Insecta – the starting history of a small book

I sold a handmade book to a gentleman in the States. I posted it last weekend and presumably it is now floating, or flying, somewhere between here and America. I miss it slightly as I miss all my carefully crafted works. It was also a difficult piece to create. Why, you might ask, did I make by hand a book about insects? Because they are great is the answer. Yet it didn’t start as a book about insects.

It started with me making a simple accordion style book with handmade paper. I’d made a lot of books before but not many with handmade paper. Once made I had no idea what to put in it. I mean that’s the thing with making books, once you’ve made them something needs to go in them.

I took it around with me as a sketchbook, but it didn’t really work as that, it felt like a book that needed a purpose. I tried it as a snake like sculpture, but that wasn’t very interesting. Then a friend asked me to do a reading of a folk spell at one of her art exhibitions. I needed somewhere to write the spell down where it would be easy for me to read in dim light. At a loss as to what to put in this book I decided to write the spell in that. It looked old and kind of magical so it seemed appropriate.

It worked well for the performance but afterwards the book just sat again, without purpose. It didn’t seem to want the spell, the spell was empty and didn’t belong. The book came with me from grotti little art studio to grotti little art studio like a faithful pet but nothing seemed to suit its pages.

Then I ended up visiting the natural history museum every Thursday evening after hours to draw insects. It was great! Such delicate beautiful creatures.

I hallucinate insects a lot. It’s part of the rare brain disease I have. It’s not that I have overdosed or taken too much of anything. I think it’s just something that is easy to hallucinate. Tiny creatures crawling across the floor, the table, the bed, up my arms. Lots of them. The initial reaction is “Yuk” with a very slight panic , but then I usually realise it is just a hallucination and will go if I don’t panic. Panicking is the worst thing, then they will crawl over me and I will start scratching. But my hallucinated insects never look as fascinating as real insects. Real insects can have a movement to them that reminds me of old stop-motion animation, and there colours can be incredible. Even the humble dug beetle (the name says it all) has a bright purple underbelly) I could tell you stories about the dung beetle, but not now, maybe later.

So I covered each page of the book with fine semi-see-through Japanese print paper, meaning bits of the original spell can be seen underneath, and drew real life insects, sketched at the natural history museum, on top.

For insects help the cycle of life continue. Although I don’t want them crawling up me or floating in my soup (real or imaginary), they are amazing and fascinating and necessary.

So is there significance to a witches spell in a handmade book covered in pictures of insects? This thought crawls across my brain in search of a purpose.

The problem with perfect

Perfect is a closed circle, static, fulfilled, existing out of time. An idea that does not really happen in nature because of the need for change and adaption in order to survive.

Take an oak tree. Imagine for now it is born from the perfect acorn in the perfect soil, it has every potential of becoming the perfect mushroom shaped oak seen in picture books. It grows into a stalk, and starts to develop leaves, but there are big holly bushes next to it, so it’s leaves can’t get much sunlight to photosynthesise. It is going to have to grow much taller than them. In its 30th year there is a harsh winter, so it drops some of its lower branches to conserve nutrients. In its 50th year a house is built to one side of it preventing sunlight reaching it from that side, so to make up for this it grows more on the other side giving it a somewhat crooked shape. The tree is a healthy oak that will live for a couple of hundred years, but it is not the perfect tree, it does not have that neat mushroom shape, it is crooked, tall, and sparse on the lower branches. It is the ability to change and not remain perfect that has meant it can live a long healthy life.

Now we imagined a perfect acorn, but evolution being as it is, that acorn probably wasn’t perfect, a genetic difference may have slightly altered the tree’s bark, or made it extra tasty for a particular insect. While in one case this could have been an annoyance and potentially damaging to the tree, in another the bark difference could make it particularly resistant harsh winds, so if it or one of its future acorns ended up on the Scotland Highlands it would have a better chance of survival than one that didn’t have that bark difference. Equally so being tasty to a particular insect could be damaging in one instance but if that insect happened to eat another more deadly insect that could infect the tree then being tasty to the first would be an advantage.

That is just one simplified example of the need to adapt and how the our idea of the classical closed perfect organism would not survive because it can not change and adapt to its environment.

If you get a compass and draw a circle on a piece of paper it may look perfect, you can call it perfect and others will agree. Yet time will smudge and fade the ink, it will tear and rot the paper, till eventually your perfect circle is nothing but mush. This mush will hopefully be put in the ground where if can feed another seed which will eventually grow into another plant that will feed another animal or maybe even a human who draws another perfect circle.

Oak tree in a woods

Time, the circle and the devil

The old confused brain goes on a bit of a wobbly again, thinks the government along with American billionaire’s are in it together, slowly killing off my friends one by one. What is the use of poor artists and musicians these days, in an overpopulated world? But then I suppose this was the basic plot of the still not yet finished spletzer-martin story, so no new thought there then.

The devil has also come back in the form of a very nice sophisticated man who takes me on long walks around London, to see art exhibitions and drink martinis. He wears a red shirt sometimes, looks good in a waistcoat and says he would like to be the 18 stone wife of a wealthy banker…

I am of course very sane, in so much as I write this blog as a way to present the ridiculousness of my thoughts and therefore diminish their power over me.

What if Everything originated with the circle.

The circle that is hand drawn, a stick on a rope scratching through the mud.

The perfect circle cannot exist in time, for time instantly makes it imperfect.

Life is wonderfully imperfect

Last Friday I experienced the pain of being the kitchen door, I don’t know what to do with that pain now. They call this epilepsy.

I’m tired, my cat wants feeding and it is time for bed. Tomorrow we shall talk about potential sins over wine and bubbly. Tomorrow I shall try to avoid another spider’s web. Tomorrow is a gig in Deptford, London, at Sister Midnight records, where I hope some of the spirit of Screaming J Hawkins will scream through me. Tomorrow will be today very soon. Goodnight.