The Witch of St. Kilda

This piece was a lot of fun to do. Which was helpful because the story of the Great Auk’s demise is incredibly sad and has had me in tears more than once.

I spent quite a lot of time designing this piece mainly because I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to white, clear, pearlescent beads and sequins. I wanted the colour palette to suggest the icy homes of this penguin-like bird, as well as lending a magical, ethereal feel.

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There was also a lot of scope for different techniques; goldwork:

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Lots of beading:

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Just in this crown we have (bottom to top) plastic pearls, glass cubes, diamante, iridescent seed beads, silver seed beads, pearl rhinestones, plastic teardrop, silver pearl purl and lovely big diamante rhinestones. I just used Guttermans polyester buttonhole thread for all of this.

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Everything in monotone is quite tricky to photograph.

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These are long vintage glass silver lined bugle beads.

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I bought a lot of opalite chips after completing the last piece, using semi precious chips. I knew these translucent, opalescent stones would be perfect.

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Then I used tiny pearlescent 2mm sequins to fill the centre circle.

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Finally I embroidered the beak in split stitch.

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The Great Auk was a flightless bird, similar to a penguin. It bred on rocky, isolated islands, foraging for food in Atlantic waters. It ranged from northern Spain to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe islands, Norway, Ireland and great Britain. Great Auk pairs mated for life, and estimated to have a maximum population in the millions.

The species had great significance for Native American cultures as far back as the Neolithic age, both as a food source and symbolically.

Overhunting, and mainly massive European exploitation and demand for the birds down, skin, and eggs led to it’s demise, and was finally and cruelly obliterated by 1852.
The story of the Great Auk is one of the saddest, in fact researching this piece and even writing this now brings me to tears. I won’t repeat them here, but there are several truly appalling tales of man’s cruelty and thoughtlessness dealt to this harmless and trusting animal on Wikipedia, including the story behind this piece’s title.

12″ x 19″

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I hope you enjoyed this post, thank you for following my work! As always you can follow me on Instagram for (usually) daily pictures of my work in progress and all the latest updates on exhibitions, classes and workshops.

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