During lockdown I’ve had rather more time in my studio than usual and busy with new paper collage designs for my Papershades. The latest collection celebrates books and writers. I’ve found great pleasure in reading ‘old friends’ during lockdown and decided to immortalise some of my favourite authors on a Papershade. It all began with the Brontes. I created a Papershade of Yorkshire and this was an extension of my love of the county. What astonishing siblings they were and how atmospheric the Parsonage at Haworth is. I read Jane Eyre first and adored it. I wasn’t as enamoured of Wuthering Heights as other people and came late to Anne Bronte’s books but loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
So, having created the three talented sisters I thought about the other formative books I’ve read and of course thought of Jane Austen. It’s a comfort to all writers out there that she was in middle age when her first novel, Pride and Prejudice was published and, by then she had a nicely full ‘bottom drawer’ of other novels to polish up to readiness once her success had been established. It’s always a joy to visit Chawton in Hampshire. You get a very strong sense of the environment she lived in and it’s great to see the tiny table where she wrote her novels.
Of course you can’t make a list of British literary giants and not include Shakespeare. Again, I haven’t seen all his plays – there are some of the history plays I’m yet to bag but I ‘collect’ productions of Macbeth and pretty much know the play off by heart. It’s always a treat to go to Stratford to see plays but I’m just as happy with a room above a pub if the production is good.
Next up is Charles Dickens. I confess haven’t read all his novels – meaning there are still some treats in store – but I recently read Pickwick Papers (his first published work) and was dazzled by the witty writing and the stylish promise of all those novels to come. I think my favourites are still Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield. And I read Barnaby Rudge a year ago and was fascinated by his descriptions of the old coaching inns which used to line all the main roads of England and were the ultimate meeting places and source of all news and gossip.
Coming a little more up to date we have Lewis Carroll. There can’t be many children who haven’t encountered the Alice books. I still possess very old and battered copies of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass which were given to me as a child but had belonged to my grandparents so I know I’m not ht only one responsible for the pencil scribbles on the blank bits. I adored those Tenniel illustrations. I do have a very tenuous connection. My great, great uncle married a Miss Liddell, cousin of Alice Liddell who inspired Charles Dodgson to write these astonishing and surreal stories. Yes, it’s very tenuous, I realise!
Last up is Virginia Woolf. I don’t like all her books – I find her writing quite difficult and fragmented but I do appreciate that she really pushed the genre of the novel in the first quarter of the 20th century and is a towering figure in literature. My favourite novel of hers is To The Lighthouse, though it’s very sad. The older I get the more I relate to that sense of ‘going back’ and the notion that by visiting places from your youth you can reconnect with that time. You can’t. We just keep moving forward and all that experience simply mulches down into memory.
Anyway, this collection has kept me happily and creatively distracted during these weird lockdown days of early 2021. I’m sure one day we’ll look back upon with some strange nostalgia.
All the Literary Papershades are on my website: http://www.papershades.co.uk and for sale at £25 including postage and packaging.