Snowtrees: A collaboration with Dr. Ed Garland
Our friend and long-term Inkymole collaborator Ed Garland is finally on Instagram, after moving away years ago and becoming Dr. Ed. This is good news.
After meeting up with him for a weekend recently, I’ve been thinking of all the projects we worked on together. Obviously I hope there will be more now that his gruelling study schedule has eased off, but I wanted to share a few as they emerged at a time when social media was still new, and were therefore only seen by the people who received a copy, attended an exhibition, or were part of the project.
This is Snowtrees. We had just put up a big installation called ‘The Witches’ in the repurposed church building of our regular clients TBWA\Manchester, for which Ed had written the words, and we were in the van on the M6 driving home, knackered and full of chips. I checked my email. It was mid-October and, thinking ahead, I’d asked Ed to write a piece for our annual Christmas mailing, which would take a different form every year. I would illustrate whatever he wrote. His story was in, and I read it; crying, because it was so beautiful and it was exactly what I’d hoped for. Even a little more than that, in fact.
I made a black and white ink illustration to go with it, indulging my longing for eerie stories to illustrate and my love of all things creepy and atmospheric. (Whenever the opportunity arose for some personal or promotional work, this is often the direction it would take). We had a 1000 copies printed to A3 in navy blue ink, foldable to A6 (sorry Kelly, who did all the folding). They were addressed individually and sealed with a tiny label, and it stood like a Christmas card with a snowflake-tree on one side, inspired by a duotone 1950s fold-out birthday card we’d had on the studio wall for years.
And there it was. Ed will probably do the thing people often do when confronted with old work — shrugging off my praise, pointing out all the things that are ‘wrong’ with it, maybe even cringing a little— but I love this piece of writing, and more importantly, I love the creative response it triggered in me. Although I too can see things I would do differently now, I love the outcome.
I woke up under the Snowtrees in a cradle of roots. The branches dripped sunlit water around my head. I’d been told about this forest. “It attracts the wrong crowd”, I’d heard. I wasn’t convinced. I could hear wolves treading icy crackles somewhere almost close, and cold crept in where my coat didn’t meet my trousers. But I didn’t want to move. I was happy looking straight ahead at the branches tickling the sharp blue morning. Snowtrees had perfect fractal features at this time of year, and there wasn’t long to wait before they expired. Today or tomorrow they’d come apart all at once, in whispering white-gold explosions.
One tree becomes a thousand pale fragments, making a soft, deep cover for the ground. The whole forest bursts into a shimmering blizzard and then a freezing flatness. People witnessing this feel a release, as with fireworks and demolitions, and great distance is travelled to be within it.
I was, by some forgotten accident, in a prime position, if only it would happen before I got too cold. Sniffing and howling from the wolves now, and I thought about the tension my absence might be causing at home. They weren’t expecting me at any particular time, and the sun seemed to say I wasn’t worryingly late, yet. I could hear others arriving to watch.
“Any minute now, someday soon” we said, and wondered why anyone wouldn’t want to be here.