Starlings – are here again!

I’m on starlings again!

During the two weeks of Somerset Art Weeks I set up a temporary studio at the Somerset Crafts gallery. Whilst I was there I made 8 starlings. I wondered how long it would be before the starlings returned from Scandinavia, Germany or the Netherlands (according to the BBC nature website the ones from Scandinavia go to the North and the ones from Germany and the Netherlands come to the South) As I drove home each day my wondering was answered as I saw them stacking up on the telegraph wires.

I made these in the same way as my doves, who incidentally are on their flight home from Greece.

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Here they are at Somerset Crafts flying ahead of the murmuration “Beautiful Black Clouds”

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somerset-crafts

My work at Somerset Crafts

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Starling Sculpture Shocker on Shapwick Heath!

Installation Day – Thursday 21 May

Following on from the last post, I managed to fit all the gubbins into my car in one go! Amazing!

car copy

It was a beautiful day and the guys from the Avalon Marshes dug the pits for my bamboos.

Simon

Then I took a little time to arrange the birds.

me installing

I was so pleased with the finished installation and thought the starlings have come early to the marshes and look fabulous in their natural environment! When the grasses grow up they will blend in even more and some will be hidden for a while at least until the winter. The copper sheet of the beaks will change colour from copper to verdigris green. I was looking forward to recording the changes.

I wondered what the real starlings would think of them when they returned in the autumn!

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me and starlings

Launch Day – Sunday 24th May

I was feeling very disheartened today having heard the news yesterday that a bamboo was snapped and a starling had been stolen. I didn’t sleep last night until the birds started to sing and I had listened to them for half an hour. What if the thieves returned during the night and stole the rest of them? And were they stolen or thrown in the lake? On arrival at the gallery I looked at photographic evidence before I took a group of students to look at them and discovered that not one but two had been stolen!

Here are some of my students who helped make them (apart from those two little imps!)

group 2 starlings

The two stolen starlings are the first and last in the flight path, here you can see where they once were.

Sunday 2 missing

So rather than leaving them out there for someone to keep picking them off like 21 green bottles (now 19) we decided to bring them into the safety of the gallery until we can find them a more secure spot outside.

So here they are where at the very least they cast beautiful shadows when the sun shines!

starlings in gallery

There are several sculptures by my collegues at Somerset Crafts along the trail which I will share with you at some point when I get some good photos. Maybe then I’ll have some news about where the starlings will go next!

But for now if you see a wayward mosaic starling in someone’s garden or on ebay please let me know.

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Seeing Starlings Sculpture Launch

For the last few weeks I have been making starlings for a sculpture trail on Shapwick Heath nature reserve along the Avalon Marshes in Somerset. As you know I have become completely obsessed with these amazing birds even after they have left the area! I wanted to make my own flock so that would always be here.

I started the project with a series of workshops where I was able to teach 11 students a bit or all of the process to make a bird sculpture. The design was one I developed prior to the workshops so I could teach them by step-by-step demonstration.

3rd workshop7

This got the birds off to a flying start (!) and I completed unfinished sculptures and made new ones to make a final 21 starlings plus one that will be in the gallery. Here are a few in various stages of progress…

starling sculptures

Like my 2d starling mosaics I used iridescent black glass tile, and mixed it with plain black glass. I used copper sheet for the beaks and they are grouted in black. I think they look pretty good, here’s one…

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This project took some planning.¬† The main problem being how to install them so they would be secure and wouldn’t¬† be prone to too much movement in the wind which could casue them to hit each other and break. My first idea was to weld the metal armature wires onto a vertical curved pole but I felt that the final piece would be too cumbersome and could be difficult to install. I then spent several days considering other options, such as welding them horizontally along a tube, onto rigid metal mesh, or inserting the bird wires into various types of tubing. Eventually I chose the latter idea using bamboo.¬† Not only was it a good support structure (the bird wires fitted perfectly into the bamboo sheath) but it would also blend in well with the reeds in the background. The bamboos are also strong and cheap.

So they were cut to various sizes and the holes drilled open and tried out and tested in my garden before sinking them into buckets of concrete.

Here I am mixing concrete to set the bamboos into.

Here I am mixing concrete to set the bamboos into

6 buckets later …

6 buckets

…and I am wondering if they will all go in the car to the site…

Come back next week to find out if they did and see the starlings installed! (hopefully!)

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Alternatively, if you don’t live far away come to our Launch Day next Sunday 24th May at Somerset Crafts gallery (where there will be photos of the works as they progressed) and along Shapwick Heath for the Sculpture Trail. There will be several sculptures by fellow members of Somerset Crafts inspired by local wildlife and myth.

Roll Up For The Greatest Show On Earth!

 

Beautiful Black Clouds

Beautiful Black Clouds

Yesterday evening just before the sun went down I managed to close shop at Somerset Crafts¬†down on the Avalon Marshes in Somerset in time to see thousands and thousands of starlings swooshing over the gallery and on down to the heath. This happens every year at about this time and we have many visitors from all over the world who come to see the murmurations.¬† This year I would have thought could be a record year for numbers. I must have seen at least 15 large flocks pass by, (and there were probably more before I went outside) some right over my head and others in the distance. It’s hard to say but the numbers of each flock must have been well over a thousand, maybe several thousand as each flock took about¬† a minute to pass by and they spread out across the sky.

If you are lucky you see them sky dancing Рperforming amazing patterns in the sky. From where I stood last night it looked as if they were heading over the marshes and perhaps if you were a bit further west you would have seen a most spectacular display.  I saw a wonderful display a couple of years ago but failed to get good photos and in the end I just wanted to watch and not be hindered by taking photos. It really takes your breath away.

Here’s a great video and a couple of photos of the starlings¬† taken a couple of years ago by my friends Val and Al, who exhibit and sell their photos at Somerset Crafts gallery.

Murmuration of Starlings over Shapwick Heath

Murmuration of Starlings over Shapwick Heath by Val and Al of Avalon prints

Starlings by Val and Al of Avalon Prints

Starlings by Val and Al of Avalon Prints

What I find so thrilling is not just the beauty of watching them but also the sound as they pass by overhead. The flutter of thousands of wings. It sounds almost like white noise. And talking of white, as I stood there last night they dive bombed me in white rain!!! I put my hood up to stop it going in my hair, but amazingly I didn’t get even a speck on me, it had splattered all around where I stood! My daughter tells me I was unlucky!

Inspired we are by what I can only describe as “the greatest show on earth”, each year me and my other artist friends at Somerset Crafts make work for our annual Starling Exhibition.

I began a series that ended up developing fairly spontaneously. After making the first piece (which ended up being number 4) I then started to scrawl a pattern of birds on an old envelope, and I made each piece by matching one to the next, at the same time keeping in mind that each one could also be an individual piece of work. So there was no grand design or cartoon, and the andamento (flow of the tiles) around the birds was drawn onto the board as I went along. Making work this way is a bit of a risk as the andamento should really be planned well beforehand! However I was in one of those “I have to get on with it” moods and there was no time for proper planning. That is the trouble with mosaic, it is so slow, and I always find that half way through a project I want it finished as my mind has moved on to new ideas that I want to start!

Last year I experimented and made this piece using iridescent black glass tiles that I cut into bird shapes. It was successful and  swiftly found a new home, so I decided to develop the idea.

Night Murmuration

Night Murmuration

The first one (now number 4) I made and grouted all in black, but then I decided to re-grout it using a grey on the yellow glass, because once I had made them all and looked at them un-grouted I could see how well the andamento worked around the starlings. I think a black grout would have been too heavy in the sky where it was yellow and blue and would have distracted the eye from the flow of the tiles. So it was necessary to use masking tape to grout the areas in different shades of black and grey. By using a black grout next to a grey (reds are grouted in black and yellows in grey) it is possible to blend them along the gradual colour change i.e. through the oranges, as it is being cleaned off.

grouting the sky

grouting the sky

grouting starlings

grouting starlings

When the masking tape comes off there is a ridge of grout that then needs to be removed.

tool

This work is called “Beautiful Black Clouds“, it is now displayed in Somerset Crafts gallery. Each piece is for sale, and I wonder who dares to buy one and split up the flock!

 

Beautiful Black Clouds (1)

Beautiful Black Clouds (1)

Beautiful Black Clouds (2)

Beautiful Black Clouds (2)

Beautiful Black Clouds (3)

Beautiful Black Clouds (3)

Beautiful Black Clouds (4)

Beautiful Black Clouds (4)

Beautiful Black Clouds (5)

Beautiful Black Clouds (5)

Beautiful Black Clouds (6)

Beautiful Black Clouds (6)

 

Beautiful Black Clouds

Beautiful Black Clouds

Exhibitions for Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2013

If you are visiting Somerset this year for Somerset Art Weeks you can purchase my work at Somerset Crafts on the levels (venue number 95)
and at the Courthouse Gallery, Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, Somerton, (venue number 53).

And while you are in Somerset don’t forget to visit my exhibition “Many Faces of the Sun”, at Divas Caf√©, Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome

Harvest-Poster

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Many-Faces-of-the-Sun

Path to the Sky

The fields in the last few weeks have been an abundance of yellow buttercups. I couldn’t do it much justice with my photos but it was much better than this:

buttercups

The skies have been pretty impressive too:

dramatic-mendip-sky-by-Kate

webbed sky

webbed sky

No need to look far for inspiration!

I made this mosaic indirectly only because I had to work on it at a Demo day at Somerset Crafts and the table wasn’t big enough for the whole thing. So I made it in 2 parts:

2-parts-indirect

I installed it on cement board so it is suitable to display outdoors:

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I grouted it in black to emphasise the colours and the shadows between the blades of grass, the buttercups, the butterflies and birds  (did you spot them?) and the webbed sunset sky. Here it is completed:

Rattray-Path-to-the-Sky

Path to the Sky

Rattray-Mosaic-in-garden

As with much of the work I post on my blog it is for sale and I’ll be taking this piece to Somerset Crafts gallery next week, unless you contact me first with an offer to buy it!

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Where the Leaves Meet

Lying on the  forest floor looking up at the tops of the trees, the sun shining through fresh green leaves was the inspiration behind this piece.

I made several colour drawings¬†using the same design, however I struggled with the green, finding the right shade and how to work it into the¬†design without it looking like a football! So I¬†went¬†with¬† sunset colours and the trees in silhouette. Perhaps a bit wintery, but maybe¬†I’ll work out a way¬†using green¬†later.

The mosaic is for our next exhibition at Somerset Crafts  РFor All the Trees in the Woods.

I made a fairly detailed drawing For-all-the-Trees-drawing

I wanted to use smalti for the orange and red sky and black ceramic for the trees, and as there was quite a difference in the heights of the materials,¬†I decided to make it indirect to obtain a flat surface to the mosaic. As the design is quite symmetrical I don’t think a textured surface using¬†the direct method¬†would be so effective.

Here the mosaic is indirect on brown paper:

indirect

I wanted to make the mosaic suitable for display outdoors as well as indoors to give the  buyer more choice so I used a cement backer board to install the mosaic onto. Before cementing the mosaic to the board,  I fixed galvanised wire through the board so the mosaic can be hung.

The next day I soaked off the paper:

peeling-paper

And grouted with a dark grey grout :

grouting

To finish I grouted around the edge of the mosaic and painted the back of the board black.

The finished mosaic:

Where the Leaves Meet

Where the Leaves Meet

For all the Trees in the Woods runs from 1 -30 June at Somerset Crafts. We are open every day from 10am Р5pm.

Come see us soon

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