The vampire squid

Imagine this thing leaping on your face during a late-night skinny dip. The vampire squid is a strange, finned octopod, black with large red eyes and two luminous organs glowing on its back. It was discovered in the early 1900s and given the name Vampyroteuthis infernalis – the vampire squid from Hell...

Images courtesy of Opulent Oceans, by Melanie LJ. Stiassny, published by Sterling 

Images courtesy of Opulent Oceans, by Melanie LJ. Stiassny, published by Sterling 

Vampire squid have been found in temperate and tropical oceans, living at depths between 600 and 900 metres. We now know they're not true squid and are also not vampires – in fact, they are the only known celaphod that is not an active predator. It feeds on detritus (the remains and waste of marine organisms) that rains down from the surface waters. It collects this ‘marine snow’ in mucous produced by a pair of modified arms; and forms it into balls of food that are passed into the mouth and ingested. Just heavenly.  

You can hang a fine print of the vampire squid up in your bathroom, along with other vintage prints of marine creatures, including sea urchins, jellyfish and whales, which come with the new book Opulent Oceans, published by Stirling.  

Opulent Oceans is published by Sterling. The stunning book includes essays and accounts from early naturalists and comes with 40 frameable art prints of sea creatures. You can order a copy from easternbiological.co.uk; £38

Ernest curates: beauty in simplicity

Enjoy Ernest's curation of carefully-crafted things for the home, made in Britain and Ireland, from Simple Shape

The (Not Just For) Bread Basket Woven in willow, this basket is simple, practical, beautifully made and will last for a very long time. £34

The (Not Just For) Bread Basket
Woven in willow, this basket is simple, practical, beautifully made and will last for a very long time. £34

Elliott Ceramic Cup  Simply stunning hand-thrown cups. The stain is worked into the clay leaving a delicate marbled pattern. £24 each

Elliott Ceramic Cup 
Simply stunning hand-thrown cups. The stain is worked into the clay leaving a delicate marbled pattern. £24 each

Jono Smart ‘Centre’ Egg Cup This slate-black egg cup will cradle a large egg beautifully, but its architectural design may steal the breakfast table limelight! £15

Jono Smart ‘Centre’ Egg Cup
This slate-black egg cup will cradle a large egg beautifully, but its architectural design may steal the breakfast table limelight! £15

405 Line Blanket A statement piece, not an over statement. The monochrome palette is reversible, woven in 100% wool in Wales. £320

405 Line Blanket
A statement piece, not an over statement. The monochrome palette is reversible, woven in 100% wool in Wales. £320

Ash Trivet Each ash segment in this trivet is carved and linked together by hand. An aesthetic object that will protect your table. £70

Ash Trivet
Each ash segment in this trivet is carved and linked together by hand. An aesthetic object that will protect your table. £70

BTU Studio Glass Cylinder  A hand-blown glass cylinder threaded with white glass strands.  £50

BTU Studio Glass Cylinder 
A hand-blown glass cylinder threaded with white glass strands.  £50

Sue Pryke Charcoal Pourer A jug for milk, cream or whatever you fancy, handmade by Leicestershire potter Sue Pryke. Simple. Gorgeous. £25

Sue Pryke Charcoal Pourer
A jug for milk, cream or whatever you fancy, handmade by Leicestershire potter Sue Pryke. Simple. Gorgeous. £25

Wooden Owl Toy This stackable owl is skillfully designed and beautifully made by Saturday Workshop in Dublin. For children big and small. £30

Wooden Owl Toy
This stackable owl is skillfully designed and beautifully made by Saturday Workshop in Dublin. For children big and small. £30

Mr Badger & Mr Fox Wonderful creatures handmade by textile artist Mimi Soan. They are lightly weighted so they stand up tall. £65 each

Mr Badger & Mr Fox
Wonderful creatures handmade by textile artist Mimi Soan. They are lightly weighted so they stand up tall. £65 each

Jigsaw Food Board Whether your dining setting is formal or relaxed, chic or rustic, these boards will look striking as the centre piece. £30 

Jigsaw Food Board
Whether your dining setting is formal or relaxed, chic or rustic, these boards will look striking as the centre piece. £30 

READER OFFER: Ernest readers receive a 10% discount with Simple Shape – just quote ‘Ernest10’ at the checkout. Discover more simple yet beautiful craftsmanship at simple-shape.com 

This is a sponsored blog post in collaboration with Simple Shape. To find out more about advertising with us or joining our Directory, email advertise@ernestjournal.co.uk

The Free-Diving Artist

Armed with swathes of canvas and special ink, artist Peter Matthews immerses himself in the open sea to create his works, recording and revealing the power and mystery of the ocean depths

Your work seems to span many mediums, from drawing and sculpture to photography and video – what leads you to choose a particular medium for a particular project?

My choice of medium changes regularly, sometimes because of where I'm working, the season and often through economic reasons. Recently I’ve been painting large-scale canvases in the Pacific and Atlantic and using found objects washed up on the beaches. I once found a cuttlefish bone at low tide, dried it in the sun then added the ground matter to white oil paint, which made the medium go further and added to its depth and brightness.

For the drawings in the ocean, my mediums are simply pen on paper, using a range of pens from gel pens to a space pen, which allows me to draw when the paper is immersed in the ocean or when it's raining. I often place found objects, like pieces of plastic sheeting brought in from the open ocean, in various compositions on the canvas. I really like the sense of narrative that each found object possesses – I work these materials into my work by simply sewing them onto the canvas.

I have been using Chinese ink for the last year. Something really captivating and profound happens when I simply mix the ink bar with the echoes and mysteries of the ocean water. It’s as if the water reveals something in the ink that was invisible, and in return the ink gives a presence to what was essentially invisible in the water – that sense of mystery and time, the unknown and the sensed. That slippage point and place of exchange where the ocean and landscape make their own visual presence is something I seek and invite into my working process.

Would you say there is a continuing theme that threads through all your works?

I have been drawing in the ocean since about 2007, following a near-death experience while surfing in the Pacific in Mexico. In a nutshell, there is this pursuit and perhaps self-maddening relationship I’ve developed with the ocean and thematically it's all about that sense of being mindful, more observant, to be a sensitive instrument in that liminal intertidal or open ocean space where I am trying to visually record and reveal the mystery and power of the ocean. 

I am motivated by an encircling satellite system of subjects, such as meteorology, marine biology, oceanography, astronomy, earth sciences, etc. My work is about being out there, immersed in the sea for hours at a time, making visible that human physical and spiritual experience of being out there in the wild. It’s also about that relationship of distance and absence, that sense of longing for the ocean, for those wild vistas and big open skies no matter what the weather may be. There's a beautiful stanza in the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield that evokes this feeling for me:

"I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.”

In this modern world of ours, we're surrounded by so many screens and have a more abbreviated and fragmented sense of our human interrelationships. It normally takes me four to five hours of drawing in the ocean to become re-attuned to the biorhythms of myself as a living organism in a cosmos of other living things, to be still enough to 'see' once more, to see the world go by in its ever-changing, dynamic way. 

The drawings and paintings take their own journeys into the wild and come back with a mapping of that visceral and personal experience. That's really what keeps calling me back to the sea, like when we place an old sea shell against our ear and we hear the echo of the ocean – the ocean’s out there but also within. 

As well as bobbing around in the sea with a pen and paper, what other bizarre situations have you found yourself in in the name of art?

Several years ago I filled a fire extinguisher with water from the Pacific Ocean and then, when the tank was pressurised again, I ejected the water out into the Atlantic Ocean in Cornwall. There was this vastly epic experience for me when the offshore wind blew the Pacific back into my face while I was physically present in the Atlantic. 

Last year, when working on an ancient sea floor in the Anza Borrego desert in California I used a Fresnel magnifying lens to draw and focus the sunlight from far away to burn small holes through a large canvas, which was painted with the blackest paint on earth. This was while I was an artist in residence at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

What's been your most ambitious project to date?

Painting and drawing on the ocean floor while free diving in the Pacific Ocean off Taiwan. There is this interchange point in time and place that you pass through when you leave the rocky shoreline and swim out into the fluid margins where the ocean is stirring within the intertidal zone. It's a point of departure and arrival that body and mind take. 

The more I free dive and the more I learn about this underwater world, the more my mind and body adapt. I enjoy that evolving and growing relationship between my work and the ocean – the depths we once came from. It has been ambitious physically and mentally, but also practically, too – trying to find creative ways to make a drawing in a place that's never been done before. There is this sense and scale of exploration and discovery that forever motivates me to keep on diving, peering under the surface, taking the paper and canvas farther out there and this sense of intrigue about what I may find and bring back to dry land.

What would you create if money and materials were no object?

I would love to create a place where people from all ages and backgrounds can learn about the sea and simply be near it to benefit from that recuperation, relaxation, personal adventure one can experience from the open water. It can also be a place where people can work together in a sustainable and sensitive way to help our oceans.

I've dreamt of crossing the ocean on a sailing ship and simply drawing the vast open water and all I can see while silently drifting along. 

But the simplicity of having just a few pens and a piece of blank paper to hand is the most down to earth and satisfying way of just being with the ocean, because when I am out there drawing and painting, those other material things don't enter my mind. I’m often reminded of our temporal existence on Earth, that when we pass on to the next world we simply take our spirit and leave those earthly possessions in our wake.

What do you find is the biggest barrier to creativity in this day and age?

It's a good question and it makes you ponder a lot doesn't it? I would say social media in some ways, although it places us into so many fields of opportunity where we can see such a wide spectrum of visual stuff, it also distances from experiencing the reality of things. 

Humans have this wonderful innate quality to wonder and experience and interact with new things, and this we see when we wait in line for hours to catch a short glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, when we could simply see the painting on the Internet on our phones. We have that curiosity and intrigue for experiencing life and our relationship to the world through art. 

We are also becoming increasingly more busy, and creativity needs time -  time to think, time to feel, time to see and watch, time to question and play and explore.

What's on your bedside table?

An old western novel by Louis L'Amour, called Borden Chantry.

Discover more of Peter's work at petermatthews.org

Moss-steamed trout

Our friends at Woodlore share their recipe for steaming fish in the outdoors – all you need is moss, a good campfire and some lemony herbs

Images: raymears.com

Images: raymears.com

The method of steaming your food between two layers of moss is one of the simplest ways of cooking in the outdoors, particularly with fish. It requires very little in the way of utensils or equipment (which means minimal washing up), and is very hygienic. But the greatest benefit of this technique is the way that it leaves you feeling truly immersed in the outdoors. This dish requires just two ingredients – trout and wood sorrel, the latter being a pleasant lemony stuffing that works well with fish. 

1. Firstly, prepare a hot fire with a good bed of embers, preferably of oak.  

2. Forage a handful of wood sorrel (make sure you are confident in identifying the plant first).   

3. Collect two large handfuls of sphagnum moss, taking care to keep them intact. Remove any leaf litter from the moss. 

4. Gut and clean your fish, then stuff it with the sorrel(at this stage you can use the clean side of the moss as a place to prepare the fish).   

5. Once your fire is ready, place the first layer of moss on top of the embers. Place the fish on top of the moss. Cover the fish with the second layer of moss, so that the soil and roots are facing upwards. Leave the fish to steam.

6. If the fire has been prepared correctly, you should see steam rising from the moss. After 30 minutes of steaming, check on the fish and turn it if it’s not cooking on top.
A simple way of testing if the fish is cooked is to gently press your thumb against the skin; when the fish is ready, the skin and flesh should slip away from the bone. Remove the fish from the fire and peel away the skin. Spoon the flesh away from the bone and enjoy with a pinch of wood sorrel.

You can learn various cooking techniques, alongside other bushcraft skills on a Woodlore course; raymears.com

Discover more wild food recipes in issue 4 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Introducing Loake: 135 years of craftsmanship

We go behind the scenes at the Loake factory in Northamptonshire, where they have been making Goodyear welted shoes for well over a century 

The Goodyear welt is the oldest and most labour intensive method of shoemaking in the world

The Goodyear welt is the oldest and most labour intensive method of shoemaking in the world

The Loake family have been making shoes in Northamptonshire – the historic centre of British shoemaking – for five generations.

It all began in 1880, with three brothers working in a shoe factory in Kettering. They each worked in different departments and they soon realised that, between them, they had all the necessary skills to make shoes themselves. It was a brave step, leaving the security of their jobs to set up a business of their own. 

A meticulous craft

The Loake brothers became one of the finest producers of Goodyear welted footwear – the most labour intensive and durable method of shoe construction. Fast forward 135 years and Loake are still making shoes the same way – it’s believed they’ve produced more than 50 million pairs since they first began manufacturing. Some 130 skilled shoemakers, up to 75 shoes parts and 200 different operations are involved in making a pair today.

A Goodyear welt is essentially a strip of leather stitched along the perimeter of the shoe’s outsole, connecting it to the upper. The most well-known Goodyear welted style that Loake make is the brogue – a timeless classic no English gentleman’s wardrobe would be complete without.

Lifetime companions

One of the benefits of the Goodyear welt is that the shoes can easily be resoled, something Loake take huge pride in. Their repair service covers re-soling on the original last with new soles and heels, fitting new seat socks and re-finishing the upper part of the shoes. A pair of Loake shoes can really last a lifetime – looking as good as new after a repair service, but still as comfortable as ‘old friends’. 

Traditional meets contemporary

Despite their heritage and traditional craftsmanship, Loake believe they are very much a forward-thinking company, with their range of footwear including alternative constructions and classic and contemporary styles. Their aim is to maintain a balance between traditional and contemporary design, thereby introducing new generations of wearers to the benefits of fine, handmade shoes.

This blog post was created in collaboration with Loake. Read more about the historic brand in the Ernest directory.