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Jackie Morris is an artist and writer based in Wales. Her Wild Cards postcard set, a collaboration with writer Robert Macfarlane, is grounded in their best-selling book series, The Lost Spells and The Lost Words.

The cover of The Wild Cards postcard set (featuring a kingfisher). A selection of cards from the set can be seen, featuring different illustrated animals

Jackie graciously paused between creations for a conversation with Clarisse (aka Cstar9) about her recent book projects, her lifetime love of postcards, and the importance of painting as if you have paws.

All the art pieces in this story are copyright Jackie Morris, used with her permission!

A screenshot from Clarisse's conversation with Jackie, who is sitting in her attic studio, and smiling to the camera
You’ve described your work with Robert Macfarlane as a kind of alchemy. How did your collaboration begin?
The book The Lost Words sits on a wooden table. On top of it sits the smaller book The Lost Spells. Both books feature birds in the cover

We were both co-signers of a 2015 letter to the Oxford Junior Dictionary to request that they reinstate nature words, like 'acorn’, that were dropped from the new edition to make way for words like 'broadband’.

Here in the UK, we’ve got 70% of the world’s bluebell population, but they had dropped the word 'bluebell’ from the dictionary.

This sat in my head for a while. And then I wrote to Rob, whom I did not know, to say, this would make a beautiful book, all these words: like a tiny dictionary of forgotten things. I asked him if he’d want to write an introduction for such a book. And he said, thank you very much, but I’m really busy. And then about two weeks later he came back and said, this is really haunting me. Perhaps we could collaborate?

So, that’s where The Lost Words started, and it did become a real collaboration of words and images working together.

An illustration of an otter floating in water

It’s become more than a book – it’s theatre, it’s wallpaper on hospital walls, it’s music, it’s postcards [learn more here about the art exhibits, albums, touring musical, and curriculum guides for schools].

But, you know, I had to beg for this postcard set, The Wild Cards. I wanted them straightaway, because I love postcards, and also I think every card advertises the book. But the publishers were worried that people would buy the cards and not the book. However, it seems people are buying both.

I’m hoping we can get a postcard box for our next book, as well.

You’ve said your past artwork feels almost like it was an apprenticeship for The Lost Words. Can you say more about that?

I’ve worked a lot. I’ve made enough money to live on. I’ve followed my own path and learned my craft. I think I was lucky not to have had this level of success too early. With this project, I’ve been able to turn my craft to the attention of really local things. The dandelion in the book was a footstep outside my front door. You can’t get much more local than that. Being able to turn your craft into something so close to your own soul is amazing.

A poem about a dandelion, next to an illustration of the same flower
What do you hope to convey with the project?

I didn’t realize until the first book was published that it was actually a howl of outrage against those who would destroy these wild things. Some people march on the streets, others do what they can in their own way. I try to be as positive as possible in my ways of protest. Every stroke of my brush is prayer and protest tangled up together.

You’ve said you have to inhabit a thing – almost shapeshift – in order to draw or paint it.
Jackie paints a snow leopard

It’s a difficult thing to explain, but you need to be inside a butterfly’s wing – or try and feel like you have paws – in order to paint – in order to drop every illusion that you have of knowing what something looks like. It’s almost like acting your way through paint.

And when you’re there, you know when you’re getting it right, and when you’re not there, you know you’re flogging a dead horse.

One of the things I’ve learned in painting is that you have to be willing to make mistakes. That’s how you get to the bit where something is as right as it can be. And it’s never right, you know. Everything’s always a bit off. I used to be so disappointed with all my finished work. And then I learned it’s not the finished thing that interests me. It’s the process of getting to the point where I can stop.

I’m not saying I don’t value my work, because obviously that’s how I make my living. But now I know it’s the process of sitting on the hill, of growing wings and getting into a raven’s head – that’s the joy.

You invoke a lot of gesture and movement in the wild moments you paint. Can you talk about how you decide, say, what a fox will be doing in your painting?
An illustration of an European barn owl

I try to catch some of the fluidity of their movement. Whenever I’m painting anything, I’m soul-hunting, in a way.

I draw from life, and I use photographs, and I’ve got loads of teachers all around me in the studio.

I don’t know whether you can see these owls behind me [you can see them in a photo below]. This is a European barn owl. And this is a tawny owl. I’ve got a kingfisher over there. And there’s a fox.

I’ve got all these taxidermied things that I draw from. It’s a weird kind of animal rescue, when something is already dead. But I try to put life back into them with my paintings.

An illustration of a fox

This sketchbook drawing is from the bird book.

Jackie holds up her sketchbook to the camera, where a pencil sketch of some birds can be seen
Tell us about the bird book.

It’s our third book. It’s huge. I’m only just over halfway through; there’s a lot of work still to do. I’m painting each species that we’ve chosen, and Rob is writing an exquisite, 50,000-word prose poem.

There are so many books about birds, you know. Why do we need another one? Perhaps to prevent a greater thinning in the tapestry of life, as the sky becomes quieter and more empty of flying things.

Within arm’s reach in my studio, I have things like this blackbird nest. These eggs are replicas, of course—the real thing has a different sheen to it.

Jackie holds up an egg from a blackbird's nest to the camera

It fascinates me how this tiny little porcelain casket full of liquid turns into feather and song and flight. And that’s what we’re trying to really celebrate – that utter wonder and creativity.

When I meet somebody who is so diametrically opposed to this thought—who sees nature as dirty, who sees other lives as lesser, I hold to my heart a phrase from Richard Powers, who wrote the book Overstory. He wrote that no amount of argument can change a person’s mind. Only a good story can.

A lot of things give me hope every day. Including this Postcrossing thing. What an amazing thing – when our governments try to divide us, we still just have such a simple way of reaching out to a stranger and going, Hi!

I just signed up for Postcrossing and sent out my first three cards. And the first person for me to send a card to, she’s in America, and she’s an artist, and it’s like, how did that happen? It’s just amazing.

Let’s talk about postcards! What’s your first memory of postal mail?

Getting mail is so exciting! When I was really little, I used to love getting postcards from people when they went on holiday. When I went to places, I loved choosing a card and then posting it.

Some postcards from Jackie's studio

My studio has postcards stuck to the ceiling. I’ve got postcards that I had in college 40 years ago.

I bought an album of old postcards recently, and I’ve been taking them out and sending them to people. I love making original ones, as well.

One of the highlights of my career was being sent a book by Wendell Berry’s publicist, jackiemorris12 which I loved so much that I painted and posted a postcard to thank her. When she received it, she asked if she could use my words as a quote on the front of the book. Now, I don’t do endorsements for books, but I said, Are you kidding me? That’s great.

I love postcard stories. I wrote a post on my own blog a couple of years ago, asking people to write a comment about postcards in their lives – how far is the furthest one you’ve received, what’s the oldest postcard you’ve still got? And their responses were simply amazing.

What’s next for you?

I’m not getting many chances to write at the moment. But I’ve got things that I want to write. I feel myself slipping out of time because I’m over 60 now. I have less time ahead of me than I have behind. All the hours that other people spend watching game shows on TV—I want that time. I’d be an hour vampire if I could. I love sleeping, but you know, there are just things that I want to create.

A recent project of mine is called The Silent Unwinding. The book’s postcard set was released in autumn 2023.

Two views of The Unwinding set of postcards

I’ll show you another project – can you see all the hares over there? They’re waiting to be in a book. One or two more hares have to join them before they’re done.

A picture of Jackie's desk, featuring lots of small items, including a few paintings of hares

The boxes they’re standing on are antique boxes of paints that are about 200 years old. I wake the paints up with some water and use them. They behave very differently than newer paints, and you have to remember not to suck the brush because they’re full of toxins. They’re from the early days, when artists didn’t have to make their own watercolors: proper chemistry and alchemy combined with science. And geography as well. Because of where all the colors come from.

The older I get, the more excited I get to see things. This afternoon, I’m going to the place where the skylarks sing.

We are lucky. We are lucky because we were raised to notice the way a dandelion folds up and then unfolds into something so completely other. How a caterpillar goes into a cocoon and then becomes a butterfly. What interests me is how these stories travel through time, in all of us. Every day we’re making new stories for the future.

To learn more about Jackie and her work, check out her website, Instagram and blog. You can also read a book review of The Unwinding, and watch Jackie paint a snow leopard or give a tour of her studio (so many postcards! 😍).

And here’s the cheeky giveaway you’ve all been waiting for! Clarisse is going to send 4 postcards from the The Wild Cards set to 4 randomly picked postcrossers. To participate, leave a comment below to share your old favorite word that people seem to have forgotten. Don’t forget to come back this time next week to check out the winners!


Rose Wong is a New York-based illustrator whose work can be found in the popular Flower Box set, and in the pages of The New York Times, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, and more.

On the left half of the image, Rose's set of 10 flower postcards are spread out on the floor. On the right, Rose laughs to the camera in her studio

Last year, Clarisse (aka CStar9) caught up with Rose via web-cast in her Brooklyn studio. All the art pictured in this interview is Rose’s work!

A heavily stylized illustration of several buildings. Through the windows, you can see the inhabitants doing all sorts of things
When did you first identify as a visual artist? You’ve said that as a child, you used to make intricate drawings in Microsoft Paint.

I’ve always been a visual artist. It was something I just liked doing. No one prompted me to do it. I really wish I had the forethought of saving all those MS Paint drawings I made back then, but it was a different time.

Deciding to go to school for visual art was a more serious step. I didn’t even know what illustration was. Drawing, right? Fine art drawing? But then I did research and saw it was more along the lines of what I thought I wanted to do.

A minimalistic illustration of a house lifting from the ground. A person is suspended between the flying house and a trap door that just opened on the ground where the house stood.

That was a huge leap of faith for me, and for my parents who were funding me through school. My parents immigrated from China before I was born. I’m the oldest child, and they hadn’t really gone to college, so I was the first. I had cousins who had done the STEM career thing, and my parents just said, “You shouldn’t do that. You should do what you’re best at. Yeah, you should do art.”

When I graduated, I did a couple of editorials here and there — commercial jobs like book covers. But I was still very much in the student zone, figuring out my style and getting a footing in what it meant to work for clients.

I think I really became a visual artist when I started working full-time in 2018. I had been laid off from my job. And I was worried, because I didn’t ever make the decision to go freelance. I just started doing it. About a year later, when I started getting consistent jobs, I thought, oh, wait, I’m professionally a visual artist now.

The New York Times was my first client. They’ve been my repeat client ever since.

The 10 postcards in the Flower Box that represent you are “Blue No. 1” through “Blue No. 10”. Can you tell us about the roots of these cards?

Initially the drawings were black and white. But they said another artist in the box was already doing black and white, and they thought two black and white sets would be confusing. So I was like, you know what, I do sometimes draw in blue, so I digitally changed it — my inspiration being Chinese porcelain.

That was in 2017, before I did as much digital work. I was drawing from life. I used to go to the Botanic Garden to draw, after days at my full-time job. That was my oasis.

We can see some plants in one of my recent sketchbooks: these are drawn with gel pen on Moleskine.

Rose showcases one of her notebooks. Both sides are covered in drawings, featuring geometric renditions of plants
Is that sketchbook gridded? How on earth do you make such straight lines?

Sometimes you find materials that are just right for you. Grids have informed my drawing a lot. It also just makes my brain feel good to draw straight lines and to fill in in black. I use a ruler now, but all my plant stuff in 2017 was pre-ruler, just using the grid. It was all very neat. That’s what I think adds to the “design”-ness of my work. It’s not just free-form.

This is my most recent still-life. You can see it’s a return to less linear.

Rose holds up her sketchbooks, featuring plant drawings
What do you think is responsible for that shift?
A minimalistic illustration of leaves floating around. In the center, a tiny person can be seen, surrounded by the leaves

In my craft, even for editorial, I always start off drawing. I let myself be really scribbly with pencil and paper. When you move to Illustrator, everything gets straighter and tighter. So, working from analog paper to digital — the digital has now affected how I do the analog.

In my early editorials, I was trying to imitate the tight aesthetic of digital, and it was really difficult. Illustrator has taught me how to create shapes. It’s so funny to say that, but shapes didn’t come as naturally to me when I was drawing freely. I was just drawing what I was seeing. But then I started to see the flowers and plants I was drawing as squares, circles, ovals.

Of course lately there’s a desire to go back to natural, because I feel like maybe I’m too stiff now when I draw. I’m rulering everything and making it too perfect. So, analog and digital really affect each other for me. The two are in conversation, constantly.

How do you go from observing something to creating art on the page?
An illustration showing four sets of books that seem to portray fantastical worlds, with characters and scenery coming out of them

I graduated from Pratt Institute in 2014, and I got my first job working at Fishs Eddy, which is a kitchenware store. I was the assistant to the product designer and visual merchandising designer, so I was working both upstairs and downstairs of the store. I had learned Illustrator in school but had never applied it. So, during this time I was turning a lot of traditional drawings into vectors in Illustrator, to be printed onto ceramic ware. I was doing that for hours — just, like, tracing a floral design — as my job. And I got really good at Illustrator, and at the pen tool!

But also at that time, I was doing a lot of location drawings with my partner and some friends who had a plein air club. I was starting to develop a style by looking closely and trying to simplify what I was seeing. Now I do image research by spending a lot of time with books, bookstores, and museums. My partner, who is a book designer, is really good about this. Before, I would just look at one thing and then try to create something. Now I’m trying to be more intentional. When I was doing my most recent zine, I had six books laid out on the floor. As much as I love my folder of Instagram saves, it’s so nice to have books around, so I’m not searching through my computer for my inspirations. I have them all together in one place that’s real.

What’s your relationship to snail mail, or to paper and stationery in general? rosewong12

It’s so funny, because I love receiving stationery. I love collecting postcards. I love the images. But I don’t write many letters. I save all the wonderful postcards and little notes sent by my friends who love letter writing and care packages. I am terrible at making time to write little notes, but it might one day click for me.

Can you tell us about your Lookbook project?
A collection of very minimalistic fashion drawings

Lookbook was born during COVID. I got burnt out doing a lot of COVID drawings for client work. I felt like I had no attention span to make art for myself anymore. So, for Lookbook, I gave myself like a set of parameters. I wanted a project that was basically about repeating something small and eventually amassing something bigger. I was already doing these little girl drawings and fashion drawings and repeating them in my sketchbook.

So, here you see basically the origins of Lookbook.

Rose holds up her sketchbook, to show some of her stylized fashion drawings

Then I moved to doing these in Illustrator, which was a lot quicker than drawing them. I would do them in batches of 7 to 10 and post one a day. It was a way for me to quickly create little moments of art: inspiration about this color green, or this shape I saw in real life, or a vegetable I saw that I thought was really nice. I’d try to treat my Lookbooks as if I was drawing in my sketchbook, trying not to delete anything and just keep building. And being like, okay, I’m not going to fuss over them — I’ll just move on to the next one if I have a better idea.

This is not a question but a comment: Please tell your agent that Lookbook should be packaged as a set of postcards.

I’ve had people say, you should make stickers out of this. But I’m holding out for the book first! It’d be so cool for a digital project to come back around to analog, as a book, like we were talking about before. I should reach out to book agents, but that involves all this bureaucratic stuff that artists don’t like to think about when they are making things.

What’s something you’re proud of, outside of your drawing?
A small flower vase or jar made of ceramic, with a tile-like pattern

I’m really proud of my ceramics. When I got laid off in 2018, my friend and I decided to take a ceramics class that we’d already been wanting to do. It was a two-month class. And I said, that’s a great idea — I need structure. I did it as a “treat myself” sort of thing. But then I just fell in love and never stopped! It has woven seamlessly into my life and changed it in ways I never could have imagined.

For me it’s a respite from digital. My ceramics are also different from my illustration because they’re very decorative. I’m finding more ways to simplify patterns within my own language. I’m building my world through actual objects, which is so different than doing it on paper.

So yeah, I’m really proud of that. I also think it kind of links to the idea of postcards, because postcards obviously have a function, but they’re very decorative. The function is what gets it out into the world, but the decoration is why you want to send it. At the end of day, a ceramic piece holds water, plants, or pencils, and but it can also be just simply pretty.

What’s a new project you’re excited about? Or something you’re working towards?
Rose holds up her sketchbook, showing some of her most recent work

Well, I recently just finished my new zine for the Brooklyn Art Book Fair. I do riso printing with my friends from school in a project called TXTbooks. Zines and bookmaking allow me the space to explore something that I’m interested in, in a longer format, which in this case is architecture and imagined spaces.

In my zines there are no words — it’s really a free-form experience — a non-linear narrative. I want it to be an immersive journey. I love feeling like I’m capturing moments in my work.

Otherwise, I am excited to do more ceramics stuff. And I’ve been making a little foray into furniture and other bigger pieces. I’m just really excited to do… everything!

To learn more about Rose, check out her website and Instagram pages! You can also read about her roots as a digital artist, or about fashion and creativity in her recent Lookbook project.

And now, for the traditional giveaway, Clarisse is going to send 4 postcards from the Flower Box set to 4 randomly picked postcrossers. To participate, leave a comment below to share your favorite illustrator that should have a postcard box made with their art (but hasn’t yet)! Come back this time next week to check out the winners!

And the winners of this giveaway, as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator are… reverebeachdweller, Indreni, sagitta and fried_rambutans! Congratulations, and thank you all for participating!