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.

 

 

0

The Long-tailed Tit

Somerset is a beautiful county to live in, we are surrounded by stunning scenery and wildlife.  Capturing this beauty in photographs is certainly not a skill I possess, I do not have the patience, eye or equipment.  Thanks to social media I came across a wonderful nature photographer based in Somerset called Carl Bovis.  Carl has been kind enough to let me use his photographs as inspiration for my textile work.

I really recommend taking a look at his ever changing and inspiring blog which you can read here carlbovisnaturephotography.blogspot.co.uk

This is the first of at least two of his photographs I hope to base pieces on for  Somerset Art Weeks Festival in October this year at North Wootton Village hall.

2017-01-11_11-32-40_resized[1]

I love this photograph, the seed head and position of the bird make a perfect composition.

Long-tailed Tits are such characters, they follow us along hedge rows, busily chatting in a large group always slightly ahead of us walking.

Below you can see the quick watercolour I made to get a feel for the colours I would need to search for in fabrics and threads.

IMG_4748

The initial selection of possible fabrics for bird and background.

IMG_4787

The bird pieced and ready for stitching.  In the end I used just 6 fabrics .  The long tailed tit is a really fluffy little chap so I imagined at this stage that he would be fairly heavily stitched.

IMG_4791

I selected the very busy background to mimic the green background of the original photograph and to enhance the appearance of numerous seed heads along a hedgerow.

Below, the  piecing stage is complete and ready for stitching.

IMG_4802

A selection of possible threads.

IMG_4805

Below, starting to add texture and depth to the bird.

IMG_4808

As you can see, this is very much a work in progress.  October and the Somerset Arts Week is seeming rather near now.  But finally I am feeling focused and have a number of pieces on the go.  The trouble with this is remembering to return and finish pieces (my least favourite part!) when the excitement of researching a new bird calls!!!

Oh to be a completer-finisher!

 I hope to show this at its next stage soon….

0

The Griffon Vulture

I mentioned that I was interested in the plight of Vultures and that I may do one for the exhibition a while back at a CQW meeting.  I have Judy to thank for this piece ever being completed for the selection date tomorrow!  Her press release said….’there will even be a vulture’.  After the Easter holidays, I started to panic about time and how much there was to get done, a second swallow piece, stitching of a Rook and…..that vulture.  I regretted ever mentioning it as I really did not think I had time.

There is nothing like a deadline and press release to focus the mind so I started selecting fabrics and piecing.  I based it on the picture below of a Griffon vulture that I had been lucky enough to see at the Hawk Conservancy in Andover.

P1060144

Originally I had great ideas of using the background to tell the story of the threats Vultures are facing in the wild.  Time prevented this as did the realisation that this Griffon vulture was not in imminent danger….  I am hoping a future piece will tell this story.

IMG_3712Above, the initial outline sketch of the bird.

Below, the main fabrics I selected, I substituted the yellow backing fabric for a much more punchy red in the end.

IMG_3761Below, the bird pieced ready for stitching.  Initially I had ended the picture as in the photograph, I later decided that he needed to be sitting on a branch and with his long wing feathers hanging by his side.

IMG_3762

IMG_3257

As always, I started with the head.  To waste time getting the body and feathers right and then fail to achieve good results on the head would have been a real waste of time and the one thing I didn’t have was time!

IMG_3907

A selection of the threads I used on the piece.

IMG_3259

Below, nearly complete and much better with the addition of long wing feathers, now all he needed was a perch!IMG_3869

The view from the back of the piece, prior to stitching onto the red, quilted backing fabric.

IMG_3870

I quilted the red backing fabric by following its basic pattern, creating numerous circles.  I choose a couple of fabrics for the branch, hoping to achieve the look of a dead, dry perch.

IMG_3909

IMG_3899

I am so pleased to say this is finished (and in time)….Thank you Judy!

IMG_3901

 

7

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.

IMG_3630

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.

IMG_3629

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.

IMG_3620

IMG_3664

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

IMG_3666

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

IMG_3667

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

IMG_3668

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

IMG_3715

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.

IMG_3718

IMG_3721

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!

AK015 A Swallow's Journey.jpg

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

2

A Rook for Rook Lane

So many ideas and so little time…

The Contemporary Quilters West exhibition in Frome, Somerset is fast approaching and we need to submit our pieces for selection on May the 18th…. panic is starting to set in having lost two weeks to the holidays.  I have 3 more pieces I want to enter (with the idea of a 4th) – 2 of these pieces are in the planning stage at this point with this piece underway, awaiting stitching.

K3N gave me the idea of this piece, saying ‘you’ve got to do a Rook for the Rook Lane Exhibition’.  I am fascinated in Corvids generally but the beak of the Rook gives a good contrast against all those sleek dark feathers .

The idea is a great one and I have loved selecting the fabrics.  When you study Rooks closely their feathers are made up of the most beautiful ‘petrol’ colours.  Below are a selection of the fabrics I had to choose from.

IMG_3702

I want this Rook to look stark and a little sinister and really like the contrast against the backing fabric (which I currently have absolutely no idea how I will quilt).

IMG_3704

I enjoyed a shopping trip to Midsomer Quilting to select some appropriate threads.  Now the Easter holidays are almost over I can get myself back out into the workshop on Monday and get some pieces underway.  I look forward to showing some progress over the coming days/weeks…..

IMG_3706