Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

This week things warmed up all around. After frozen pipes and a few days of huddling inside as the furnace struggled to keep us above sixty, I finally got out and about this week to work on my Great Blue Heron project.

This story dates back to last winter, when Aerin Sentgeorge asked me to participate in Wonderlab’s “Science of Art” program. I did a weaving project with green yarns of all descriptions, and I let the kids feel the textures and incorporate the yarn into a shared project. This year is “The Science of Sculpture”, and I decided it was time to try making a Great Blue Heron. We see these magnificent birds when we go to Lake Monroe on collecting or fishing trips. When I sit fishing with my family at the shore, sometimes I feel like a Great Blue Heron, watching the bobbers for bites, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting fish for dinner.

So where does one start to make a free standing, slightly larger-than-life Great Blue Heron? Where every great project starts—the recycle center, Kleindorfer’s Hardware and Grandma and Grandpa’s back yard in Michigan. I started with a hunk of a Michigan willow tree that has been curing in the basement for two years. Things dry out pretty well there if you keep them above flood level when the power to the sump pump fails. I picked up an iron rod (and a bolt cutter!—I love tools!) from Kleindorfer’s for the support leg. I enhanced the thickness of the rod with lanyards I found in a bag at the recycle center, then wrapped the whole thing with yarn. The other leg, neck claws and the beak are supported with baling wire that I also found at the recycle center. Birds can’t have too much metal if they want to fly, so I say: “more fiber, less metal!” The body, which looks like a very sad frozen turkey right now, is built from wet felted balls of wool that are needle felted together. I’m planning to create the wing and tail feathers using a wet felting technique I recently learned at a workshop at Pam Kinneman’s Wee Sheep Farms studio. That was a terrific opportunity to learn a new technique, and I made a scarf I’m proud of that I’ll talk about on another cold weekend.

So then it’s just a matter of putting it all together! Maybe you can picture me sitting outside on the very warm day from last week, picking the bark off the willow base to look for worm trails on the surface of the wood. I was bonding with the woodpecker I heard looking for lunch on a nearby tree. My lunch wasn’t so fresh, but at least it was warm. I also had to laugh at myself as I needle felted (repeated poked with a needle) the crotch of the poor heron while both heron legs were flopped over my shoulders. That’s a visual image you can keep if things get hectic for you this week!

Until next week…

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