I first read Tom's poem in 2012 (read it here), and it's one of those pieces of writing that stops you in your tracks and knocks you sideways. A poem you read for the first time and it is full of things you know, somehow, though you don't know how you know them. And it makes you weep because you wonder how you could have forgotten that you knew.
My beautiful copy arrived safely in the mail a week or so ago, and it is a covetable little piece of pure art. Gorgeous illustrations by Rima, and Tom's magic words. It is like a talisman, a small pocket sized treasure, and even better, a small affordable treasure. A little rough magic born from hedgerows and overgrown tracks not often travelled.
Holding this little, precious thing in my hand, made me dare to wonder if I could make something like it. If maybe some of my little stories and scribbles might be worthy of such treatment. After all, I DO love books, I love making them, and I've always dreamed of making beautiful, magical books. That's where my Map Book began, in those dreams.
So the last week has seen me busy with a little book of my own. True to form though, I cannot seem to create something that would ever pay me back (financially anyway) the time I've spent on it, each one hand stitched and individually embellished with white, red and gold ink. But there is joy in it. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these, perhaps I'll open my Esty shop again, though with an internet connection as flighty and as unreliable as the weather, that might not be terribly wise. There is a light at the end of the tunnel in that regard though. We have finally got our 'shed' approval, and can begin building what will be, for a couple years anyway, our new home, and the internet reception there is, strange as it is being further from town, much better than where we are now.
Front cover illustration, printed separately, glued to card cover and embellished with gold ink.
My new logo.
The illustrations on each page are embellished with white ink, hand painted.
Final page hand painted embellishments with red and white ink.
When I get bored, and need to make something just because I need to MAKE something, I make these.
Tiny Business Card sized paintings
Decorating my Frame Drumstick
Trying out the wood burning tool on a charred kangaroo skull, found after a bush fire.
But, when I really think about it, I don't believe art is something that belongs in a rarified atmosphere, it doesn't really belong hanging on pristine gallery walls in air-conditioned buildings. Art is something that should be a bit grubby, knocked about at the edges, it should be worn (in both meanings of the word), carried around from day to day, it should be in the hands of children and the poor, and the sick and the elderly and it should DO something. Tell stories, give hope and healing, make you laugh, make you cry, make you think, make you think differently. It should be part of everyday life, because it is NOT an unnecessary luxury.
But my artist friend did tell me a story. Years ago, he had work in a gallery up in the city, and a homeless man used to come in regularly and wander around, but there was one painting this man especially loved, and he'd come in just to spend time looking at it. And he told my friend that he was going to buy it. Which my friend took with a grain of salt. Until, months later, the old guy came in with the cash in his hand and, despite attempts by my friend to make him at least accept a discount, he insisted on paying the full price. The catch was that he had nowhere to keep the painting because he had nowhere to live himself, so he asked if it could stay in the gallery and he would visit it. And he did.
I suppose there are many other things that old man should have spent his money on, and who knows where he got it from. Perhaps he'd been saving it up for years. Perhaps he was really a millionaire slumming it on the streets. But perhaps it's just that a painting that he didn't even have a place to keep safe made him feel happy, maybe it spoke to him, whispered stories that he needed, wove magic that only he could see, gave him back memories he thought he'd forgotten. Maybe it made the world right again, at least while he looked at it.
And so I tell myself, if I could paint like that, then THAT'S what would make me an artist. What the price tag says is irrelevant.