Welcome to the archive of the John Barleycorn blog, produced by Howard Gayton and Rex Van Ryn during the process of creating their graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die. As part of that process, you'll find discussions of magic, of creativity, and 'Around the Table' discussions with a range of internationally known artists, writers and film makers. The graphic novel was printed in a limited edition, so if you managed to get one, good for you! Although this project is over now, we're leaving this blog online as an archive and as a snap shot in time.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Around the table with...Rima Staines. Part 1

Born in 1979, Rima Staines was raised by artist parents in London and Bavaria, and received a BA in Book Arts & Crafts from the London College of Printing. Her work is inspired by medieval history, folk art, Victorian illustration, East European animation, old tales from the oral tradition, and rambles through the hills and hedgerows. Her art has appeared in a number of exhibitions, and in books and journals published in the U.K. and abroad; she also writes stories, builds puppets, plays gypsy music, and makes small animated films. Prior to settling in Devon, Rima travelled around the country in a wooden house-on-wheels for a year and a day. She now lives with a poet, a hound, and many books in a crooked old cottage near Dartmoor.

Rima, Howard and Rex.

H - Rima, thank you for coming over. Rex and I have been so excited about this ‘Around the table' discussion, haven’t we, Rex?
R - Yes!
Rima - Thank you.
H - I want to start by talking about the art of blogging itself -- particularly since you encouraged Rex and me to start this blog, and even helped us to set it up, for which we are very grateful. And you, yourself, have an interesting and successful blog, The Hermitage. So I’ll start the conversation off by asking: Has blogging changed your art, and do you consider blogging itself an art form?

Rima - Blogging is a strange thing...and yes, it has definitely and utterly changed the way I work. For one thing, I'm able to make a living from my art, which I couldn’t do without the Internet. 
Baba Yaga.
R - Ah, I hadn’t thought of that.... 
H – Rima, you're someone who uses this technology in a very skillful and creative way.
Rima – But I started out so tentatively. I was told by an artist friend that I ought to create a blog, but at first I thought: What for? What would I write? Why would I have a blog? I was completely unaware of the whole blogging world. And it takes time, when you start, to find your 'blogging voice,' and to become comfortable with it. It's as though you are having a conversation with people, but you don’t know who those people are yet -- until they start to join the conversation by leaving comments on your posts. And then, after a while, you get a feel for what you're doing, and what the boundaries of blogging are. It's a strange, new kind of thing, a blog. It's not just a forum for selling your work, and it's not just a daily diary....
H - It's a whole new art form in itself?
Rima - Yes, and there are some people who do it amazingly well. It is a new art form, which I am discovering as I go along. It has really helped my writing too, made me feel freer. I hadn’t thought of writing as a thing that I do, but since beginning the blog, people have commented that they like how I write. Because it is live feedback, it gives you confidence. It's not a journal or diary that one publishes afterwards, it's right now. It's the truth: what I write is what happens in my life. But it is also a story.
H - Something that Terri [Windling] says she finds fascinating about you and your work, Rima, is that you have a distinctly medieval sensibility, but you combine this old aesthetic with 21st century technology to make it both ancient and modern all at once.
Rima - It's true that I'm fascinated with medieval art. In my imagination there is a great fondness for the time before industrialisation, when we had forests and wattle and dawb. But I’m not... 
R - You’re not a Luddite.
snowflight under the seasky.
Rima – No! I don’t want to be completely obsessed to the letter about any particular period of history. It's the way I see things. I did notice something about my blog the other day: I take lots of photos when I'm out on walks, and the ones I choose to post tend to be the ones without buildings. Actually, maybe that’s not true...I've just put buildings in my latest post!
H – Blogs are becoming more and more popular, especially among younger writers and artists. Why do people read them, do you think?  
Rima - I think it's because we are all a little nosey! We like to look into someone’s life, through their eyes. That's the unique thing about blogs, it is someone's personal view on the world, an expression of themselves.
H - Would you say that blogging has changed the way you make art?
Rima – No, not really, it is more that I approach blogging the way I approach my other art. It takes me a whole day to write and arrange a post; it's almost like working with clay, shaping it until it's just right. I want to make sure that each post has a good arc, that things link on nicely, and that the photos I use work well with its theme...so that it all hangs together well. It's a little like doing a school project.
A girl mad as birds.
H - Yes, I know what you mean! 
Rima - Also, now I have a place to show people my work. And it’s amazing to see some of the countries that people are reading in!
H – Rex and I find that exciting too. We'll put up a post on a Friday and within minutes someone in Australia or Canada is reading it. It’s quite mind blowing!
Rima - It really is. Sometimes I get sent photos by people who have bought one of my prints, showing where they are hanging in their houses. It is so interesting to see how they have chosen to put my work in their life. The internet is such a connection.
H - Rex do you have a question for Rima?
R - Yes, I wanted to ask you about town. You’ve been here for a year and a half?
Rima - Yes.
R - In our 'Around the table' with David Wyatt, I asked him about how he felt living amongst some of the artists who had influenced him when he was younger…
Rima – Yes, I remember reading that.
R - Before you came to town the first time, you had been corresponding with Terri?
Rima - Yes.
R - And then, when you settled here, you and I shared Terri’s studio for half a year.
Rima – Yes...
H - Okay, Rex, and your question is…?
R - How do you feel about living in this town?
Rima - Is it a town or a village?
The fish egg.
R – Technically it’s a town. But a small one.
Rima - Well, it’s very unique. Before I settled here, I was traveling, and I came across many beautiful places, but this is like nothing I have ever come across before. It is so beautiful here, very ‘nooky’. And there are so many lovely, kind and sensitive people in the community. People genuinely care about and look after each other. There are so many artists, actors, potters, mythic creators. It almost unbelievable. It's brilliant!
R - It reminds me of the quote at the end of your blog, ‘so many stories, but only one story really.’
Rima - It’s almost as if something has drawn all these people together.
H - Have you noticed that living here has changed your art? If you look at David Wyatt’s work, or Alan Lee’s, for example, you can see how the Dartmoor landscape has directly influenced their work.
Rima - No, I don’t think it has. There is a strong thread in the work that I do, and the world that my work inhabits is how I imagine things. I utterly admire the artists you've mentioned, for obvious reasons, and for their ability to look at a Dartmoor scene and find inspiration in it. I don’t think that I do that, though. I rather absorb a feeling that the landscape gives me. There isn’t a word for it. It’s a kind of magic. When people write and tell me what it is that they respond to in my work, they often say that it has a familiarity about it, like a half-forgotten book from childhood. They feel a heart response, but also something ancestral. 
H – A few weeks ago, someone left a comment on this blog asking where inspiration comes from...and we've been passing the question on to the artists we talk to. Where does it come from for you, Rima? 
Rima - What a question! 
H – Well, you say you have this rich inner world within you...?
Rima - Yes, but it's not a specific place. It doesn’t have a name or a boundary! It’s more intuitive than that...it is more a flavor...or a feeling.
H – When we talked with Didier Graffet back in December, he said that making art, for him, was a means of traveling within his mind. Do you also journey inward to find inspiration? 
Hatter Clock.

Rima –  Yes, it is like that, in a way, but the process isn’t so premeditated. When I work I am not a great sketcher. I discover in the process of the work. I may decide where a figure will go in the frame, but it is rather loose. I am interested in the spark which happens when the image suddenly comes together in front of you and starts to work. If that happens in the sketch, then that is a waste for me. It's almost as if, while I'm drawing the lines, what I'm about to draw next reveals itself to me. Maybe I will start to see a face in some loose lines...in the same way that you sometimes see a face or figure in the gnarled bark of a tree. I am not completely in control of the process...it's as though the characters in the image make themselves known to me. It sounds a bit flakey, but I don’t mean it like that. 
H - I’ve always thought that being an artist, of whatever persuasion, is more than a vocation or a set of skills, it’s a whole way of viewing and interacting with the world.
Rima - It’s like having a receptive pool in the brain where ideas can percolate….
H - Percolate? I think that would be a good point to take a break and make some more coffee and tea. In the Part II of this discussion (which we'll post next week), we’ll look a bit more into this idea of the artist's life and the artist's work, and how they are often inseparable....

Above: One of Rima's animations.

(More of Rima's fabulous clocks can be found at: onceuponoclock.com)

Part Two, Here.


  1. Fab discussion! Very interested in Ms. Staines' thoughts on blogging and her art is stunning. Looking forward to part two. Must go get coffee now, I'm working through the night on a deadline and all this coffee talk makes me want some.

    - Jon in L.A. (not the real Anonymous)

  2. Hello, Australia signing in!!! And now you're going to make me wait a whole week for part 2...too cruel!

    Rima, your blog is what inspired me to start blogging...perhaps one day, when my blog grows up, it will be as wonderful as yours...well, I can but dream! Every post is a revelation, a magical journey, I love your writing and your photos as much as your art because they all reveal the world as so much more through your magical eyes. And yes, I'm one of those people in the far-flung corners of the earth who have a Rima Staines print in my house.

    I think if I lived in your little town I would feel so overwhelmed and out-classed by all the amazing people who live there I'd never pick up a pencil again, but I do love to dream about living in a town like that. For me as an artist, there is indeed an inner world (I rather like the idea of the "Jardin Secret"...I've got a painting of it in my head waiting to be born) that is rich and nourishing, and probably strange and unique to me, all my favourite things live there, getting mixed up together and creating new favourite things. But also, the outer world constantly inspires and nourishes...though sometimes it can do the opposite. Perhaps that's why a village like yours has that extra magic, there's so much creativity and inspiration circling and weaving, you don't have to fight to find it, you just have to open your door and it will wander in. And I suppose that's why so many of us blog...we are co-creating an ethereal village/community that nourishes us the same way. When someone leaves a comment to say they like what we're doing, it makes it worthwhile, reminds us that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, even if sometimes it is a struggle (especially financially). One encouraging comment can make a crappy day seem bright again!

    BTW, I really think it's time we found a better name...'blog' is just NOT a pretty word!

    And I've written a novel again...sigh!

  3. Well, this is Chicago signing in. Just wanted to say how much I loved this interview. That is all.

    - Chris (who jumped over here from Terri's blog)

  4. Thanks, I enjoyed this interview very much. I stummbled onto Rima's art through her blog about a year ago and have followed it since. I love her work an the window of her England that she shares with us. I have been following Terri's blog also and that is how I found you guys.

    Without the Blog world I would never have known how wonderful your part of the world is. I am envious.

    Thanks again, I enjoyed the interview and can't wait for part II. I will have the coffee on and ready.

    Darel from Huntsville, Alabama

  5. Rima is a wonderful artist, with all the right thinking that it takes for success. I'm sure she'll find it more and more. As a follower of her blog and Terri Windling's, I've heard about you, Howard and Rex. Congratulations on this storytelling/blog creation, it's great fun.

  6. Rima, your online presence is very organic and natural. I'm always attracted to the work of people who can take the inherently technological space that is the internet and break into it, wind through it, with roots and dust and juices.

  7. I was delighted to be interviewed at this esteemed kitchen table, and to be part of the continuing and interesting discussion on creativity and ideas that you are having here. An excellent place you are keeping I must say... and I too am looking forward to part 2!
    Thanks too to all you kind commenters for saying such nice things :)

  8. Chiming in from across the pond...
    I've long admired Rima's artwork and her blog, so it's a pleasure to read about her thoughts on inspiration and process. Looking forward to part two, and much more from "Around the Table." Cheers!

  9. I, too, have been following Rima's wonderful, breath-taking, inspiring blog for awhile now. It's always thrilling when she's created a new post. (This looking forward to the latest instalment reminds me of the serial releases of stories by Dickens and Doyle and co. in the Victorian times for some reason.)

    Blogging - (god! somebody please come up with a better name) - is such a fascinating new form of communication and expression which really is revolutionary. (If only Mr. McLuhan were around to see it.) Never before have so many like-minded people been able to have "direct" contact with one another. It's like the coffee-house meetings of times past, but on a much larger scale. The exchange of ideas, and inspiration, and commentary, and critique is incredible. We are indeed in a very exciting time with this.

    Man, this comment is almost reaching Mermaid proportions! - Another blog I love to read.

    I look forward to part two of the interview, and to watching how this wonderful fledgling blog continues to evolve and develop its own unique character.

  10. Oh dear, I'm becoming a by-word for waffley long-windedness! ;-)

    I agree about the 'looking forward to the next installment' on Rima's blog, I always get rather excited when I see a new post is up, as I know I'm in for a real treat.

  11. To Christina/Mermaid-in-the-Attic: But I *like* your long comments. It's all part the conversation, which seems to be a Moveable Feast moving among several different blogs....

    To Howard & Rex: I really loved this interview and can't wait for the next one.

  12. Thank you for this inspiring interview, looking forward to part 2 too!

  13. I'm loving these interviews... and, I think that Rima's blog was the first one I went to that I saw the potential of blogging. My idea of them was VERY different to say the least. I didn't expect them to be an art form in themselves. I've sent many students in my Myth & Symbol class over there and you, Rima, have inspired many of them to keep working hard and uncovering their authentic voice.

    I'm also loving the Moveable Feast conversation as Terri called it above. I feel inspired and wonder, always at this "blog land', and the possibility for me to be sitting in my forest home in New England, joining in an ongoing 'round the world conversation. So wonderful. I guess I'm also a new-ish blogger. One year in March. And Rima, Terri, and Midori, are the three people who inspired me to become a blogger. (phew.. that word also is the pits.....)

  14. A Moveable Feast, wonderful! Around a campfire in the woods perhaps? I'll bring panfortes if Howard and Rima promise to play Gypsy music!

  15. A lovely insightful look into the mind of the talented lovley Rima! Thankyou!:)

  16. Also, the conversation that blogging inspires, and the fact that you know folk are waiting for the next post and reading and appreciating your work keeps you on your toes, re-inspires action at the drawing board!
    And as for the ugly word - I actually like where it came from - a web log, like a ship's log... perhaps we could work with that? :)
    And huge thanks for the lovely things you all say about my work and world :) Chuffed I am!

  17. Thanks so much for letting us all in on this wonderful conversation and interview. I will be waiting for the next installment in the days to come!

    I have been following Rima's blog and Terri's blog for about one year now and can honestly say that the process of following and reading them has given me countless hours of inspiration, thoughtfullness and a sense of connection to a wider community of like-minded artists. Each time I discover another blog, such as this one, "John Barleycorn Must Die", I feel as though it is adding one more neighbor to the virtual community of art and wonder.

    Having just read Brian Froud's "Good Faery/Bad Faery" book, I am starting to feel that at least half my life is spent (at least mentally) in Dartmoor!

  18. I have to say, on this torrential and wet evening in Wisconsin, that I felt like I was at the table... thanks for that and the warmth of it all. I came over from dear, Terri's and I am delighted. Thank-you for the "conversation and community" hmmm... cozier than the blog word... Have a lovely day! Blessings and light, Amy

  19. Just a quick note to let John Barleycorn readers know that your discussion on the subject of blogging with Rima is rippling out onto the web....

    It sparked a response post from me at The Drawing Board, which in turn has led to posts at Mermaid in the Attic blog in Australia: http://amermaidintheattic.blogspot.com/2011/02/imagined-villagea-moveable-feast-on.html

    ...and at the RavenWood forest blog in Massachusetts:

  20. I've been following the moveable feast backwards from Valerianna's blog and am chiming in from South Africa. Rima's art captured my attention some time back and then I discovered that I loved her writing style too. I will definitely be back to read the 2nd instalment next week. Thanks for a great post!

  21. Having been a huge Rima fan, from the USA, and in possession myself of one of her most wonderous prints, this 'round the world converation is a complete joy to be a part of.

    One of my most favorite things about finding this "interview" is not having to wait a week to read the second installment! *snicker*

    I also love having found several new blog 'places' to visit and feel like I too was part of the Dartmoor scenery.


  22. Thank you so much for this interview, the inspiration, and the ongoing conversation that I fear I am about to spend many an hour reading and drinking in - the tabs on my browser are busting at the seams with all the links that I wish to follow from this!

    I too have been an admirere of Rima's work for a wee while with a growing collection of prints. I am fascinated by the artistic blogging world and could only dream of creating such an inspirational place as The Hermitage. I am a reluctant city dweller with the heart and imaginations of one who belongs in a smaller place where community is at the centre and tree's and fields are but a few footsteps away. So reading blogs such as Rima's and Terri's is an escape for me, to the kind of place where I dream of spending my days.

    I too blog but feel I am only taking baby steps in making it a reflection of who I am and what I am about as an artist - however even in it's slowly developing state, it is invaluable to me in helping me connect with people that I long to be able to meet for endless cups of tea and conversation!

    Thank you again.