Ever since I came back from Florence I’ve been thinking about egrets. In fact, I’ve already written about them here: The Lake of Lettuce
The one pictured above is a lesser egret – you can tell by the black beak and the snazzy yellow feet. There are lots of greater egrets too. I took this picture some distance east on the south side of the river.
These beautiful birds had disappeared from the Arno but have recently returned and are now flourishing. There is one under every bridge, seemingly unfazed by the traffic and tourists and they have made a large roost to the south east of the Ponte Grazie, which they share happily with other heron species.
The great wild life painter, John James Audubon painted egrets many times. He gave his name to the Audubon Society which is dedicated to bird conservation. They adopted the egret as their symbol because of the bird’s resilience and its ability to overcome the harsh predations of people who killed them just to get their crests of feathers for fashionable womens’ hats. At one time they sold for five dollars a go; the body of the bird would just be thrown away.
But the birds survived and I still have a fascination with them which I have been exploring in my sketchbook and sculpture.
It’s very easy to make fanciful drawings of these fragile, elongated beautiess; so, so much harder to make the ceramic piece I had in my mind’s eye. Every time I tried to make the damn things they drooped and dwindled. But then I hit on the idea of holding them in place until they had stiffened enough to keep their shape. I used strips of thin bin liners as a sort of ‘hammock’ and it worked really well. I’m pleased with this technique and I shall use it again.
I’ve reverted to my favourite conical structure for this piece and the ‘egrets’ have lugs that slot into the holes.
The ‘crown’ was made separately in one piece and sits nicely in place aided by an overlapping rim which stops it rocking.
Various elements before assemblage – you can see the holes I made for the supporting wires on some pieces.
I used Alasdair Kettles’ white earthenware, transparent glaze, Scarva underglaze colours and iron chromate gave the intense black. The whole piece is hand built.
So all the elements were made separately and then slotted in – some of them have been wired in place internally to make them more secure but I have to say I’m not very happy with the finished piece and I want to remake it on a larger scale. At the moment it’s really not working for me.
Have I mentioned that I’ve been accepted for a twelve week residency at Sundaymorning@EKWC – that’s the European Ceramic Work Centre at Oisterwijk in the Netherlands? I’m so thrilled about this fantastic opportunity and I mean to get the very most out of it and that is going include making larger work than has ever been possible for me before.
Watch this space!