Extinct Icons: The Divine Beest

Extinct Icons: The Divine Beest

IMG_20170121_191254_552

By this point I had increased my stores of beads and sequins quite considerably, mostly due to the kindness of strangers donating their unwanted bits and pieces.

IMG_20170122_171917_273

The elongated, more simple skull and horns of this animal gave me a lot of opportunity to continue with my embellishment experiment.

IMG_20170123_204659_788

I accidentally started embroidering on the wrong side of my cotton drill. Which is annoying because the diagonal weave on the right side provides lovely guide lines for shading.

IMG_20170124_174118_292

I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but the photograph of the skull that I used to trace my design from provided little texture, meaning the skull was particularly ‘clean’. However in the overall composition this balanced really well as the horns were so embellished.

IMG_20170126_183044_663

Holographic gold sequins. Sigh.

IMG_20170128_183405_105

IMG_20170129_181732_372

This photo is a little shaky but for this piece I wanted to exaggerate the Hartebeest’s spiritual significance in North African culture with, amongst other things, the choice of semi precious lapis and turquoise stones. 

IMG_20170130_184704_021

As usual, I made it up as I went along, alternating blue and turquoise, inspired by an ancient Egyptian palette.

IMG_20170131_181011_010

IMG_20170201_181440_980

IMG_20170202_192007_490

IMG_20170205_170724_152

IMG_20170208_180244_453

I used red accents very sparingly. Although this was fun, it was harder than it looks, trying to keep each section unique, and the lines relatively even.

IMG_20170209_181517_875

Once the horns were done, I just had the halo to complete.

IMG_20170210_173633_264

For this I chose gold passing.

IMG_20170211_173704_629

IMG_20170212_194330_032

Ugh, the pain of tying back your ends.

IMG_20170222_171130_562

Finally I used flat black sequins to create a motif around the gold halo, in a nod to the aesthetic of the sacred cow Goddess in ancient Egypt Mehret Wehret and Hathor.

IMG_20170223_175627_521

The Bubal Hartebeest was a social animal, formerly native to the land north of the Saharan desert. It’s main predator was the also extinct Barbary Lion.
It was an animal of significance in ancient Egyptian culture. Remains of Bubal Hartebeest have been found in archaeological sites as well as hieroglyphs (the sacred form of writing) representing the animal. Possibly a sacrificial animal, it is also mentioned in the Old Testament.
It’s numbers sharply declined in the 19th century after the French conquest of Algeria, when entire herds were massacred at once by colonial military. The last captive animal died in the Paris zoo in 1925

NEW: Classes now available – and shop update too!

Diligent fans of my website (I know you’re out there) may have already noticed that I have added a couple pages. Firstly, you can now get in touch with me even easier, as there is a nice simple Contact Me page.

But more excitingly, I have added a page called Classes: I now offer one-to-one teaching in my home studio in West Sussex. I have designed these classes based on feedback from my Instagram followers, and they’re all completely customisable to allow students to get tailored advice. Realising I also have followers overseas, I am also offering embroidery coaching, by the hour via Skype, to help with any of your embroidery issues or project problems. Go and have a look!

Finally, I’ve updated my Etsy shop – given it a makeover and made all my remaining Ritual Pieces pieces available for sale. There’s also a direct link from each piece here in my Portfolio to the listing where you can buy it. Easy!

 

Extinct Icons: Saint Sultan

Extinct Icons: Saint Sultan

IMG_20170111_170006_901

The clocks have just gone back (forward?) so although it isn’t, I’m going to say Happy New Year, as my first post of 2017. Hello followers, new and old.

IMG_20161227_110546_579

IMG_20161228_162628_979

Probably just after I had completed my Wildcat piece last year, certainly my most popular piece going by Instagram, I was already full of an idea for this year’s project. Partly because of my introduction to ONCA gallery in Brighton, their work and interest in my Ritual Burial’s pieces, spurred me on to make more conservationist themed work. You may have read my blog post for them, for Remembrance Day for Lost Species 2016, and in writing that piece, certainly it made me look at the meaning of last year’s work in a slightly different way. I researched the ‘status’ of each native British species featured in that project, to discover all but two were either extinct in this country, or threatened.

IMG_20161229_164203_825

IMG_20161230_173622_694

Aesthetically, and technically, I was also ready for something new. The materials I use have often inspired my work, and I was really keen to use more embellishment rather than focus so much on Stumpwork, which was thoroughly explored last year. Gold and metal thread work, beads, sequins, and a general mixture of all these was something I really wanted to play with.

IMG_20161231_191605_002

IMG_20170101_180337_069

The idea for my 2017 project came to me as it usually does fully formed in my mind, at least visually. The photographs by Paul Koudounaris of martyrs and saints in Catholic churches, adorned and decorated with gold and jewels were a big inspiration, and I have always liked a skull or two in my work. But the idea of this: of martyrs, persecuted in their lifetime for their beliefs or actions, now revered and regaled in death, with more symbolic value than literal (even if it’s just a toe bone that’s left) made me think how we treat animals, specifically extinct ones.

IMG_20170102_124538_724

IMG_20170103_213726_927

When you google ‘extinct species’ you get loads of ‘top ten’ style lists, with mini-paragraph length eulogies and sad face emojis. There are thousands and thousands of species mankind have eliminated from the face of the planet, but the same ‘heroes’ come up again and again: Thylacine, Barbary Lion, and maybe the most famous of all, the Dodo. These are the poster children of the extinct hall of fame. Species that evolved over millennia, wiped out in the briefest expression of humanity’s ignorance.

IMG_20170105_155828_711

IMG_20170106_175420_666

IMG_20170107_184624_970

So, like those martyrs, persecuted in their lifetimes, I am interested in completing that cycle, and illuminating them as saints. These ‘Extinct Icons’ are the figureheads of the epidemic of mass extinction in our modern age.

IMG_20170109_184715_282

IMG_20170113_164815_927

The first in this series: Saint Sultan.

IMG_20170115_193039_434

The Barbary lion was considered one of the biggest lion subspecies. They had dark, long-haired manes that extended over the shoulder and down to the belly. It is said that they developed the colours and size of their manes due to ambient temperatures, their nutrition, and their level of testosterone.
The last known wild Barbary lion was shot in the Moroccan part of the Atlas Mountains in 1942. These lions used to be offered to royal families of Morocco and Ethiopia and were known as the “royal” lions. It is said that some of these “royal” lions survived until the late 1960’s, until a respiratory disease just about wiped them all out.

Sultan was the name of a Barbary lion kept at London zoo, in 1896.

IMG_20170127_170821_403

Ritual Burial: Owl

Ritual Burial: Owl

owl1

I left this one last because I couldn’t for the life of me find a good image of a skeletal owl face on. In the end I made a sort of collage out of different pics and traced it. Otherwise I was really excited to make the plants in this one. Turns out there was some nice synchronicity with leaving it until then end which I hadn’t really thought about.

owl2

First I made these.

owl3

Can you tell what it is yet?

owl4

And then there were two.

owl5

Those are MOONSTONE berries by the way. So nice. I’ve been hanging on to them all year for this.

owl6

Also I am obsessed with Mistletoe. Probably my favourite plant.

Next,

owl7

I needed just the right kind of beads for this. Another big botanical hero of mine.

owl7-1

I ummed and ahhed about the best way to make this but in the end simple was best.

owl8

Ahh. So. Satisfying.

owl9

owl10

Finishing touches.

owl11

C R O N E / / C I R C L E
Owl has long been associated with the Crone, that aspect of the goddess in pagan culture that represents wisdom and death, before rebirth. In Welsh tradition, Owl is one of the Oldest Animals, the original guides of Earth. Like the Hermit in the tarot, Owl watches and waits, favouring the night. She symbolises esoteric wisdom and secrecy.
In Gaelic the name for the barn owl translates to “white old woman of the night” and its call was a call for the soul, an omen someone would die. Although originally the bird of wisdom, as the Church grew to power, so Owl became known as only ill-omened. It became a common saying that the owl was a transformation of one of the servants of the ten kings of Hell.
Owl stands on the threshold of the Otherworld, her true message is that death is the great initiator, and that we may recognise that our death marks the beginning and not the end.Mistletoe is the plant most sacred to the Druids. Strongly associated with fertility, and a reminder of benevolence, even today. However mistletoe has a darker aspect; all parts of the plant are toxic and can cause epileptic seizures in overdose.
Almost exclusively used around the winter solstice, it is shown here with moonstone berries, representative of the dark ‘night’ of the year and the eternal regeneration of the moon, like the triple goddess.
The yew is a natural emblem of everlasting life. Its capacity for great age spanning thousands of years, and it’s apparent ability to regenerate, living from dead trunks, enriched its symbolic value. The early Irish regarded it as one of the most ancient beings on earth and In Irish mythology, the yew is one of the five sacred trees brought from the Otherworld. Like mistletoe which heals by poisoning, so too are all parts of yew toxic.
Finally the Norse rune Gebo represents the exchange between human and divine, and the silver pentacle, long associated with witchcraft, symbolising the 5 elements and 5 human senses.

10 of 10

 

 

Ritual Burials: Fox

Ritual Burials: Fox

fox1

Despite being a worldwide character in folklore, there’s not that much plant lore associated with Fox, except the obvious Foxglove. I have avoided making a foxglove for a long time.

fox2

fox3

With a bit of diligent research, Holly seemed an appropriate partner. I will explain.

But first:

fox4

fox6

img_20161107_174103

fox5

Thanks you, my nails are fabulous.

img_20161105_171903

Bought some new bits for this one. Didn’t want to do two velvets for the leaves so tried out 21st Century Yarn’s space dyed cotton for the holly leaves and this lovely chartreuse velvet for the foxglove leaves.

fox7

FYI Holly leaves were supremely tricky to make convincing shapes out of wire.

img_20161114_160224

It’s another game of spot the fake berries (hint: they all are).

fox8

fox9

Isn’t that just festive.

Next for something completely different.

fox10

Now to my nemesis.

fox11

Honestly this was probably the trickiest thing I’ve ever done and it isn’t even stitched down yet. Trying to figure what shape made the little cones sounds easy (sort of semi circle right?) but I was trimming these bastards for ages.

fox12

fox13

As you can see there’s some french knots going on and other little flourishes to make them more foxglovey. I still felt a bit meh about them. I still do about the piece generally to be honest.

fox14

\ \ K N O W I N G / /

In all traditional or pagan cultures, there exists Fox mythology. Although it varies over the world, the prevailing character of the fox is adaptability and duality: a survivor. In Japan there are two kinds of foxes depicted in folklore. The cunning, shape-shifting witch-animal trickster, and the intelligent long lived bringer of good fortune with magical abilities.
Fox is graceful and wise, knowing when to be silent and when to reveal herself. The word cunning, meaning sly and crafty, and the word kenning meaning to know or to see, come from the same Old English root. So although Fox appears sly, in fact she is knowing and in possession of clear vision. Our ancestors recognised the fox’s quality as positive rather than negative, and prized him as sacred. Many Neolithic and iron age ritual burial sites contained Fox remains, along with Deer and Bear.
Fox is wildness and wilderness. Fox is nocturnal.
Like Wolf, Fox is also associated with transformation. Scavengers, they have the ability to turn what they have into what they need. It’s transformative properties also brings the symbolic fire. The Fox-fire, or ghost-fire is said to come from the magical pearl carried in its head. The rune Nauthiz represents this here, the ‘cosmic need-fire’, and the shadow self.
Foxglove has the power to heal or harm. Legend has it foxes wore the flowers on their paws to stay silent when raiding the chicken coop. Representing the duality of Fox, an old saying is “it can raise the dead or kill the living”.
Also associated with fire and protection (in this context, concealment) is holly. In Celtic mythology the Holly king rules winter, and in this composition you can see the bright foxglove thriving in spring and summer, and the dark holly winter – the Fox adapts and survives throughout. 

9 of 10

fox15