Shellie’s gift.

My friend Shellie Byatt, artist and staunch Artlog supporter, sent this wonderful surprise gift to me, referencing the Beastly Passions project that I’m working on with poet Jeffery Beam. The franking on the stamp shows that this postcard was written and sent in 1904. Amazing that it’s survived in such pristine condition. Someone cared enough for it to have put it somewhere very safe. No fading, no dog-ears, no tears or damage from silverfish. It’s perfect.

Shellie, this is a delight. I love it!

The message is a little difficult to work out, there being nothing by way of sentences or punctuation. This is my transcription, though I’d welcome any other offers. The name of the recipient has defeated me. The franking indicates the postcard was sent from Newmarket, which might account for the reference to ‘winners’.

To Mr A …

Ratcliff College


“I think you had better

write after this Situation

it might be a cool 

place this weather

Stockbridge came to find

winner last week”

The Puppet Challenge Part 9: Shellie, Leonard and the unknown Claire

Shellie Byatt, Leonardo Greco and Claire Crystal

Shellie Byatt: The Wolf, the Egg-Thief and the Surprise in the Shrubbery

Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf

Above: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

I wondered whether any Puppet Challenge participants would produce works in miniature, but the reality was that only two did. (And no-one elected to make their own version of a Juvenile Drama of the type produced by Benjamin Pollock, which came as a bit of a surprise.) Rachel Larkins and Shellie Byatt created small puppets of great charm and imagination. Rachel made her delightful Thumbelina-in-a-Tulip… seen in Puppet Challenge Post No 2, while Shellie let rip with an entire finger-puppet cast for Red-Riding-Hood, with extra characters thrown in for good measure. I love her Wolf beefed-up like a weight-lifter on steroids. Look at those shoulders!

The Wolf

The Wolf

In recent years Shellie, a painter, has been making ‘medallions’ that she has cast in bronze at a foundry, and so she’s regularly been working on three dimensional forms, though on a small-scale. I like the fact that with these puppets she’s continued at a scale comfortable to her, and yet has made the great leap of working in-the-round, and I long to see this fairy tale band of actors evolve into her easel work.

The Wolf in the woods

The Wolf in the Woods

The Woodcutter creeps up on The Wolf

The Woodcutter Creeps up on the Wolf

The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter



The Egg Thief

The Egg Thief

Surprise in the Shrubbery

Surprise in the Shrubbery!

Leonard Greco: The Hero-Twins

Leonard writes:

“As might be suspected, I am further exploring the exploits of the ‘Hero Twins’ in the underworld of Xlbalba. I made a cast of characters: the aforementioned twins, Hinahpu and Xbalanque, their unfortunate father the Maize God Hun Hunahpu, the God of Death Mictlanteluhtli and the World Tree, the Axix Mundi… more a prop than a puppet. I also painted a backdrop of the underworld, Xibalba.”

As a painter Leonard has been exploring the themes of Mesoamerican mythology with tireless curiosity. In so doing he has forged an extraordinarily vibrant and consistent visual style, that while drawing on European traditions of art, has retained a quality that is uniquely his own. (see below)

Below: the puppets

Above and below, The Hero Twins

Above and below: Mictlanteluhtli

Below: the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu

Below: creating worlds

When I was a boy I was never happier than when creating entire worlds. Toy theatres complete with full sets for various narratives crowded my bedroom shelves. There were the Norman castles and the Roman gladiatorial arenas, the haunted woods and the Carpathian ruins that fascinated me, the dinosaurs, mythic creatures and the gods and goddesses of ancient cultures all mixed up with elaborate dioramas of my favourite superheroes. I was never happier than when working with Plasticene, cardboard, Balsa wood, paint and wire. I see this same, ferocious ‘child-creator’ outpouring in Leonard, undilute and joyful, and I think it’s incredible he’s held onto it in a way that is entirely intact and untroubled by the later concerns… and influences.. of life. Most of us get all this stuff beaten out of us at some point, but Leonard has held fast to his ‘worlds’, and made them realities.

Claire Crystal: a late arrival

Claire Crystal

Rachel Larkins, who made the Thumbelina puppet in Post No 2,  wrote to me:

“I am sending you some images by one of the students of the Extended Diploma course of the university where I work part-time. Claire happened to be working on her own puppet project – an imaginary/mythical creature- during the summer term. This was her first foray into puppet-making, and she documented it brilliantly, and so I am sending an image of that too, just in case you’d like to include it.”

Claire’s puppet, with its green eyes and gentle expression, is beautiful, and I’m happy to include it here. I know nothing about Claire save what Rachel told me, and I fear Google hasn’t yielded any more information. Here’s the image Rachel included of Claire’s workbook.

Claire Crystal sketchbook

Alphabet Soup: Narrative artists – Shellie Byatt and Betty Pennell

Here be stories.

Shellie Byatt is the co-curator, and really the onlie begetter of this exhibition, it was her idea, after Clive’s folding alphabet primer and the open maquette exhibition at the Artlog, to have another on the alphabet theme, and her suggestion to make the black-and-white+1 stipulation.  As it says on her website, her images tell tales.

Here are her four offerings:


A lady in a lemon tree

S is for sleeping


(Personally I am more than a little captivated by the Lady in the Lemon Chair.)


Shellie’s friend Betty Pennell has submitted five images.  Betty says of her work:

Although I do make preliminary studies using a combination of photographs and sketches, memory has a greater role in the final work.  I sometimes find a perfect setting and a sense of place for my narrative paintings during visits to country houses throughout Britain, with their historic buildings and magnificent gardens in which I can imagine figures in mysterious situations.

Betty often works in black-and-white; to me this enhances the elements of elusiveness and memory, so that  these images seem to suggest something  known long ago but since forgotten.

She didn’t  want to apply any lettering to the pictures, so the captions added are those she attached to the images when she sent them.












More tomorrow.

(Lucy Kempton, minding the Artlog while Clive’s away!)