Monday, 29 September 2014

The resurrection of extinct birds


Three weeks of preparation and excitement, researching the sad tales of extinct birds, sketching, procrastinating and preparing, then Friday 26th September had arrived.   I took my sewing machine, scrap bag and stitchy paraphernalia along to The Forge in Camden to be the “artist in residence” for Day 1 of the Ghosts of Gone Birds live art studio as part of the Camden Migration Festival.
To be precise I dropped my stuff off the night before - what a sight met my eyes!  The RSPB bird hide from Coquet Island had arrived just a couple of hours earlier and with the aid of hacksaws and hammers Wes, the RSPB warden, was in the process of supervising re-constructing  it in the studio.  It was a little chaotic, but I was assured as I left that all would be well in the morning…
…And well it most certainly was, a beautiful structure (it’s a copy of the lighthouse on Coquet Island) and is furnished with a clam-shaped stove to keep out those Northumbria chills and a disco ball in lieu of a lighthouse lamp.  The perfect place for visitors to twitch artists resurrecting extinct birds and a great place for a quick coffee break!




In all my preparation, I had no idea just how many birds I would be able to resurrect over the course of the day.  As the day wore on, I found more and more species coming to life under the needle of my sewing machine.  The afternoon's work was set to a cacophony of near-extinct bird calls, and as the light faded outside, The Old Dance School septet picked up their instruments for a soundtrack of mesmerising modern folk from the stage below. 

In 14 hours I managed 10 species of extinct bird, brought back to life in stitch.  Exhilarating, exciting and exhausting; it was an amazing day and I’m pretty proud to have been involved in such an relevant and creative project in an incredibly vibrant venue.  There are a few i-phone snaps of my work for the day here; I’ll post more over the next couple of weeks, along with the stories of these gone birds.

Don’t forget, there’s another 11 artists involved in the live art studio; you can go along to the Forge in Camden any day until the 6th October and see one of them resurrecting more extinct birds.  There's also loads of music, poetry and other cultural happenings all related to the theme of avian and human migration.  All the artwork is for sale and will be displayed at The Forge until the end of October.  Follow the link below for details.
Competition Winner!!!
Drumroll please…
The winner of the inaugural Halcyon Threads giveaway is….
Katie Fuller
Well done Katie!

Kate x

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Migration Massacre

As you well know, much of my time over the last three weeks has been taken up thinking on the subject extinction.  I've been struck by just how many of our bird species have literally been hunted to extinction.  Man with gun versus feathered fragile life; it is not hard to see how easily avian life is snuffed out when faced with shotgun pellets.  

Sadly the senseless stories of human hunting birds towards extinction are not confined to the history books.  With the Hen Harrier on the brink of national extinction, as a british national I find it hard to sling mud at the practices of other nations, but the bi-annual slaughter of migrating birds in Malta really does beggar belief.  Every spring and autumn maltese guns let loose against the many thousands of birds that migrate across the island, a largely illegal but unregulated massacre.  

Many of the species shot down are protected, but the hunting lobby in Malta carries a lot of political sway and prosecutions are extremely rare.  In the last couple of weeks alone 2 white storks were killed.  The maltese government have thankfully bowed to international pressure and temporarily closed the current hunting season until 10th October, which should allow a safe passage to many of the migrating birds, unless that too is breached.  Violence by Maltese hunters the other day does nothing to engender confidence that the law will be respected.
A very quick and rough impression of a White Stork
You can read more on this topic on the Birdlife Malta website.

Kate x

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

In the frame

I haven't had much time for blogging over the last week or so, between researching extinct birds and getting my stuff together for the Ghosts of Gone Birds live art studio at the Forge in Camden this Friday (oh, and looking after an energetic toddler) there hasn't been much time.  Yes, that's this friday, in just 2 days time - oh so excited!  
I've said it before but I'll say it again - I'm going to be resurrecting as many extinct birds in stitch as I can during the course of the day.  People will be able to watch me work through a rather awesome RSPB bird hide, which has been transported down from Coquet Island in Northumberland and reconstructed in the studio.  Not only does the hide look a darn sight snazzier than your average twitching hidey hole, it has a disco ball.  Oh yes, a disco ball.  So no excuses, if you're around the London area between Friday 26th September and Sunday 5th October you really should pop into The Forge in Camden and take a twitch at one of the 11 artists that will be getting busy bringing those long-gone birds back from extinction.

As well as deciding which birds I'd like to stitch, I've been trying to work out the best way to present the artwork and how to frame it.  I was lucky enough to meet Caroline from Sea-Saw Designs whilst at the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival a couple of weeks ago.  In need of a little cheese relief, I took a wander around the craft tent and was struck by her wonderful breezy seaside designs - check these out...
You can see more of Caroline's work on her facebook page.  We got chatting and she very kindly gave me all kinds of hints and tips about framing textiles, which I have put into practice ahead of Friday's event.  The pigeon is now framed...
 And a very quick and dirty picture of a White Stork that I bashed out the other day (to practice on some new linen)...
More about the White Stork in tomorrow's blog post.  For now I'd better get back to the last bits of packing...
I did have a minor deviation from the world of extinct birds last night in order to stitch a quick bag big enough to carry my frames on Friday...
Oooh, and before I forget, here's my new business card - a little bit of a rush job if I'm honest but I'm pretty happy with the result.
Right, that's it, I really am off to do something productive now!

Kate x

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

In Memory of Martha

I mentioned the other day that last week saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, marking the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon.  All the research I've been doing into extinct birds for the Ghosts of Gone Birds live studio has certainly got me thinking about just how precarious life is for some of the birds that live or migrate through the UK, and how much we take some of our species for granted.  Mark Avery's book, "A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and its Relevance Today" arrived on my doorstep this morning to further this research (although I'm not planning to resurrect Martha myself).  I've only read the first few pages so far but it promises to be an excellent and thought-provoking read.
Back to Martha and her kind - hunted to extinction as "pests" - how do you feel about our own ubiquitous feral pigeon?  Cousin of Martha and much-maligned, how many town and city dwellers despise this bird?  So in the name of a little practice, and with the aim of taking a look at some of the finer points of a feral pigeon I got stitching...
Intrinsically linked into the urban landscape, this bird may not be anyone's favourite, but it is a species to be appreciated, if not cherished.  Next time you see one take a closer look at that beautiful purple-green sheen and think of the poor Passenger Pigeon, who never got the chance to become a "pest" to the commuters of New York as they ascended from the subway.
Kate x

Friday, 12 September 2014

Halcyon Threads Giveaway!

Wow wow - in all the excitement over the last couple of weeks about my participation in the Ghosts of Gone Birds Live Art Studio, it had entirely escaped my notice that Halcyon Threads is now 1 year old!  

So to celebrate Halcyon Threads' first birthday, and participation in the Camden Migration Festival, I'm going to give away a framed birdy flag like this to one lucky winner...
Obviously I can't give away this one - it was a birthday present for my mum.  Instead the winner can choose one of the three birds below which I will mount on a chart or vintage map and frame...
Glossy Ibis
Long-Tailed Duck
Lapwing
It is easy peasy to enter - just use the Rafflecopter widget below and leave a comment here, follow me on bloglovin', like the Halcyon Threads facebook page or follow me on Twitter - for more entries do all of these things.  The competition ends on 27 September, the day after my appearance at the Ghosts of Gone Birds Live Studio, and I will announce the winner on Sunday 28 September.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Unfortunately if you live outside of the UK and you win I won't be able to post the framed article, but I will send your choice of bird mounted and ready to pop into a frame.

Kate x

Monday, 8 September 2014

Stitching Extinction - Ghosts of Gone Birds

I had some seriously exciting news last week - so exciting that when I got the email I may have shrieked and jumped around a little bit!  I've been asked to take part in the Ghosts of Gone Birds Live Art Studio at The Forge in Camden as part of the Camden Migration Festival.  
I will be one of 11 artists spending a day each resurrecting as many extinct birds as I can - obviously my chosen medium is stitch.  In the words of the organisers...

"Resurrecting extinct birds can be hard work. And now you can see for yourself as we invite 11 very different artists to each dedicate a day to breathing creative life back into the birds we have lost.  But we’re not just setting up a special pop-up Ghosts studio for the artists in the Foundry Room upstairs at The Forge – we’re also adding a real old, weather-beaten bird hide from RSPB Coquet Island for visitors to use to quietly observe the artists at work. So this is your chance to see extinct birds resurrected before your very eyes. Eleven days. 11 artists. Working hard to create a new Ghosts Gallery of Gone Birds."

I feel pretty darn honoured to be selected as one of the artists for this event; as regular readers of this blog will know, the conservation of our feathered friends is a subject I feel rather passionate about.  I have been following the progress of the previous Ghosts of Gone Birds exhibitions for quite some time, and have been blown away by some of the amazing artworks that have been included.  If truth be told it is a little intimidating; the other 10 are "proper artists", and being on public view, albeit through a bird hide, will certainly put the pressure on!   

But what better reason to put myself out there than to raise the profile of species extinction?  Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, with the death of the captive bird Martha.  A bird once ubiquitous across North America, accounting for a quarter of all the birds in the USA, within the course of a century the Passenger Pigeon went from the most abundant bird in the world to total extinction.  

Over the last week I have been researching the stories behind some of the 200+ avian extinctions since the 1500s.  And a sad set of stories they are, with both willful and neglectful circumstances leading to the loss of these species forever.  We humans really know how to rock the balance of a natural ecosystem, and now we as a species are better educated about the consequences of our actions, it is for us to make sure no more birds are added to that already too-long list.

My day at The Forge in Camden will be Friday 26th September, and I expect to be working from about 8am until 11pm.  So if you're in the area do pop in and take a look through the hide.  Or, if not my work will be displayed until Sunday 6th October, and there will be the other 10 artists to watch through the hide.  In the meantime you can expect a few more blog posts on this subject!!

Kate x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Halcyon spotted!!

I had an amazing couple of birdy hours at Titchfield Haven on Thursday, in the name of research for a very exciting project I'm going to be involved in.  More about that tomorrow - it definitely deserves a post of its own!

Highlights of my Titchfield trip we're spying a hobby, and, best of all, one of these...
Finally, a kingfisher - my first Halcyon since starting this blog!  Such beautiful birds, I was lucky enough to watch it cruising up and down the river, looking for fish.

Kate x