A short story. No need to read this one

Nusye had always been an ambitious, driven person. A finance professional working in a stringent and sterile corporate world, she was used to living in a world of order and control. But the corporate activities during the pandemic lockdown era caught her up and burnt her inside out and left her in deep depression and anxiety, putting her mind in a steep-sided, dark well of cheerless existence, was mired in an endless spiral downwards.

In the deepest cycle, something nudged Nusye to pick up an old piece of softcut block and a carving tool to a series of curved lines she absent-mindedly drew onto its surface. A little later, she re-discovered her lino printing spark. At first, she found it hard to focus on anything other than her churning mind. But slowly, gradually, day-by-day-by-night she found solace in the act of creating by mark-making onto lino blocks.

The process of carving into the lino; line by line, by each scratch of the carving tools, by each gouge, making the smallest, tiniest carved marks onto the block’s surface. Then the slow hand-mixing of small batches of inks for the relevant colours of each block … the follow-on process of inking up the brayer … rolling the ink slowly and full of focus on to the brayer’s cylinder. Careful not to overwhelm the cylinder with too much ink …then transferring the ink by rolling the brayer onto the surface block. These small movements, deep in thought, performed daily, became a personal and mind-saving rituals.

On to printing: transferring the inked block onto paper was more than remedial for her. It gave Nusye a sense of power in the creation of her prints. Bringing her doodles and sketches to life was like allowing the slow unfurling of the palest of gossamer limbs for flight. This is never about control and order out of chaos: this is about recognising that it takes time to undo the years of limbs-folding and refolding suppressions to fit into the tightest of corporations boxes. The larger the corporations, the smaller the boxes.

A pleasant point Nusye learnt was that the folded limbs were not butterfly wings. These were powerful raven wings, giant bat-wings, valkyrie wings of wide-spanning taut leather and powerful feathers with a thousand eyes that were made to soar above, below, and ride upon the zephyr currents of both outer and inner seas, deserts, and mountains. These were wings to traverse safely through even the Underworld and the void.

As she continued to explore lino printing, the immersion of the creative process helped the experimental thinking. Nusye began to experiment with different inks, a variety of colours, textures, and images, all the while weaving her patterns and threads through the carving and exploratory mediums. She found herself staying up late into the night and into the early morning, weaving the patterns for this printing journey. As Josephine McCarthy said in her books and podcasts, “What is done is already woven in the pattern”. The wisest of adept magicians know this is the case. All Nusye could do was creating patterns to weave onward, to plant seeds onto the next phase.

Lino carving and printing saved Nusye from the deeper spiralling depression. Bringing her creations to print existence provided Nusye with the hand-tools to self-create the ladder she needed to climb out of the darkest and deepest depression cycles. The carving engaged the slow brain cycle, the quiet mind, and locks in focus. Once she regrouped her energies, rested sufficiently, she rose, albeit very slowly at first. But rise she did. The end-to-end lino printing process allows her to rebuild the mindset to adopt, to adapt, to dust herself off. And re-engage the worlds around her in recognition of her long-held motto of:

Fall Down Seven, Get Up Eight.

This is the beginning of Nusye’s printmaking story.

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep; hand-carved multiple speedycut blocks. Words from Mary Elizabeth Frye.

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