10 May, 2016

Monkey Puzzle

For all of the thirty-odd years we have been living at Catchmays Court - and probably about 100 years before that - a wonderfully prominent feature of the landscape has been our massive Araucaria, Chilean Pine. It was a female tree at least 30 metres high and much remarked by visitors and loved by us. 

We had rather wondered what its life expectancy might be and noted its proximity to the house but it had always seemed to be very healthy - especially at the crown where yearly cones matured and cracked open on hot late summer days scattering 200 nutlike seeds each.

There was, however, a severe wind from an unusual direction one night a few weeks ago. We heard nothing but awoke to discover an awesome scene.

It was clear that, though everything above ground was in good shape, the roots were not . . . with a good deal of rot. We do bless the unusual direction of the wind as, had the tree been made to fall in the other direction, it would have taken a good part of the house with it.

It was an awesome sight,

completely blocking the drive,


apparently squashing everything it fell upon (although at the end we found that many shrubs and such had been torn and bent rather than destroyed) and

generating an enormous volume of branches, as lethal as razor wire, to be disentangled and fed into a large chipper which has produced a gigantic Mount Fuji-like mound of useful chips.

We quickly decided that we wanted to keep the trunk just where it had positioned itself - as a wonderful sculpture. I spent hours picking out the soil compacted round the roots which we had trimmed and we then set about building a stone wall to make a platform near the curve of the elephant foot base of the tree. A comfortable seat and an old marble table were retrieved from elsewhere in the garden and . . . behold!

All in all, therefore, a bit of a trauma but better down than up we now feel and that vantage point is the best of all and I can see myself sitting on it an increasing part of my old age, happily staring out over the valley and listening to the birds!

29 April, 2016


After lunch, I had enjoyed a satisfying snooze in the sun in this very chair. Two hours later it was full of hail.

Such exaggerated and unpredictable behaviour is just what one would expect from a year so young. I love it!


20 April, 2016

Some More Spring Stuff - while we are still in the mood!

      Even more greatly moved by the arrival of Spring than usual this year, I dug into the file remembering this early experiment done in the very first year of my printing life. Some feelings don't change much over the years!
 And all at once I saw a crowd - of yellow celendines!

In the orchard and beside Harry Brockway's sculpture -

before the first mow.

 Frances put up one picture of this lovely tree last time . . . but it is worth seeing it from a different angle - any angle indeed!

Here is a pretty good performance from the Camellia this year.

The clear-up after the descent of the monkey puzzle has taken a lot of time and energy. It produced some sad destructions (but really not many given the size and weight of the monster that fell down) but it also left to be discovered and treasured some remarkable survivals. How many years would a Bonsai Master have to oversee the growth of a Rhododendron to bring about something as exquisite as this?

And finally, I decided to take new photographs of Summer Triptych a stunning work which Sara Philpott made in 2001. Getting it out into the sun was a revelation! We are lucky enough to have a number of paintings and drawings by Sara - some to do with the two books we have made together and others not. Her wonder at, and love of, every aspect of the natural world, and the joys of living in it, are so very close to our own!

18 April, 2016

and a year later . . .

For all sorts of reasons we have neglected this blog but having come to the realisation that aspects of our website are no longer functioning we shall endeavour to keep up with our friends here. Putting news and images on Facebook seems even more ephemeral - no sooner does one put things up there than they vanish unless you look specifically for our news. 
Characteristically, when Spring begins to show in the garden and woodland around us, Nicolas goes out with his camera to 'welcome blessed Spring' so, to re-launch the OSP blog here are some of these . . . hot out of the camera!

We watched the diligent robin carrying ever-larger wisps towards this safe little corner by the kitchen door. Happy little story - so far so good!

Wood anemones or windflowers.
A shy violet . . .
early colour on the Japanese Maple given to us for our Golden Wedding anniversary

and here is a photo taken in tribute to John Elwyn, with whom we produced a book of Dafydd ap Gwilym's wonderful poems and who was fascinated by reflections in bay windows. Such reflections appear in many of his paintings and this scene deserves to be painted as well!

The Egg - oil painting by John Elwyn

26 April, 2015

Lady's Smock

We have been amazed at the profusion of Lady's Smock all over the garden this year. Usually a clump here and there and a sprinkling all over. Not this time. Any ideas?

Apparently it is loved by the caterpillars of the orange-tip which will account for the many of them hovering around the plants at the moment. More interesting I read that, being a good source of Vitamin C early in the year, it was good against the scurvy in olden times. There was a problem with this, though. The plant was particularly loved by the fairies so anyone picking it was liable to a good cursing!

We will not have to worry too much in this regard. We can get our green stuff from Tesco and leave the fairies to have a ball.

13 March, 2015

"Exquisite Editions" at The National Print Museum, Dublin

Over in Dublin there is a very lively print museum where there are inspirational workshops for children and adults to learn about the creative processes involved in the making of a book surrounded by the type and presses collected together from letterpress print shops.

At present there is an exhibition which runs round the gallery above this active print shop entitled Exquisite Editions. Around thirty books are displayed which have come from active presses around the world who continue to use presses such as those on show in the museum striving for the highest possible standards and using high quality materials.

The books have been selected by a Dublin printer, Jamie Murphy, who has his own press The Salvage Press where he creates  his own very finely printed editions.  This is a version of The Battle of Maldon with wood engravings by Simon Brett.

There are showcases for the display and hanging above each is a description of the press involved in the making of the book on show and the details of the book itself. It has been curated with great care and obvious love for the many ways in which books can come into being.

We were delighted that Jamie Murphy chose Angela Lemaire's A Christmas Sequence which was photographed at the show and put on Facebook so that we may share it with you here.

05 February, 2015

enfolding . . .

 During much of 1997, a 'studio' was formed from a sheet of plastic lashed to a number of trees in a birch grove surrounded by fields at Catchmays Court and the sculptor, Matt Baker, could be found carving away for hours a day at a sizeable chunk of reddish 'forest stone' which had been chosen and imported from a nearby quarry that has been in operation since Roman times.

The figure that eventually emerged from this stone can be seen in all these photographs. All the stones that surround him had been there for probably hundreds of years. Some were left just as they were but many others were moved, by Matt and various helpers, so as to form the low walls of an enclosure with the figure more or less in its centre.

 The figure can be interpreted in numerous ways. He is clearly emerging from the ground itself and the element that partly envelops his naked body can be read, depending on the angle of your vision, as a piece of material, a hollow tree or a solid rock.

 In the words of the sculptor, While in the the process of becoming and emerging from its surroundings, a figure is seen in the process of beginning a gesture. The weight of the body is focussed behind the right hand, as the hand intends a sweep outwards and around to echo the shape of the enclosure.

 Just as the figure is becoming, from out of the folds of the place, so he is conjuring the folding from the outset.

 The sheep may or may not have a sense of all this but what they DO know is that 'creative' hand is absolutely fantastic for rubbing the part of their back that they simply cannot reach!

For that was the starting point of this post for me. It was agreed with Matt, from the very beginning, that the sheep who roam these fields should be very much part of the sculpture . . . hence its name. The fact is that cohorts of the creatures come and go as the seasons go by and they all seem to develop different behaviour patterns . . . particularly as to where they go to get out of the wind. Some cluster around the base of a Western Red Cedar, and some in the corner at the foot of a large Pin Oak.

This morning, however, blisteringly cold in the wind but with bright sun, the whole troop was using the sculpture's area in just the way that had been planned for. I just had to go for my camera!

30 January, 2015

Iconic French poem translated with stunning images

New Publication
At the beginning of January 2015 we sent out a notice to those who have opted into our mailing list about this exciting book which brings the ground-breaking French poem by Blaise Cendrars to English readers in a translation by Dick Jones together with stunning imagery by Natalie d'Arbeloff. Almost within the first day all the copies of the special edition were spoken for and the main edition is being sent off to some very prestigious libraries. We repeat that newsletter for those who may have missed it or not opened their email that day!

 poem by Blaise Cendrars
translated into English by Dick Jones
with imagery by Natalie d’Arbeloff

This extraordinary epic poem - known for short as the Trans-Sib, given its deliberately awkward and cumbersome title - was written by Blaise Cendrars in 1913. It is a compound of the literal and the surreal, a breathless travelogue, historical commentary and dreamscape narrative.

His daughter, Miriam Gilou Cendrars, writes for this edition a note about the importance of Cendrars’ work to modern poetry of the twentieth century. She has enthusiastically praised this translation and has encouraged us throughout in our labours toward the realization of our dreams and hopes for this edition.

 The poet had been in Russia in 1905 at the time of unrest followed by the Sino-Russian war and the dramatic incidents which occur on the journey he makes (in the company of his lover, Jeanne) may well have happened to him. As an impressionable young man he imparts a sense of vivid truth, writing of these historical events in minute detail.  

  This vivid truth is also powerful in Dick Jones’ translation into English of the poet’s original text in French. As he writes of the poem - ‘the narrative itself is presented in a refreshingly direct and simple style, breaking entirely with the traditional conventions of verse form and its graphic literality is punctuated by passages of lambent and dreamlike imagery, prefiguring by 40 years the experimentation of the Beat poets in Cendrars’ beloved United States.

 Dick Jones and Natalie d’Arbeloff were both equally excited by Cendrars' writing and together created a rhythmic, pounding fusion of image and words retelling this journey across Russia on the famous Trans-Siberian railway. Cendrars' account of this journey has been immensely influential on the literature of the twentieth century especially in Europe. It deserves to be better known beyond the French-speaking world.

  The translator continues to work on other poems by Cendrars and for those unfamiliar with the work he has created a Facebook page for Blaise Cendrars which is well worth exploration.

2015 48pp. 335 x 355mm

Main Edition: ISBN 978-0-907664-92-5   150 copies numbered and signed by artist and translator    £295 (plus p&p) 

Special Edition:  ten copies for sale  The book is placed in a drop-back box together with a portfolio containing four images printed and hand coloured by the artist.Two are taken from the book and two were made especially for this Special Edition (see below). Each is individually signed and numbered by the artist.            £1350 (plus p&p) 

The paper is Canaletto Liscio 160gsm. Typeface is Storm Sans. In the printing of the text, twenty-four different colours of ink were chosen, employed at random. The suite of vinyl cut images are printed directly from Natalie d’Arbeloff’s original blocks. The book was case-bound at The Fine Book Bindery with papers designed by the artist and the lined slipcase and the Box containing the Special Edition is blocked with an image of Cendrars. 

22 August, 2014

Shortlisted among the Glitterati Goliaths

Surprises sometimes come in the daily welter of email - although  most is unwanted.
Recently an email arrived telling us of the British Book Design and Production Awards 2014 - only a few days left to enter it said. Among the fifteen categories of different aspects of design and production it seemed there is one for Limited Editions and Private Presses.

Why not! We produce books that fulfil all their criteria and so, although we have never been much excited by competitions and the like, we submitted Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing.

Given the standing of the country's great publishing and printing houses we would be a veritable David among the Goliaths but it is a beautiful book and perhaps there would be appreciative judges who would recognise its worth.


So - we are more than happy so be able to say that it has been shortlisted in the category . . . along with Phaidon, Canongate and Northend (who printed our second Bibliography).

There was a form to fill in listing every possible stage of a book’s production and they needed to know the names of all those by which these were performed. In our case, of course, there were only two names to fill in . . .  Nicolas and Ralph Kiggell . . . until it came to binding and then, of course, The Fine Bookbindery was inserted.

November 20th is the day when there is a ‘glittering event for all those involved in the industry, bringing printer, designers and their clients together to celebrate the best of British book design and production work’. More than possibly David will have succumbed beneath the combined weight of so many greats but it is good to know that some significant judges from among the higher reaches of design and book publishing have enjoyed The Old Stile Press’s entry sufficiently to shortlist it.