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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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A Swallows Journey

I first thought of creating a piece based on the Swallows Migratory journey after completing my first Swallow picture, ‘Rush Hour’ last year.  In the hunt to find out more I came across ‘A Single Swallow’ by Horatio Clare.  This book gave me the story and more, its a fabulous read.

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I started experimenting with text, fabrics and thread colours.  I’m not someone who does lots of planning and preparation before starting a new piece but, on this occasion it was unavoidable.  I struggled to find the right backing fabric and experimented with thread colours – some too light to be visible in artificial light others so dark the words ‘jumped’ out at you.  I wanted to represent through the thread colours the changing temperatures the bird experienced.   The spacing between the letters also took a great deal of experimentation.

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Eventually I worked out the spacing, words and image, I settled on a Swallow sitting on a wire.  This is the smaller of two Swallow pieces I am hoping to make for the Contemporary Quilters West Frome exhibition.  This one tells the story of the bird after his journey North and what happens in the UK before the return journey south.

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Above you can see the grid and lettering marked out using a iron-removable pen.

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Above, stitching the double grid lines horizontally and vertically using a walking foot.

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Starting to stitch the letters, lots and lots of threads to take to the back and knot!!

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After hours of concentration and tired eyes the text was complete.

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One of the wonderful things about being a member of a group like the Contemporary Quilters West is the advice you gain from really experienced artists.  Mandi Bainbridge suggested I try this technique to avoid the puckering I can get when piecing a small bird onto a lightly quilted backing.  By using  this material in a hoop I was able to minimise problems I had previously experienced.

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Above, the bird partly stitched.  Below, the finished bird stitched into place on the final piece.  I still have the wire to stitch within all the letters and the birds feet.

It is time now to start planning the much larger piece based on the journey through many countries from South Africa to the United Kingdom.  I am at the moment juggling grid size with letter numbers…..Its a challenge but great fun!

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A limited edition Giclee print of ‘A Swallow’s Journey’ will be available soon on my Website shop.