I have been thinking more about how to take forward my hedgerow library idea, and whether to leave the pages blank (similar in spirit to the River Library work of Racquel Rabonovich which inspired it), or whether to inscribe more knowledge upon them. I quite like the idea of capturing some sort of hedgerow folk knowledge – old wisdom, recipe, herblore or the like – using the paper which embodies directly the plant being discussed. I realise this leans slightly back towards the ritual magic of my old project proposal – well, some interests are ingrained I guess!
As a way forward, I have been looking into historical written languages as well as the asemic, content-less forms. I started with the two scripts I know from Northumbrian folklore – namely Runes and Ogham, both native and isolated to Northern Europe. During my exploration, I discovered some very interesting facts about Ogham script. Used as an alphabet (not a language), it was used around the 4th century AD to write old Irish (mainly) as well as old Welsh and Pictish, through carvings on wood and stone monuments across the British Isles. It is thought that the script was designed as a code to write secret messages between people (some sources claim it was reserved for use by senior members of the Druids, so ordinary folk would not understand).
The Ogham alphabet (vertical)*
The pronunciation of the letters shown is for Primitive Irish the language used in the majority of Ogham inscriptions. The names and sounds represented by of the letters uath and straif are uncertain. There are many different version of the letter names – the standard ones are used here [with the Primitive Irish ones, where known, in brackets]
I discovered an exquisite book in the library special collection which used the basis of Ogham as a code to create a limited edition artists book.
Here are a few photos of the pages themselves – so beautifully done.
Much inspiration which can be gleamed from this. I started off by thinking of using stitch to directly copy some Ogham letters onto paper, however once I started stitching I ended up creating something different – and more uniquely my own “language”. Unexpected and quite pleasing, I let the stitches follow the curve of the thread and lie where they wanted to lie. This was my first samples using paper yarn:
the second was using some of my hand-dyed papers
I quite like how these have come out, and although still just tests, this could be a valuable strand of work to follow up. An outstanding question springs to mind though: do I want these stitched messages to be pure expression? or do I want to create some deep and involved cryptographic stitched script? I want to beware crossing the line into over-literal and over-baked ideas.
…and where to go next?