiday together, a celebration of Tom's graduation - his long studies in acupuncture having taken him every week of our relationship away to Reading, and at the end of it now we carry a huge backlog of deep tiredness. Our usual trips away involve lugging heavy damp canvas, driving the A-roads, storytelling, stallholding, a vanful of muddy belongings, and returning home tireder than when we left. Perhaps I've reached some mysterious age when you suddenly yearn to swim in turquoise seas and warm your cold moor-drenched bones with tropical sun. But also, this is a journey for me to see half of my family - antipodean cousins I last saw when we were children, and aunts and uncles and all the long-reaching southern circle of my family's web. It is to be an adventure and a rest and a re-weaving. I sit by the fire in this cottage on the edge of Dartmoor as the winter rains and winds lash these hills incredulous and nervous and excited about our long leap to other greener summer hills in less than a fortnight. We also travel from Middle Earth around the earth to Middle Earth, as these beloved Dartmoor rivers, tors, forests and mossy undulations were direct inspiration for our artist neighbour Alan Lee's conjuring of Tolkien's world. And for the last decade almost he's been in New Zealand re-conjuring Middle Earth for cinema, from which have grown new generations who now think of New Zealand as land of Hobbits and Elves. So we'll find both a familiarity and a strangeness in the land where my mother grew up on a remote and wild farm under the watchful volcanic presence of Mount Taranakiher mountain.

We have my great aunt Una and uncle Ed to thank for the wonderful gift of this unimaginable adventure, as they paid for our flights, hoping to see me again whilst they're still on this earth! Una is Lois's younger sister, and a valued reader of this blog! We cannot thank them enough for this gift of a journey.

And we go too to the land of the people who were there living in relationship with it before my ancestors arrived to take it from them, and who are also now fighting against the fracking of their beloved land as we are here, even in the beautiful national park and underneath that incredible mountain Taranaki. 

Captain Cook's map of New Zealand from 1770, with Maori-sounding names for the North and South Islands
(actually Te Ika a Maui for the North and Te Waipounamu for the South)
, and English place names
A map of the two islands of Aotearoa - artist unknown

My name has roots in this far off land - Rima is Maori for five or a hand:

1 Tahi
2 Rua
3 Toru
4 Whā
5 Rima
6 Ono
7 Whitu
8 Waru
9 Iwa
10 Tekau

We will be away for two whole months, stopping in Fiji on our way back to visit my mother's sister and her family who live there. I imagine I'll not be online much, though an occasional blog post may sneak through depending on internet and inclination.  My etsy shop will be closed until I return (in the spring!) when I plan to reopen it stocked with new wares. I'll take my camera and sketchbooks with me into the land of Pohutukawa tree and Bellbird, of white sand and blue water, of volcanic mountain and hot spring, of ancestor and adventure...

I leave you for now, with a handful of questions to those of you living in New Zealand...
We'd be very grateful for any recommendations of interesting artful and wild places to visit, eco-communities, artists, storytellings, activists, multi-bed acupuncture clinics, festivals and the suchlike... I also have an accordion-dilemma: I don't think I can take my accordion with me as it won't fit in my hand luggage and I don't want to risk putting it in the hold, but I'll be bereft for two months without it. This is an extreme longshot, but do any of you know where/if in NZ I could borrow or hire a B-System chromatic button accordion such as I (and the Russians and Yugoslavians) play?! 

This beautiful carving is a Maori door lintel or pare, carved in c. 1850 for the door of a meeting house. It shows a typical lintel-image of the Earth Mother Papatuanuka giving birth to all the gods of the land and sky on which she stands.

We go now through this mother-doorway from Albion to Aotearoa - land of the white cliffs to Land of the Long White Cloud... 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Wind, ivy, flame, wing, pipe, dance, shadow, light

WILD WINDS HOWL OUTSIDE and blow sleety rain sideways. Yesterday the fields and lanes around the village here were turned to seas by the torrential weather. Beyond the dark windowpanes our hill is become an island and rivers lash bridges. Inside our cottage-on-the-high-seas, the warm rustles and crackles and colours of Yuletide glow nevertheless. Certain lurchers have the best spot by the woodburner.

Yet again, Christmas eve has come round before I've had a chance to catch my breath. The mad rush of the winter season seems an antithesis to what our bodies yearn for - hearth and home and hibernation, and yet we are caught in it, tripping over our damp bootlaces and dropping scarves and bags as we hurry to the December 25th finish line. 

This has been a busy season for me; I've had stalls at fayres to begin the winter doings, where I met lots of good folks and felt re-nourished by the joy of meeting in the flesh the people who buy and love my work.

Winter has been blessed with gatherings, too. The weekend before last marked a most wonderful melee of Breton and French music and dancing in our village hall. Folks came from counties and countries far and wide to attend this stirring magic of a happening. Our hearts and feet were held captive for hours by the arts of Wod and Red Dog Green Dog who played an array of bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, concertina, accordion and fiddle. What a night!

And because one night of that sort of magic is not enough, we did it all over again in the pub the next day - a session of staggering quality, where French and Breton tunes were joined by Manouche Swing, English Folk, Klezmer and Balkan musics on many beautiful instruments, and even knitting-needle percussion! I had so much fun I was almost late for my own band's gig in another pub down the road!

All through this autumn-into-winter four of us have been meeting every week in a cabin at the edge of the woods to learn the art of puppetry - the realizing of a long-held dream of mine. We've been taught and directed by Howard Gayton, a dramatist and mask and puppet performer of many years' and miles' experience. He has shown us the subtle magic of sending your awareness into an inanimate object to bring it to life, beginning with a humble piece of cloth. Over the weeks, this work developed into a little show with puppetry by Nomi McLeod and Howard and I, a story devised by all four of us, props and puppet (really just a bit of cloth augmented with found objects) made by me, and music by Andy Letcher. Last Friday we had our first five showings to friends - to let them see what we'd been working on these past months - and it was truly magic! (And interestingly I wasn't crippled by nerves.) Thanks to Terri Windling for the photos of us performing.

I must say that I am quite astounded by how happily I've taken to this artform, though I am just a beginner. There is something just right about the particular combination of figure-craft and music and the sending-out-of-spirit, and I skip towards the next developments of this wonderful new bowstring with glee!

My paints have been kept occupied these hibernating months, too, and the latest of my paintings I can show you here. 

It began with a piece of Yew wood, whose shape you might recognise as neighbour to this one.

First I drew with pencil,

and then the paint began...

I finished it in the evenings at home...

This is The Wing Giver, a painting commissioned by Julian, who is my first client to give me no brief whatsoever! He just asked me to make him a painting! At first I was wary - what if he didn't like what I created? But he convinced me in the end that he really did want what came straight from me. So, after asking to hear a few things about Julian and his family to set me on the right inspiration-path, I painted what came, and feel truly grateful for the wings this gave me. I am very happy with the painting that I made given this freedom, and hope Julian and his family will be too - it will wing its way to him after Christmas, as the paint is only just dry.

Our home is warm and greened with boughs. The electricity is intermittent due to the winds and so we sit sometimes by candle and firelight with our busied souls racing to catch us up and join us by the woodburner.

The beautiful-looking book you can see above was a gift from Tom to me - The Night Life of Trees - published by the wonderful Tara Books in India. The stunning illustrations are hand screen printed onto black, and are based on the mythology of the Gond tribe which tells of the magical spirited world of the trees that comes to life once we've gone to sleep.

There is magic happening in the kitchen now as food is prepared, and in the nooks and corners of our home where green men spew ivy and mistletoe, logs reveal their warm and long-kept secrets, and we hunker down under the thatch for our long winter's nap.

I leave you with some chinks of light to guide you across the stormy dark seas out there. First, Lantern by the band Clogs (film by Vincent Moon) - a mesmeric and gentle music:

Second, a tanka from the wonderful collection of tanka poetry Circling Smoke, Scattered Bones by Joy McCall, which is a raw and beautiful sideways glance at the human heart:

if only I could
live in an old light-house
far out to sea
a house with no corners
and always the light, shining out

I wish you all a joyous and wonder-filled Yuletide, chattering with happy hearth-heart-stories, the giving of wings, and much light, shining out.