December 08, 2013

Prints charming

Yesterday I went to visit my friend Lucie who has a print studio in East London. She had offered to let me try my hand at making a linocut, and at the last moment I took along the blanks I had bought ready to make this year's Christmas cards. This is the result:

I'm pretty proud of them, especially as it was my first go. The design, which I had sketched on some scrap paper at work the day before, shows hawthorn foliage and a singing wren – not traditionally Christmassy, but then I hadn't originally intended to make Christmas cards!

Both hawthorns and wrens have a complicated symbolic significance. May blossom has an unsettling smell that for some people recalls sex – or rotting meat; despite being a herald of spring it was considered dreadfully unlucky to bring it inside. And despite the old rhyme about the robin and the wren being 'God Almighty's cock and hen', it was long thought that killing wrens on New Year's Day brought prosperity for the coming year, and in many parts of the country, wren hunts and processions were an important seasonal ritual. For me, though, wrens and hawthorns are among my favourite of our native species; abundant, humble, but both bringers of beauty and meaning, and part of our living heritage.