Wild Folk: Tales from the Stones

By Jackie Morris and Tamsin Abbott

An exquisite collection of shape-shifting tales from two magical artist-storytellers.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Asides are the stuff of life

I thought it might be interesting to let you have a peek into what is going on in my life and how it may have temporarily stalled progress on Wild Folk but how it is also a critical life force in my creative pantheon.

I am presently invloved in trying to gather together, and find a home for, an archive of the artists, Ann and Graham Arnold.  I am also ekeing out the joy and the sadness of last days in the house that was once theirs. 

The beginning of knowing of their existence happened when I was maybe 17 years old and studying A level English literature.  The Shakespeare texts we used were the Arden Shakespeare and the whole series had cover illustrations by this group called 'The Brotherhood of Ruralists'.  These people sparked my interest in a huge way and unusually there was a note on the back of the book explaining who they were:

That sentence was a little fist pump in my punkish heart, my cropped, neon hair and funereal garb being the only way I could mourn for my childish love of the countryside as I approached adulthood in Thatcher's Britain.  It was a spark of hope, a hand reaching through the murk of early eighties Britain, an idea of other places and people exisitng alongside my sense that reality was a dismal place.

In the days before the internet, the meandering of how discoveries might take place or knowledge be uncovered, could take years, if not decades, to unfold. (Or might never happen.) My particular unfolding is rather a long story of how I came to be here and one which may well merit a fuller telling in the future. But here I sit (right this minute!) 40 years later looking at this same book in the house that was where my two favourite founding members of The Ruralists lived for over 25 years!  Ann and Graham Arnold.  My friendship with them and feelings for them may have a word in another language (perhaps in Welsh where we have the almost apt word 'hiraeth') but there is none that is adequate in English.

My time with these most astonishing, beautiful, funny, ethereal yet down to earth people was short but as golden as the sun casting its light across the land at the beginning and end of the day.  I stood in that light. I was enchanted by them. Life was enhanced by their existence in the world and it seemed a crime that we had lived in neighbouring counties for years and only discovered each other so late for, unbelievably, the feeling was mutual.

Needless to say I was deeply affected by their deaths (Ann died shortly before her 80th birthday in 2015 and Graham suffered a debilitating stroke in 2018 and died in 2019) and their deaths strengthend my sense of a spiritul realm where animals, birds, insects and plants may be messengers or even shapeshifters of the dead. I believe I have experienced (as did others) these things many times.

In my work I had always always attempted to allude to the spiritual and fathomless elements of the world around us but after this time I enveloped myself more and more in the themes of spirit, death, and transformation.  It was not that I was blind to a sense of wonderment before meeting Ann and Graham but I now felt it even more keenly and it simply kept presenting itself in my work.

I think this development in my work is one of the elements that led to the birth of Wild Folk on a grassy promintory over a sea of trees on Exmoor one evening last September with Jackie and with John Mitchinson. In life, and in Wild Folk, we seek enchantment and transformation because they can bestow upon us the freedom from the self and the sense of the interconnectedness with all things. This can but make us better inhabitants of this heaven on earth we are blessed to live within?

And Ann and Graham?  Well they might just take on the appearance of Alwyse and Wayland in Wild Folk.......

Ann's painting 'Sanctuary'


My Summer of Solitude - Graham Arnold's painting and construction painted following Ann's death.

And Ann and Graham.......

(Photographed by David Inshaw and Tamsin Abbott)


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Joanne Holman
 Joanne Holman says:

Thank you for sharing this touching story about your inspirational friends.

posted 19th May 2023

Seven Fables Dulverton
 Seven Fables Dulverton says:

Beautiful Tamsin, thank you x

posted 19th May 2023

Lyn Gibson
 Lyn Gibson says:

Thanks for this, you've conveyed well something that's not easy to express in words... I feel it (and have felt it).

posted 19th May 2023

Lorna Fergusson
 Lorna Fergusson says:

What a beautiful post - I have that edition of King Lear and taught from it for many years, along with others in that particular Arden series.

posted 19th May 2023

Kathryn Evans
 Kathryn Evans says:

You calm my soul Jackie Morris x

posted 19th May 2023

Carrie-Ann Black
 Carrie-Ann Black says:

What a powerful post, It made me cry Tamsin, can't really articulate it but thank you so much for sharing.

posted 19th May 2023

Tamsin Abbott
 Tamsin Abbott says:

Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for making a connection with my words. It means a great deal to me.

posted 20th May 2023

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