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    News

    Meet Jackie Morris - Award Winning Author & Artist

     

    Jackie is one of our most treasured and talked about artists here at The Golden Sheaf, and when she was deservingly nominated for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Award for Something About a Bear, we caught up with her to find our about how these magical books come to life. 

    Jackie is currently working on a new book and was kind enough to give us an exclusive look at the illustrations for The White Fox. We hope you love them as much as we do.

    Can you introduce yourself and describe your work?

    My name is Jackie Morris. I am one of those people who loved to draw as a child, but unlike many, as I moved into adulthood I didn’t stop.

    I can’t pinpoint the moment in childhood when I realised that grown ups had things called ‘jobs’, but I do know that from the age of 6 I said I wanted to be an artist. It was all I ever wanted. To draw. To colour things.

    You’ve recently been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Award for Something About a Bear, congratulations! How does it feel to be among such established children’s authors?

    Strange question. Because they are all my contemporaries, and I am also an established author.

    There’s an odd line I walk in my head. On the one hand I produce books and have to have the confidence to send my work to my publishers and then once the book is done I have to be out there promoting it, trying to say why it’s good and people should buy it. On the other hand I look at the list of people on the shortlist and I think, ‘Oh my word, Chris Riddell, he draws like an angel. Footpath Flowers, wow, what an astonishing book, so beautiful. Are they going to turn around and find out that mine’s a fluke, shouldn’t be there....’ It’s the same with festivals. I see all my contemporaries at festivals and I’m on there too. My mum summed it up for me once when she said, "I’ve looked at who is going to Cheltenham Festival and there’s some really famous people there, did you know? And you of course." I think there is a name for feeling like this. It’s called ‘impostor syndrome’. Many of us have it. That feeling we are going to be found out for not being worthy of the place we hold in society.

    Although I work mostly in the children’s book part of the book industry there is nothing child like about it. It’s a fierce, hard and competitive industry. I’ve worked so hard for years learning my craft and my trade and it feels, I have to say, utterly wonderful to be recognized with the honour of being on the Greenaway shortlist. But more than that, in the very crowded world of children’s publishing the shortlisting has given me a platform to talk about the plight of bears, and also other wild creatures. I take great pride in being the only non-fiction title on the Greenaway and Carnegie list, while at the same time wishing there were more non-fiction titles beside me. It’s not a place I ever expected to be.

    Pembrokeshire, and Wales, has a huge storytelling tradition- do you feel this feeds into your own storytelling or is the oral tradition coincidental to your narrative?

    I think the oral tradition should weave its way through all picture books. They are meant to be shared, to be read aloud. The Welsh language has a rhythm about it that has always been easy on my ear, though I pick up languages so slowly. My language is graphic, in the real meaning of the word. It’s watercolour, pencil, it’s mark making on paper.

    When you begin, do the words inform the paintings or do the characters you paint tell you their story?

    Stories come from many places, watching a cat dream, seeing a black fox, meeting a white fox. The idea for the bears book came out of simple self indulgence. I love bears and wanted to paint them. It has it’s roots in another book I did years ago. But it became something much more in the making. And researching the book was hard. Man’s inhumanity to man never ceases to amaze me, and if we hold our own species in such contempt you can only begin to imagine the horrors we impose on animals. Bear, so like us in many ways, suffer so much at our hands but you can’t put the kind of darkness like that into a picture book. What I have tried to do is to link the toy that so many children have, the teddy, with the real bear, and hope that through my book I can help to shape a generation of children who will love and respect the wild and wild creatures, and as I said it does give me a platform for talking about how humans relate to wild bears.

    But how can you talk about the hunting of bears, and decapitation for trophies, an act which takes place every day in the 21st century? About bears kept in cages and taught to perform? About dancing bears in India who have a hole drilled though their snouts and their teeth removed and are then taught to dance? And the worst horror in my mind, the bear bile farms? The chopping off of bear paws for Chinese medicine? The trade in wild animals? This is the darkness that lies behind Something About a Bear. It’s hard to talk about such things with children.

    When I was a child David Attenborough made television programs that taught me so much about the wild world, nature, tooth and claw and fierceness. He brought the wild world into my home. I try to do that just a little with my books.

    And that doesn’t really answer the question asked, but I guess the simple, direct answer is that the words and the pictures twine around each other and that is the pleasure of both writing and illustrating a book.

    Have you ever been completely struck by a story or a character and unable to paint or write them? If so, what happens? Do they stay around your head until you have stories for them?

    I have a story called “The Panda’s Child”. It’s a good story. Let me tell you something about the process of making a book. This is how it works for me.

    I have an idea. The idea is exciting. It paints images in my mind’s eye. They are elusive, vibrant, like dreaming.

    I sell the idea to a publisher, get a contract, an advance, and then I have to work on the book.

    So, take for example The White Fox. This is a book I am working on with Barrington Stoke at the moment. I found the story in Seattle and it’s based on a true story. For a couple of years it fermented somewhere in the back of my mind. This was the first book that I was commissioned to write as well as illustrate. Usually I do the words first and sell those but here I sent a synopsis to Barrington Stoke, after a series of emails about working with them and various ideas.

    I wrote the words, and the story grew, evolved, changed in the writing and became something else and more as the characters took over and found their place among the letters. I sent the text to BS, heart in mouth, fearful that they would say, ‘well, we didn’t expect that, can you do it properly now please’, but they edited it and then it was time to illustrate and I hit a brick wall. I couldn’t draw, couldn’t find the characters ( apart from the fox), didn’t know how to draw any more, tried different ways, a looser style, panicked, felt sick, cried a bit... and worked, and worked, sometimes just sitting staring into space trying not to panic, trying to see the way.

    And then I remembered that I had struggled in the same way with East of the Sun, West of the Moon, with Tell Me a Dragon, with The Wild Swans. And then I started sketching, and now I am painting, holding my nerve, hoping all will be well.

    It’s hard. And sometimes I don’t find the way in. I still have the text for The Panda’s Child, because so far I have failed to find the way in with this one. But I have an idea. There are keys that I find along the way that unlock the doors that bind and block, but the biggest monster that sits on my shoulders is the self doubt impostor monster. I think one day I will draw it.

     Did you tell your own children stories you made up, or did you read to them?

    I read my children picture books. I didn’t make up stories. I did sometimes test out my texts on them. I seldom read them my own books. I did sometimes feel guilty when I was reading to them, because part of my mind was always looking and learning, what made a book work for them.

    I loved that close intimacy of the circle of arms, and child and book. Love the opening of a picture book, which for me is like the curtains opening at a theatre or cinema. I love the space you inhabit when you become lost in a book. It’s like stepping into another world.

     What was the first children’s book you remember owning?

    I still have the Treasure Book of Animals. And a big collection of stories with pictures I never liked, ( It’s funny how that style of working has returned and is becoming very fashionable). We had very few books when I was a child, but we did have libraries, which was brilliant, and libraries were where I learned to read. My library tickets were a fascination for me, and I loved the date stamps, and seeing all the dates when a book had previously been taken out from the library.

    Do you have a favourite piece from your own collections? 

    I have a beautiful drawing by Mary Fedden, a fantastic piece of artwork I pulled out of James Mayhew’s bin that he had torn up in desperation ( to remind me that we can’t always be the best judge of our work) and a lovely Evelyn Williams drawing and some Katherine O’Kelle birds. And The Snow Leopard front cover, which I won’t sell.

    What artists do you admire locally and nationally? 

    Adam Buick does the most sublime work. Ceramic moon jars and votive bells.I love Graham Hurdewood’s work. Brian Wildsmith has been a great influence on me. James Mayhew is astonishing and he is illustrating Mrs Noah’s Pockets for me, to be published by Otter-Barry Books. Angela Barrett, she’s astonishing. Catherine Hyde, Tamsin Abbott, one a painter, one who works in glass. Chagall, Van Gogh, cave painters and all those glorious anonymous painters who illuminated manuscripts in monasteries. Shaun Tan. He is just genius. Peter Till.

     What do you hope people feel when they open your books or look at one of your paintings?

    I hope people get a sense of escape into another place. I have just finished working on a picture book for grown ups. It will be published by Graffeg in September. It’s called The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow and I hope that it is a lullaby for grown ups. Escape. Stepping outside, sideways, into another world. A harbour. Peace.

    Social media has a massive effect on an artist’s visibility and popularity, do you find it a distraction or are you naturally socially minded?

     

    I find it a necessary intrusion, and also a distraction. I have found amazing things through it, been informed and also wasted so much time. I am learning to use it better, but part of me wants to take a break. So when I have finished The Wild Fox I am going to have a holiday for a week. I have heard of holiday. Publishers take them in the summer. I was talking about my plans for my weeks holiday with a friend yesterday. I am hoping to spend a few days walking, sitting and watching the sea, and painting. And I think I will switch off Facebook and Twitter. That will be my holiday. No Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a week. I’m sure it will survive very well without me. But it is now a part of my working process and it does, for good or bad, help readers connect with authors and us all with our contemporaries.

    But sometimes I crave the solitude of mind that is still there, if we unplug.

     

    Once again, a huge congratulations on your nomination, we have no doubt there will be countless more to come, and thank you for such an inspiring interview.

    - Love, The Gallery.

     

    Meet Chris Neale

    As one of our most popular artists here at The Gallery, we caught up with Chris Neale to talk about what its like being a landscape artist in Pembrokeshire and how he sees his own work.

    Hi Chris, can you introduce yourself and describe your work?
    I painted as a child and teenager, then studied graphic design, working in this profession for many years before again returning to painting. This return was instigated by many hours spent amongst the hills and on the coast path
     
    What is your studio like?
    I work from a small studio at the back of my house. There's just room for my drawing board, art materials, lots of CDs and my studio dog chair
     
    Why do you work in pastels?
    I work in pastels, acrylic or watercolour. I like the quality of the colour obtained from pastels as they are almost pure pigment and have a wonderful flat finish like lime wash. I also prefer drawing to painting
     

    Most of your pieces are unique views of familiar scenes - how do you achieve this?
    I think every artist sees things differently. My work shows how I see the landscape influenced by composition, colour and only the essential elements that create the emotion of a particular place
     
    The Welsh landscape features predominantly in your work- is that an unconscious decision because of where you’re situated or does it continue to inspire you?
    I love living and working in Wales, there is so much inspiration, especially off the beaten track. It is a very fundamental experience that only a Welsh word - hiraeth - can convey. I have no interest in crossing Wales' eastern border
     
    Do you have a favourite piece from your own collections?
    There are bits I like and dislike in every painting but some of the subjects are very special to me, usually the more intimate images like Garn Fawr. Sometimes a painting will just come out like it was pre-determined from start to finish avoiding all the ups and downs that usually occur. These can be the most successful.
     
    What artists or designers do you admire locally and nationally?
    Three I admire greatly and who have influenced me are Kyffin Williams, David Humphreys and Frank Newbould
     

    What do you want people who own your work to feel when they look at a piece of yours?
    If they feel some of the inspiration and emotion that drove me to create the image then I hope to have achieved what I set out to do
     
    Would you say your style has evolved? And if so what has influenced this?
    It is continually evolving as successes and failures occur and as my experience of the subject develops. My use of materials is growing more competent and I hope to retain a loose approach to the subject. My subject as a source of inspiration is as strong as ever and as this is the essential catalyst to creation then that can only be positive.

    Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

    Love, the Gallery

    A Chocolate Free Easter

    Yes, I know, we're known for our ridiculous sweet tooth and our insane luxury chocolate selection (a lot of which is Vegan friendly and GF just in case you wanted a peruse...)

    However our kids get more than enough sugar, so we thought we'd revisit our lovely childhood pastime of blowing eggs and see if we could leave the chocolate out for a few days.

    Blowing eggs is a bit of a phenomenon. It never really seems like its going to work, or that it will be much more difficult than it is. As adults we wanted to be prepared, so you know, we got our pins ready, made sure the eggs were fresh, put some masking tape over the ends so they wouldn't split.

    But you know what? It was so easy just to hold the egg softly, make a little hole with a pin at one end, and at the other do exactly the same but move the pin in wider circles to make a slightly larger hole.

    That was it. No fuss, no mess. 

    Then blow, gently but firmly, into the smaller hole whilst you hold the egg over a dish, and voila- out it comes! We washed and dried the shells. And then we covered them in glitter! 

    They didn't look as meticulous as these examples but we did have loads of fun! We didn't break any either, which was a shame 'cause we wanted to try and put mini succulents in them- but if you do try this we'd love to see a photo!

    We also loved this idea of covering either some wire mesh, or a polystyrene egg, or a shell obviously, in moss and binding it with twine. Then you can take your kiddiewinks out on a walk to pick some wild flowers to decorate it! Lovely for a few days, and if you gently mist the moss it should last for a week.

    NB: Egglings are probably the loveliest, chocolate-free, easter gift we've ever seen....available in Basil, Wild Strawberry and Lavender.

     

    Happy Easter!

     

    Love, The Gallery

     

    Meet Sarah Jones-Morris

    Can you introduce yourself and describe your work?

    My name is Sarah Jones-Morris, I am a ceramic artist based in Yorkshire on the edge of the Pennines, but originally from Wales. I came to Yorkshire 20 years ago and I’m still here...although Wales is still ‘home’.

    I make a variety of handbuilt ceramics which are often inspired by a domestic use or purpose.

    Where do you work from? What is your studio like?

    I work from home. My studio is set up in the conservatory, which is either too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer!! I’m looking forward to some warm spring days...they’re just right! I often work late at night when the kids have gone to bed, so my work sneaks into the house where I work at the kitchen table with the radio on.

     What is your preferred medium and why?

    I use different clays depending on what I’m making; porcelain paper clay or earthstone smooth textured stoneware for the lovespoons, the earthstone is much easier to work with. The porcelain can be really frustrating especially when it’s a new bag...very sticky!! But I persevere. If I’m making bigger pots I like to use a heavily grogged crank clay, I love the texture.

    What inspired you to start your love spoon collection?

    Being from Wales, inspiration has been drawn from my heritage and the welsh tradition of giving hand carved love spoons as a token of love and affection. I also have a collection of spoons of all shapes and styles, there is something comforting in the form of a spoon, the shape of it and the way it can used as a vessel to provide nourishment.

    The first spoons that I made were undecorated, I was mainly interested in the form, but then I came across a silver sugar spoon (it’s still in my sugar bowl), which had a simple pattern hammered into the bowl of the spoon. This was the inspiration for the patterning on my ‘lovespoons’ which has developed to now include a heart and the little lovebirds as well as wording.

    What is the best present you’ve ever received?

    There have been lots! But one of my favourites that I wear all the time is a silver ‘Cariad’ ring from Rhiannon jewellery which my sister bought me for my 40th birthday.

    Do you have a favourite piece from your own collections?

    I really like making my bigger vessels, the complete opposite to the delicate lovespoons! I came across a photograph recently of a large pot that I made a few years ago, it was made with a textured clay and had holes in the surface, it resembled a giant colander, I really liked that pot! It lives in a friend’s house now and is always full of fruit. I find that if a ‘piece’ stays in my house for too long I start to get attached to it and find it difficult to take it off to a gallery.

    What artists or designers do you admire locally and nationally

     When I was studying I loved the work of Gordon Baldwin, fantastic forms, colours and textures. Facebook and Instagram have opened up a whole new world for finding artists, I follow the American ceramic artist Rae Dunn on both, she has a great range of work and takes fantastic photographs.

    What do you want people who own your work to feel when they look at/hold a piece of yours?

    I guess I’d just like people to love the beauty and simplicity in something that has been handmade by my hands! I often think how strange it is to think that something that has come from me is now living in someone else’s home, hopefully being cherished and appreciated and bringing some joy to them!

    Where is your favourite place in Wales?

    I love North Wales, the rugged mountains and the wild sea. Best of both worlds.

    What did you think of The Great British Throwdown?

    I loved it! How fantastic to bring ceramics with all its trials, tribulations, tears and wonderful moments to the masses! My art teacher at school introduced me to the work of Kate Malone and that’s where my love of ceramics began, so it was great to see her and Keith Brymer Jones presenting the show.

    Have you ever had a complete ceramic disaster? 

    The usual glaze disasters and pots stuck to kiln shelves, but the biggest disaster was when I first graduated.

    I was running a workshop at a local school, where we created ceramic stepping stones to be placed in the school garden, but the central piece was to be a ‘monolith’ which had the thumb print of each child involved pressed into it.

    When I was at university I had made very big pieces and while I was building them I used scrunched up newspaper to support the form. I adopted the same technique for the ‘monolith’, not realizing that the kiln room at the school didn’t have the industrial extractor fans that we had at university!

    I popped the kiln on as I left on the Friday...the next day I had a phone call to say that the school caretaker had had to call the fire brigade as they thought the kiln room was on fire when it filled with smoke from the burning newspaper! The Monolith didn’t survive!

    Thanks for chatting to us!

    Love, The Gallery

     

     

    Love Your Mum

    When I was little, weekday mornings were always a bit or a chore.

    Between remembering homework, lunch boxes or kit bags to Mum forcing shreddies and toast and juice on us, before we were out the door and jogging up the hill to school. It was the same every day for years.

    Apart from once.

    Mum just woke up in this funny, silly, happy mood- I still don't know why it was! And whilst we struggled into our starched shirts and complained about breakfast being the same again, she said 'Okay then...', and pulled a huge baking bowl out of the bottom cupboard and completely filled it with rice crispies and milk. 

    We were giggling and chatting as we dug in, my sister and I, one spoon each, couldn't believe our luck. I can still taste the cold milk and the crispy, almost rough, cereal.

    It's one of my happiest memories ever and it's not extraordinary, it's just everyday Mum and us having fun in the kitchen stuff.

    Handmade love spoons from Sarah Jones-Morris, a special way to say thanks for all those breakfasts, lunches and dinners!

    Does your Mum love her kitchen? Try Garden Trading, or Emma Bridgewater for a few special or collectible pieces...

    If your Mum is anything like ours (or like us in fact)... Gin is often the answer. To most things actually.

    Mum's need a bit of encouragement to pamper themselves, try Neals Yard Remedies for Organic skincare with a luxurious feel.

    When I told everyone in the office this story, they all had their lovely Mum stories too, so I'm certain you'll also have them! Let us know what your mum stories are on Facebook or in the comments below. 

    Happy Mothers Day to all, especially to my mum, who'll probably be getting a box of rice crispies next Sunday!

      

     

    Love, The Gallery