The Tale of the Silent Woman

This story was written and illustrated over the 100 days and nights of the 100dayproject 2018. I began on day 1 with no idea what the story would be about. Each day I turned up and imagined what happened next. Before long, the story had a life of its own and I did my best to keep up with it!

Many of you followed the story each week as I posted about it here on the blog and I can’t thank you enough for all your support and encouragement. In many moments I had the feeling I was sitting round the fire sharing this story with you all under a sky of sparkling stars.

Now you can follow the whole of The Silent Woman’s journey as she sets off to retrieve her voice which has been stolen by the North Wind. Her journey takes her up into the mountains, down into the depths of the sea and even into the Land of the Dead. On her way, she encounters the Owl Woman, the Queen of the Sea, her female ancestors, and a monk who has been guarding the Stone of Silence for over a thousand years.

In this video I am telling the story as I turn the pages of the little handmade book I made especially for this project. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. Special thanks to Misty Granade for encouraging me right through the project and for requesting I make this video! Misty, this one’s for you!

This story is for you and for all of us who are finding and using our true voices.

Create your own story cards

One of the things I most enjoyed during the Season of Story at Get Messy, was the project where we made our own story cards during the week I took over the Get Messy instagram account. It is such a simple method and yet the results can be stunning. So I thought I would share the process with you here in case you’d like to give it a go.

These cards can be a great source of inspiration for your art journal pages and a wonderful way to create stories with children (and with anyone who loves stories!)

Click here to view the complete process on the Get Messy instagram page. (The story is currently saved in the “highlights” section.) I will also detail the step by step process below.

All you need to get started is a sheet or two of thick paper and your choice of art materials. I used 300 gsm smooth watercolour paper. I made 16 cards out of one sheet of A3. You can always use two sheets if you’d like more cards.

Step one

To start, write one of your favourite fairytales across one side of the paper. Don’t worry about getting it right. Just start writing and carry on until you reach the end of the page. You can make it up, if you like! Just be sure to go right to the edges as this will be the back of our story cards. You can change your pens and the size and font of your writing to create some variation. I used permanent pens but some of my Messy artist friends used water-soluble pens and sprayed the page with some water at the end to create wonderful blurry effects.

Step two

Turn the page over and cover it with colour. I used fluid acrylics but you could also use regular acrylics or watercolour. Go for whichever colour palette connects you with the world of story. I went for all the bright colours! Then add lots of different marks all over the page to add detail.

Step three

Once the page is dry, if you like,  you can turn it over and splatter the writing side with some of your leftover paint!

Step four

Cut the paper into cards of equal size. You can measure up with a ruler or use a paper cutter.

Step five

Now make a list of all the different story images you can think of. It can be helpful to create separate lists for different categories such as characters, settings, happenings and objects.

Step six

Spend some time looking at each card. Perhaps the colours and marks already suggest a certain story image? If so, you can bring this out with a simple doodle and then add a title and border for each card. If no story image suggests itself, just choose one from your list.

I made four cards in each of the four categories.

Characters:

Happenings:

Settings:

Objects:

Once your cards are complete, shuffle the deck and pull a few cards. What story do they suggest to you?

Fun ways to use your cards:

  • Pull one card from each category to create a story.
  • Play a storytelling game where one person pulls a card and starts a story inspired by the card. The next person pulls a new card and continues the story. Keep going until the story is complete!
  • Pull one or more cards to inspire an art journaling spread. Pull two cards and make a spread showing the meeting of these two different energies.
  • Use the cards as an oracle deck to reflect what is happening in your life right now.

Have fun making your story cards! Do let me know how it goes, I’d love to see!

100 days of story (final week!)

I have been postponing posting the last few days of the story because basically I can’t quite believe it’s over! It has been such a wonderful process from beginning to end, made all the more joyful by knowing that so many of you have been following along and enjoying the story.

Thank you so much for listening to the story of Silent Woman — now Story Woman! — I have felt so heartened by you cheering me on and leaving such lovely and encouraging comments. This gave me so much energy to continue the story. I couldn’t have done it with out your lovely presence round the fire!

Of course ‘The End’ is never quite the end. For I have heard it told that there are stories waiting in the mountains…

Coming soon: a video of me reading the story while turning the pages of the book and a print copy of the story which will be available in my etsy shop. In the meantime, you can read the whole story from start to finish over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory and also on my flickr page.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the the final instalment of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 13)

The time has come for a showdown between The Silent Woman and The North Wind!

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

Without further ado, here are the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 12)

The Silent Woman has travelled far and wide, undergoing great hardship and receiving many gifts. She is no longer the same woman who set out on her journey of transformation. It is time for her to face The North Wind. She is ready!

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 11)

There was a carefree quality to starting out on this adventure. Each day I had the sense that anything could happen. I cast my net and pulled in all sorts of characters and happenings from the far reaches of my imagination.

There is something potent about this stage of the story. The tapestry is now rich with threads. Instead of anything happening, I have a sense of what must happen. It might sound a little sombre, but I now feel a sense of responsibility to the story. Even though things are moving each day towards a completion, all meetings and partings need to be given their right time and space. I feel that I am learning something about completions. There is perhaps less action, and yet these moments are potent with all that has come before.

Now that The Silent Woman had been given The Stone of Silence, I turned up for my daily story session ready for her to carry on with her journey towards The North Wind. I immediately felt that I could not move on without the characters paying their respects to the monk who had silently and patiently guarded the stone for 1000 years!

There is one more thing she must do before facing The North Wind: she must seek out The Owl Woman and deliver the message given to her by The Queen of the Sea…

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 10)

Even though The Silent Woman has not been able to speak for most of the story so far, this week things get really silent. There’s a monk who has been patiently and silently guarding The Stone of Silence for 1000 years. And it’s pretty much impossible for our heroine and her friend, Lam, to do anything other than sit in meditation when they arrive at the cave where the Stone is kept.

Somehow, even though events are not that different to a meditation retreat, things manage to stay dramatic. (Okay, it would be hard to find a meditation retreat quite like this, but you catch my drift, right?)

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

Without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

The Ancient Ones

There are some images that appear on the page, whether it is a page of writing or of visual art, that keep coming back in different forms over time. For me, one image that keeps returning is that of The Ancient Ones.

Years ago, when I was doing my MA in creative writing at Middlesex University, I was working on a fantasy novel that drew heavily on Russian folklore and mythology. As I was researching the figure of Koschei the Deathless, I came across his twelve sisters and immediately fell in love with them. They were keepers of wisdom, the magical aunts and grandmothers we have always longed for, overflowing with rich delicacies, long-forgotten secrets, and a hearty dose of love. (Note: As I write this post, I can’t seem to find any mention of them on the internet! Did I imagine it all?)

The twelve ladies arrived just as the last of the day’s visitors were leaving. They had palest skin with blushing red cheeks and were all rather tall. A few of them walked with sticks and they shared between them an enormous array of scarves, umbrellas, coats and jackets, handbags and women’s magazines. They wheeled along a red wooden cabinet, painted with green leaves and small yellow flowers. As they removed their coats and entered the house, the smell of pine cones and chocolate cake wafted around them.

A few years later, they reappeared during NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) in the form of the Last Storytellers of Cremone. You can read the full poem here.

… They promise to tell one story
for each round of fabric
that is unwound from their heads.
And as they talk, all that they have carried
falls onto the floor:
painted tea-pots, silver thimbles and spoons,
wedding dresses, candlesticks,
waistcoats and blankets sewn by hand.
We sit on the floor and laugh.
They strip the night from my eye.
They tell the story of the king of the wind.
They voice the jewels of my own wonder …

Then, last year, while I was taking part in Initiation: Into the sacred feminine at EarthHeart UK, I had an image of The Ancient Ones, sitting in a circle beneath a sky of stars.

Since that time, they have continued to appear in my art. I find myself doodling their faces while talking on the phone:

And since I introduced them into my art journal, they keep popping up everywhere!

After completing the Initiation training at EarthHeart, I went on to participate in the Cauldron of Pearls feminine leadership training. I knew The Ancient Ones had to take centre stage on the cover of my notebook!

Their latest appearance is as The Grandmothers in my 100 day project, in which I am telling a story in words and illustrations, one page each day for 100 days.

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

If you’d like to have a go drawing faces in the style of these women, check out my one-minute video – part of the Ask an Artist series over at the Get Messy Art Journal.

What form will they take next? I will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I can only say that my life is richer since they appeared on the scene.

100 days of story (week 9)

I can’t believe we have already reached day 63 in the 100 day project. Time seems to be moving very fast all of a sudden! And, while there is still plenty of road to travel, I am very much aware of the need to move towards an end to the story.

This knowledge is affecting my choices as I move along. For example, this week the Queen of the Sea reveals that she is the Owl Woman’s sister. They have taken different paths in life and so have not seen each other for many years. It’s clear to me that the explanation for this could be a whole other story — one that I won’t be able to do justice to here. I can see a side story coming along in my future!

I also felt it was time to include a more active male character in a story populated by such strong female characters. And so the guard has stepped up to help The Silent Woman in her quest. He is also the first character in the story to receive a name. I didn’t want to keep calling him “the guard”, especially as he’s no longer in that role.

This week I also had a wonderful Messy Conversation with one of my favourite Messy Artists, Misty Granade. We are talking about my creative story, and my approach to the creative process, including this 100 day project. You can watch the replay here.

And now, without further ado, here are the pages from this week’s story:

100 days of story (week 8)

Even though I am already past the halfway point in the 100 day project, I felt that this week has been the true heart of the story. I’m not yet sure how, but the time The Silent Woman has spent with her grandmothers will be of crucial importance in her journey to retrieve her voice.

These pages were written around two consecutive weekends spent at EarthHeart UK with two different circles of wise and beautiful women. During our time together, we touched on the stories of our own grandmothers. My own journey and that of this story became very much intertwined and each inspired the other.

Thank you so much for following along with this story as it unfolds. Your presence around the fire means a lot to me and is both inspiring and encouraging me to keep telling my tale.

And now, without further ado, here are this weeks pages for you to enjoy!

100 days of story (week 5)

For most of this past week I was away at a yoga retreat in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside. We were up early in the morning for pranayama followed by a full day of yoga asana practice (plus walking, eating, chatting and napping!)

I was determined to continue my story each day but a little unsure if I could make this happen. I was also unsure I would be able to continue to post each day’s instalment on Instagram, as the internet situation was uncertain. I’m happy to say that both things were possible!

This week our heroine finds herself not only in the depths of the ocean but also in deeper and deeper trouble. If only the North Wind hadn’t taken her voice, she would be able to explain herself! But then she would never have set out on this journey at all and there would be no story to tell.

Without further ado, here is the last week’s story. Thanks so much for following along with me. Enjoy!

Where I’m From

where-im-from-1 where-im-from-2 where-im-from-3 where-im-from-4 where-im-from-5 where-im-from-6 where-im-from-7 where-im-from-8 where-im-from-9 where-im-from-10

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now and it feels like the beginnings of a much bigger piece!

Where was her skin?

Today I returned to an exploration of the selkie folk tale, ‘Sealskin Soulskin’. 

The seal woman is missing a part of herself — her Soulskin — and she can’t thrive without it. But just as she longs for this reconnection, the other seals, too, are waiting for her. She is pulled toward the sea. They are calling her. They are ready for that moment when she dives back into the water.