Altered Prints

I’ve edited and ordered more printed copies of the drawings I showed in my last post. Meanwhile, I’ve returned to something I haven’t done for several years. That is, I’ve been folding old prints into small booklets which are sometimes called origami booklets. Here’s a link to one of those first pieces.

And here’s some photos of the booklet I’ve just made from a piece of a linocut I carved and printed in 1972. I’ve kept other untouched copies of the print and marked this one with felt pens and water soluble crayons and I’ve glued parts of the paper to itself. I love the element of surprise in these altered prints–the many shapes these booklets can take.


In order to preserve some scratchboard drawings I made in 2015 and 2016, this week I sent files of them off to be printed in a small experimental batch. I decided to print them as a set of postcards or small deck that I’ve named Unearthed.

Here’s the process that got me to this stage. For several years, I did not see the shape I wanted this project to take and went back and forth in my mind over various possibilities. By last year I had nearly abandoned my original idea of reproducing the drawings and linking them to a dream I’d had. However, because I liked the drawings I thought I’d have them framed instead. That plan was derailed when I saw that the prepared paper I’d used had film on it that was coming loose and threatening to destroy the images. The lesson that taught me was to learn about the construction of materials I’m using before running into problems with them! (I now plan on using actual ink coated boards for future drawings.)

Last week I wrote a poem to be included with the cards. Here’s the poem, plus several of the drawings.


What is it I have retrieved

from soil, from water and air

that burns to be recognized?

Parts of my small life?

Or nature that might

otherwise be lost

to time and destruction

by the carelessness and greed

of our kind?

These relics I hold to the light,

remembering days of beauty and pain

no longer fixed and immutable,

they shift and fly

with the ease of the hawks

soaring above the city’s forests in heat and cold,

in wind and stillness,

searching only for the opening of the heart.


A few weeks ago, while absent mindedly looking at a piece of artwork I’d done in 2018, I suddenly saw that it had a strong resemblance to the covid-19 molecule, spike protein and all. What surprised me the most was that I hadn’t noticed this sooner.

Here’s the painted repurposed print that I made in 2018 with the earlier post that talks about the process of making it:

A piece of a print I made in 19973 forms this hybrid print/painting. Here’s the original complete linocut I made in 1973:

I don’t know what all of this says about life, the imagination and biology other than far out, a popular expression from ancient times!

The Return

It’s the Winter Solstice with the longest night of the year and, after that, the gradual return of light. In celebration, here’s 2 linocuts I made as part of the Mirrors of the Heart card deck. Good health, peaceful nights and returning daylight to you.


Here is a poem and drawing about surgery I had as a child. It was in December when I was 15 that I had the unexpected, very serious surgery. Now each December I relive that trauma more forcefully than at other times during the year. Several years ago I wrote a poem about the experience. And last week, as I thought about the poem and the surgery, I also drew an image of healing for the 15 year old I was who is still part of the old woman I now am.


Today it’s raining dark December in Toronto.

Soon night will fall.

At 15 in another country

I am alone in a white gown and cap


and wheeled to the operating room.

There it is cold

and the eyes of masked faces look down at me.

Soon in a blank space that my body knows

the wholeness of my skin

is taken from me.

A poignancy or frailty is in the December air

a hunter of children

where memory slips into dreams

and the darkness of the month

becomes a blanket

barely anesthetizing the body

that carrier of the traces of knives

and of a lonely child

lost in the turning of the seasons

in the hands of men and women

carving her life-to-be with want.

© Lily S. May, 2011 – 14


This is the most recent wallhanging I’ve made. After all the deliberating that went into making the Autumn appliqué, I designed this one quickly. I still had periods of unsewing and resewing, but not as many as with the previous appliqué. I enjoyed working with the bright colours as the nights lengthened.

The bird shape originally came from an appliqué I made in 2011. I used the shape as a template to cut a smaller version for this recent work after taking the original out of a stash of felt odds and ends. Here’s that earlier appliqué:

On a Walk in November

On November 20, I went to the Brickworks, a park in Toronto, for a walk in the afternoon. It had been a cloudy week but that Friday the sun was shining and the temperature was abnormally warm—18 degrees Celsius.

At the Brickworks, I took out my phone to photograph a scene that I found beautiful. My attention was focused on the yellow leaves and their reflection in the pond. So I was surprised by what the camera had recorded. Yes, there is the reflection of yellow leaves, but I found the predominant elements to be the symmetry of the hill reflected in the water along with the texture of the cloud dappled sky.

This experience has been a good example for me of how different the camera lens and human attention are. As a non-professional photographer, I liked learning that the relationship with image making goes both ways. Both I and the camera influence the image. The image may or may not be whatever accurate is deemed to be. A photograph is not life, it is an artefact that helps with memory after the season has moved on.


I have finally finished the appliqué I’ve been working on that I struggled with. I made it with merino wool felt, cotton fabric and cotton threads. After sewing, unsewing and resewing the work, here it is. I’m happy to have seen it through to completion.

I was inspired to sew the appliqué by the very beautiful autumn we had in and around Toronto this year. Not surprisingly, I’ve called the work Autumn.

Getting Through the Night

I’ve been working on an appliqué that has had twists and turns I could have avoided–sewing, unsewing, repairing it finally. Had I followed what I knew I should do to correct technical problems, I would have arrived at the place I am now much faster. The work I didn’t want to face has not been as daunting as I thought it would be. Hopefully, I have learned something positive. Despite these frustrations, the work helps me deal with this hard time. I’ll show you the piece when I finish it.

Walking among autumn trees has been another major antidote to anxiety over the pandemic, climate change, the tortuous U.S. election and now the seeming attempts at a coup by dt and members of the republican party. The glowing copper, yellow, red, orange, persimmon and remaining green of the leaves on city streets, in the Brickworks Park and the Moore Park Ravine above it have given me solace and joy. And the texture of forest floors covered in soft brown leaves at the Kortright Conservation Centre has been medicine of beauty larger than human suffering.

Moore Park Ravine, October 2020
On a Toronto street, November 2020
On a Toronto street, November 2020
Kortright Centre, Ontario, November 2020

Presqu’ile Provincial Park

I’m in the midst of designing another appliqué, but I wanted to tell you about a recent outing I took. On September 20th, my husband and I drove east out of Toronto to Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Because of the pandemic we have not been able to get out of the city to be in more natural settings and this was our first, and so far only, one day trip since the virus hit.

Presqu’ile is on Lake Ontario near the town of Brighton. We had been there before briefly and I was fortunate to have the chance to walk on that long beach for some sense of peace in the midst of the turmoil of covid-19 and social injustice. Here’s some photos I took with my phone on that beautiful cool day. There’s Canada geese, sand, water and clouds, hardy plants and flowers, driftwood and the path through tall reeds and trees to a shorebird viewing area.