Who can admit to not getting a little heart flutter and smile, when a lovely little Jenny Wren, starts frantically darting about on the garden wall in front of you?
This little brown bundle will be intently hunting for tasty insects in the moss and crevices amongst the stones. Their pointy little beak expertly designed for the job in hand of removing spiders from the webs, so carefully constructed. Usually preferring to stay almost hidden in the undergrowth beneath well grown hedges, it’s the movement that gives it away…
All of a sudden a few leaves are being thrown about a few inches off the earthen floor, something is going in, then out of the corner or your eye you think you have spotted a little brown field mouse, busy scurrying about its daily business. Then you catch sight of it again briefly, and you see a little tail sticking up out of the back end of it. After straining your eyes to follow all the action you realise it is no mouse, it is our little manic Wren.
It also has a powerful voice that comes out of that little body, usually one of the earliest starters on bright spring mornings. This is not a bird to be ignored.
I have done a papier mache Wren before but I think this one is the best so far. When you see pictures of them close up, you suddenly become aware of all the different markings there are on their plumage that you simply cannot normally pick up on, as they simply damn don’t stay still long enough!
So this was an ideal opportunity to show off the real beauty of one of out favourite little garden birds. The paper was chosen and torn into little ‘feathers’ as usual (very little on this occasion). But it was finished off with a little more touching up of paint than usual to highlight all the subtle details. A few people visiting my studio have said they thought it was a real bird and can’t believe it’s all made out of paper, I think I will take that as a compliment.
It will get a few more admirers this weekend as we have an open weekend at Higherford Mill, Barrowford. 10th & 11th December 2016 10-4pm. lots of Artists will be opening their studios so will be lots to see and buy. I’m on the first floor at the front of the mill if you fancy visiting.
How many of you in Britain have seen this bird of prey? If you have you are a lucky bunch as unfortunately it’s not often sighted nowadays. It is a shy bird and prefers to hunt up on the high moorland and mountainous areas. It is our smallest falcon but more than makes up for its size with courage, and effective hunting skills, focussing mainly on smaller birds.
This is my first attempt at a bird of prey, apart from the Little owl and it was a bit more of a challenge for me. As usual all paper with a paper mache modelled body, paper feathers, and metal wire & paper coated talons all finished off with painted details.
The distinctive markings on its chest and other feathers require an accurate attention to detail whilst finishing the piece off with paint to give it it’s distinctive look. The beak is curved and designed to rip flesh to shreds, and those yellow talons are impressive on a relatively small bird and more than up to the job in hand. The large eyes on the side of its head are designed for almost 360 degree radius vision and miss little. A keen mean killing machine!
When I finished and mounted it, Dave said he had a double take at it when he came in and said it had real impact. I think that is a compliment.
Of course you can check out my other birds by clicking on the Etsy shop link at the top of the page.
Let me know what you think of it and give me your feedback please.
The diminutive Goldcrest
Here is my latest bird the Goldcrest, as usual created out of papermache and recycled paper. I loved working on the small detail on the head and wings of this bird, finally bringing it alive with a touch of paint to create the white light in the eye. The paint effect on the frame hopefully highlights and complements the colours of the bird. The frame measures 5” x 5”.
If you have been lucky enough to spot one of these you will understand the excitement generated by this smallest European bird.
Usually identified before sighting by its high pitched song, befitting of it’s diminutive size. Then a flitting from branch to branch activity and a rustling of leaves, alerts your senses even more.
A good pair of binoculars will be of much benefit in this particular instance, as it takes a while to concentrate your eye on this miniature blaze of green and gold colour. Hopefully you will be rewarded with spotting the distinctive orange/yellow crown which can fluff up when displaying to a mate.
There is a similar bird called the Firecrest which has an even more brightly coloured crown than the Goldcrest, but in the UK you are more likely to see the latter. It favours coniferous woods for breeding but wanders widely in winter.
So listen out for a high pitched song next time you are walking in coniferous woods and get your eyes tuned in for a special treat.
It’s been a while I know, but I finally got around to trying a new recycled paper idea that has been buzzing around my head for a while. I love the 3d feel to wall art, so this picture was no exception.
The Little Owl has been carefully cut out of the board to reveal the rolled paper tubes underneath it. It took me a while to decide which bird to start with, but as this is my favourite little bird of prey…. Although that is probably a loose term for this cutie as it seems to prefer insects to anything much larger, but it will take small mammals. With its fluffy claws helping to define it as an owl I thought this was an ideal one to start with.
All my bird pictures have a natural look to them and with the hand finished aged frame, this is no exception. The paper is from recycled magazines, rolled up individually into tubes. I sort of tried to pick complementary colours for the tubes in this one but I don’t think it really matters and I will use a general mix next time. All the paper has been varnished at least twice to protect and strengthen it and on the front the cut out board has relevant owl txt on it. The back of the picture has a copy of an attractive sketch of a Little Owl so you get the full feel for this feisty little bird.
I’m quite happy with it and I like the contemporary but subtle look of it. The open frame invites you to peer deeply inside the box to see how much of the paper tubes you can see.
Visit our Etsy shop link at the top of the page to view my other bird art.
I have two more pieces in the early stages of work, so hopefully in the next week or two, more birds should be fluttering onto this page!
Only nature is able to take the most incrugious collection of colours and knit them together in the most harmonious way possible. Orange and blue is not a colour combination that features heavily in my home or even at all actually, even the suggestion seems a little garish in taste.
But the Nuthatch easily carries this combination off in their most beautiful plumage. A palate of creamy orange and pale slate blue arrangement works to stunning effect. Who or what this advantage was designed for we will never know, but the human eye can marvel over it none the less.
When you are next walking around your local wooded park, you may likely see one of these agile birds climbing up or down the bark of a tall tree. They have a way of arching their backs to look up whilst climbing down a tree which is quite distinctive.
The are fond of adopting old woodpecker holes to make their nests in, and will spend quite some time re modelling the front entrance with mud to make it narrower to suit their needs.
About 6 – 8 eggs are then laid by the female and both the parents will feed the young until they fledge at about 24 days. They will then still continue to support the young for about 10 days afterwards.
I love the way this bird has turned out, and with the black band across his eyes reminded of the pop star Adam Ant from the 80′ s. That’s not something that you can say very often.
This bird will be available at our exhibition in the ‘ Crafts in the Pen’ at Skipton Cattle Auction Market on the 21st and 22nd November. Please come and visit us if you can. We would love to meet you.
The Nuthatch photograph at the top of the page is one of David’s and he has started his own photoblog if you would like to check out more of his work please click here
I thought I would write a little about the historic mill where my studio is situated, Higherford Mill, Barrowford, Lancashire. Whilst once of a day workers in the mill would toil away at the cotton looms, now they toil away creating various works of art.
Higherford Mill was built by a wealthy local man, Mr Christopher Grimshaw in 1824. It was designed as a water powered cotton spinning then weaving Mill. It suffered a bad fire a few years after it was built and was partly remodelled . In 1932 it had steam power installed to supplement the water wheel to improve power to drive the looms.
This combination of water and steam power in the Mill was quite rare and helped to secure its future when after the looms finished working in 1971 it later became due for demolition.
The Heritage Trust for the North West, and local support managed to secure funding for the future of the mill and they acquired it in 1999. Future successful funding bids, enabled the building to slowly become a space for creative industries.
Today there are over 20 units and a central atrium, where exhibitions and events are held on a regular basis. I am tucked away on the first floor of the Mill and have a lovely view over the river. Standing outside the building looking up Pendle Water we can see the picturesque medieval pack horse bridge and the seventeenth century cottages along side it.
Looking up Pendle Water from outside the mill
If it is a nice day I walk along the river by the old water races that fed the water wheel, there are sometimes Dippers in the water and if you are lucky a Kingfisher. Its a lovely place to get inspiration for my bird art and reminds me how lucky I am to be so close to the countryside.
If you would like to find out more about the artists and future events at Higherford Mill please visit its facebook page here or blog page here
A few weeks ago I was approached by an American lady asking if I could make her the American version of the UK Kingfisher. The Belted Kingfisher is a similar shape to ours but with slate grey markings on its back rather than the azure blue, and a white front and white band around its neck., the name I think must come from the blue or white band around its neck. Other than the different apparent markings, behaviour and habitat of the bird seems pretty similiar to the UK one, living next to rivers and lakes.
I was happy to oblige as I love creating new birds, and the Belted Kingfisher is a stunning one. I chose to make the female, as it is more colourful than the male with rusty markings on its under chest. As I get a lot of viewers to my Etsy shop I wondered if it may be wise to add more US birds in the future, apparently a lot of states have a bird as their emblem.
Although I love the birds I see locally, some of the US birds are truly awesome, the colours are so much more colourful than ours generally I think. But we have enough here to keep me busy, I want to do the green and great spotted woodpeckers next which have lovely plumage.
Anyway all went well, and the Belted Kingfisher is winging its way across the Atlantic Ocean probably as we speak. I will be taking further orders on it in the future, it takes a couple of weeks to make, on and off.
Here are some pics of work in progress and the finished item.
The finished article..