For a few days I noticed an old goldfinch sitting quietly at our bird feeder. I grew a bit worried as it didn’t fly away as goldfinches do when two-legged mammals approach. Upon studying the bird, I noticed it was healthy but old. I gave it some extra food and wished it was just a passing illness, but I knew better. When it disappeared, I checked the garden for a dead bird but couldn’t find it.
A few days later my husband found it, near our garden chairs, it was dead. It had been sitting against the wall of our house. I picked it up (with rubber gloves on) and saw it had died peacefully some days ago. The feathers were still beautiful.
We had many juvenile goldfinches at our feeder this summer making; they had at least two nests this summer. And as they have such a good Nyjer-seed restaurant in our garden, granddaddy or grand-mommy decided to die in our garden. The way it curled up against the wall of our house was touching. There is something about the way animals die. They die without fear and with full acceptance when they aren’t in pain, at least so it seems. How a tiny bird offers a moment of reflection….
I hope you all are well and enjoying a steady flow of inspiration.
P.S. I am currently painting with yarn. I will soon return to paiting with pigments too.
Penmanship is the art or skill of writing by hand.
In a modern day Faustian bargain, we trade our ink pens for ergonomic keyboards, and with that we offer our handwriting, something that expresses so much of ourselves. We trade our need for solitude for digital connectivity, and with that we offer our mental health. I could go on, but let me return to penmanship.
I have noticed how my handwriting, which was always elegant, has started to look like I am writing all my to-do- and shopping lists whilst commuting by train. This has saddened and annoyed me so much because I don’t like losing a skill or under-preforming. Add to this our collective ‘I have had it with computers, data-grabbing companies and digital involvement‘ statement, and what follows is a rescue plan springing into action. More in this a bit later.
There is a movement trying to win back our old fashioned ways of living and lost skills. We love to return to our kitchens for slow-cooking. We find ourselves buying typewriters again, sewing machines, and pots for growing our own herbs. We collectively sign up for yoga and mindfulness workshops. We start weaving, knitting, embroidery and calligraphy all because we have enough! Enough of the feeling that we become more dull with every new smartphone and every year that passes using the internet. There is hardly any joy in internet use anymore. It doesn’t feel like a museum or library anymore but as the annoying evil eye of Sauron or like a Harry Potter Death Eater.
As a result we collectively start to withdraw from the internet and we reclaim our peaceful and more creative lives, in which our bodies are involved in our actions, by exercising our handwriting, growing our own sprouts, make our own cloths and weaving our own blankets.
About a year ago I bought a notebook and penned down my first alphabet since a long, long time ago (it looked disastrous). Followed by my name (over and over again), longer sentences, to-do lists and words that entered my mind. My handwriting improved very quickly. So fast, that I kindly advise you not to say that your handwriting skills are beyond repair. They aren’t, but training is most likely needed. Do it! And I assure you that it feels like the ‘New Yoga’, like a celebration or a joyful meditation.
Update on one of my former Sewing A Mandarin Duck posts:
I have sent out 50+ Christmas or Yule cards this year. Up to today, I received back 5 written cards and 3 digital texts. That is about 50 minus 8 replies which equals 42 unanswered wishes. That is more unanswered wishes than last year, and the year before, which shows that handwritten cards are becoming obsolete. Still, that isn’t the point that I like to make.
What do midwinter best-wishing cards actually mean?
I finished my ‘Who are the Celts?’ course beginning of December, and there are still moments when I dwell in the Iron Age. Christmas cards were invented in the Victorian Age, so why should I relate them to ancient rituals? Well, it has to do with midwinter.
Midwinter was a dark time during the Iron Age and also during the Victorian times. Flu and winter bugs were (and still are) bothering us and we were confined to our homes. Livestock that wasn’t supposed to last through the winter was slaughtered and one would see food storage diminish during the dark months. There wasn’t any Christmas shopping the way we do now. Would there be enough to eat? There wouldn’t be any stores reopening the day after Christmas. Was the remaining livestock strong enough to ensure food for the coming summer, and would they be able to reproduce themselves? Was there enough food kept in storage for the dark months ahead, and was it well preserved? Midwinter was an anxious time and one could only pray to (the/a) God(s), ancestral and nature spirits to be granted health and see the return of the green.
In these dark times, people felt the need to make offerings to (a/the) God(s), to ancestral or nature spirits. But slowly we forgot about them. In Victorian times, the feeling of sending out a prayer or wish was still lingering in our ancient minds but now was penned down on beautiful marbled cards and delivered by post. However, these wishes weren’t addressed to (a/the) God(s) or spirits, but to family and friends.
I love sending out cards as it is such old tradition. If we all wish each other a Merry Christmas, a Joyful Yule or a Marvelous Midwinter, wouldn’t that help us, despite the fact that we have antibiotics, electric light, and refrigerators through winter? Would it help us to know that other people kept us in their thoughts and prayers? Wouldn’t an effort of sending each other Best Seasonal Wishes, to keep each other in our minds and hearts, help to stay healthy through the dark winter months? I think so. I think it is a good gesture and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
I need to followed up this with a disclaimer. I don’t blame people for not sending back cards. I am not frustrated or sad that sending cards seems to belong to the past. We are increasingly busy, distracted and some say that sending cards isn’t good for our carbon footprint, one would just send an email or text.
As long as we wish each other well during the dark times of the year, the old ritual of keeping each other in our minds or in the light of a warm glowing heart, isn’t lost.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Joyful Yule, & a Marvelous Midwinter.
Are you bitten by the sewing, knitting, embroidery or pattern/fabric hunting bug? Good! You are a healthy person, probably detoxing from our crazy digital obsessions, probably in search for peace of mind, aiming to slow down or for crafting yourself through an inspirational or difficult period in your life. Go on! Don’t stop. But take it slow and although you desire to become more skilled and professional, maybe even starting a new hobby-turned-into-paid-job, enjoy all the steps along the way. Take it slow and take a mindful break when you hit an obstacle; learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are treasures. They tell you that you have to be more focussed and thus tell you something about your mind…where was it wondering to? Mistakes might point out to a need for better tools or equipment, a bit of tutoring, a leaning-moment or boredom. Whatever mistakes tell you, they tell you something valuable.
Next to enjoying mistakes, immerse yourself in the world of crafts. Televisions, computer-screens and smartphones are energy depleting devises and also devises of mass distraction. Fabric, colours, paint, clay, a desk that invites you to sit down and do some sewing or needling, seem to do exactly the opposite, they provide you with energy. Some time ago is was en voque to show on Instagram your Etsy-desk. Which led to craters showing neat Ikea-styleroom like crafts centres in their house. Yes, these studio-selfies were inspirational, but those who stood out the most were messy desks, where you could witness that inspiration took over.
Being creative is so rewarding and at times frustrating and, looking back, often embarrassing. But put all your crafts and artworks in a visual portfolio, a timeline and you feel it radiates energy. Have I made all that, have I done that? Yes, you have. Your progression is the best feedback ever.
We raise our children, take care of our parents, pets, jobs, homes and gardens, but that small or somewhat bigger moment devoted to your creativity is not only good, it is energizing, healing and fulfilling.
Don’t take up 10 projects, that is too much multitasking. About 2 or 3 is enough to avoid Repetitive strain injury (RSI). Take it slow, enjoy your mistakes, and create a visual portfolio. Allow yourself to grow. Some stay within one theme, skill or studio, others venture into trying out different crafts. Crafting is food for the soul.
I am much impressed by Celtic art and as a result of being so inspired I have summarized the Celts from the West Theory in a ‘Celtic’ artistic style, as a way of Bardic story-telling, in which we aren’t sure what is fact and what is story-telling.
(Reconstruction of the Lady of Vix’s face based on her skeleton)
Allow me to present lady Vix, a highly gifted and deformed woman, born in the ancient Portuguese city Tartessos, in the first millennium BC. She inspires a local artist to chisel her in stone, riding a horse, side-saddled because of her deformities. Later this statute, identified by archaeologists as that of a Celtic Goddess, is found in San Bartolomeu de Messines along with Tartessian letters. About 97 other Tartessian inscriptions on stone convince Koch that Tartassian was a Paleohispanic Celtic language.
Tartessos isn’t big enough for Lady Vix and soon she is on her way to spread her metalworking skills. She, and other traders, use Tartassian as a trading and metal-work related vocational language. Phylogenetic work (Gray and Atkinson, 2003) offers a date of the development of Celtic language, which is about the 4th millennium BC.’
Lady Vix travels extensively, using Atlantic sea-ways to visit Brittany and the British Isles. Along with spreading metal working fashion, increasing artistic awareness is responsible for establishing ‘ahighdegreeofculturalsimilaritiesdisplayedbymaritimecommunities’ (Cunliffe, 1999) along the Atlantic coast. Such as upstanding angular stones, Cliff Castles along the entire Atlantic façade, and circularity in domestic architecture. We can’t be sure this is Lady Vix’s and her apprentices influence exclusively but with many women written out of history, one should be mindful of missing women when stumbling upon gaps in our knowledge.
The bards’ story-telling about the influence of Lady Vix inspire local village heads to adopt Celtic place names. Later linguistic research, by Patrick Simms-Williams (2006), offers maps with high density of Celtic places, resulting in linguistic geographical evidence for the ‘Celtic from the West’ model. It is also thought that Celtic language spreads further ‘as a supra-regional language of Bell Beaker groups, as maps of Bell Beaker burials and Celtic language Bronze age maps show remarkable similarities.
The last successor of Lady of Vix is found in a burial mount in Burgundy, France (dating from 500 BC). Next to her remains stands an extraordinary Greek wine mixing vessel that tells us that trade, charisma and metalworking skills have been interrelated for a long time.
(CGI of Lady Vix’s burial chamber)
The last known Lady in the Vix tradition is buried away from the Atlantic Celtic language zones as the long line of successors have used thousands of years of trading coastal, riverine and migratory networks from Portugal to the British Isles, from the Atlantic coast to the east of Europe. The Roman Herodotus was right after all that the Celts lived near the Pyrenees, ‘beyond the Pillars of Hercules’’. Lady Vix and contemporaries have brought their DNA to the British Isles which leads in 2006 to Oppenheimer stating that the ancestors of today’s British and Irish populations arrived from Spain about 16,000 years ago.
From Tartessos, like Lady Vix.
P.S. I wrote this story being inspired by my course ‘Who are the Celts’, at Department for Continuing Education University of Oxford. I tried to bring knowledge together on Celtic sea-way trading, Celtic metallurgy, Celtic DNA, and Female Druidism. I hope you have enjoyed my story. Should you feel the ambition to unravel what is fact and what is fiction, I highly recommend the course at Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education. Having said that, the footnotes might be helpful too.
 Koch, J. Tartessian, Europe’s newest and oldest Celtic language. Published in Celts: Issue II (Mar/Apr 2009), Prehistory/Archaeology, Vol.17.
 More on Celtic inscriptions and identification of Celtic place names: Koch. J. An atlas for Celtic studies (Oxford, 2008).
 Gibson, C. & Wodtko D, The background of the Celtic languages: theories from archaeology and linguistics, p. 5
 Others suggest it goes back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BC.
 Cunliffe, B. Atlantic Sea-ways. Revista de Guimaraes, Volumne Espeiual, I. Guimaraes, 1999, pp. 93-105.
 Gibson, C. & Wodtko D, The background of the Celtic languages: theories from archaeology and linguistics, p. 7
 Harrison, R.J., Jackson, R. and Napthan, M., 1999 A rich Bell Beaker burial from Wellington Quarry, Marden, Herefordshire, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp 1–16.
 Beyond the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ refers to the Straits of Gibraltar, what is now southern Portugal, were the ancient city Tartassos was located.
 Cunliffe, B. 2003. The Celts, a Very Short Introduction. Oxford; OUP. Chapter 2.
 Oppenheimer, S., 2006 Origins of the British: A genetic detective story, Constable & Robinson Ltd.
This blog post is about Christmas/Yule gifts (coupon), Creativity and Creative Friends. Enjoy the links that I attach and I welcome you to re-blog. Spread a bit of Creative Love.
Left: Art Cards by Inez Kuyt & Sybille Kramer as well as my re-usable address labels.
Have a look at Inez Kuyt’s art. It is so enjoyable and if you need something something (Dutch) Gezellig, or in Danish Hygge, or in German Gemütlich, or in English something Cozy, you will find it at Inez’s studio.
There is Linda Hensley, stead fast creative to the core. As well as Sybille Kramer. Sybille is unstoppable and venturing into textile design and bookmaking. Enjoy having a look at Liliya new Facebook shop; it makes you feel like walking in a white beech forest, trees decorated with silver treasures. You can find Linda, Sybille and Liliya by clicking on their names.
Lois records her walks on her blog and it is such join to walk with her. Pop over to her blog. There is no comment section, Lois just wants you to enjoy her nature diary. Talking cozy, Josh Moll is filling our world with cosy wollen clothing. By the way, I think Josh has secretly cloned herself, I can’t believe one person making so much woolen clothing. Josh is amazingly productive!
I like to show you my Instagram. It gives you a quick overview of photos of my work and work-in-progress. Having said this, I am planning a social media free 2018. I have a few projects that need intense focus and will demand long period of time. My blog will stay operational as it has such loyal and kind followers, which I like to thank very much.
One way of doing that is letting you know that till the 3rd of December my shop has a discount coupon available, named MIDWINTER2017. It Offers 10% off when you spend US$25, which means that all originals come down in price. There are also a few prints available for 10 Euros. These prints won’t return to my shop in 2018 as I will sell mostly originals.
Here is my idea; if you buy my book at Amazon (Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.it, Amazon.jp, Amazon.fr), I will reward you with a second book plus a few of my lovely Holly gift tags. Or if you prefer, my Feng Shui mini prints. One book you might like to keep; the other you will love to send to a friend as a Christmas gift. I have 4 books available ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’ for this offer.🎄🦌🎄
Promoting your book is really hard. It feels like nagging. But I know you will be happy with my booklet. It has generated a few 5-star reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.it, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. and that says something. It says that people are happy focusing on art, nature and mindfulness.
I especially like a remark made by a reviewer. She says that my booklet will be much appreciated by those who can’t venture out in nature (the ill, old, or temporarily city-bound people) and are in need for nature’s beneficial influence. I like that, because such remark confirms to me a circle of events. I venture out in nature and bring something home, a piece of wood, a feather, an impression or a photo of mushrooms. In my studio you will find buckets with old, dry wood covered with lichen, shells, feathers, and a few bones found on the beach or in woodlands. In other words, I take in nature and its inspiration leads to my drawings and the stories in ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish and Botany’. Upon reading my booklet, readers experience nature and feel like they have been in nature. Such feedback makes me very happy and I hope this happiness is circular too.
Take care! And take care of the birds. I do year-round feeding and not a day passes without me enjoying our gang of feathery visitors.
This is my contribution to my “Who are the Celts’ course at Oxford Department for Continuing Education, week 5 ‘Celtic Art’ (2017). At the end of a demanding study week the participants were challenged to make their own Celtic art, a drawing, woodwork, or poem, whatever your prefer.
I managed to finish my Celtic Art project within a fortnight because it was a lot of drawing. Strangely enough, I was always in awe when I saw Celtic art but I was never challenged or commissioned to make Celtic art. I had to remove my anxiety for too much rigid mathematical organization (the patterns and swirls) and focus on the hidden mythology, faces and animals. Although I love Celtic art, I have always feel resistance to make it as it seems to limit artistic expression to its theme as the patterns are strictly organized and repetitive. The article on the enchantment of technology inspired me too to embrace a geometrical challenge for making Celtic patterns. Anyway, I am not going to say: ‘I did it’, but I enjoyed the challenge!
Used: Golden/Silver ink-pens, an ordinary Bic blue pen, art paper, a protector and many rulers.
Note: preliminary sketches trying out mathematical organization, a large original drawing, a print & a small postcard. I printed the title of this artwork with a Celtic letter type:
I appreciate Holly very much because I understand its attraction. In the middle of a cold, bare winter, there is a happy green bush yielding lovely, bright red berries. In past times being without electricity, light, central heating and experiencing hardship and grey, dark days, this green bush was an eye catcher. Even for me now, despite the luxuries of the 21st century, Holly holds this attraction. It whispers to me; ‘I am colourful during the winter. I keep your spirits high and hope doesn’t dwindle if you surround your house with me or bring me in to decorate your hearths’.
Holly is Ilex. Or Evergreen. What name do you use? Why do you like Holly? Or maybe you don’t?