At present I’m spending my afternoons making horrible fish art, painting profoundly wrong willow pattern onto household objects, and imagining the arts life of Hopeless, Maine. I’ve never taken world building so far or so literally before.
I’ve been involved with the isolated island of Hopeless Maine for about a decade. It is the brain child of Tom Brown, who first lured me in to writing about it back when we only knew each other online. I married him, and that came out of working together for years on this project. He’s a man with a lot of tentacles.
Opportunities to take Hopeless things out in public have had me making, pondering and inventing for some weeks now. For example, I’ve been making fake dead moths. The Victorians were keen on collecting moths and butterflies, killing them and pinning them to boards. I had a display case turn up full of dead flowers – a rather garish bit of tourist trash. Clearly, the only way forward would be to make the moths from scratch. Mostly out of left over, found, or recycled things. Making them has led naturally to naming them, so we’ve got Granny’s Shroud, the Most Inedible Land Moth and the Poison Druid amongst others (so named because it is partly made of mistletoe, in case you were wondering).
Willow pattern is a widely subverted thing, but I’ve learned a lot hand painting it onto objects. What we see mostly today are factory made, printed to be all the same willow patterns. A foray to my local museum showed me hand painted porcelain, no two quite the same. The idiosyncrasies of the individual painter become a thing, and if there’s one thing I can do, it’s idiosyncrasy. Even so, letting go of the standards of factory produced items to do something that is unique, is not easy. But, what else is an arts and crafts movement for?
I’ve worked out why Hopeless Maine has a tradition of horrible fish art. It’s placatory. People refer to fish (both the main food source and one of the things most likely to kill you) in the way other communities talk of faeries. The Kindly Ones. The Good Neighbours. They don’t call it horrible fish art, they talk about the lovely, generous fish. But, most of the fish are horrible, and the art is no better, so there we are. This is one of the points at which I’ll be generating flash fiction cards to go out in public with the objects.
I also know what’s going on with Werewolf mark making. There’s a fashion in fine art at the moment to talk not about drawing but about mark making. Tom and I do not identify as fine art. Most of the time he’s an illustrator and I’m a colourist and crafter. We do identify with folk art, and things made for people – arts and crafts of course being about mixing the beautiful and the useful. So we are taking a little side swipe at the language of Art, with the werewolf mark making. And there is a little story to tell about the controversies caused because the werewolves probably don’t make the marks deliberately, does that disqualify it is True Art?
If this sort of twisted whimsy appeals, do saunter over to www.hopelessmaine.com where all manner of related other silliness goes on.