Tag Archives: birds

Bird Parade

The bird obsession continues. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to draft a few good patterns I can use consistently. In the process, I’ve found that I have almost infinite patience for tasks such as un-picking seams, fiddling with wire, sewing beaks, and drafting and re-drafting patterns.

Because apparently that is what it takes to be a bird maker. No matter how well thought out I may believe a pattern to be, it seems never to yield the bird I had in mind on the first try. Take this specimen for example:

A Bird with Boobs

It was supposed to be a mockingbird. But after I started stuffing the body, I realized that my mockingbird was going to be hunchbacked and have chesticles. So I turned it into an approximation of a type of pheasant called a “Chukur.” Still, I find him rather endearing.

chukur1

So bird making involves a lot of time, trial, and error, but there is something especially rewarding about turning a simple sketch into a three-dimensional object, then giving it character and personality.

Aviator

Ready for Takeoff

Green and Brown Songbird Closeup

Songbird

Red White and Blue Bird in Tree

Odd Bird

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Birdbrain

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Some kind of a red bird from the Field Museum in Chicago

Something is currently happening to me, apparently much later than it does to normal human beings: I’m suddenly fascinated by birds.

It’s not that I ever held birds in contempt like I did watercolor painting, it’s just that they were part of the background, flitting about in the sky and leaving turds on the windshield. I knew there were a lot of birds in the world and that they were somehow an integral part of the ecosystem, though I could never be bothered to put up a bird feeder, say, or pause for a long, contemplative look at a bluejay.

But recently I’ve been really noticing birds and totally staring at them.

They are tiny dinosaurs. They are quite beautiful. And they can fly. How do they do that?

Do they have internal compasses? Where do they go during thunderstorms? How do they produce so many different sounds?

And what’s up with woodpeckers?

Mind, I still think birds are disease-riddled and the other day when my kids found an interesting feather in the backyard, I made them wear surgical gloves to pick it up. On the other hand, I’m currently reading the memoir of a woman who sets about training a goshawk and I sense the inevitability of a future in which I’m at a bird sanctuary wearing khaki shorts and binoculars and toting a watercolor sketchbook.

Which brings me to the other thing I’m mysteriously drawn to here in middle age: watercolor painting. I used to think it was a wimpy sort of medium. It brought to mind ladies in straw hats, wicker furniture, glasses of iced tea, and grade school. It was timid and flavorless. It was oil painting’s spineless and feeble-minded cousin.

But something about the grace and fluidity of watercolor painting is becoming increasingly attractive. I guess I appreciate subtlety and nuance more than I did in my younger years. And ever since taking a watercolor class while on vacation last week, I see that though it is quite approachable, watercolor is also a difficult and unforgiving medium.

Naturally, I am now impelled to wed my newfound love of birds with my newfound love of watercolor. So far I haven’t had much success, which is okay because according to Malcolm Gladwell, it’s going to take about 10,000 hours to master. In the meantime, I got myself a bird feeder and a second-hand ornithology lab notebook.

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A page from my ornithology notebook

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Fossil from the Field Museum in Chicago

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Linocut Bird Mobiles

I think birds are great to look at from a distance of six feet or more, but they are disease-riddled creatures and it’s a little unnerving to have one stare at you.

However, birds make excellent artistic subjects, what with their colorful plumage and beady little eyes. Earlier this month I became obsessed with creating home decorations from a folk-style bird linocut I made. My first creation was this fireplace garland, made of white on black bird prints attached to chipboard and strung together with fishing wire.

black and white bird garland circle

After making the garland, I realized I could not rest until I attempted to make a bird mobile out of the print, as well. I thought about this bird mobile 24/7, marveling at all the color possibilities and brainstorming a good way to construct it. I had never made a mobile of any kind before, so it was a personal challenge to pair art with utility.

The first mobile I made was not so great. I fashioned the skeleton out of wire coat hangers, which were 1) wire coat hangers and 2) too short to properly display the birds. The mobile wasn’t bad, but I knew it could be better. I tried to get my husband to admit my mobile was kind of dumb looking, but he was way too much of a gentleman to take the bait.

I took that mobile apart and made Valentine lovebird ornaments out of it.

red birds on tree

The subsequent mobiles were much better. When I made my fourth mobile and asked my husband what he thought of it, he said, “It’s waaay better than that first one.”

This is what’s called, in marriage, “a trap.”

hot pink bird mobile full

(The items pictured here are available for purchase from my Etsy store.)

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