Home → Gallery → Hand-built Raku-fired Birds & Animals
I was often in Edinburgh for a few days when I exhibited at the Open Eye Gallery waiting for the opening day.
With time to kill I would head for the museums or Zoo.
While drawing Birds at the zoo in Edinburgh , I came across the Emperor Penguins and spent a good deal of time watching them, They had the sleekest markings and a wonderful form, they leant themselves to making in clay and Raku firing.
Although Ive spent time looking for vagrant Snowy owls ,Ive never found one, I still hope I will one day.
Wildlife parks and zoos often have them in their collections.
Edinburgh zoo had a breeding pair and it was here that I managed to make a good deal of Drawings of them.
They have the most striking black lined eyes, with beautiful forms and plumage.
When you spot a Green Woodpecker it seems the most exotic of birds , Its bright green plumage ,red head, yellow rump and startling blue eyes, give it the air of a jungle bird.
They freeze and pose for you holding a position for moments before flying off with a wild cackle. Spending a lot of time on the ground searching for ants nests, they are large bold looking creatures idea to be rendered in clay.
Herring Gulls, Having grown up by the sea and spending a great deal of time on the sea. Gulls often populate the cliffs and rocks that I paddle past.
Not only that ,in seaside towns they terrorise the population , stealing food and squawking at the top of their voices . I know they annoy people , they are bold, raucous but they are adaptable ,clever and brave . Fitting into environments that we build using things we discard, because their environment, is slowly being depleted .
I love the way they make themselves heard, head thrown back yelling into the wind.
The way Sanderling run in front of the waves timing the movements of the water like little clockwork toys is mesmerising , the waves break they run forward , chasing the receding water to rush forward again at the next wave. endless motion, little feet pattering quickly ,as they pick up morsels of food.
Then up and away twisting and turning through the air . The shores and estuaries in winter attract me like they attract the birds , me to watch ,them to feed endless images of waders, feeding on the rising tides fill my sketch books , some find their way forward onto clay.
Jays of all the corvids are always such a delight to see ,they have lovely soft colours, pinky buff, those vivid blue wing feathers and a bright blue eye set in a dark mask. They are very wary and often arrive and depart at the same moment it seems.
So when a pair decided my birdtables was worth a visit , it was only a matter of time before one was made in to a sculpture.
For years now seeing a Barn owls been an almost mystical event ,Pale golden wings with pure white faces and bellies ,as if spirits drifted amongst us, only appearing at dusk and dawn .
They float like moths over grasses rising and falling held by invisible threads, or sit silently on posts watching the ground, pale heart shaped faces peer at you as you pass. they share our buildings use our nest boxes but barely notice our presence.
I reared a family of Barn owls for the Barn owl trust some years ago. They peered at me head upside down as I delivered their food ,which they swallowed whole ,glup , gulp gulp, or pounce on Pellets that they would toss in the air .I would hear them hissing and making hideous noises that belonged in the underworld.
Yet their beauty is mesmerising as they glide on silent wings aver the ground. In not sure clay can do them justice but they are a wonderful bird to draw and sculpt.
Domestic geese have a truly wonderful form and lend themselves to being sculpted in clay.
From their roman noses to their swagger and large orangey pink feet they are the most enjoyable birds to draw and sculpt. Over the years Ive had many an enjoyable time watch their antics. they way they see off anything or one who annoys them, is comic and a bit scary.
Who doesn’t love frogs they are green spotty ,with huge mouths and a wonderful croak. They arrive in spring to sing in their natal ponds and swish about in amongst their gelatinous spawn .
They sit in the water heads aloft to sing their frog song, glittering eyes and glittering jelly eggs all around. Ive spent days and nights drawing them , but they do like the damp so its not always the most comfortable occupation .
These elusive creatures have always fascinated me , I’ve been filming them with a trail camera on the river banks near my home and drawing them at a nature reserve nearby.
Light Sussex Hen
Ive kept Chickens over the years and enjoy the way they are part of the family , Harriet my last hen used to join me kin the workshop, pick up bits and pieces from the floor then settle down for a snooze, i’d make drawings of her and sculptures always followed.
Terns have always seemed to be the most buoyant flyers , yet when the land the make wonderful shapes , on trips around the coast , I will always try to find them to study.
These Clever birds have always delighted me , when climbing at High altitude I would share my food with them, and they would pose for me for the reward of a few crumbs. They soon discovered , when I appeared from my tent food would follow.
On a rest day I would spend the entire day making drawings of them, so when I find them on the Cliffs around Cornwall, calling and playing on the updraft or prancing on the Thrift covered sward they seem like old friends.
Dancing and Boxing Hare.
The Hare is a creature that for many is magical. I can see why for they are the most remarkable creature. where I grew up , there was a field tucked behind a solitary building at the edge of the Village. Here the hares would gather in the spring ,to Box , Dancing in the twilight, some grazing, others bounding after each other, rearing up ,paws held high , their movements would become amorphous as the light fell, occasionally a paler hare would appear .
During the summer there would be leveret tucked in the long grass, secreted away by their mothers . I would watch them throughout the year, entranced and wonder about their lives. The Hares I make are a celebration for the time I spent with them.
These I think are the prettiest ducks they are elegant and the long tails make them more so. But elegant as they are, when they stick their bottom in the air to feed on the bottom they look so funny.
Again such pretty ducks ,Ive spent hours making drawings of them , there whistling call makes echos around the wetlands where they gather, often in large flocks , Its joy to watch the systematically grazing short sward.
These Glorious Birds breed on sea stacks, Cliffs and islands. Being In a colony is a riot of noise , movement and an unbelievable stench.
I have been lucky enough to spend days on the Bass Rock during The seabird Drawing weeks with more than 50 thousand Pairs of these birds, they fill me with awe . When they land they waddle through the colony head aloft until they reach their nest , they bow to each other and croon.
They swap over nest duty they the sitting bird waddles back through the cacophony of nesting birds to the Cliff edge, spreads its wings to lift and fly for maybe days to catch enough for their young .
Making drawings of these most sculptural birds inspired the ceramic pieces and sculpt. I don’t think I will ever tire of making images of them.
I started Drawing foxes while working on a commission years ago . Always alert and wary they were difficult to capture , but over the year and with pacience i gradually managed to understand how to approach them. one year I found an earth with cubs and over the days and weeks spent time watch them grow .
I would put my own small children to bed then head into the woods with my binoculars sketchbook and paints. to watch the comings and goings of this fox family, the vixen knew i was there , she would gaze in my direction , but so long as I came no closer she was calm.I watched her suckle her tiny skinny tailed kits, saw how they grew, became boisterous ,played rough games and scratched their fleas.
Returning home long after dark, hungry ,but with a book full of drawings. Andrew my husband was used to this strange behaviour and the children liked to hear the stories about the creatures I’d seen the night before. So these adventures were the start of my long association with making foxes.
Craigleith Firth of Forth and Skomer. Sitting with Puffins can be one of the most delightful ways to spend your days .
They bill and coo, bow to each other , and completely ignore you.
Ive spent days drawing puffins and the are really the most enchanting creatures. Breeding on remote islands often covered in wildflowers make them a lovely subject to draw Raven These intelligent birds have been my neighbours for years , I seem to always live where the Ravens breed and travel to the places they frequent, moorland ,cliffs and mountains.
The young are noisy and bold, I think they play dare with each other. The older birds seem to have got every thing worked out.
Their prancing , arial acrobatics or shear brazenness. Sharing my neighbourhood with them is always entertaining .
Although Ive spent a lot of time fishing in rock pools or just staring into them it wasn’t until a commission of a large “as big as you can make it”crab was suggested that I started making drawings about our edible crabs. So more rock pooling and Days at the National marine aquarium followed .
I even tried to draw them while snorkelling, not very successfully, but it was fun. The result was this beast that I could barely lift from the kiln.
Every winter thousand of Fieldfare and Redwings arrive on our shores , they are bold wild and do have a raider like quality as they descend on the berries that festoon the hedgerows.
Every year I look forward to their arrival. watching their flocks sweep over the countryside. I make drawings and paintings and ceramics about what I see. Notes about moments of time.
Our little British bears ,thats what they seem like. I have spent many night watch the antics of these secretive creatures ,filling books with sketches of them.
They are social animals so spent time grooming and playing , so if ever you get a chance to watch its a lovely sight . When the cubs are young they play for hours around the sett racing around obstacle courses chittering and play fighting.
Rolling on their backs to scratch their bellies or cleaning the sett with fresh grass. They always seem full of purpose.
Although not native these Pheasants do spill all over our countryside. The males in spring have an elaborate display where they fan their wings down to the ground and flutter them , every now and then there is a standoff from two males , and this pose is from one of these standoffs. one bird hurled himself head first down a hedge at another,a great deal of prancing ensued, until one was driven off.
Blackbirds in spring
I like to watch the Blackbirds wobble down the bramble stems to reach ripe fruit , its always a balancing act, tail held aloft to counter the forward movement.
Effie my cat looks like she climbed ups chimney and each of her hairs has gathered a little soot. Her eyes are green and black lined , her paws black as is her nose , the inside of her ears shell pink. She was bound to be made into a Raku cat.
My pet ducks waddle around the garden eating slugs. they too become subjects to draw and paint and ultimately become sculptures.
When my children were small one of the best places to visit was Paignton Zoo , they would be entertained for hours and I could Draw . Robyn would be in a buggy , Jamie running around,I spent a lot of time in the Rhino house with Gladys the Rhino. Glayds in turn spent a lot of time rubbing herself in the red earth , so she was really quite pink.