25 May, 2007

Thomas Hardy and Mark Cazalet

For the last few years we have been planning, together with Mark Cazalet (seen here with his wife Harriet, Felix and Freya), a selection from Hardy’s poems, written in 1912-13 about his wife, Emma.

Here we quote from Claire Tomalin's recent book Thomas Hardy, The Time-Torn Man, on her view of the importance of this group of poems:

The sequence, which (Thomas Hardy) called “Poems of 1912-13", adding the words Veteris vestigia flammae (‘traces of old flames’), makes up one of the finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry. It is cast in a different mould from Lycidas, Adonais or In Memoriam, fragmented, less marmoreal, but it still stands beside them.

. . . In these poems about Emma he is rediscovering repressed sorrow and forgotten love. He is like an archaeologist uncovering objects that have not been seen for many decades, bringing them out into the light, examining them, some small pieces, some curious bones and broken bits, and some shining treasures. There is a rising excitement in the writing as of someone making discoveries. He has found the most perfect subject he has ever had.

Mark Cazalet was very enthusiastic about creating prints ( a combination of wood and linocuts) for our book, Green Blades, to reflect the ‘rediscovery of repressed sorrow and forgotten love’ but it is a long and painstaking task to cut wood and lino for twenty-two large images and the work was achieved alongside huge murals, stained and engraved glass commissions and painting trips to Israel and Palestine for a magnificent series bringing stories from the Bible into the modern world. At last ‘our’ book is on the press and Nicolas has his task of bringing the poems and images together in printings which will involve three colours for each page opening. It will be on characterful Italian white paper, 330x350mm - so large and almost square - and the inks are specially mixed by Cranfield Colours from natural pigments.

The images above are proofs of the blocks taken by the artist - to show Nicolas what they should look like!

See more of Mark Cazalet's varied and fascinating work here.

19 May, 2007

Glenys Cour

At last, the artist gets to sign!

For various reasons, mostly from other parts of our lives, Black Marigolds has taken much longer than expected to be completed. The final printing has now been done and, with the signing of the final signature completed [we do that rather than wait until the book is bound when we would have to approach artist and/or author with a lorry-load of books!] the whole lot can go off to the binder.

The binding is rather unusual and involves two printed items. First there is this piece of patterned paper

and then there is this piece of printing - in silver on black.

How these fit together will have to remain your guess . . . until the binders have done the work and I can photograph the finished book!

Very personal postscript -
The signing and the photography took place in Swansea this very afternoon. Glenys, superb artist and radiantly wonderful person, gave us a glorious tea and then settled down to the signing. Afterwards she let us see her latest work, a series of largish canvases of towering beauty - fascinatingly poised between land/sea and skyscape and abstraction. I cannot wait to see them together on the walls of a gallery . . . and I hope that at least one may end up on our walls!

Finally, I admitted something that I have sought to keep from all the rest of my friends - such is my dislike of 'special days'.

"Glenys, as we leave I shall need a special hug and a bit of a blessing from you for tomorrow I am to be 70."

Glenys who, despite the evidence of these two photographs, left that age behind an unimaginable amount of time ago, took me in her arms and said , "Oh, my little lad!"

14 May, 2007

'Duke Bluebeard's Castle' comes to Wales' Millennium Centre

It will not have escaped the notice of those who follow the doings and interests of the two of us at The Old Stile Press that music is hugely important to our lives and, indeed, has often provided the starting point for our books. Peter Grimes and Abraham and Isaac are obvious examples.

It is not often, however, that one of our publications comes to visit us, as it were, in quite such an exciting way as this! During this season of Welsh National Opera (undoubtedly one of Wales’ greatest treasures), you will be able to see performances, at the stunning Millennium Centre in Cardiff and later at the Birmingham Hippodrome of Bela Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. The production is in conjunction with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and is to be sung in Hungarian.

A number of years ago however, John Lloyd Davies, Head of Opera Development at the ROH, had made an English version of the libretto for performances of the opera and it is this version that we used for Susan Adams’ sensational book. Her images, combining woodcut with computer generated imagery, make chilling scenes of the mysterious castle and its 'prisoners', to match the complexity of emotion and psychological shifts which are central to the opera.

The story is of the young bride, Judith, brought to her new home by the Duke. She longs to fling open windows, to let sunlight flood into her castle but gradually she has to face the truth of what may have happened here - the truth of the destroyed lives of the three previous wives. Her curiosity drives her to open the seven locked doors and it becomes clear that Bluebeard and Judith face spiritual loneliness in the face of love.

The book is hardly a libretto that you might have in your pocket as you arrive at the opera house but it does match the power of one of great operas of the twentieth century and creates a ‘maze of the imagination which allow one to take on the fearful realities’.

Click here to see the full description of our book.

Copies of the book are here at the Press - seats at the opera house are not ours to sell but contact them if you want to see the opera.

Friday 25, Wednesday 30 May and Saturday 2 June 8pm
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
08700 40 2000 wmc.org.uk

Tuesday 19 June 8pm
Birmingham Hippodrome

01 May, 2007

Ralph Kiggell flies in from Bangkok!

Leading the Cranes Home has been one of the most successful and best admired of our books in the past few years. Click on the title to see its full description and slide-show!

The creator of its fantastic colour woodcuts, Ralph Kiggell, has just been here, having managed to pop down to Wales during one of his infrequent trips back to the UK from his home in Thailand.

We did persuade him to unroll for us the pile of prints that he had brought to show to one or other of his galleries. Some of the prints we had seen before but some were new to us. These great sheets of Japanese paper, apparently flimsy but actually remarkably strong, are impressive enough in their own right but, when the baren in Ralph's hand has finished the long and laborious process of printing one block after another, the result, glowing with rich colours, is truly magnificent.

These few photos are merely to give an impression of the excitement as the prints were unrolled! If you want to concentrate on looking at these prints and many others, you can visit Ralph's website from here.

Those who have had an opportunity to handle and examine thoroughly Leading the Cranes Home, will not be surprised to hear that, sitting this morning in glorious Mayday sun and heat (still a bit chilly for Ralph!), we began to weave plans for a second venture together . . .

. . . and that is all I'm saying at the moment!