1

Long Tailed Tit & SAW

Following on from a late May post, my Long-tailed Tit piece is now complete and at the framers ready for Somerset arts Week.

This piece was based on a stunning photograph by Carl Bovis.  Carl is a Somerset Photographer who has a great blog that you can link to here.

img_5278.jpg

This piece will be one of 6-7 originals that I will have on view and for sale at venue 19 during Somerset Arts week (23rd September – 7th October).

img_5276-e1504342201832.jpg

As well as originals there will be a selection of giclee prints and greetings cards.  I am exhibiting as part of a group alongside Casey Jon, Scarlett Martin, Suzy Parker, Angie Rooke, Sarah Truscott and Hannah Willow.  The art includes, textiles, weaving, ceramics and paintings.

Venue 19 can be found at North Wootton Village Hall, 5 Pilton Rd, North Wootton, Shepton Mallet, BA4 4ET

We are open everyday between Saturday 23rd September until Saturday the 7th of October 11am – 6pm.  I hope to be there as much as possible but will not be there everyday.

Hope you can pop along and see us.

Advertisements
2

Slender billed Curlew

Version 2

The first of the pieces based on the Slender billed curlews plight is now complete.  This work was inspired by the wonderful book ‘Orison for a Curlew’ by Horatio Clare.

I have absolutely loved researching this piece and trying new techniques such as simple fabric dying, beading, fabric painting and metal leaf.

 

Version 2

I’ve really enjoyed experimenting  with the background and how it could tell the story of this fated birds migratory route, which has led to its almost certain extinction.

Version 2

The final piece, incorporates a rock made up of small maps of the key areas listed in Horatio’s book.  Initially I had planned to make each area an individual stone but this looked cluttered.  The balance of telling the story and still creating an attractive piece of art was an interesting test.

Version 2

I have started to use the information and research I have gathered on this bird into another couple of pieces, I look forward to writing about these another day.

IMG_3828

I absolutely love what I do, learning about these birds, the threats they face and their possible/probable extinction.  I do however find it incredibly sad that I will never run out of birds in this category and wonder what the future holds for nature in a man-made world.

As Horatio Clare says ‘ A world in which only the robust survive is a dulled and blunted planet; all crows, and no colour’

0

Slender billed curlew Pre-stitching progress.

 

I’ve been really busy creating since the building work finished at Easter.  A few pieces are complete and ready for framing, others are pieced and ready for stitching.  The thing I have totally neglected is my blog!  Apologies in advance that I am going to be playing catch up and that you will receive a number in quick (ish) succession!  I hope, once up to date on work done that I will be blogging in the moment…..

The work that has consumed most of my time has been a series of work on the probable extinction of the Slender billed curlew.  These pieces as previously discussed are based on the book ‘Orison for a Curlew’ by the wonderful Horatio Clare.

IMG_5093

Above, the initial sketch and fabrics chosen for piecing the first art quilt. You can see I have shown both the front and back of a couple of the fabrics as the back was the most suitable for the areas in question.  Never forget to look at the back of fabrics, it can double the options you have when piecing.

img_3683.jpg

Above, the bird pieced and ready to start adding fine details with fabric paint below.

IMG_3754

Encouraged by the members of the quilt group I’m a member of, I decided to have a go with new techniques to create backgrounds.  I can highly recommend this photo paper for transferring images with an ink jet printer onto fabric.  Because the bird had such a hazardous migratory route I wanted to show these areas in map form.  I used images from a very out of date atlas and started experimenting.

IMG_5112

Above you can see samples of these prints, before and after dying the fabric in a weak tea solution.  The idea is to stand the bird on a stone, hence the more natural colouring from the tea solution.

IMG_3820

Below, experimenting with ideas for pebbles and stones around the main rock.

IMG_5111

Although the image below is an ‘old moon’ rather than a ‘new moon’ I wanted to incorporate this image using metal leaf.  The slender billed curlew’s Latin name is Numenius tenuirostris meaning the ‘slim beak of the new moon’.  The image direction of the new moon didn’t work with the first piece so I’ve used a little artist licence!

IMG_3818

Unfortunately my favourite pen (a Frixion, iron removable pen), which I usually highly recommend for sketching details as a guide to follow with thread, removed the dye from the backing fabric (you can see a white line around the moon).  This would not normally be a problem as I would thread paint over the area, however for marking out a circle that was only partly used it was an issue!

IMG_3817

Below, second take on a slimmer crescent moon.

img_3819.jpg

Samples done, the time was right to start planning the final piece, You can read more about this in the next blog.

IMG_5165

 

 

0

First steps on a locally inspired project

The Common Crane Grus Grus

Despite not posting a blog in months, lots of things have been happening in the background.  Despite my life being consumed by 6 months of building work at home I have, slowly been working on a few new projects.

One of the projects for this years ‘Work in progress – Unfolding Stories 3’ at UWE will be based on the reintroduction of the Common Crane to the Somerset Levels.

Back in March my husband and I made a very early start to Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust in Gloucestershire.  We had booked onto a walking tour of the area with the aim of seeing some Common Crane (Grus Grus).   We were able to see a number of cranes in the wild around the site and then a few in captivity (ideal for someone like me who does not have a very powerful camera lens).

I so enjoyed researching the vulture and swallow pieces I made last year that I have decided to base a series of work for the 2018 exhibitions on birds with an interesting back story, whether that be reintroduction into the UK, threats of extinction/habitat loss or just a story that makes us marvel at what  their life involves.

The Common Crane seemed an obvious choice due to us living so close to an area that has seen the reintroduction of the bird onto the Somerset levels as part of the Great Crane Project.

IMG_1490

My aim is to create a full body study of the Crane for one of the final pieces (not sure yet whether they will be in flight or on the ground) but I’ve started small and made some watercolour sketches of the head and neck.

IMG_2655

Scott Petrek was our fabulous expert for the morning.  If you are on Twitter I recommend you following him.

IMG_2671

Rather than start with my usual technique of piecing fabrics to build the basis of the bird structure I decided to experiment with fabric pens.  Using a very small number of colours and nib width I created a simple picture ready to stitch.  I enjoyed the freedom and speed of this technique but didn’t like the ink spreading gradually on the fabric and felt limited by the number of colours I had.

I have been encouraged by the members of the Contemporary Quilters West to experiment and try new techniques.  I’ve loved having a go, but have to say I love the piecing stage of my work a little too much to change yet!  That said, the end product of this quick experiment shown at the end of this post is so heavily stitched I do wonder if you could tell the difference!

IMG_4976

Machine stitching over the painted outline.

IMG_4988

I have enjoyed experimenting with a different foundation technique.  I look forward to creating the same picture using fabrics and comparing the results.

IMG_4989

In the meantime I need to start sketching some outlines of the whole bird ready to start the larger piece over the coming months.

IMG_1533

Our group will be at the West Country Quilt & Textile show from tomorrow until Sunday, this year, rather than having a gallery of finished work you can view our working studios, where a number of us will be demonstrating some of our techniques.  I will be there tomorrow morning, it would be great to meet you if you are coming along.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to updating you on progress.

0

Slender billed Curlew – A story of extinction?

 

Their are two groups/individuals that have influenced the direction and depth of my work over the past 18 months.

Firstly, the members of the Contemporary Quilters West.  I’ve been a member of this group for a couple of years now.  They have challenged me to go deeper into the stories of the birds I create.  They have gently encouraged me to experiment, telling a story through  the backgrounds of my pieces.

This, I have to be honest was challenging at first but I now understand where they were trying to take me.  When you become passionate about a story, you want to convey the emotion you feel through that piece and not just produce a ‘pretty picture’.

The second influence was an author and travel writer called Horatio Clare. Horatio’s book  ‘A Single Swallow’ took me on a journey that I have not looked back from.  This book inspired a piece I made last year called  ‘A Swallows Tale’.  It aimed to tell the story of the birds northern migration from South Africa to Wales.

I have recently read Horatio’s book ‘Orison for a Curlew’ – In Search of a bird on the edge of extinction, this book has become the inspiration for my next series of work.  I read this wonderful book in an evening and look forward to telling you more about this bird and the threats it has faced in later blogs.

IMG_5073

The Slender billed curlew, Numinous tenuirostris  ‘the slim beak of the new moon’ is one of the world’s rarest birds, which due to how long ago it was last sighted may already be extinct.  Below, a taxidermy example of the Slender billed Curlew.

IMG_5068

A quick ink and pen sketch of the bird at a scale I hope to use him on the final piece.

img_5089.jpg

Below, an entry in an old birding magazine about the bird.

IMG_5090

Using literature from the internet and Horatio’s book I have started charting the birds main migratory route from Western Siberia, with key areas used for nesting, pit stops on route, finally stopping along the coast of north Africa.

IMG_5079

This piece is requiring a great deal of planning and experimentation. Despite this being challenging I am loving the research thats involved and really hope that the final piece will tell a story of how fragile these birds lives are (one of so many species) because of mans careless and often selfish use of our planet.

 The bulk of my work to date illustrates birds in great detail leaving the background very simple. Last year Chrissie Seager kindly spent a day with me explaining some of the many techniques available to add surface design and colour to fabrics.  One of these techniques uses Golden Fluid Matte Medium.  I am currently experimenting with this technique to transfer old map images to cloth.

Simple lino cut silhouettes of the curlew in flight will hopefully work on these images, illustrating the birds migratory route on the backing fabric.

IMG_5084

I look forward to updating you on progress and possible technical disappointments on route to the final piece.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

1

A day with the Vultures

Life has been rather chaotic recently and building work has got in the way of blog writing and creativity.  However back in September Murray and myself went on a terrific ‘Meet the Vultures ‘ experience day at the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover. Below, I am holding one of their Hooded Vultures.

img_0562-1

Below is Boe, a juvenile Egyptian Vulture. The adult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is white with a striking yellow face it is also called the white scavenger vulture or pharaoh’s chicken. It is a small old world vulture and the only member of the genus Neophron. Widely distributed; the Egyptian vulture is found from southwestern Europe and northern Africa to India.  Egyptian vultures feed mainly on carrion but are opportunistic and will also prey on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They also feed on the eggs of other birds, breaking larger ones by tossing a large pebble onto them. The use of tools is rare in birds and apart from the use of a pebble as a hammer, Egyptian vultures also use twigs to roll up wool for use in their nest. Like so many vultures numbers of this species have declined in the 20th century and is categorised as endangered.

img_0520

Below is Phyllis a stunning King Vulture.

img_0498

The king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large bird  found in Central and South America. It is a member of the New World Vulture family Cathartidae. They live mainly in tropical lowland forests.  Although predominantly a carrion feeder they are also opportunistic and are known to scavenge alongside Capuchin monkeys eating monkey leftovers or eating invertebrates that the Monkeys have disturbed.  They are also known to follow Turkey vultures to food and then use their large size to dominate smaller vultures species at the carcass.

Large and predominantly white, the king vulture has gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. The head and neck are bald, with the skin color varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The king vulture has a very noticeable yellow fleshy caruncle on its beak. This vulture is a scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh carcass.  King vultures have been known to live for up to 30 years in captivity.

King vultures were popular figures in the Mayan codices as well as in medicine and local folklore. Despite being currently listed as least concern by the IUCN, they are decreasing in number, due primarily to habitat loss.

Below is Burdock, one of the Trust’s Turkey Vultures.

img_0695

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the  turkey buzzard, it is the most widespread of the New World Vultures. It is one of three species in the genus Cathartes  of the family Cathartidae.  It is found from southern Canada to the bottom of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.

The turkey vulture is a scavenger feeding  almost exclusively on carrion.  It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals.  It roosts in large community groups. 

‘The ability to forage by smell is uncommon in the avian world. It travels low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced at the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals. This heightened ability to detect odours allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King vultures, black vultures, and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the turkey vulture to carcasses. The turkey vulture arrives first at the carcass, or with greater yellow-headed vultures or lesser yellow-headed vultures, which also share the ability to smell carrion. It displaces the yellow-headed vultures from carcasses due to its larger size, but is displaced in turn by the king vulture and both types of condor, which make the first cut into the skin of the dead animal. This allows the smaller, weaker-billed turkey vulture access to food, because it cannot tear the tough hides of larger animals on its own. This is an example of mutual dependence between species.’  It currently has a conservation status of least concern.

The African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) had been one of the most common African vulture species in much of sub-Saharan Africa, avoiding only the denser forests and very dry habitats. Recently, however, scientists are reporting alarming population declines in this species’ numbers in West Africa, particularly in unprotected areas. Similar drastic declines have also been documented in East Africa. It took biologists a while to discover the cause of these declines, the answer was shocking.

img_0608

Vulture numbers in Africa are dropping dramatically due to a carbamate pesticide called Carbofuran or Furadan. This pesticide is being misused by livestock owners and some pastoralists to poison predators like lions and hyenas that attack their livestock. If Furadan is sprinkled on a dead cow the wild animals  that subsequently eat the carcass die too. This affects not only lions and hyenas, but also Tawny Eagles and vultures. Populations of White-backed Vultures, Rüppell’s Vultures and Hooded Vultures have been so badly affected by these poisonings that they are threatened with extinction.

Unfortunately,  poachers are also using pesticides to poison vultures for other reasons. When a poacher illegally kills an elephant, rhino or any other animal, they don’t want the authorities to know about it. For example, if they kill an elephant and take its tusks, leaving the rest of the carcass behind, vultures will soon come to feed. If park rangers see vultures circling in the sky, they know that something has died and may investigate. To cover up their crimes, poachers lace the carcass of the animal with a pesticide. When vultures comes down and feed, they get sick and die, this crime allows the poachers to escape before anyone learns what they have done.

Despite efforts to ban it, Furadan is still cheap and available over the counter in Kenya and other countries.

The story of these fabulous creatures is fascinating and its great to see places like the Hawk Conservancy working so hard to help creatures in the wild and educate us about this crisis in this country.  Vultures, whether you like them or loath them are remarkable creatures who play a vital part in their ecosystems.  Their loss will have catastrophic effects on their environments.

 

I really recommend the Vulture experience day at the Trust you can read more about it here.  I was inspired by these birds  to make the first (of hopefully a few) vulture pieces.  You can read about this piece on my blog here.

You can read more about their plight in this National Geographic article from 2015.

img_0656