Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Battle Between Frost and Light

IN THE MORNING of winter shadow, 

a night time of ice quills quiver in shrouded anticipation 

of the bright armies of day to come rushing round the edges of things with their spears of sunlight into the battle. 

The gathered halberdiers of winter cast long needle-shadows across the green ice with their weapons,

and the lichen-frosts whisper the crystalline secrets of this very new day. 

Each crack and trill of the waking world asks:

Who will win the battle?

At this cold cusp of a certain point of early,

the blades of frost and light clash and shatter my vision into a million pieces of beautiful.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


KRASA ~ a name made from the Slavic roots of words for beautiful, the colour red, delight, fiery, alive, dazzling... (and which possibly ever so slightly brings to mind a certain anarcho-punk band?!). 
This is the new little trio that I'm playing in (and our business card, which I've just designed). You might find us these days on Devon street corners in red outfits busking for coins in the cold December sun. We'll be performing alongside esteemed musical comrades at the Feast of Fools, of course, but you can come and see us play for free next Thursday December 13th at the Sandy Park Inn, from 7.30pm. 

Here we are playing at a party last week... we all look rather serious and engrossed in getting the notes right, and there are people talking in the background (about accordions and morris minors and drinking too much, amongst other things!), but it gives you a taste.
These are two Klezmer tunes: Freilechs noch der KhupePapirossen.
Lisa Rowe is on fiddle, Tim Heming is on clarinet and bass, and that's me on accordion. Thanks to Pete Montanez for the video.
I'm still battling the excruciating performance nerves; it's a strange combination of wholeheartedly loving and wanting to play this music and simultaneously finding doing it in front of people terrifying. Strangely this is only when it's an "official" gig - I feel quite at home playing round a fire and thoroughly enjoy busking; perhaps I shall always remain a vagabond. But I forge on through the fear nonetheless, so come along to the pub and cheer us on if you're free next Thursday and live nearby.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Red & Gold

THE LAST GOLDEN LEAVES cling quivering to the trees' black November-bitten fingertips; whether they hang suspended far off in the quiet Dartmoor fogs that have moved over these hills lately, or are edged by the crisp bright low light of autumn, they are beautiful. 
But Oh! I have so much to do! This blog is overdue many tales of things done in the days gone before, that continue to go before at an astounding rate, but for now I must tell you of preparations for Yuletide, music, greetings cards, fairs and suchlike...

In a fit of un-Rima-like organisation, I began painting my yearly winter painting a while ago now. And it was to double as a poster for a Yule gig we are planning, which I shall tell you about in a few paragraphs' time.

This is called Feast of Fools, remembering the old tradition of Misrule in the middle of winter - the festival of turning things on their heads, making fools into kings for a day, and servants into masters. 

Here a motley crew in their fools' caps make their way to a gathering in a winter village. They travel there ridiculously of course: some try to sail their ship of fools across the snow, one carries his ass in a cart. Around the fire, bagpipe music is serenading the foolish antics of the red-and-yellow jesters there, and above it all, even the moon behaves like a loon.
I painted this in oils on canvas board as an experiment in painting on a different surface. This meant using the paint in a much more impasto way that I am used to, and also gave the final piece a background weave, which I quite like.

Feast of Fools
oils on canvas board
© Rima Staines 2012
prints available here

And so to the actual Feast of Fools...
My friend Suzi Crockford and I are organising a tremendous gathering of music and storytelling for a rollick of Yuletide cheer in the Chagford Jubilee Hall two days before Christmas (and two days after the end of the world!). There'll be our esteemed friends from Oxford Telling the Bees with their simply beautiful darkly crafted psychedelic folk music, as well as local apocalyptic bluegrass quartet The Kestor String Band with their superb purple moorgrass music, and my own trio Krasa - that's Lisa Rowe on fiddle/accordion, Tim Heming on clarinet/bass and me on accordion/flute - we'll be throwing some stonking Klezmer, Balkan and Eastern European tunes into the pot.
As well as all that, the ever-talented Tom Hirons will tell us strange tales of folly and wisdom, and be our be master of ceremonies for the night.
There'll be local ale and cider, mulled wine and mince pies, and an abundance of warmth, and festive foolery.

Here's the painting transformed into a flyer. If this fiery festive concoction tempts you, you can buy tickets locally at Sally's Newsagents in Chagford square, or else online here. Do come: it'll be marvellous! Here's the facebook event page.

Next in the catalogue of wonderful things... I have new greetings cards for sale!
Last year, I made a tidy loss on my winter cards due to my decidedly unmathematical brain, so this year, Tom has been helping me enormously by dealing with the unfathomable numbers aspect of my business. Also, I have been a good deal more organised and made a big print order of greetings cards. These are not just Yule cards - they can be sent any time of the year... I have cards for births, cards for old age, cards for weddings, cards for transformations, cards for trials, cards for journeys, cards for celebrations, as well as plenty of wintry cards too.  They're all blank inside for your own message.

I'm exceedingly proud to announce that they are all printed with vegetable-based inks on 100% recycled card by a worker-owned cooperative. 
I'm selling them singly, so that you can pick and choose the designs and amounts you like. They sold fast last year, so grab them now, before they're all gone!

This Saturday 24th November, I'll be selling these cards, along with my prints, framed with handmade reclaimed wooden frames at the excellent South Devon Steiner School Advent Fair, in Dartington. Last year this was more like a mini-festival than a school fair - with chai tents and stone-baked pizzas, pole-lathes and outdoor forges, not to mention the plethora of truly excellent craft and art; it's worth a visit if you're around on Saturday.

That evening I also have a gig with Krasa at a party in another Devon village, which I'm practising madly for, and quite nervous about - our only performance together so far has been busking, so this and the Feast of Fools will be our winter debuts as a proper band!
If you're Devon based and can't make the fair on Saturday, I'll also have a stall in Chagford's Endacott House at a small craft fair on December 15th. And there are always framed archival giclée prints and smaller works of mine available at Chagford's Artisan Gallery too, should you be searching these South-Western lanes for gifts this winter. 

In the gaps between my mad days of finishing commissions, beginning new ones, preparing for fairs and practising the accordion, I have snuck out with Macha for walks down the auburn-fringed lanes around our house. 

One evening took us sniffing and squelching along glinting yellow hedgerows and down the hill...

The hedge-leaves and Macha's fur were all picked out in gold, like the pages of a very precious book.

We found an open gate, and ran, arms-wide into the steep green field which overlooked the nearby hamlets, hills and moor beyond...

And then we walked on, further downhill...

The mossy middle of the lane was carved in a beautiful khaki evening light, and the shadows were long...

Toward the bottom of the hill, we could see an intriguing shape in the field ahead...

This is Spinster's Rock - a neolithic dolmen, just round the corner from our house!

It stands in a farmer's field, and is often used as a rain shelter by sheep. There are varying legends about three spinsters (i.e. women who spin wool, rather than single ladies) and how they erected the stones, or else became them. It feels perfectly safe to sit inside, (despite the precarious-looking granite capstone) and watch the last long sun rays sweep the tops of the trees.

On the edge of this field, there's a beautiful beech tree, grown over long years into the wall, crowned with fire.

On the way back up the hill, we spy soft-breathing neighbours through the hedge, caught in the mauve light of near dusk ...

And the sun sets behind us, silhouetting Kestor on the skyline, and the wide wild expanse of our Dartmoor.