The Orphaned Spaces: A look at the book

OS_spread_0015OS_spread_0014The books have been delivered to DP Towers for The Orphaned Spaces, which launched on 27th August.

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Taking the form of an A5, 148-page book and/or made-to-order box setThe Orphaned Spaces is an illustrated exploration of overlooked areas of natural beauty – edgelands, ex-industrial, derelict and brownfield sites, and the sometimes rare flora and fauna that is found there.

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More than a nature book, it is a rumination on life, loss and time, through the prism of liminal spaces captured in moments between dilapidation and regeneration. The book is the culmination of a multi-discipline collaboration by poet MW Bewick and artist Ella Johnston. Anyway, here’s more pictures of the book…

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New book: The Orphaned Spaces

Landscape, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Landscape, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

Our beautiful new book, published in August, is The Orphaned Spaces. The book is the latest in a loosely themed series from Dunlin Press that continues our interest in place, time and nature. It is available for pre-order now.

The Orphaned Spaces, MW Bewick and Ella Johnston published by Dunlin Press
The Orphaned Spaces, MW Bewick and Ella Johnston, published by Dunlin Press
Wild flower still life, taken from The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Wild flower still life, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

The book is a collaboration between Dunlin Press founders, poet MW Bewick and artist Ella Johnston. It is the culmination of a year of drawing, photographing and writing, making journeys across the UK, walking, gathering, and research.

Scarce Emerald Damsel Fly drawing by Ella Johnston, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Scarce Emerald Damsel Fly drawing by Ella Johnston, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

In diary form, the text records a year in the life of liminal space and is all based on real journals – and conversations with naturalists – made over a 12-month period, summer to summer. The book includes quick brush pen sketches, made in the field, a series of intricately detailed black-and-white drawings, selected ‘waste ground’ landscape and still-life photographs of wild flowers, plus an image collection of pressed ‘relics’.

Relic, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Relic, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

The project is centred on a rumination on life through the prisms of derelict land, brownfield sites and edgelands, all caught between moments of dilapidation and regeneration.

Wild plant still life, taken from The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Wild plant still life, taken from The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

These often overlooked spaces reveal much beauty: pioneer plants – ruderals – stray species from around the world, brought by boat and train, and rare native fauna and flora. There are profound lessons to be taken from these landscapes, as well as in the plant and insect life that inhabits them – they are orphaned spaces that can come to be loved.

Yarrow drawing by Ella Johnston, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press
Yarrow drawing by Ella Johnston, The Orphaned Spaces (c) Dunlin Press

The Orphaned Spaces is released on 27 August 2018 but you can pre-order it now to get it on the day. If you’re a bookshop that wants to stock it, or any of our other titles, please get in touch with us email us at info (at) dunlinpress (dot) com.

 

The Orphaned Spaces – handmade books

Last week we previewed some black and white sketch imagery for our new project The Orphaned Spaces. Here’s a look at how we’ve put together some of our handmade books for the limited edition box set.

The first film features our book containing detailed black and white fine line studies of wild flowers, plants and insects. Inspired by botanical drawings seen in antiquarian books, the pieces are printed on archival paper.

The second video showcases our collection of still life photographs. These images are of  plants that we gathered on our explorations of abandoned brownfield sites. Again, as with the black and white drawings, they are printed on archival paper for the handmade element of the project.

Coming soon…. The Orphaned Spaces

The Orphaned Spaces; a new release from Dunlin Press.

Wild clover illustration by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press
Wild clover illustration by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press

The Orphaned Spaces is the culmination of a multimedia collaboration between Dunlin Press founders Martin Bewick and Ella Johnston. The project is centred on a rumination on life through the prism of liminal spaces – derelict land, brownfield sites – caught between moments of dilapidation and regeneration. The project takes the form a paperback book and a highly limited edition box set, featuring hand-stitched booklets, postcards, archival prints and a reliquary.

Here’s a preview of some of the imagery used alongside the prose element of The Orphaned Spaces. These black and white illustrations were created in brush pen by Ella Johnston.

Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press[
Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press
These sketches accompany more detailed fine-liner drawings, still lives and landscape photography elsewhere in the piece. The illustrations seen here are visceral, loose and gestural and have been made on the fly, in the moment.

Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press
Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press

We’ll be revealing more about The Orphaned Spaces on our instagram and here over the next couple of weeks so watch this space…

Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press
Wild flower illustrations by Ella Johnston featured in The Orphaned Spaces published by Dunlin Press

Of time and landscape

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Time is the prism through which we see landscape. We can, of course, try to fix landscape in our minds by writing it, photographing it or painting it, but it embodies uncertainties that will always undo our efforts. It’s unwieldy, it dislikes neatness, it unravels. Consider a photograph and this becomes clear:

In a photograph is a small boy, cagoule zipped up and hood drawn tight around his face, and out from which some strands of wet hair can be seen sticking to his forehead. Behind him rises a mountain-mass of fell, a monolith enraptured in tombstone grey sky.

The location for the photo is the black water of Styhead tarn – frozen in an instant as a cold winter hollow, smuggled beneath the Lake District’s high ground. And this is the way I always view Styhead tarn, which I’ve rambled up to occasionally over the years, in all seasons, and in weather good and bad. Forget the tiny jewels of flowers that bloom here in spring and summer – the avens and catchfly, mousear and cinquefoil – or the sweet musk hit of bilberries found between the valley-side heathers and ferns of Lingmell. No, this is my picture, and its colours are almost monochrome.

But this isn’t the real landscape of Styhead tarn, either – it’s a version. And the boy in the picture isn’t really me, because I’m here, now. And the boy is peering out from the murk of fast-descending cloud at a man absent from the photo, a man holding a camera and focusing the lens for an inordinately long time, a man who is my dad, who is no longer here. And so when I look at the picture, I’m him, my dad, looking at his son, a child I haven’t had.

An aperture closes. The stratus of cloud shutters us out.

From the look of me, the year of the photo is 1983; but from the quality of the image I guess it’s 85, taken with my dad’s then-new camera. In truth I can’t place it accurately at all.

And where is this photo now? It’s somewhere, of course, maybe in an album in a cupboard in an old sandstone house where sparrows nest, gaining entry to the masonry in cracks where mortar has fallen out over the years. And maybe it’s still remnant on the drive of a computer, scanned in the early days of the digital age. But the dusty and creaking laptops were jettisoned during one of our house moves; and all the old images were lost to become the binary ghosts of a purgatory of landfill.

The photo is gone but the landscape of Styhead still lives, even if I haven’t seen it in two decades. The last time I was there, we paused for a flask of tea and a sandwich – one of those mediocre kind that are elevated in flavour by any corresponding rise in altitude from the valley floor. We headed on round the water, rising for Sprinkling Tarn before dipping into Ruddy Gill and the crags of Great End that signal the way to Sca Fell itself.

As we walked, the bright morning was lost. A small cloud, light as August thistledown, floated towards us; then another – and then we were suddenly gone from each other’s sight, voices ringing clear in the formless afternoon, consumed, wet and blind in the cloud. By the summit we were drenched. Ten years later, two of our small party of friends were gone for good, taken before their time.

It’s hard to consider landscape without considering changes in perspective – the view from there compared with the view up here, or the view back then compared with the view now, today. There’s a tendency in some modern landscape writing – and there’s an awful lot of that around – to want to fix landscape, own it, cement it. Writers venture out and return to report facts, listing all the varieties of flora and fauna seen like they’d been on an A-level geography trip. This misses the point.

Landscape can’t be squared in a quadrat; it’s nothing if it’s not about change, about what is gained and lost, not only in its physical features but also in our appreciation of it, in our imaginations. To gain things, or to lose them, takes time. Landscape is about time too. Its elemental aspects are little more than illusion. We can’t get our precise bearings if we only consider landscape as a meeting of fell and sky, slate and birch, or maram grass and pebbles smoothed in littoral space. These rough pictorial coordinates will only get you lost. The natural world disappears from view, and so does the story of our place in it. It’s only by tracing landscape through time and mind that it truly becomes real.

MW Bewick

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Time and landscape are the lines of narrative that run through all of our books – so far – here at Dunlin Press. In our latest book, Priced Out, it takes the form of the life of an artist, Tinsel Edwards, and her personal and creative journey through the city of London, which first offers hope and opportunity, and eventually brings us to the cataclysmic and divisive housing situation that has seen artists leave the capital in droves, along with vital key workers and others, and ultimately delivered the tragedy that is Grenfell.

In Scarecrow, MW Bewick‘s debut collection of poetry, the lines of time and landscape connect London with rural East Anglia – and with the recurring figure of the Scarecrow, watching as seasons turn and lives come and go. He is there in the capital, with “fingers compassed acutely at the palaces and flags”, and as ‘Jesus of Kingsway’, throwing out bread that will feed the homeless during the cold night, and in the fields where he will watch “harvests for old lovers, chances passing”.

In The Migrant Waders – illustrated by Ella Johnston and with contributions from the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, the Refugee Council, and poets and nature writers – the geographical scope broadens to take in the Arctic and Africa. The book traces the flight paths, and discovers the destinations, of the migrant birds that grace our shores and moorlands, as well as the journeys made by humans – across continents and through history – in search of food and shelter, or to escape conflict, and to find somewhere that might be called home.

In Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia, contributors including filmmaker and novelist Chris Petit, ‘Hookland’ author David Southwell, poets Wendy Mulford and Martin Newell, and a host of other writers, who together create a kaleidoscopic vision of an East Anglia that connects The Wash to The Thames, and folklore with food banks, via the region’s salt marshes and creeks, sand and shingle beaches, psychogeographies and human history.

Landscape and time. It’s how we see the world. And how we create it afresh.

Styhead_Tarn_by Ella_Johnston_2Illustrations: Ella Johnston

Priced Out Review, East Anglian Daily Times

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The team at Dunlin Press towers are glowing today after reading a fantastic piece by Martin Newell in the East Anglian Daily Times on our latest book Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards.

As well as being a columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times, Martin Newell is a musician, writer and poet of wide renown. He makes great records and writes books. He has written for the Independent titles, the Guardian, Mojo, Record Collector, Viz comic and other titles. He is also the resident poet for the Sunday Express. Visit his website here.

Martin has been a very valued supporter of Dunlin Press since its launch and we’re always grateful for this help and advice. However, this review clearly comes from the heart and we’re so happy that he ‘got’ the concept of Tinsel’s book.

You can buy the book here and you can read the piece below.

Priced Out piece by Martin Newell for the East Anglian Daily Times
Priced Out piece by Martin Newell for the East Anglian Daily Times

The Migrant Waders illustrations

Artist and illustrator Ella Johnston created 21 bird illustrations and well as incidental and cover images  for The Migrant Waders book. Here she talks about the brief for the publication and her thinking behind the drawings…

The original brief was to create a collection of wading bird and shorebird drawings on a plain white background.

Woodcock Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders
Woodcock Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders

The creatures needed to be immediately recognisable and all drawings had to have a consistent style in order to work as a collection, while also being able to be used as stand-alone pieces.

Golden Plover Illustration, Watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston, for The Migrant Waders
Golden Plover Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston, for The Migrant Waders

I frequently explore landscapes of woodland, coastlines and marshes, I feel a very deep connection with the different kinds of birds that inhabit each environment. My year now revolves around when these birds are in my space – and me in theirs. 

Dunlin Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders
Dunlin Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders

The waders are my real favourites. The sense of calm and serenity these birds give me is extraordinary. Time stands still when I’m watching the redshanks and godwits digging around in the mud. I marvel at the majesty of the curlew and elegance of the little egrets that visit our creek and quay. The high-pitched squeal of the lapwing, the pip of an oystercatcher and of course the comforting call of the curlew are transcendental – they take me out of whatever is going on in my life and bring me into the moment. I’m grateful to these creatures – they’ve given me peace. I have to draw them.

The application of colour is very loose, free and instinctive. Each portrait is created on watercolour paper that absorbs the paint and ink beautifully and I believe best shows off the quality of this medium. The birds are first drawn as a light sketch, in pencil, loosely highlighting key areas. Then, layers of watercolour washes are applied, each heavily diluted to gradually build up the colours – this provides interesting combinations of hues and texture. I then apply detailed drawings over this with a range of black felt tips – I love the way the different nibs allow me to work up the texture of each feather and capture the character of the plumage. Some pieces are heavily layered with black fine line ink detail, others only need a light touch – it’s a lovely way to work and, again, it’s an instinctive process.

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The birds are deliberately painted without a landscape. It’s an important artistic consideration for me. I want to emphasise and focus the viewer’s attention on the decorative, sensual elements of the subject itself, allowing the spectator to scrutinise, deconstruct and interact with the portrait. I also don’t feel it’s right to tie these birds down to a particular location: waders migrate across many lands and don’t recognise the borders that humans create and that we see on maps. They are my winter but someone else’s summer.

As well as creating a detailed wading bird illustrations, the Migrant Waders book also required an enigmatic cover illustration and accompanying imagery that gave the reader an idea of the sea and the depth of the oceans covered during migrants. Illustrations needed to be atmospheric – with a simultaneous sense of solidity and lightness.

Original cover image for The Migrant Waders by Ella Johnston
Original cover image for The Migrant Waders by Ella Johnston

This rather abstract image was created by applying layers of watercolour and merging two paintings together in photoshop to create a cover that suggested the sea and the sky. The book also features little watercolour droplets throughout the pages to key in with this sense of ‘journey’

You can buy The Migrant Waders here.