Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth

This next piece in the Hallowed Ground series was very strongly referenced on photos I’d seen of the sloth in it’s tropical mangrove habitat. I struggled a bit with feeling like this piece was ‘ok’ design wise. Compared to the preceding pieces it was quite simple and that felt a bit ‘less than’ for me. One of the challenges though was making sure the scale of the sloth was accurate for the size of the leaves, and I wanted to make sure there was depth by varying the leaf size.

This piece was to include many detached elements and so I began with this amazing emerald green velvet, and made several mangrove tree leaves of various sizes, with the rib in lime green purl S-ing.

I first took great pains to accurately cut the sloth silhouette, so that its hands made sense hanging over the tree branch. I was very pleased with the space dyed cotton background, to suggest the dark swamp depths.

Next the ‘skeleton’ of the mangrove was introduced, using household string for the smaller branches, and felt for the wider.

After couching down, every branch was then simply embroidered over with satin stitch in a variegated brown thread, with a few french knots here and there.

Once complete I began to add some simple applique leaves:

These were cotton and velvet with simple green purl ribs.

At this stage I added the holographic vinyl shapes I had patterned out to insert at the bottom for the vivid blue Panamanian sea.

This had to be stab stitched down very precisely and neatly as any mistakes would be highly visible.

Finally it was simply a case of making holes in the ground with a stiletto and inserting the detached slips.

I also added a few of these little faceted green flowers to add interest and contrast.

The pygmy three-toed sloth is only found in a tiny area of red mangrove forests on Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama.

Although the island is uninhabited, fishermen, farmers, lobster divers and local people are all seasonal visitors, and are thought to hunt the sloths illegally.

The growing tourism industry is also a potential threat to the species, by degrading its habitat. Despite having been designated as a protected landscape through a governmental resolution in 2009, a number of domestic and international efforts have been mounted to develop tourism on the island. This includes plans for an eco-lodge, a casino, a marina, and a banking centre.

Additionally, as pygmy sloths have become more widely recognised internationally, there is growing interest in collecting them for captivity.


Side note: The mangroves themselves are also significant for this piece. More than one in six mangrove species worldwide are in danger of extinction due to coastal development and other factors, including climate change, logging and agriculture.

Mangroves are vital to coastal communities as they protect them from damage caused by tsunami waves, erosion and storms, and serve as a nursery for fish and other species that support coastal ecosystems. In addition, they have a staggering ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and serve as both a source and repository for nutrients and sediments for other inshore marine habitats, such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.
Source: IUCN Redlist.

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