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Alphabe Thursday W is for White

April 24, 2014



White can be made from many things such as chalk, zinc, barium and rice; but the finest and the cruelest is lead.

White lead was believed by European artists to be one of the most important paints.  It can be used as a primer, to prepare their boards and canvases or mixed with other pigments to build up layers.  Then it is used as a highlight for eyes, the glimmer on glass or silver, the sparkle on jewels, no painting is complete without white.

Unfortunately lead is poisonous; and this has been documented since Roman times.  Pliny says in his Natural History that lead white is poisonous when swallowed; but he doesn’t tell us that it also very harmful when absorbed through the skin or when the dust is breathed in. In his time, Pliny writes, the best lead white came from Rhodes. Shavings of the lead was put over a bowl filled with vinegar.  The acid on the metal would cause a chemical reaction leave a white deposit of lead carbonate. The lead-workers would make little cakes of the powder and leave them in the sun to dry.

In Colour Victoria Finlay goes on to say that the recipe changes slightly in Holland in Rembrandt’s time.  The process  involved using clay pots divided into two sections.  Dozens of  pots filed with the vinegar and lead were laid out on a bed of manure which would generate heat to evaporate the acid and the carbon dioxide to transform the substance from lead acetate to basic lead carbon. All this happened in a sealed room for three months.

When the room was eventually opened it must have been a wonderful sight, from the stench of the stagnant heat and rotting remains came the purest and cleanest white flakes described as ‘alchemical magic’

alphabet thursday




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Wednesday’s Wise Women … Cecilia Meireles etc.

April 23, 2014


Today marks a half way point ; it has been 3 months size my daughter and her partner returned to their home in Brazil and it is 3 months until we spend a a holiday with them. We are lucky because we get to enjoy parts of Rio de Janeiro that other tourists will not even see. We are beginning to make tentative plans; but mostly hopping they will be recovered from their recent accident.

Originally posted on Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages:

While I was away in Rio, it was my intention to write about three women for my Wednesday Women slot; Clarice Lispector, Carmen Miranda.  Today,  planned to add Cecilia Meireles (1901 – 1964) Brazilian born poet who was orphaned at three years went on to win literary acclaim very early in her career and won the Brazilian Academy of Letters Poetry Prize for 1939 (2009) Merieles died of cancer in Rio de Janeiro.

I had some background knowledge but inadequate for the job in hand; so I planned to research more while in Rio.  Unfortunately, this fell rather flat when I discovered early in my visit that I would be unable to access the internet at ‘home,’ also other access points were a bike ride away.  Besides which any research materials found would be in Portuguese and to get any understanding and to do them justice I would…

View original 346 more words

Weekly Photo Challenge … on top.

April 22, 2014


In the Land of NelaBligh and the window of opportunity when considering this week’s  photo challenge, my new hawthorn hedge is as high as it gets. It was planted last year with one or two other native hedge plants in my garden.  It has outgrown the rest and will be trimmed to encourage side shoots. I am hoping when they all become more bush like it will be populated with creatures of the feathered kind.  It will not only be a pleasant backdrop to other plants it will be a mini nature reserve!

Wood engraving, to be or not to be that is the question …

April 21, 2014

Last week, I began a new aspect of my new found ‘hobby’.

I began printmaking on a very simple (and inexpensive) level  a little under two years ago. I enjoyed it very much and began to see an opportunity to do something creative and with a little more (or a lot) work I could become an artist as I hoped for 60 years before.

I enrolled in some art classes and have continued to attend on a regular basis with various teachers. Whatever the outcome, these lessons will continue as they have become a vital part of my life not just as a would be artist/print-maker but as human being wanting to find her way in the [art] world.

As already discussed I learned a little about wood engraving I even produced some small works.  It is quite different from lino-cutting and of course my rudimentary eraser cutting.

Needless to say, I will need different tools and wood that are all considerably more expensive … beside all other equipment bought over the last few months; the monies invested will never be recouped. I have to make some pragmatic decisions about how I should continue; like any person beginning a new hobby whether it is music, sport, photography (to follow a local football team requires a huge investment just for the season ticket); cost versus enjoyment.

Having made the decision to take up the tools; so ‘other’ discussions come into play; still with limited time and money,  being happy doing something doesn’t make the problems go away!

For instance;I have bought a clutch of second hand tools;

Are they sharp? They seem so;  but are they the right size? i.e, length? 

It cannot be one size suits all; as they have to fit snug! 

What are the names of these tools? 

A Graver? a spitsticker? Round scorper? Tint tool?

What size are they? Do I need more ? If so which? and size; small medium or large? 

A square scorper or a multiple tool or both?  

I have learned a little about the wood but even practice pieces are expensive.  While I don’t want to use cheaper alternatives I don’t want waste money either.

So I would like to learn the basic skills while incorporating them a potential work of art;  as they differ so much from those I learned in the past.

There is a supplier up north (a good and expensive train journey way) he would give me sound advice; but is that overkill?

Is there a wood engraver nearby who would for a small charge help me through these early months?

So while I continue to ask myself will it be fun? And the answer is yes!! I would value (seriously) advise on the way forward.  

I am planning to attend Kate Dicker’s workshop in October. Giving me a good 6 months to practice! 

Silent Sunday …

April 20, 2014

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Saturday … Its OK

April 19, 2014



All my 60 plus years I have fought against Alopecia (and GPs , who wanted to blame anything but not psychological disorder and reluctant to consider holistic methods of cure even if they knew about them)

Fortunately, it has mostly been a private battle; unnoticed by others except my hairdressers who soon learned the technique to tell me gently that there was cause for concern again. (not that I knew the answer or the cure) Having said that I usually knew when the baldness was about as the skin where the hair had been yesterday was surprising cold; It is remarkable how warming hair is, even a few tufts.

Sadly, on more than one occasion the effect has be total; for many months I was completely bald.

No one can tell what has caused it; although I can make some calculated suggestions. Sometimes, it comes back as quickly as it went often it takes longer seems like weeks or months.   

There is no rhyme or reason; as child and teenager my hair grew back my natural dark brown. Then after a particularly troublesome time in my early twenties I lost much hair and it grew back white. It continued in this way, so by the time I was 30 my hair was white as snow and has been ever since.

It continued to go and come and it wasn’t until I turned 40 and the birth of my last daughter I decided to study the condition more closely and take some action.

It had been easy to say the the Alopecia was just to do with anxiety or stress levels.  Or worse blame myself using poor quality shampoo, bad diet, hair spray etc etc.

While it I am not about to apportion blame to parents who had neglected to see that their  little girl had genuine and treatable emotional and hormonal disorders. It did soon become clear that Alopecia is not just about hair loss and baldness.  

Even now after years of ‘therapies’ treatments, change of diet etc. I am not sure if any of it has worked. Sufficed to say  I am OK, the psyche is complex, I am complex … The condition doesn’t appear to upset the rest of my life.  I lead a rich and fulfilled life, my garden is a testament to that. A tiny patch 3 metres x 10 metres of delight. ..

Sadly these last traumers have taken their toll; my recent hair loss is considerable.  I have gone beyond the careful combover and strategically placed scarf.  If not just for vanity I wear a hat; I wonder who would choose to shave their head,  even in the lovely sunlight the wind is still keen.


From the favela

April 18, 2014


This week there is opportunity to celebrate a little; after their accident and confinement my daughter and her partner have returned home. Although there is still a long way to as regards getting back to complete mobility they are at least in a position to try to fend for themselves.
So while the library is closed for Easter, I remember back to our first visit to Rio and panic a little when reminded of the uneven steps that two people with broken legs and crutches will have to negotiate daily for a few more weeks.

Originally posted on Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages:

From the favela the lady went down to view.
From the intimate bustle,
And the touch of human clamour.
From behind the curtain of discretion
And the secret warmth of home.
Where the forgotten forest forces through fissures
Of encasing concrete.

Away from the privacy of alienation
That welcome mutter
Bom dia!
A side step on the upward step or down.
No grand façade or colourful display.
To the motorway to somewhere
And the mighty silver glitter stage for the world
To gaze upon.
The backdrop of nondescript haunts
And hideaways
The space for the mundane in carefully selected costumes
The paraders must not catch the watcher’s eye.
The energetic power-walkers
With bouncing golden bosoms
Thighs honed to perfect and buttocks trimmed.
Here the forest must not appear,
Only a strategically placed palm
Its emerald fronds bow only when directed.
The sculpted children and coiffured hounds
Obediently maintain jovial front.

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