Curling up with this book has been like walking with a wise and well informed friend who never wearies you with information, but just stimulates your imagination and encourages your spirit of adventure and discovery! I love how before the book even begins she explains that the meaning of the word gossip has changed to become something quite negative as so often words associated with women's lives and lore have done. To begin with a gossip was a name for a godparent, someone contracted to be a spiritual sponsor at a baptism, then it changed slightly to mean a woman's female friends invited to be present at a birth until eventually it becomes a word for idle chatter! Maitland says the 'gossip' of her title refers to spiritual talk that 'we all need in times of trouble' and she goes to the woods and the ancient store of fairy lore for this! At the end of each chapter she re-tells a fairy tale for modern times.
I can genuinely say that I loved this book. It made me realize how magical our woodland heritage in Britain is and how much the forests have shaped our imagination. Of course forests all over the world are equally magical and equally under threat! The sun-dappled ambiguous light of woods is exactly the right light in which to see fairies, so for this reason I chose to decorate a fairy shrine from Retro Cafe Art Gallery for my artful response. If you click on the images you can see in a little more detail.
These shrines are basically fairy shaped with wings and a little chamber at the centre and you can decorate them any way you choose. I decided to make mine an Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking-Glass fairy. This is because woods are a kind of wonderland in which extraordinary things become ordinary like in Lewis Carroll's dream world. I made a stand for my shrine from chipboard dabbed with Paper Artsy Fresco paints to look like grass and I sandwiched a Crackle Glazed frame between the two sections to suggest a mirror opening out and leading into magical worlds. I gave my Fresco painted Alice Crackle Glaze wings. I gave her antennae because I imagine fairies to be like a species of insect and that they might actually resemble insects in this way. Alice is all about shape shifting, something fairies are heavily into! And woods are, of course, full of shape-shifting plants and creatures. Alice experiences being very tiny and very tall and complains about this, but the caterpillar explains that this is something he has to accept as the norm! The Graphic 45 butterfly resting on the toadstool at the entrance to my Alice Fairy Wood may well have once been that very caterpillar!
Here is a close-up of the miniature wood inside my Alice Fairy. There is a tiny imitation tree and a paper-cut bird's egg. Behind the mini-playing card is a painting of the miniature wood beyond. As I created this I thought about the magic of hearing a rustle in the undergrowth and a tiny creature darting across your path so fast you could hardly glimpse exactly what it was - a rabbit in quite a hurry to get somewhere maybe? Or sometimes that rustling is a bird eyeing you suspiciously, and what a magical metamorphosis happens every time a brood hatches from an egg in a nest cradled in the arms of some ancient tree! Maitland talks about the magic of the woods partly being about seeing that particularly butterfly land on that particular leaf!
Because the shrine is 3D I wanted to decorate the back too. This paper cut of a little boy's head from Retro Cafe Art Gallery reminded me very much of how my son looked as a child. Although he is 22 now sometimes he comes on walks with us in the woods and one of his favourite stories remains 'Alice'. The tiny block on the back of the shrine is meant to be a stand; I have turned it into a book, painting pages edged with gold onto the sides and adding a tiny piece of book text describing the white rabbit. Alice gazing at the little boy so far and yet so near to her is cut from a RCAG collage sheet and placed onto a tiny water colour I did of the grass and the sky. I like to imagine that Alice on this side has just emerged from the enchanted wood. I'm off now to view other reviews and artwork. Thank you so much for stopping by Magpie Heaven to read my review and take a look at what I created.