Friday, 12 November 2010


I've not added much to the dandelion blog of recent weeks. The project is still continuing and i am always collecting dandelion leaves for the dandelion diary and archive, but with winter here there are less dandelions about.

A few days ago a friend sent a link to a children's programme she'd seen with her little boy early one morning - this is her email:


This episode was on this morning and surprisingly i thought of you! Guess with Jess is shown on BBC2 early mornings and in case you don't know it is a spin off from good old Postman Pat where Jess investigates everyday things. Sam loves it!

6:30 am - 6:40 am

Guess with Jess

How Did a Dandelion Seed Get into Mimi's Garden?


Needless to say i haven't been conscious at 6:30 in the morning for quite a while, so i haven't ever seen Guess with Jess.

The dandelions above were collected from the gardens at Brantwood near Coniston. I went yesterday in the rain and windy weather. While waiting in Ulverston for the bus i managed a quick visit to Oxfam and bought a book called The Snail House by Allan Ahlberg because it has lovely images of dandelions in by illustrator Gillian Tyler.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Dandelion Tea

I was out shopping with my friend Helen the other day and we spotted this tea that's made from 'organically grown 100% organic dandelion'. I've not dared try it yet - quite honestly i expect it to be ghastly.

Brewing Instructions:

Use one teabag per cup.
Always use boiling water and infuse for 3-5 minutes for the fullest flavour.

To sweeten add sugar or honey.

Drink without milk.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


In the post yesterday I received a note and cuttings from a catalogue from my friend Patricia, the botanist, who had collected some images of vases with dandelions on. She'd mentioned seeing the vases months ago (please see Symbolism blog entry in March) so i'm pleased she remembered to keep and then send me the cuttings.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


This is the manhole cover in the middle of our road. A late flowering dandelion surviving in the most abstract location. I saw it this morning on the way home from the corner shop to get tea bags.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Alpine Dandelions

My godfather sent a letter the other day that also contained dandelion leaves he'd collected on a trip to the Swiss Alps.

I am thrilled he thought of the project and bothered to collect and send them - they will now go in the dandelion archive (but not in the dandelion diary - only ones i've collected go in there).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Fen Dandelion

Last week I went to visit my friend Owen the botanist and stay with him for a couple of days. He was surveying Wicken Fen and asked if i'd like to go too. In return for going with him on the survey he said he'd help me try and find the Fen Dandelion Taraxacum palustre which is found on the site. As this isn't a common dandelion I was very keen to go and see if we could find some.

The day of surveying was on a part of the fen that hasn't had anyone on it for 100 years (who'd have thought there was such a place in UK?) and we could only get there by boat. It was an amazing place - all overgrown with dense scrub and towering reeds - and although I got bitten, stung (by the stingless fen nettle), scratched, bruised and burned it was an incredible adventure to go to such a place.

After returning from surveying 'compartment one' we tried to find a Fen Dandelion. The image above shows the meadow we had to search. The two dots on the image are Owen and Peter helping me look. After inspecting the ground for ages we only found one dandelion on the whole meadow and it wasn't even a fen dandelion. Boooo!

As it goes it is a rubbish time of the year to look - with it flowering in early spring and dying back. I was hoping it would at least keep its leaves though, but it wasn't to be.

Never mind - i'll just have to visit again next spring. And i did have a great time going to a place nobody has been for 100 years (and probably won't go again for another 10). Thanks to Owen, Peter, James and Tim.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dandelion Wine

'Every year,' said Grandfather. 'They run amuck; I let them. Pride of lions in the yard. Stare, and they burn a hole in your retina. A common flower, a weed that no one sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing, the dandelion.'

My holiday reading while in France was Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I bought it at a car boot sale in Alnwick and although i remember really liking Ray Bradbury books when i was a teenager - i did only buy it for the title.

It is the most magical book - one of those books you don't ever want to end. I read most of it on the train journey back across France, in a park in Paris, on the Eurostar train under the Channel and then on the train from London to Preston. There were a couple of bits that made me want to cry, but i thought it wasn't appropriate to cry on a train, plus there was a gripping scary bit that made me shut the book so i could take time to catch my breath. Wonderful!

And now i'm back from holiday i'm reading a hefty text book on meadow management.

Monday, 9 August 2010

French Dandelions

My holiday in France was really wonderful and I managed to collect dandelions from Vimoutiers, Camembert, Trouville and Paris too. Lovely.

I also spotted these tins of chicory coffee with dandelion designs on in a supermarket and brought one home. The tin doesn't have any instructions on it at all so i'm not especially sure what i'm supposed to do with its contents...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


I'm off to France in a couple of hours - Preston to Paris on the train. I'm taking the book Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury with me as my holiday reading, plus i'll try and collect dandelions for the the project while i'm there.

I've travelled around a bit the past few days - and the two leaves here are from Glasgow. I was there on saturday to do a talk at CCA Glasgow.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

White on White

I went back to Artlab for the final time before the summer break (it's at Uni in Preston - the year runs from Sept - July). I was experimenting with printing white on white and black on black.

The prints have come out great and I really like the final results. Maybe i do like printing after all...*

The image here shows the screen made for the prints.

* See Artlab and Connections entry on the blog (January)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Timetable Prints

I finally got to go back to Artlab to collect my prints for the book i'm making. I cut my timetable up from my journey to Japan and printed the outlines of Japanese dandelion leaves that i collected while there on to each page. I'd used the book to press the collected leaves in and bring home too.

The timetable wasn't that helpful as it goes with every timetable i used slightly wrong by a few minutes...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


I found this leaf at YSP on 23rd June on a hot sunny day. It's the first i've ever found with a deformity - two leaves coming from one. Wonderful.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Screen Printing Day 2

So, with the screen ready i went for a day last week to Artlab at UCLAN and spent the day printing dandelion designs on to different Japanese papers and card for the book i will make. Actually, Magda did all the screen printing for me - i did things like move the paper into position, put it on the drying rack and wash the screens. I then had a go at screen printing myself - some of my attempts came out good - some were crap. It's not as easy as Magda made it look...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Screen Printing

I spent a whole day in the print studios at the University of Central Lancashire yesterday getting a screen ready to print my book about the trip to Japan looking for dandelions.

Because i'm a bit of an idiot I didn't save the right files on my memory stick so i actually spent half the day walking to and from my house (walked up to uni, found the file was wrong, walked back to the house, walked back up to uni (via Snape Printers to drop off another project file that was going to print yesterday) walked back home - each walk is 25 mins). At least it was hot sunny weather.

So the screen is now ready and i'll go again for another day next week to start to print dandelion leaves and flowers on to a selection of different papers.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Imported Dandelions

I went to Artlab last night - the first time in ages (i'm a bad student) and i was really chuffed to see my friend Muffy again. She'd been back to US to visit her family and i'd not seen her for months.

I was delighted to receive some dandelion leaves she'd collected while she was visiting home. This is the message on the card keeping them flat:

Imported dandelion leaves from my alley in Washington, DC

Here, i've scanned them all - aren't they lovely?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Dandelion Dibber

I got a lovely email and images this morning from an artist called Christian who I met on my Weed Tour of Preston at the end of April.

"Hi. Find attached two photos from my Mum who is modelling the dandelion tool and for a bonus a daisy fork. The tool belonged to my Grandfather who fought in the first world war. The war on dandelions, a constant obstacle to the putting green finish to which he aspired for his lawn, lasted considerably more than four years.

C. "

I've only put one of the images on the blog, but the others show more of the dandelion dibber, plus some of a funny little daisy fork. I expect that if you really wanted a clear green lawn nothing could infuriate you more than a pesky weed popping up in the middle. I like that there's a little daisy in this photo - all confident.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


I'm going to Accrington again today to interview more of the allotment holders about their plots. It's sunny again and i've arranged for tea and cake to be served for everyone that turns up.

I'll try and remember to collect a couple of dandelion leaves too for the dandelion diary, but i have to admit that sometimes i forget - even though i've been collecting for 3 years, i often forget to take a book to slide them between the pages. But today i'm taking my flower press to collect other specimens too so hopefully i'll remember.

Monday, 31 May 2010


For the last few days i've been going to Accrington in Lancashire to interview allotment holders at Peel Park.

The weather was so hot and sunny - what a lovely time to spend days hanging around on beautiful plots with such interesting and generous people.

There are quite a few derelict plots on the site and there was a particular one that i really liked - a bit isolated and overgrown, it was enchanting with its dandelion seeds floating about on the breeze shimmering in the sunlight.

I have to say that the plot holders i spoke to kept wonderful plots with fruit and vegetables and flowers and herbs (not fields of dandelions).They were so nice to me and one lady gave me a drink of Dandelion & Burdock in a plastic orange beaker- a blast from the past.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Taraxacum japonicum

I got an email from Owen, the botanist, the other day in reply to my query about whether the dandelions i collected in Japan were native or not... i expected they were, but wanted some kind of confirmation too.

This is his reply:

Hi Becs

Here are my thoughts on the Japanese dandelion pictures. None of them seem to have the reflexed outer involucral bracts that one would associate with the introduced Taraxacum officinale, so my belief is that all the images you've sent to me are of native dandelion species. You've obviously got an eye for them.

Image08 (pictured here) - The horned ("corniculate") involucral bracts suggest T. japonicum, which is said to occur from Kinki district (i.e including Kyoto) westwards.

Image29 - hairy stem and short-horned bracts suggest T. variabile

The others are hard to classify because the salient features are not photographed, but the Kyoto plants may include T. pectinatum

Most of the other possibilities seem to have heads that are too far across (5cm).
It's hard to be sure about all this but at least these are plausible.

Loads of love


Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Suddenly all the dandelions have gone to seed - all the ones by the derelict plot on Glover's Court that were last week all yellow are now fluffy and white. It's hard to resist blowing on them or flicking them with my hand.

I got a text from my botanist friend Owen yesterday:

'Will look properly at your Japanese Taraxacum this week. Have noticed once again how adverts make Dandelion THE archetypal weed. How are you chuck? Been just now at a social cum working meeting with a friend who's got a visiting reader's post at Munich Uni so thought about Thomas & you. Loads of love, Owen'

He's the only person i know who uses Latin in a text.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Leaving Frenchwood Street

I have lived on Frenchwood Street in Preston for 5 years (2 weeks short of 5 years), but by the end of this week i'll be moving to a new place. I'm surrounded by boxes and the walls are now bare, the phone gets cut off tomorrow and the local charity shop has refused any more of my tat. Lots has happened in the past 5 years: good and bad. I'm happy to leave this street now with the crime and grime (the police use our wheelie bin to tie the crime scene tape to!), but i am quite fond of the place too and our neighbours are lovely.

The dandelion leaves here are from the top end of Frenchwood Street (from a most precious spot). Although they look a bit weak and pathetic (i collected them a couple of months ago) the plant is now beautiful, healthy and green with a couple of full flowers on: surviving in the crack in the dirty pavement. I collected new leaves from the same plant yesterday - probably the last i'll collect from this street.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Funny Canadians

My friend Elizabeth sent me this image the other day of dandelions for sale in a store in Toronto.

I'd love to see the farm they come from - fields of dandelions - i wonder if they let them flower.

I'm not sure how successful trying the sell them here in UK would go...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Weed Tour of Preston

On the 28th April I lead one of the alternative tours of Preston for the Place Beyond Place symposium organised by In Certain Places*

I took the participants around some of the back streets of the city centre to discover the weed hot-spots and I talked about where the plants had originated from and why they thrive in the harsh urban environment. I also talked about how my interest in the dandelions of Preston had led me on a trip to Japan and that it was the recognition of familiar plants that helped me navigate my way around an unfamiliar landscape.

One of the other artists leading a tour was Catriona Stamp. She's a maker of artists books and she gave me the most delightful little book she'd made Wild Flowers as it has a dandelion in it. I'm loving that people bring me things and send images and stories with dandelions in them.

This image here is of St John's Place and was taken by Andy Greenacre

*a public art initiative and action research project based here in Preston

Sunday, 9 May 2010

What Now?

So, now what do I do?

I've been back from Japan for a couple of weeks now and i've been constantly thinking of what I should do with all this information i've gathered. My trip to Japan was so wonderful and inspirational - working out how to express that will take a while i think.

There is a list of individuals that really helped me with my trip:

Peter, Mayumi, Erika and Mike - for their generous hospitality (and Lorcan for the original introduction)

David Swift - for all his advice and information about travel, eating and customs etc

Mari Fuji-Pratt - for all her support, help and translating my name into Japanese

Takeshi Hayashi - at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts (and Nobby and Natalie for the original introduction)
Shiba - for all her advice on travelling in Japan as a lone female (and Simon and Gav for putting us in contact)

Dr Christine Guth - for chatting to me about the project and giving me new directions of investigation (and Neil for the original introduction)
Charles Quick - for encouraging me to apply for research funding
Helen - for offering to send me extra cash when all flights out of Tokyo were cancelled because of the Icelandic volcano

They all contributed to a fascinating experience that will remain with me forever - thanks!!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Japan Trip Day 9 - Volcano

Day 9
I had a great night at the Hilton Hotel at Narita Airport and got up early to get to Terminal 2.

My flight was cancelled.

It was the only one on the board to be cancelled (i was in the terminal with only 5 European flights - terminal 1 was by all accounts in chaos).

Nobody from Finnair came to see us at first, but when they did they sent me straight to the other end of the terminal to get on the standby list for a flight to London (i should have been flying to Manchester via Helsinki) with Japan Airlines.

I had to sit around and wait. The British Embassy had sent a nice chap to see if we were all ok and to inform us about stuff. He was really kind and encouraged me to queue early - and I got on the flight! It was the first flight out of Tokyo to London for days: there was a family in front of me that had been living in the airport for 4 days waiting to get a flight. So, i was incredibly lucky. I had even more luck on the flight - a vegetarian had cancelled their flight - so i got their meals!

After the 13 hour flight I got to Heathrow by about 5pm, got across London to Euston and caught the 7.30 train to Preston to get home by 10pm

And that's it - my trip completed. The most amazing thing I've ever done in my life. The images I hold in my head will stay with me forever.

The image here is a dandelion from a scroll in the National Museum in Tokyo
Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons by Sakai Hoitsu
Edo Period 1818

Japan Trip Day 8 - Botanical Gardens

Day 8
Getting lost on the way to what i thought was the Kyoto Botanical Gardens I went to visit the Nishi Temple and the ornate Karamon gate instead. Not one to give in I finally found a park on the map - a fairly neglected public park with an enclosed bit in the middle that cost 200 Yen to get in (about £1.60).

No kidding, i was the only visitor in the park - wandering around in the pouring rain looking at plants trying to avoid the freaky feral cats that kept growling at me. There were weird birds calling in the trees, but i couldn't see them and steam trains hooting nearby. An altogether strange place to venture. I collected dandelion leaves from near the sign post to the entrance of the park and left.

On getting back and looking in my guide book I since discovered I was in totally the wrong area of Kyoto to find the botanical gardens and was instead at a funny little park called Umekoji-koen!

I caught the train to Tokyo and then got the NEX to the airport where I was staying overnight. The original plan was to meet up in the late afternoon with a couple of friends (actually the friends of the ex-girlfriend of my house mates brother) but because of the Icelandic volcano travel trouble I decided to go straight to the airport and arrived there by 6pm.

Japan Trip Day 7 - Japanese Dandelions

Day 7
I was glad to get up and out of the hotel - i had a night of vivid disturbing dreams that left me feeling unsettled...

I bought a bus pass and caught the bus up to Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) - the most wonderfully peaceful gardens, the smell was heavenly sweet and the moss a fresh green - a couple of chaps were sweeping the moss of leaves. Needless to say there wasn't a blade of grass out of place and so i didn't find any dandelions.

The excitement came as i strolled along the Philosopher's Walk that leads from near the Pavilion along the cherry-tree-lined canal* along the Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains) leading to Nanzen-ji.
As I walked along some dandelions caught me eye - they were growing on the steep walled edges leading down to the canal water - and they looked quite delicate and the leaves were a bit different. So, I clung to a tree and reached down to pick a couple of leaves and a flower. I also took shots too. As it goes I reckon they are Japanese dandelions - how exciting! There were quite a few along the walk from then on - so I collected a number of specimens.

I stopped for lunch beside the canal and was rained upon by a shower of cherry blossom petals - beautiful.

It was a hot sunny day and after visits to the Jodo-sect temple at Honen-in and the massive gateway of the Nanzen-ji Temple and the western style Meji-period aqueduct I caught the bus back into the city.

I walked through parts of the Gion District - with its winding streets, people, shadows, shrines, shops and i caught sight of a couple of maiko (apprentice geisha) with their tall koppori clogs, beautiful arranged hair and costumes with embroidered collar.

I walked for 9 hours and was totally exhausted by the evening, but so very happy with my day in Kyoto: dandelions, temples, blossom, people and sunshine. Perfect.

*clear the image of a British canal from your mind : the water was clear, shallow, fast running with a sprinkling of cherry blossom petals floating on the top (not a dead dog in sight)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Japan Trip Day 6 - Kyoto

Day 6
Hmmm - do I need to mention i woke with a hangover...?

It was a beautiful day and I packed and then decided to walk all the way across the city to get to the station via the peace park again, along the river, through the shopping district and into a fantastic comic shop too.

The train journey to Kyoto was good and i was sat by the window so i got great views of the passing countryside.

Kyoto station is absolutely massive - it took 10 mins to get out onto the street, but my hotel* was nearby and easy to find.

I strolled out in the late afternoon to see the Higashi Hongan-ji Temples which were wonderfully beautiful with practically nobody else there. One of the buildings is the largest wooden structure in the world and was so impressive. I managed to pick two dandelion leaves from inside the grounds without being caught - i did the 'pretending-to-look-at-my-guide-book-while-crouching-down' trick.

I then walked for 3 hours and covered miles wandering along streets and going down lanes people and building watching. I was totally exhausted when i got back to the hotel and my legs and knees were beginning to give in.

After a meal of food bought from a bakery and the convenience store nearby I slept on my little futon in my tiny room surrounded by the noise of the passing city.

*The word hotel is a generous term to use to describe my accommodation. It was a Japanese Ryokan style place, but for backpackers that can't afford the posh ones.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 5 - Earth Tremor and Miyajima

Day 5
Very early in the morning - about 5.30am - while sleeping on my futon at the World Friendship Centre I was woken by birds calling loudly outside my window. Moments later the whole building shook and rumbled and it originated from right underneath me. It only lasted a couple of seconds and then faded away. I fell back asleep.

At breakfast Barb (the lady who runs the WFC) confirmed it was an earth tremor. I've never experienced one before.

After breakfast I caught a tram to Miyajimaguchi Ferry terminal and then caught the ferry over to Miyajima. The day was bright and sunny and the water sparkled. The ferry only takes 10 minutes and i got great views of O-torii Gate in the water.

As I got to the island fairly early in the morning there wasn't too many tourists and i looked around the Itsukushima Shrine and then i wandered up to Daishoin Temple with its absolutely beautiful gardens full of figures - some dressed in hand knitted hats and jackets (a bit like the ones your granny would knit for you!). I loved it there.

I then embarked on climbing up Mount Misen - as i wanted to see if i could spot dandelions on the paths. I wasn't especially well equipped for such a steep climb (no walking boots, only one little bottle of water - proper tourist stuff), but felt ok about it when i passed a chap dressed in a full suit and posh shoes coming down the mountain. It took me about an hour and a half to get to the top and the views were breathtaking. Twinkling sea, little islands, blue sky and cherry blossom - perfect.

On my way down I started to chat with a chap called Alex who was travelling around the world.
We spent the rest of the afternoon together exploring bits of the island - it was fun. As it goes i didn't find one dandelion on the island and was bitterly disappointed. The island is overrun by deer and i expect that might be the cause - eating all the small flowers and plants.

I collected dandelion leaves and a flower from the ferry terminal at Miyajimaguchi instead.

I spent the evening with Alex in Hiroshima where we ate gorgeous Japanese food in an empty restaurant and then spent time in a bar where we decided to sample as many Japanese beers as we could before falling over.

I think this was my favorite day on the whole trip.

Japan Trip Day 4 - Hiroshima

Day 4
Mayumi and Erika escorted me to Hachimanyama Station and I caught the train to Tokyo Station via Shinjuku where I then booked my ticket to Hiroshima (i had a Japan Rail Pass for the trip, but reserved all my seats beforehand). Japanese trains are amazing, beautiful objects and waiting on the platform was an experience in itself - watching the Nozomi trains come in and the pink clad team of women going on board to switch the seats around (to the direction of travel) and clean the windows etc.

My journey was via Shin-Osaka where i had a brief stop, then onward to Hiroshima. The landscape was shrouded in mist, but i got brief glances of mountains and forests and the sea. I got a very brief view of Mount Fuji - the top and bottom were covered in cloud, but i could still the enormity of it - wonderful.

Arriving in Hiroshima the weather was a lot brighter and sunny, so after a taxi ride to where I was staying and unpacking my stuff I wandered out to the city centre to collect dandelions.

Hiroshima is a huge, bustling city and my stroll took me along Heiwa-o-dori and into the Peace Park. It was incredibly moving. There was a large bell that people kept chiming and the low deep sound resonated across the park - it was very eerie.
At the A Bomb Dome I reached into the alarmed area to risk getting two dandelion leaves for the collection - and i got them! They are tiny and scruffy and I am thrilled i risked it.

The day ended at a little restaurant called Itsuki where I had the place to myself and ordered the local speciality (the only thing on the menu) Okonomiyaki. I had the veggie option which consisted of a pancake, noodles, cabbage (more than you'd think was physically possible to eat) and sauce all layered into a cake type dish. Very yummy - impossible to eat with chopsticks.

The image here is of the dandelion i picked at the A Bomb Dome - it's tiny on the photo, but look closer between the bars and you'll spot it.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 3 - Museum

Day 3
The day started with a journey across the city in rush hour so I could get to Ueno Park to meet with Mr Takeshi Hayashi at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Mayumi came with me for half the journey - which was a great help during such a busy journey. We were crammed onto the train and changing lines was an amazing experience following along in the overwhelming flow of people.

Me and Takeshi had a lovely time chatting about work and dandelions and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (he has work in an exhibition there at present).

I then went to the Tokyo National Museum to see if I could spot dandelions in their collection. I'm getting good at scanning cabinets and object for dandelions - it means i look intensely at every object and exhibit and it can be quite obsessive.

It paid off though and I found a few dandelions - quite big, lovely clear ones too.

The first - pictured here - was on a screen. The label states:

'Female Peddlers of Ohara'
by Tsuchida Bakusen (1887 - 1936)

Colour on silk

1923 (Taisho 12)

Private collection

The screen the dandelion is on is made up of 6 panels with a female peddler sat on a log, with bamboo and the dandelions in the background. Lovely.

Dandelions were also featured on another screen (with birds), an exquisite scroll featuring lots of plants, a wall hanging showing a white dandelion and also very stylised ones on a dish.

I had lunch at the museum and sat beside a nice lady called Maggie who was also travelling in Japan and gave me great tips on where i might see dandelions in parks in Tokyo.

On leaving the Ueno Park I visited Toshogu Shrine and collected a couple of dandelion leaves for the dandelion diary. I then made my way home via Shibuya Station and as this was where I needed to change train lines I left the station to walk across Shibuya Crossing - a mass of swarming people, it was bright, busy and loud.

The evening was spent with Peter and Mayumi sampling Japanese sweets and enjoying a glass of wine. They made me so welcome in their family - it really was a wonderful start to my trip.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 1 & 2 - Travel

Ok, so after deciding to eat my way through my jet lag, i'm feeling a lot better now and can milk it no longer as an excuse for not up dating the blog.

Day 1 & Day 2
6.30 am start - then a train to Manchester airport, flight to Helsinki, flight to Tokyo, NEX train to Shibuya, local train to Takido - total travel time = 20 hours ish (still can't work it out with the time difference).

Diary extract from the journey:
"I had weird food to eat - a beetroot type burger and veg and then some liquid, thick raspberry stuff. Too many people are coughing - it's like a flying hospital. If I get out of this without a cold i'll be amazed."

"I just had the most disgusting breakfast - some boiled carrots and a piece of cheese omelet that's been kept warm since yesterday. Yum"

It was a hassle free journey and customs and passport control were easy and my bag was coming along the conveyor belt when i arrived. Getting from the NEX train in Shibuya to the Keio Inokashira Line took a while to figure out, but it all worked out in the end. From the train I saw dandelions - so i was absolutely delighted that i'd chosen a good time to travel.

While waiting at Takaido Station for Peter, my host for the next 2 days, I wandered around the streets nearby and found my first dandelions to collect. The image here is the first of my European dandelions in Japan.

I had the afternoon to myself and wandered in the local area spotting cherry blossom and dandelions and also visited the local supermarket with its pet department housing puppies and kittens in glass fronted display units. The evening was spent with Mayumi, Peter, Erika and Mike eating lovely Japanese food.

I flagged at 9pm and slept a deep dreamless sleep.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


My trip to Japan was too big to describe in a blog: it was exciting, incredible, challenging, inspiring, beautiful, funny, wonderful. I saw so many things in such a short time - i feel like i was away so much longer than i was.

The landscape, people, culture and food all brought new experiences to me and I can only try to explain this as best as i can.
I kept a diary of the trip plus i took over 400 shots on my 3 cameras.

I was thrilled to see lots of European dandelions and also i found Japanese dandelions too - they are so very beautiful. I visited the National Museum in Tokyo and was delighted to find the representation of dandelions on a few objects in the collection.

I only got back a couple of days ago and i have horrible jet-lag - so i'm going to up date the blog over the next few days trying to tell the story of the adventure to Japan looking for dandelions.

Monday, 12 April 2010

This Is It

Deep breath - I go on my trip tomorrow...
Bloody hell, who'd have thought I'd ever get to Japan?

Ok, so i just got back from collecting my Yen and a few other bits and now my bed is covered in piles of stuff ready to be squeezed in to my bags.

I reckon i'm a pretty lucky person most of the time, but if anything ridiculous is going to happen to anyone - that person is usually me (splashed by speeding cars in the rain on the way to important meetings; shit on from a great height by disease ridden pigeons (don't ever tell someone that's lucky); tripping up in front of a person you're about to introduce yourself to - the list could go on). So, a couple of days ago i started to worry that perhaps i didn't actually book a ticket to Japan - or perhaps there's another city in the world called Tokyo and i am in fact jetting off to Isle of Man*.... but this morning I tried checking in on-line: and it worked!

And yesterday I got an email from an associate professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts to say he'll meet me during my visit - this is part of his message:

Dear Rebecca
Thank you for your email.
I looked at your website, i could not understand rightly your idea. But it is very interesting about dandelion. So I will not help you in Japan, but i'd like to meet you this time in Ueno.
Could you please come to our University. Our University is Tokyo University of the Arts in Ueno. I will wait for you at the gate of our University on 10:00 morning 15th April.
Look forward to hearing from you


How exciting - meeting someone that i can tell about the project. Lucky man.

Ok - i'll probably not up-date the blog while away - but will have lots to tell when i get back.

* would have been a very expensive flight to the Isle of Man

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This Time Next Week

I will have arrived in Japan by this time next week.
I've always wanted to got to Japan and combining it with a research trip was the only way I could manage to get there. I've been planning this trip since last summer and in that time I've tried to make contact with various professionals that could potentially help with my research (a curator of a botanical garden, a researcher at one of the universities studying the spread of European dandelions and a curator at a major museum). However, i've not been successful in tempting them into replying (even to tell me to get lost) so when i'm there I am entirely on my own to discover things for myself. I am going to try and collect dandelion specimens (both Japanese and European), plus i will visit museums to try and spot dandelions in collections of material culture.

I'm travelling quite a bit while i'm there so there is more chance of spotting varieties of dandelions - but who knows - i might come back empty handed. I'll be pretty gutted like if i don't even see one dandelion (and i expect the arts council won't be too chuffed either).

By the way - i just saw my first swallows of the year, so as advised I touched my money for luck ;)

Business Card

It's been mentioned I should have a business card to take with me to Japan to give out to potential contacts I might meet etc.
So I asked my friend Mari to translate my name in to Japanese. The Japanese text above is my name - i'm supposing anyway - she could of course have put something incredibly rude. I expect i'll find out when i present my card to the first recipient.

Monday, 29 March 2010


It's been an interest of mine to look at the symbolism of the dandelion - both historically and in a contemporary context. I've noticed that the use of dandelions in contemporary design will almost always only use the seed-head, but hardly ever the flower. Perhaps the flower is considered just too vulgar and common to inspire reproduction (maybe the old belief that touching dandelions will cause bed-wetting doesn't especially help), where as the seed-head is seen as delicate and beautiful: representing time passing - seeds gently floating along on the spring breeze etc...
In folk stories blowing on a dandelion seed-head will determine what time it is, how long you will live, when you will marry (this year, next year, sometime, never) and how many children you'll have etc.

I've seen seed-head designs on t-shirts, greeting cards, coasters, mugs, as stencils for DIY home decorating, on wrapping paper, and on textiles.

I recently received this email form my friend Pat:

Hi Rebecca
Have you seen this design by Royal Copenhagen?

We were in Keswick last weekend in a cafe having lunch. There was a gallery above the cafe and I went upstairs with my friend to have a browse. There was this vase with the dandelion design - £635!! I told my friend and the lady in the shop about your project - she very kindly cut the pages from her catalogue so that i could give it to you. The design is very unusual and what surprises me most is that the flower doesn't feature - just the seed-head and the leaf. Apparently it is quite an old design and has been produced for years.

I have found a dandelion leaf in a design on a Mornflake Superfast Oats packet - only the leaf and not the flower or seed-head (it's in the background along with oats, honesty, ribwort plantain, wild carrot, shepherd's purse, goosegrass, hogweed and a vetch).

Historically the dandelion is St Brigid's flower. Brigid is one of Ireland's earliest recorded saints and along with St Patrick is one of Irelands most famous saints. It is thought she was born sometime between 452 and 456 CE in Faughart near Dundalk in Co. Louth.

It's believed she died on 1st February 524 - so her feast day is celebrated every year on the 1st February. The dandelion is known at St Brigid's flower because it is the first flower of spring.

As it goes, I haven't found an image of St Brigid that shows a dandelion too - i'm still searching.

The dandelion lights its spark

Lest Brigid find the wayside dark.

And Brother Wind comes rollicking

For joy that she has brought the spring.
Young lambs and little furry folk
Seek shelter underneath her cloak.

Winifred Mary Letts (1882 - 1972)

With further searching i've found that the dandelion also symbolises desire, sympathy, affection returned and can mean love me.
Finding out what it symbolises in Japanese culture has proved a little harder, but it seems to mean similar things: faithfulness, happiness and is also known as love's oracle.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


I spent the last two days at Yorkshire Sculpture Park looking for bumblebees (I'm doing a residency there over the next year looking at native bee species - bumble and solitary - plus we are setting up bee hives to observe honey bees too).

I managed to collect dandelion leaves on both days for the dandelion diary, plus I got this close up shot of a dandelion just beginning to open up.

I have a blog for that project too (because i have nothing better to do with my time):

Friday, 19 March 2010

First Dandelion

I decided to skive work this morning with the weather being so mild and sunny and spent a couple of hours at my allotment.

On the way there I went through Avenham Park alongside the Ribble. I saw my first dandelion flower in full bloom facing the sun. There was also lots of Coltsfoot flowers, a few Daffodils and a lot of Ramsens coming up already. There was a solitary dandelion in full bloom in Miller Park by the Ribble under the Chestnut tree avenue the council have just massacred (diseased my arse). It looked very lonely in all the devastation.

Incredibly I also saw two House Martins - my first of the year. It seems very early to me.

The dandelion leaves here are from Avenham Park. I did get a shot of the dandelion in flower - only i took it on my crappy Lomo and i expect it'll take months before i develop the film, plus no doubt it'll be blurred too.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Japanese Dandelion Definition

I found this definition to help me find Japanese dandelions while i'm there:

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Taraxacum

Species Epithet: japonicum

Kansai-tanpopo. Dandelion

Perennial herbs. Leaves, oblanceolate or linear-lanceolate, 10 - 30 cm long, 3 - 5 cm wide, entire or variably lobed, usually with 5 or 6 pairs of triangular lateral lobes, sometimes pinnatifid to pinnatipartite; petiole green, sometime reddish, with or without a wing. Flowers March to May. Scape green or reddish, densely floccose at base of head. Head 2 - 3cm in diam., with 30 - 100 florets (average 80). Involucre green or dark green, 12 - 15 mm long at flowering. Exterior bracts appressed, 2/5 - 3/5 as long as involucre, densely villose on margin, with or without a small corniculate appendage to ca. 1.5 mm long; outermost bracts oblong-lanceolate to ovate-oblong, 3 - 5 mm long, 1.5 - 2.5 mm wide. Ligules yellow, 15 - 16 mm long, 2 - 2.5 mm wide. Style and stigma black. Pollen uniform in size and exine structure. Achenes mostly straw coloured, rarely dark brown, ovate, 3 - 3.5 mm long, ca. 1.5 mm wide, apex spinulose and tuberculate, smooth near base, cone conical, 0.5 - 0.8 mm long. Beak 5 - 8 mm long. Pappus white, 5 - 7 mm long. Sexual.
Sunny ruderal habitats such as roadsides and edges of paddy fields; below 500m.

Very helpful - thanks.

The image here is of a British dandelion (not Japanese). Hopefully i'll come back from my trip with lots of new images of Japanese dandelions.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Japan Prep

I ordered my Japan Rail Pass today - in exactly 4 weeks I go on my trip to Japan.

I also got my spare battery for my camera in the post today, so I won't need to worry that it goes flat during the trip while i'm taking thousands of shots. I'm going to take my Polaroid SX70 too (my favorite camera) - plus if i have room i might take my pinhole 100 (but it's quite bulky and i might leave it at home). I've ordered films for it ready, in case i take it. You can't have too many cameras...

All my accommodation is booked too. Kyoto was the most difficult to find somewhere (i wanted a small ryokan) with it being blossom season - but after a day of emailing enquiries out i have found one near the station.

There's still a bit of planning to do, but i'm nearly there.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


I just got back from a 2 hour session of digging up weeds on the allotment.

It's been a lovely week - sunny weather and blue skies - and all the plants are beginning to come up - the celandines are already in flower in the park and there was a pretty little daisy on the allotment (i didn't have the heart to pull it up, so it's still there). As I walked along the bank of the Ribble I saw my first dandelion bud ready to burst open. All the dandelions are growing and getting stronger - it won't be long now....

I don't seem to have any photos of dandelion buds and I didn't have my camera with me - so this image doesn't really match.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Place Beyond Place Symposium

Tanpopo Tour of Preston 28th April 2010

I have been asked to lead one of the artist tours of Preston city in the afternoon of the symposium.

The Place Beyond Place Symposium has been developed by In Certain Places for urban planners, artists, public art commissioners, architects, urban designers and people with an interest in the future of cities.

The morning will feature presentations by artist and founding director of cSPACE Lorain Leeson and geographer Tim Creswell, Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

My Tanpopo Tour will take you round the weed hotspots of the city revealing how plant species from all around the world have come to settle in the city.

To find out more and to book your place please go to the Place Beyond Place website.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Clever Witches

I found this info on the Leicester Pagan Alliance website:

'Herbal knowledge is a powerful tool. It was necessary for witches centuries ago who possessed such knowing, to disguise the names of their ingredients so, should their sacred journal fall into the wrong hands, without the corresponding Herbal Code to decipher the true meaning of the herbal ingredients, spells, potions and medicines would be useless'

So, with this in mind, witches used 'Lions Tooth' instead of Dandelion.... how cunning.

Please see Name Calling in the post below.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Name Calling

It's not clear which part of the Dandelion was the source of its name - it could be the jagged leaves resembling the teeth of a lion, or the whole jaw of a lion; the yellow flower resembling the mane of a lion or the golden teeth of the heraldic lion.

Dandelion is a corruption of the French Dent de Lion. It's former scientific Latin name was Dens leonis and Linnaeus assigned it the name Leontodon taraxacum. Taraxacum is derived from the Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy). It's scientitic name is now Taraxacum officinale assigned by Weber. Officinale is from the Latin officina meaning pharmacy.

Different European countries use the Lion's tooth name too:

Diente de león - Spanish

Dente-de-leão - Portugese

Dente di leone - Italian

Löwenzahn - German

Løvetann - Norwegian

Løvetand - Danish

Dant y Llew - Welsh

There's also masses of local names: Swine's Snout, Blowball, Irish Daisy, Lion's Tooth, Priest's Crown, Canker Wort, Clocks and Watches, Devil's milk plant, Fairy Clock, Fortune Teller, Pee in the bed, Piss-a-bed, Puffball, Wet-a-bed, Wild Endive.

Friday, 19 February 2010

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I finally finished the book of seeds i've been working on.
It's 32 pages of little dandelion seeds in fine black pen.
In total there are 2560 seeds in the book.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Peter Scott Gallery

It was the opening of Conversations with the Collection exhibition on Tuesday night. I was asked to look through the collection at the Peter Scott Gallery at Lancaster University and choose a piece of work that I could then partner with a piece of my own work.

We (I went with fellow artists Elaine Speight and Robina Llewellyn) weren't actually allowed to rummage through the real collection, but could look through massive catalogues listing each item. I picked a Chinese fan that showed a couple of butterflies with spooky eyes and there's a wonderful dandelion on it too. The flowers are faint but the leaves are really clear. I was chuffed to find a dandelion in the collection.

So I partnered it with a piece that I was still working on and finished for the exhibition. It's a piece of black bed sheet embroidered with synthetic gold thread. I've stitched a row of 16 dandelion leaves on it - all different. The finished piece is 129 x 37 cm.

The image here is a detail.

The exhibition runs until 20 May
Admission free
Mon - Fri 11am - 5pm
& Sat 11am - 4pm

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Dandelions 1653

Culpeper's Complete Herbal - And English Physician Enlarged

Nicholas Culpeper was an apothecary, physician and astrologer. He wrote several works, but it's his Herbal that is the most famous and was first published in 1653.

The entry for dandelion is quite long which includes description; place; time and government and virtues sections.


Descript.] It is well known to have many long and deep gashed leaves, lying on the ground round about the head of the roots; the ends of each gash or jag, on both sides looking downwards towards the roots; the middle rib being white, which being broken, yields abundance of bitter milk, but the root much more...
Place.] It grows frequently in all meadows and pasture-grounds.
Time.] It flowers in one place or other almost all the year long.

Government and virtues.] It is under the domination of Jupiter. It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstruction of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them, as jaundice the hypocondriac; it opens the passages of the urine both in young and old; powerfully cleanses imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage; and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them; for which purpose the decoction of the roots or leaves in white wine, or the leaves chopped as pot-herbs, with a few Alisanders, and bolied in their broth, are very effectual. And whoever is drawing towards a consumption or evil disposition of the whole body, called Cachexia , by the use hereof for some time together, shall find a wonderful help. It helps also to produce rest and sleep to bodies distempered by the heat of ague fits, or other wise. The distilled water is effectual to drink in pestilential fevers, and to wash the sores.
You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in Spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people."

I felt like I was coming down with a mild case of evil disposition the other day - if i'd known white wine and a few dandelions could have saved me - i would have given it a go.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Dandelions 1597

Gerard's Herbal - Of the Historie of Plants

In 1597 John Gerard, the Elizabethan physician who superintended the gardens of Lord Burleigh in the Strand, first published Of the Historie of Plants. The first edition is seldom quoted, for the enlarged second edition, by Thomas Johnson, of 1633 was far better (there was over 1000 corrections made to the first edition). It was due to Johnson that the Herbal continued for a long time to be the standard work for English students.*

This is the entry for dandelion:

"The hearbe which is commonly called Dandelion doth send forth from the root long leaves deeply cut and gashed in the edges like those of wild Succorie, but smoother: upon every stalke standeth a floure greater than that of Succorie, but double & thicke set together, of colour yellow, and sweet in smell, which is turned into a round downy blowbal that is carried away with the wind. The root is long, slender, and full of milky juice, when any part is broken, as is the Endive or Succorie, but bitterer in tast than Succorie.

They are found often in meadowes, neere unto water ditches, as also in gardens and high wayes much troden.

They floure most times in the yeare, especially if the winter not be extreme cold."

*I've used information written by Marcus Woodward in 1927 from the introduction to my copy of Gerard's Herbal.

I dissected the flower head of a dandelion and the drawing above is of the individual parts. The original drawing is A2 size.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Little Winter Dandelions

Yesterday I went to the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster (at the University) to install a piece of work for an exhibition that starts next week.

It was a cold day with brief snow showers, but I still wanted to find a couple of dandelion leaves for the dandelion diary. Although surrounded by fields, the campus is a fairly brutal concrete mini city with hardly any planted areas. Right outside the Main Hall entrance is a raised bed imaginatively planted up with grass, so the dandelions pictured here are from there. The leaves are tiny.

In winter I can still find dandelions, but they are little, hardy, low-lying things struggling to hold on over the cold months.