Experimenting with the bird inspired design means layers.
Am almost at the end of stage one.
It is going to look very different with a second layer, but I’m going to have to be patient. Before I start the second layer this piece will have to be fixed by steaming for two hours.
First layer now finished, off the frame and ready to be prepared for steaming.
Scrolling through a selection of recents photographs I noticed how often birds have been used as a source of creative inspiration. Using creatures symbolically is as old as human culture and even if a bird or animal representation is purely decorative, the work still offers an insight into how the maker viewed their natural environment.
There is this fierce goose-like bird from the Anglo Saxons. It is part of the metal helmet (circa CE625) found amongst the treasures of the Sutton Hoo ship burial discovered in Suffolk, East Anglia. The bird design works as part of the structure of the helmet too with the wings shielding the eyebrows, the body of the bird protecting the nose and the tail fashioned into a metal moustache above the wearer’s mouth.
Bird design on Sutton Hoo Helmet.
Bird design, wings and beak more clearly seen on the replica of Sutton Hoo helmet. Bird faces upwards meeting the mouth of a snake coming over the crown.
Then we have a simple, stylised bird on this French jug from about 1300. French pottery was popular during the 13th century when shipped as part of the wine trade to the English royal court from Aquitaine to England. Despite its age this bird motif has a contemporary ‘now’ feel.
Birds often featured in hunting scenes as shown in these paintings which decorated the late-fifteenth-century East Anglian parish rood screens.
And, birds have often alluded to the unworldly or exotic as shown by this needlework representation of ‘A Byrd of America’ from about 1570. This textile was embroidered either by Mary, Queen of Scots, or, Elizabeth, Countess of Hardwick and forms part of the Oxburgh hangings.
Then we have my recent photograph taken in North Norfolk of a black stork and the beginnings of its translation into the design for a silk scarf.
All over the weekend this little hedge sparrow has been returning to serenade itself dancing up and down in front of my french windows. Madly chirping away and fluffing up its feathers until it saw me with my camera. When it flew off I noticed that its right wing was significantly smaller than its left. And, that led my train of thought to wonder why it found its own reflection so utterly enticing.
I thought perhaps it wasn’t used to getting attention from other sparrows because it looked odd and uneven. The famous “Nature, red in tooth and claw” line from Tennyson’s poem ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ sprang to mind.
A quotation that has been lifted from a long, reflective poem on a central theme of grief. This canonical Victorian poem also works in and around the controversial science/nature/faith debate of the time. Although the poem was published nine years before Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ the “Nature, red in tooth and claw” has subsequently become a shorthand summing up the harshness of evolution.
No mate for the mad hedge sparrow then.