I just finished pulling close to thirty wood cut prints to use as this years Christmas card. About two years ago I carved this block, made a good print that I scanned into the computer and then sized it into a card. This year I wanted to hand print the polymer plate I made from that image but just did not like how it was working. So I pulled out the block and had the best time inking it up, registering the papers and running them through my etching press.
This morning it was time to get down to addressing the cards, signing them and writing a note where needed. Going through my address book from over many years I noticed that when someone moves on, one way or another, I do not cross their name out. I don’t erase it. They are all there as reminders as to who mattered enough to send a hand made Christmas card to. And regardless of that fact, the number still hovers around thirty.
I think of those not here as “gone away”.
And how I came by that phrase is interesting.
Kit Williams, an amazing artist and illustrator wrote a book titled, Masquerade back in the 70’s. I bought my daughter a copy as soon as I saw it. The book was a puzzle on the whereabouts of a luscious golden rabbit that he (Kit Williams) had created and then buried somewhere in the English countryside. Of course it led to so many people searching and digging that it became a much bigger story. The outcome was also very interesting as it was ethically questionable on how that transpired.
But back to the “gone away” bit. Later, and due to the success of Masquerade, Kit Williams did another puzzle book. It had no title because the one who could solve the puzzle could then name the book. It was about a beekeeper.
I borrowed the book in 1993 after moving to North Carolina. When I came to the following page, I saw this small painting that Mr. Williams had placed over the beekeeper’s mantle.
And here is a close up.
I remembered that my mother had that picture in her house and wondered about its importance to be showing up in a Kit Williams book. So I wrote to him back in the 90’s when I saw it. I wrote the letter in care of his publisher. Months later it came back with of the many selections to be checked that were stamped on the envelope as to why it was returned, “Gone Away” was marked. Isn’t that a wonderful option? Not, “No Longer at this Address”, or “Not Deliverable” but “Gone Away”.
So earlier this year I was wondering about that painting that I found in a borrowed and returned Kit Williams book and was thinking I perhaps imagined it all. So going on Amazon, I ordered my own copy. Then I called my daughter because I thought she might know what my mother did with her little framed piece. I still was not sure if I was even remembering my mother’s picture correctly.
My daughter has the painting because it was where my mother wanted it to go and she sent me a couple of photos of it front and back.
Here is the interesting thing about this picture. It was painted in 1915 and is titled, “The Piper of Dreams”. It was painted by Estella Canziani, an English artist of some renown who also was accomplished in egg tempera works. This particular copy that my daughter has was a wedding gift in 1923 to a young bride in England.
Because it was 1915, one year into WWI, this painting was reproduced and over 250,000 were sold, quite a large number for that time. And most of those were sent to young men serving on the fields of war by loved ones who wanted them to remember a gentler time in the English countryside.
A nice story. An interesting story. I love the small details of English illustrations and where this one led me. But most of all I think I like “Gone Away” and how easily it applies to those no longer receiving a card at Christmas.
*Note: Kit Williams the last I checked is not totally gone away and his very interesting work and story can be easily found on the web.