Thursday, 16 October 2014

The man with the hollow tooth or Dr Ma mit em hohle Zahn

Too much time has passed since I blogged here. Rather than a great catch up I shall just jump right in and pretend I never missed a day (let alone months):

I have been working in a journal in our Australian Art Journal Round Robin.
Nicole's journal is not really a journal but a gorgeous box that opens up in half much like a book. The theme is "Out of the box". This theme was so freeing and "out of the box" for me that it took me a while to find what I'd be doing as my entry. Normally when working to a theme I try to push the boundaries and think outside the box.

With the theme of "Out of the box" it was more the opposite for me: a working "into a box" if that makes any sense.

I based my entry on a story my Grandpa used to tell me when I was little. Here the original in Swissgerman:

Es isch emau e Ma gsy dä het e hohle Zahn gha,
im hohle Zahn isch es Chischtli gsy,
im Chischtli isch es Briefli gsy,
im Briefli isch gstande:
Es isch emau e Ma gsy dä het e hohle Zahn gha,
im hohle Zahn isch es Chischtli gsy,
im Chischtli isch es Briefli gsy,
im Briefli isch gstande:

It is one of those never ending  stories that loop. The sparse reference I could find on the net implied it was a Swiss story as it was apparently not known in Germany. The story goes like this (translated from Swissgerman:)

There once was a man who had a hollow tooth,
inside the tooth was a little box,
inside the little box was a letter,
inside the letter was written:
There once was a man who had a hollow tooth,
inside the tooth was a little box,
inside the little box was a letter,
inside the letter was written:
etc. etc.  you get the idea.

Somehow as a kid I could not get enough of this story and I must have driven my ever patient Grandpa nuts with urging him to go on and on and on.
In my mind I could see it clearly; the man with the hollow tooth who's tooth housed increasingly smaller versions of himself (like a Russian nesting doll) and at the same time I was still curious as to what the next "little box" might contain. But of course it always was another letter with the same story in the box but that did not dim my fascination with it.

It was a bit like holding both mirrored bathroom cabinet doors to my face as a child and seeing an infinite and ever smaller version of myself. Or like going for a walk not knowing what the next bend in the path might reveal. 
As an adult I ask myself who this man with the hollow tooth is: A trickster? A magician? A teacher of infinity for children? A side show freak displaying his hollow tooth for all to see or a holy man at peace with his disfigurement, using it as a teaching tool for others? Whatever he symbolises he has been able to mesmerise me and make me wonder.

My entry in Nicole's "journal" became itself a little box as this is a hollow double layer about 1cm thickness. Inside the hollow tooth sits a little box with a wee letter stuck in it and with a wee drop of sealing wax which landed partially on my finger. I have a blister to prove it. (Note to self: When working with sealing wax on tiny areas it is safer to use a toothpick or similar to hold down the piece.) I used a Pitt pen and water soluble pencils for the front and acrylic interference paint for the tooth.

On the back I wrote the story as many times as it would fit onto the paper and then used an aqua brush to paint a man's face with water and the soluble ink from my writing pen as the only paint.

I enjoyed working in this box of a journal and it brought back many memories from my childhood.
Until next time!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A journal's journey begins here

I am taking part in an art Journal Round Robin organised by the lovely Louise. Thirteen ladies from all around Australia are taking part in this exciting new adventure.

I chose the theme Grimoire for my journal. It is made from salvaged materials and filled with sturdy watercolour paper.

I bound it in leather from a hideous 80s leather jacket from a thrift store.

Into the Coptic binding I included some stitched paper/fabric leaves.

The inside cover has wallpaper from a sample book.

One of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes on the last page and I stitched a paper pocket for notes and messages on to the inside cover.

On the back cover I made an Abracadabra triangle.

I based my own journal entry on the Russian witch and wise woman Babayaga (apologies for the blurry image above, it is the only one I took in haste before sending the journal off).

Babayaga lives deep in the forest in a hut that stands on chicken feet surrounded by a fence topped with human skulls that have glowing eyes. In the fairy tales she is usually depicted as a most fearsome witch with iron teeth. She flies around in a mortar and steering it with a pestle and wipes all traces of herself with a Birch broom. But Babayaga can also be the wise woman that grants wisdom and riches to the pure of heart. She is said to be the guardian over the fountain of the Waters of Life and Death.

And here is Babayaga stirring her cauldron while sharing her healthy recipe for Bone Broth for Supple Joints and Limber Body. 

 I have added a charm made from a couple of chicken feathers, a wee bone and a heart charm.

The journal is wrapped in a cloth I dyed with leaves and flowers from my garden and neighbourhood. I laid various leaves, elderberries and flowers directly onto the cloth (cotton) and folded it in half. Then I wrapped it tightly around a block of iron and immersed it into my trusted aluminium dye pot in which I had prepared an onion skin dye bath. The result is subtle but there are quite a lot of different hues and markings when one looks closely. 

 I have embroidered the cloth with a border of herringbone stitches which are called Hexenstich in German (meaning witch's stitch - appropriate for a Grimoire, don't you think?) 

Instead of the artists signing in somewhere in the journal I encourage them to write their name and date onto the cloth and either embroider it themselves or I will embroider them when the journal comes back. I can't wait to see what these creative ladies will come up with. If you'd like to follow our progress you can do so here.

SPOILER ALERT: If you are part of this art Journal Round Robin you might want to stop here (unless you don't like surprises or just simply can wait ;-)

As a little thank you for each lady working in my journal I have made tiny talismans in the shape of dream catchers. I used a pesky, weedy vine from the garden to make the  wee frames and yarn, beads and embellishments from my stash.

I have given most a "wish" or theme based on the embellishments used. I made a few too many so everybody will get a choice.

And so the journey has begun for our journals as they make their way around this vast land.

Bon Voyage and until we meet again.

A long overdue telling: the Gray Fox Epistles

Last April I read on Rima's blog about a mysterious project of fairy tales retold and sent by mail by a wonderful writer called Sylvia Linstead. I signed up on a whim as Rima's taste is very much my own and I have always loved myths and fairy- and folktales. What a fortuitous decision that turned out to be!

In May a beautifully stamped thick envelope arrived in my mailbox. And that was the beginning of my monthly literary magic fix ever since. Upon opening the envelope a few wild rose petals fell out much to my delight a faint rosy smell still clung to them all the way from the mountains in California so very far away from here.

Sylvia is a very gifted raconteuse; she weaves her magic with words and almost as if in meditation she guides you deeply, so very deeply into the wild of her native landscape in which most of her stories are based. There you learn about plants, animals and of humans ready to reconnect with nature on a very deep level.

By the time you come to the end of the story you will not be quite the same, your surroundings might take on a slightly different hue and your perception of nature will have deepened.

I have nine tales so far, all beautiful, all treasured greatly, all have inspired me in some way and enriched my life.

And so it has taken me nine months to share this tale with you. I hope you will go and check out Wildtalewort and give yourself a little magic in your life and subscribe to the Gray Fox Epistles - you won't regret it!

Have a wonderful, magical time!