I am an avid mud lark and love exploring the banks of rivers and sea shores. My collection of objects is constantly growing and I explore these sites as if am an archeologist. One item I look out for is fragments of pottery.
The drawings here are part of an ongoing series using some of these pieces of found ceramic as a starting point. From these small bits I invent a drawings, using the marks on the ceramic chip as inspiration for how it develops. These drawings depict fantasy scenes very different from the traditional blue and white ‘Willow’ patterns on the found china fragments.
My willow walks project is all about taking children out of the class room on adventures down the Thames to find their own pieces of willow pattern pottery and using these to design river monsters or creatures.
THE WILLOW PATTERN STORY
There was once a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He employed a secretary, Chang who, while he was attending to his master’s accounts, fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin, who regarded the secretary as unworthy of his daughter.
The secretary was banished and a fence constructed around the gardens of the Mandarin’s estate so that Chang could not see his daughter and Koong-se could only walk in the gardens and to the water’s edge.
One day a shell fitted with sails containing a poem, and a bead which Koong-se had given to Chang, floated to the water’s edge. Koong-se knew that her lover was not far away.
She was soon dismayed to learn that she had been betrothed to Ta-jin, a noble warrior Duke. She was full of despair when it was announced that her future husband, the noble Duke, was arriving, bearing a gift of jewels to celebrate his betrothal.
However, after the banquet, borrowing the robes of a servant, Chang passed through the guests unseen and came to Koong-se’s room. They embraced and vowed to run away together. The Mandarin, the Duke, the guests, and all the servants had drunk so much wine that the couple almost got away without detection, but Koong-se’s father saw her at the last minute and gave chase across the bridge.
The couple escaped and stayed with the maid that Koong-se’s father had dismissed for conspiring with the lovers. Koong-se had given the casket of jewels to Chang and the Mandarin, who was also a magistrate, swore that he would use the jewels as a pretext to execute Chang when he caught him.
One night the Mandarin’s spies reported that a man was hiding in a house by the river and the Mandarin’s guards raided the house. But Chang had jumped into the ragging torrent and Koong-se thought that he had drowned.
Some days later the guards returned to search the house again. While Koong-se’s maid talked to them, Chang came by boat to the window and took Koong-se away to safety
They settled on a distant island, and over the years Chang became famous for his writings. This was to prove his undoing. The Mandarin heard about him and sent guards to destroy him. Chang was put to the sword and Koong-se set fire to the house while she was still inside.
Thus they both perished and the gods, touched by their love, immortalised them as two doves, eternally flying together in the sky.