Last Thursday I spent a lovely day filming with Ellie Harrison and the BBC One Countryfile team. We looked at the inspiration behind my natural history artwork, visiting the wildflowers at Howardian Nature Reserve and the scientific collections behind the scenes at the National Museum Cardiff. Then we went back to my garden studio where Ellie and I had a go at making a celandine flower from beeswax. It was so interesting to meet such a professional team and see all the work that goes into the creation of a television programme. Tune in to see the whole Countryfile feature on BBC One, Sunday 2nd June at 7pm.
Last summer I was commissioned to make a special piece of artwork to celebrate a client’s big birthday. She has a passion for nature, gardening, walking, and interiors, and she wanted something a specific size to fit above the fireplace in her living room. She asked if I could make one of her favourite insects, a swallowtail butterfly, etched into a sheet of copper.
I regularly visit the Entomology collections at the National Museum Cardiff to take research photographs for my work, and I had already taken many images of their stunning butterfly collection. (I must have quite a passion for them too!) I was able to show my client the photographs so she could choose a favourite one as a reference for the artwork, then I ordered a custom made copper sheet to her specifications and began work.
The first stage was to sketch the butterfly on the copper sheet in a resist material, so when it went into the etching bath, it remained as a raised image on the surface of the metal. I also marked the plate with my own reference code, made up of my initials, the year, the month, and a three digit sequential number for that month. This is something I usually do with all my etchings, not only as a record for myself but in reference to the numbering systems used for the museum collections where I find my inspiration.
After etching, I oxidised the metal to blacken the entire surface. I sometimes create bright colours on the surface of my copper pieces by using different techniques, but this time I wanted the background to be mostly deep blacks and greys to let the shining butterfly image take centre stage.
I then started to scratch and sand the textures and tiny details into the surface of the metal with wire wool, sandpaper and a needlepoint tool. I photographed each stage and sent email updates to my client so she could be involved in the process, making decisions and seeing the piece develop as I went along.
The finished artwork was coated with several layers of UV resistant varnish and mounted in a traditional style frame to suit my client’s interior style.
On completion, I was overjoyed to receive a review of the artwork from my client… I think she was very happy with her special birthday commission!
This weekend we installed and opened my solo exhibition ‘Etched Entomology’ at the new Waterloo Teahouse in Lakeside, Cardiff as part of the madeinroath 2017 Arts Festival.
The exhibition is on until 31st October and you can find Waterloo Tea at 17-19 Clearwater way, Lakeside, Cardiff, CF236DL, just opposite the Discovery pub.
It has late night opening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and is a lovely place to stop off for a tea or coffee and of course.. a slice of cake!