The Lion’s Birdnote

As I’m going through my old journals, I find forgotten elements–particularly the content of dreams.  A few weeks ago, I came upon a curious and appealing dream fragment from June of 1993. At that time, I awoke with words telling me that centuries would pass before we discovered that the “L” in “Lion” was understood as its birdnote. I loved this strange sentence and decided to make a linocut from the words.

The lino that I’ve used is the same soft cut material that I used for the Sisters of Mercy print. It is very much easier to cut than the tough grey or brown burlap backed battleship linoleum that I used as a young woman. I’ve taken the first proof (rough copy) of the print and will work on it further.  I plan on leaving the final print quite similar to this first proof–it just needs a bit of further carving and experimentation with the colours.

Here’s the inked green lino and the hand printed proof.


You can see more of my artwork in my etsy shop at

Back From the Printer

The 21 Heart Salute miniature cards are back from the printer. I’m very happy with the way they turned out.

Here’s photos of some of them. As I mentioned, I’ve put the deck in my etsy shop as well.



21 Heart Salute

As I continue to reconsider some of the prints I made 20 to 40 years ago, I have realized that this work is part of a process of rescuing my younger self.  As part of that, I have returned to a miniature card deck I made in 1995, a year after I made the larger deck, Mirrors of the Heart.

The 1995 deck is also on the theme of hearts. In making the card deck, I played with the phrase “21 gun salute” and turned it into A 21 Heart Salute. I then listed as many phrases that included the word heart I could think of and came up with 21 of my favourites. Some are phrases widely used like “heart felt” or “kind hearted.” And some I made up like “fountain of heart” or “heart song.”

I carved the deck out of a rubber-like material that was softer than linoleum but that produced clean edges. And I printed a few of these decks in 1995 with stamping ink that produced faint images. A few years ago, I reprinted them in violet but found I don’t have a complete set of these.

So I decided to hand print them properly, this time in red oil based relief printing ink. And I found I enjoyed this reminder of earlier printing. This, even though the actual burnishing of the blocks was always my least favourite part of the printing process. However, pulling the paper off the inked block was and still is a joy because of the surprise of seeing the  image reproduced in reverse.

I’m including a photo of some of the 1 1/2″ x 3″ blocks and their prints laid out to dry.  These are on my highly sophisticated drying area—a foam core board on the floor with part of my shell collection used to hold the prints from moving in the breeze.

The last week or so, I’ve scanned the prints, cropped the images and sent them to an online printer for reproduction. I’ll let you know how they turn out when I get them back. I plan to list them in my etsy shop.




The Rose Tattoo Linocut

I have one of my favourite linocuts hanging in my work room.  Here’s a photo of it, wrinkles and all.  I made this linocut in 1990 under my birth name, so not to wonder what’s up with the name—if you’re interested in such things.

Rose Tattoo Linocut
Rose Tattoo Linocut, copyright Lily S. May under birth name, Susan Barsel, 1990

I call this print The Rose Tattoo after a dream I had near the end of 1989.  (I record my dreams, finding them a source of creativity and inspiration.)  In this dream, there was a man with one hand and an unusual face who had beautiful rose tattoos on his body.   When I made this linocut, I didn’t try to replicate the dream in a realistic way, but used it as a jumping off place.  This is what I came up with.

Woodcut Origami

In an earlier post, I showed two origami models I made from old prints. Here’s another related model, though more complex than the previous ones.  I love this puzzle purse design which you can open and close with a twist.  I used part of an old woodcut to fold the model.  When closed, it measures 3 inches square.  I’ll be sending it to a friend as mail art.

Woodcut Origami
Origami puzzle purse, closed. folded from part of woodcut by Lily S. May in 2013
Woodcut, Lily S. May
Woodcut made in 1972 by Lily S. May and used in origami model, folded 2013.
Woodcut Origami
Back of origami model folded from woodcut by Lily S. May in 2013
Woodcut Origami
Origami purse by Lily S. May, 2013
Woodcut Origami
Origami purse fully opened. By Lily S. May 2013

Paper Quilt from “Flower Elephants” Linocut

Paper Quilt
Paper quilt made from early linocut by Lily S. May, 2013

I’m continuing to refashion my old linocuts and woodcuts.  I’ve been thinking of quilting some of my prints for a few years and decided to begin the process with this small 5 x 7 inch linocut.  Once again, my aim was to do the work with a sense of freedom.  That’s why I used large stitches and meandering lines of sewing.  I enjoyed the process greatly, from layering paper and cotton/polyester batting to the hand colouring at the end.

Working with fragile materials in this way continues to feel central to my life as I age.  It all makes emotional sense. 

Quilted Linocut
Detail of quilted linocut by Lily S. May, 20113

My aunt, upon hearing that I was making mail art, requested that I send her something.  I think this will be the piece I mail to her.

If you’d like to receive a refashioned print from me, do contact me with your name and address and I’ll be happy to mail you one of these works. 

Roots and Ruins

Roots and Ruins
Roots and Ruins, linocut by Lily S. May under my former married name.

As I’ve continued looking through my old prints and refashioning them, I came upon another linocut I made in the 1970s that I called Roots and Ruins.  This is a scene from my visits to the Virgin Islands years ago.  A favourite site of mine was a place, now wooded, which had once held a plantation.  This old plantation wall had been taken over by the forest with trees rooting and growing out of stone.

Roots and Ruins
Roots and Ruins, mail art from a linocut I made in 1974.

This was a haunting site, a reminder of the enslavement of people to cultivate sugar cane and their uprising to free themselves.

Roots and Ruins
Roots and Ruins, mail art by Lily S. May, 2013.

Seeing the print again, I did not want to cut into it as I’ve done with other prints.  Instead I left it whole and folded and sewed it.  I added a bit of colour and sent it off to a friend as a surprise mail art booklet.

Roots and Ruins
Roots and Ruins, mail art folded booklet, made 2013 by Lily S. May from linocut made in 1974.