Happy Yule!

See the blazing Yule before us…

May your fires burn warm and bright!

Most pagan festivals seem to involve fires in some way, to leap over, pass between, purify with, or just generally light up a circle. Yule is probably the most simple, celebrating warmth and light in the dark depths of winter.

As I wrote earlier this month (see When Things Don’t Go To Plan), this was not my first design for this year’s card – which was a snowman – but was conceived out of a series of things not working out as intended. I hoped to use the card to turn situations around and create magic.

One of the troubles involved difficulties with lighting a fire in our woodland when we only had very damp, very green wood to work with. After I drew the design for this card (straight onto the lino to save time) we had the perfect weather and, having carefully saved any dead branches from trees cut down to use as kindling, were able to build a great fire. So great that it took some time to put it out and make it safe when leaving; green wood had effectively become charcoal and was glowing beautifully. Success, and a lot of learning.

There is a little mouse in the corner of the card. The card seemed to call out for an animal of some kind, and I had been feeling that new planting in the woodland should encourage mice, especially dormice which are an endangered species in Britain. So it felt right to include one here. Not all of my inking and pressing was to a standard I was happy with, yet the mouse came out pretty perfect on every print. Even better, I actually saw a mouse a few days later when collecting rubbish along the lane that leads to the woodland, which I think was a harvest mouse.

In the background, I originally intended snowflakes, thinking about a fire warming the wintery nights. However in some of my prints they look more like stars. This makes perfect sense to me when I realise that the woodland seems to have a star connection in both its location and in the name it has inspired in us.

Oak Sunrise Window

Oak Sunrise Window

Oak Sunrise Window
(Click for full size picture)

Here is the (almost!) final result of a project that has been several years in the making. It is in fact the last stained glass project I completed when pregnant with M… but for various reasons has taken until now to actually be fitted into place.

The window space used to be external, but is now internal and the bottom half of the window will lift up as a serving hatch. (Once the sash cords and weights have also been fitted!) Hence it is designed so that it will still work as a picture when not fully closed. The original window was a little larger than this, we have made it a brick smaller at the sides and top, reversing the side of the sash opening in the process. (Those familiar with sash windows will know that they are set into the wall behind the front skin of bricks, a practice introduced in the 1700s to reduce the fire risks. It is partly what gives genuine sash windows their character, and while not providing the recesses or windowsills so useful for putting things on that a casement window has, they are actually very energy efficient. Even more so when double glazed…)

Besides the obvious picture, there is some personal symbolism in the design:

Oak tree – for protection and strength, for thanks, for journeying from.
Stag – represents partnership, balance, majesty, confidence, vitality. A friend in this world and in other worlds. Grounding. Trust.
Sunrise – beginnings, hope. There is always light on the horizon.
Stars – great bear (family animal), ploughing a furrow, pointing the way, some say the source of the seven rays. Also a saucepan with a bent handle… well it is the kitchen on one side!

It was tempting to use a version of this design for a Winter Solstice card, but of course here the oak tree is in the full leaf colours of midsummer. From a point of view of living with it as a picture, it feels relevant for at least two seasons each year, compared to flowers which only have one season.

For the technically minded, the glass used is mostly Kokomo, some Spectrum and some Dynasty. The stars are bevels. The antlers were done by cutting the heart out of the lead came where it overlaps the glass; they were soldered in place and cemented as if they were attached as normal.