There weren’t many good things about lockdown, but one of the unexpected benefits was an increased appreciation of the natural world. For many people, a walk outdoors became part of daily life. It was a chance to get out into the fresh air and reconnect with the green spaces in our local area. The lack of usual traffic, noise and pollution, had a significant beneficial impact on wildlife. The sound of birdsong was much clearer and people started to really notice the birds that visit our gardens and parks.
As a sculptor, my research trips take me all over the UK and abroad, but the Covid restrictions on travelling meant I had to find inspiration nearer to hand. I have a bird feeder right outside my office and love watching our resident birds. I began to sculpt a series of bird sculptures from the feathered visitors to my garden that I was able to study. I sculpted a life size Wren, Robin and Nuthatch together using wax and plasticine. The temptation to sing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” was too much! I also made a larger Wren.
The wren, which I found living in my shed, was almost impossible to photograph – they are tiny and very difficult to study. They have a rounded body, a fine bill, longish legs and very short wings. They also tend to hold their narrow tails cocked up vertically. Wrens are well known for having a remarkably loud voice for such tiny birds! In a poll to name Britain’s National Bird, wrens came fourth behind robins, barn owls and blackbirds.
The robin is Britain’s favourite bird, particularly associated with Christmas. Young birds are spotted golden brown and both males and females develop the characteristic red breast as they mature. Robins are also known for their melodious song and their inquisitive nature. However, despite their friendly reputation, they are aggressively territorial to other birds and will drive away intruders on their patch.
The nuthatch was fairly easy to study as he was a constant visitor to the bird table – he seemed to be constantly hungry! The nuthatch is a plump little bird with blue-grey feathers above, pale below, and chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, short legs and a long black pointed bill. It is a familiar sight in woodland gardens, rarely straying far from the woods where it hatched.
All three of my life-size bronze bird sculptures are naturalistically patinated using hot nitrates and are mounted on Kilkenny limestone. They make a delightful trio when placed together, but are equally striking standing alone. The larger wren is approximately seven times life size, making it large enough to hold its ground internally or externally. It has been made to be a striking focal point in a garden but could also be a freestanding table top piece.
I also decided to sculpt a little owl, another familiar bird familiar to the Cotswolds where I live. It can often be spotted during the day, sunbathing on a fence post or tree branch in rural areas, particularly lowland farmland. It is a small plump grey-brown bird with a flat-topped head and white ‘eyebrows’ that give it a permanent frowning expression.
I wanted to sculpt the owl in flight, a position that enabled me to really show the owl’s amazing feather pattern and cryptic markings. I sculpted the the original out of plasticine over an aluminium wing. It is suitable for placing inside the house or in the garden and the Kilkenny stone base can be un-screwed if installing outside.
I love the shapes that birds make. I wanted to complement their behaviour with suitable compositions of the final sculpture, using naturally found bits of wood. These branches look fantastic when life-cast and have been one of my ’signatures’ in my sculptures for a while.
I hope you enjoy these bird sculptures made during the pandemic. They were a joy to make and really cheered me up!
You can see a video below of the models of the three little birds taken in my workshop with a brief chat from me about the making of them.
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