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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first in this series: Saint Sultan.
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.
I wanted to branch out in my skullish endeavours, and within one of my fave books from the fabulous Dover Books publishers, was this little chap. Can you guess?
Maybe he and the Vampire squid will be friends.
And here’s the secret…If you haven’t already become a fan of Mother Eagle on Facebook, make sure you do! All next week I will be releasing pictures of the finished jewellery pieces on my page that you won’t see anywhere else before the launch. Not only that but I will be giving my Facebook fans a special opportunity to get their hands on their favorite pieces before anyone else does in a special pre-launch party event on Friday 18th May…
I estimate I stitched for about 21 hours this weekend. I call that a good one, aching wrists, swollen handed obsessive that I am. Here’s some of what I have to show for it:
Made a little partner to go with bucktooth, this time a 3/4 view.
As you can see I was less heavy handed with the colour choices as the previous, so the shading has worked out nice and subtle.
This little guy will definitely make it into the new Mother Eagle jewellery collection (I will make an announcement about that soon). Tune in tomorrow for a couple of reworked versions that will be making the cut too.
Just finished this morning…well, I was stitching the blue background until about midnight last night, then got up this morning and trimmed him and set him in the brooch. That was a tricksy affair I can tell you. Overall I like him, as a first attempt. He has over 1600 stitches afterall.
So here’s what I learnt:
Should have stitched the background before I did the outline to see what I REALLY needed to outline; I ended up covering some of the line with the blue because of this, which meant the canvas was getting pretty tight in places. i had to use 2 ply stranded cotton, as single strands didn’t give enough coverage.
Blue was probably too dark a colour and not the best choice in a gold setting, in my opinion.
Pattern still needs a little tweaking – it could do with some shading around the cheek and nose to give more depth.
The worst thing about it was coming to set it – I’m thinking maybe canvas work isn’t the ideal thing to set this small, at least if I’m going to fill the background with stitches. The fabric ended up being very stiff and so having an overhang to tuck underneath the brooch plate wasn’t possible – I had to trim it reeeeeally close to the stitches which was frightening. But even so, the whole thing didn’t really come together as tightly, with as good a finish as I really need. It’s maybe that if I’m going to do counted canvas work in miniature for jewellery, then I need to buy it in colours and leave the background un-stitched so it is more flexible for mounting. Either that or I stick to freehand motifs.
So, lessons learned, the next thing I’m doing this week is still in miniature, but in 40 count newcastle linen. My guru came over today and suggested washing the fabric first to soften it, so I have a dripping piece over my bathtub right now.