Tag Archives: Mari Lwyd

Like Chalk And Cheese

17 Sep

I went to a weekend etching course at Trefeglwys Print Studio the weekend before last with two other printmakers – one of whom was Husb. He did some beautiful work but looking at what we produced emphasised that we’re like chalk and cheese. Here’s Husb’s beautifully modulated head of a child, burnished into a copper mezzotint plate, and my bonkers Mari Lwyd, an ancient Welsh traditional life-size puppet with a horse’s skull. Vive le Difference ūüėÄ

baby

 

mari mezzo plate

 

Mad Mari: The First Proof

16 Sep

first proof

In the last half hour or so of Andrew Baldwin’s weekend etching workshop at Trefeglwys Print Studio, I did a first proof print (on the left) of my coffee lift / spit bite aluminium etching plate, using Charbonnel black ink onto soaked Hahnemulle paper. I’m really pleased with it. It’s completely different to the faux mezzotint Mari Lwyd that I did on the first day (below). Same subject but a completely different interpretation. I like them both.

double drop 1

 

 

Spit And Splatter

15 Sep

mad mari 1

Carrying on with the coffee lift plate I worked on at Trefeglwys Print Studio last weekend, after washing the coffee off the plate, leaving the black B.I.G. etching ground masking most of the aluminium, I dipped it in copper sulphate solution for quite some time to etch the exposed areas really deep so they’ll give a good strong black when printed. Then when I was happy with the amount etched, the B.I.G. ground was cleaned off with non-toxic paint stripper.

 

mad mari 2

Then I started to etch the rest of the plate using a spit bite technique, brushing and splashing and splattering copper sulphate solution onto the aluminium. You have to keep rinsing the plate because the copper sulphate leaves a dark ‘rust’ on the plate as it etches and this will eventually build up and stop the etching process. You can see it above – the darker areas to the left of the Mari Lwyd’s face. After the very precise and tight process of the mezzotint plate I also did at the workshop, I wanted to be much freer and looser with this one.

Tomorrow …. finishing the spit bite etch and printing the plate …..

And here’s one of Andrew Baldwin’s videos demonstrating coffee lift and spit bite

 

Mad Mari

14 Sep

mad mari 1

So as well as working on a copper mezzotint plate at Andrew Baldwin’s weekend course at Trefeglwys Studios last weekend, there was also time to prepare an aluminium plate with coffee lift and spit bite. I used another of my drawings of the traditional Welsh Mari Lwyd from one of my sketchbooks. The Mari Lwyd is weird looking at the best of times but in this drawing she looks proper mad. The first stage is to degrease the aluminium plate (soy sauce and whiting powder) and then draw onto it with instant coffee. I used brushes and a large-ish nib pen and a bit of splatter. Then once the coffee was dry, I coated it with Andrew’s B.I.G. etching ground and baked it in the oven for 4 minutes to set it. Then it was washed in cold water to lift off the coffee, leaving the design showing through the black ground (above).

More teccie stuff tomorrow ……

The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is an ancient Welsh tradition rooted in the celebration of the Celtic horse goddess, Epona, and appears around the New Year, always accompanied by a band of revellers who often travel from pub to pub. The tradition was almost wiped out by Christianity and just a few Maris were left in Wales by the mid-20th century, but there has been a strong revival in recent years. The Mari Lwyd is a life-sized puppet based on a real horse skull and is therefore very heavy. The Mari’s skull is usually decorated with flowers, ribbons and bells and the eye sockets are often filled as well, giving a sinister appearance. She wears a white shroud to hide the puppeteer underneath, who operates a contraption that snaps the skull’s mouth open and closed.

 

Mari 1

Mari Abertawe (the Swansea Mari Lwyd) celebrating the New Year in a local hostelry with her companions

 

Real horse skulls are quite hard to come by these days, but there are card flatpack ones available – see here.

 

 

Exhausted But Happy!

9 Sep

plate prep

Just back from a very tiring weekend printmaking course at Trefeglwys Print Studio. It was fantastic. I learned so much and came away with a number of prints I’d be happy to exhibit and two new etching plates to edition and an etching plate to work on and finish. Result. I’m shattered now though. The first thing we did was prepare a copper plate for a ‘faux’ mezzotint, a process invented by Trefeglwys printmaker Andrew Baldwin. I think the plate is a work of art in itself.

plate prep2

I had some drawings to work from, I decided to develop three plates from my sketches of the Mari Lwyd and the faux mezzotint will be based on the middle drawing. More tomorrow, off to bed now ……..

 

 

May Day, Beltane And The Horse

1 May

mono 11 chine

It’s May Day, Beltane, and in some parts of Britain the Hobby Horse, or ‘Obby ‘Oss, is part of the festivities marking the beginning of Springtime fertility. There is a long tradition, predating Christianity, of celebrations involving horses, possibly linked to the ancient Celtic horse goddess, Epona. Here in Wales we have the Mari Lwyd, or Grey Mare, although this is a New Year tradition. Here’s a monotype from sketches of the Ystrad Mari I did earlier this year.

A Very Quick Dead Horse

16 Jan

mari siglo

Here’s the last drawing I did of the Ystradgynlais Mari Lwyd when it appeared at Gellionen Unitarian chapel a couple of weeks ago. I did it in a few seconds so I had to just get down the fundamental details of what I was looking at. I used mostly white cont√© crayon, a stub on its side, with a couple of very quick details in sanguine and black. Speedy drawings are good for getting down proportions and spacing, I find.

mari siglo 2

 

Mari Lwyd is the ancient Welsh tradition linking back to the ancient Celtic / Gaulish goddess Epona and the Welsh mythological horse goddess and Queen of the Underworld Rhiannon from the Mabinogion. The New Year is welcomed by parading a life size puppet constructed around the skull of a horse along with a group of characters who each have a role to play in the celebrations.  There are links to a similar traditions in the UK, the Laare Vane (White Mare) on the Isle of Man and the Hobby Horse in parts of England. The tradition had almost died out by the mid 20th century after decades of opposition from Christian ministers across Wales, but it is now undergoing an enthusiastic revival.

Mari Lwyd’s Friends

14 Jan

maris friends 1

 

Mari Lwyd, the ancient Welsh tradition linking back to the ancient Celtic goddess Epona and the mythological Rhiannon, welcomes the new year by parading a life size puppet constructed around the skull of a horse along with a group of characters who each have a role to play in the celebrations. These characters vary from group to group and the Ystrad Fari Lwyd (from Ystradgynlais) includes a character in white representing the New Year and one in black representing the old year. They carry decorated sticks with bells on.

 

maris friends 2

Mari Lwyd’s friends at Gellionen Chapel

 

 

 

Face To Face With A Dead Horse

13 Jan

ystrad mari 1

 

Husb and I are spending a few days in The Lake District with family and I have taken a break from drawing.¬† It’s great scenery around here but I’m not much of a landscape person to be honest, I’d rather draw cityscapes.¬† I did a lot of drawings last weekend at Gellionen Chapel’s Mari Lwyd event, here’s a close up of the Mari’s head. Quite gruesome I suppose if you’re not used to the tradition,¬† but the Mari Lwyd is really funny in ‘person’.

ystrad mari 2

 

 

 

The Old Chapel

10 Jan

interior gellionen 1

Husb and I went to the old Gellionen Chapel last Sunday for a service that included Mari Ystrad, the Mari Lwyd from Ystradgynlais. The chapel, dating from the 1600s, is gorgeous and decorated with fresh boughs of holly. The service started with lighting a large candle and was not overtly religious, as the Unitarians welcome people of all faiths and none.

interior gellionen 2

Inside Gellionen Chapel with Mari Lwyd and her companions

 

The Mari Lwyd is an old Welsh tradition that  echoes back to ancient Celtic worship of the horse goddess Epona. There are links to a similar traditions in the UK, the Laare Vane (White Mare) on the Isle of Man and the Hobby Horse in parts of England.

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