Saturday, 24 November 2012


At the U3A meeting on Thursday, I did a short presentation on Frankincense and Myrrh, both of which produce aromatic resins. This led me to investigate other plant resins. Amber is one such resin and the trade in amber goes back to the stone age and the use of cannabis resin(hashish) can be traced back to the bronze age. As I described in the talk, there was an extensive trade in both Frankinsence and Myrrh, by the Arabians, for many centuries starting from at least 1000Bc. The Mayans also used incense from around 600BC, using resins from Pinus and Liquidambar species.
 Honeybees collect resin  from a number of plant sources and bring it back to the hive where it is masticated with salivary secretions and mixed with beeswax, to make propolis. Poplar bud resins are the most commonly used especially, black poplar. Propolis is used in folk medicine to treat internal and external sores and ulcers. It is also strongly antimicrobial and can produce surface anaesthesia.
Native Americans chewed Liquidambar resin as a tooth preservative as well as to cure fevers and dysentery.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


The Creative network of which I am a member has an exhibition running at present called journeys. It demonstrates not only the personal journeys as an artist but also physical journeys.
The piece of work that I have entered is based on photographs that I took of our old farm machinery when we retired from farming. The free time allowed me to begin my journey as a textile artist, basing a lot of my work on rusting machinery, nature and the lives of people all over the world who have worked the land. The exhibition piece is a photo transfer of our old combine, worked over in hand stitch. I am always amazed at the beautiful colours obtained when something decays, in this case, pinks and lime greens. The technique that I used to transfer the photo involved bonding the reversed image onto calico using bondaweb and then gently rubbing away the back of the paper with a sponge and my fingers. The image, below left is one of my photos of the combine. On the right is the hand stitched image which is almost like an abstract and it is left unglazed to get the full effect of the crunchy texture.

Friday, 9 November 2012

U3A November

The theme of this month's U3A meeting was herbal medication in the animal world with a particular emphasis on self medication of animals in the wild. One of our members did the presentation which showed fascinating insights into herbal medication both in the Ireland of her youth but also stories from her time in East Africa. As they were incidents that she herself had witnessed, the talk had a particular relevance to our studies. A great variety of cereals, herbs and grasses were found by early Neolithic times(10,000) years BCE. We were taken from stories about wild Barbary sheep  of the Sahara to Monastery gardens in the Medieval period where peasants had a duty to help in the herb gardens.
She recommended the book and film The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco which gives a wonderful background to herbal practice in an Abbey.
I have talked about flax in one of my previous blogs. Linseed oil from flax(Linum usitatissimum) is also useful as a horse poultice as it holds the heat well. It can also be given as a boiled mash to horses as it is good for general well being and gives a shiny coat.
As we were discussing the Neolithic Age earlier, I have included, on the left, a felted image from one of my cave painting based textiles showing a bison and a reindeer. To complete the piece of work I sewed the image on to a box frame and used grey and brown acrylics  painted on coarse acrylic medium as a border.
This work has now been sold.