Postcrossing Blog

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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!

And the winners of this giveaway, as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator are… HookedonPostcards, Ceres1849, frau_schill and Guny! Congratulations, and thank you all for participating!


Most people have a favourite author from their childhood or teenage years — for many, that might be Dr. Seuss, Roal Dahl or Enid Blyton. Maybe J. K. Rowling or Beatrix Potter? Or perhaps a mix of all of those! If you grew up in Portugal though, one of them would probably be Alice Vieira. Her name is inescapable in any Portuguese adolescent’s life, often featured in school books and “must-read” lists.

To me, her works are linked with a clear memory of this being the first author I read as a young teenager whose books felt “real”. Often, the characters were kids just like us, discovering real life and wondering aloud about the same things we thought about all the time. Alice’s words flow in the pages as the most natural thing in the world, funny and ironic at times, and yet genuine and straightforward. It’s easy to understand and fall in love with — and year after year, new generations of children continue to do so.

So you can probably imagine our surprise when, some years ago, we discovered Alice (aka paisdasmaravilhas) is a postcrosser too, and carries postcards everywhere she goes… often to interviews, where she explains Postcrossing to puzzled journalists! We met her last year, and, very humbled and honoured, asked her a few questions about her relationship with mail. Here she is, in her own words!

To those out there who don’t know you, how would you describe Alice Vieira?

An old journalist colleague of mine described me as the “activist of optimism”… I think it defines me well. Even in tough times, I always believe things will work out, if we give it our best.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

I think I might have seen it on Facebook… but the big push to sign up came from my friend José (aka PilotOne). And then, it’s really nice to receive postcards from the other side of the world, from someone who read a book of mine — it happened with a young Chinese postcrosser, who told me that he was going to save my book for his son that was about to be born (and then sent me a picture of the baby!) or exchange postcards back and forth with several others (the last one is a young Finnish lady who calls me “granny”). There are other funny instances as well, such as the time I received a postcard… from a neighbour!

Which part of Postcrossing do you enjoy the most?

It gives me great pleasure is to pick the best postcard for someone. Even today, I was out looking for cute postcards with cats. And I also use the opportunity to “advertise” our own national treasures: for instance, if someone is interested in contemporary art — and they often are — I send postcards with reproductions of paintings by Almada, Amadeo Souza-Cardoso, etc.

Have you always written postcards, or is it more of a recent thing? Who did you write to, before Postcrossing?

Always!!! Since I was a child. And I’ve always insisted with my children to do the same: I have a postcard that I always carry with me, that my son sent me when he was 8 years old, from Coimbra where he was playing at a chess tournament. It reads “Mom: I have nothing to say. Kisses.”
Before discovering the project, I used to send (and I still do!) to a group of friends, some of which I’ve converted to Postcrossing. And on all of my friend’s birthdays as well. And on holidays… This year I’ve already received two happy birthday cards from two Facebook friends, one from Germany and another one from Finland.

What other things are you passionate about?

Writing — and of course, my children and grandchildren.

Thank you so much Alice! It’s so nice to finally see you on the blog! 😊

PS – Coincidently, today is Alice’s birthday… please join us in wishing her a happy birthday on the comments below!