Feather and Fur
This collection of well loved animals and feathered friends will put a smile on your face this Spring as we explore the work of ceramicists, jewellers, sculptors and mixed media artists all bringing the wonderful characters of animals and birds to life in their own unique interpretations. Domestic or wild, cuddly or otherwise, our curation is a fantastic display of contemporary craft made in the UK today; a celebration of all those animals we find ourselves having a soft spot for.
Image: Suzanne Breakwell
4th February - 29th April 2023
Ceramics & works in mixed media...
Lucy explores and develops unwanted materials to create art from salvaged resources. “I am an independent artist working from my home studio in Lancashire. After years of working in cold, damp and grubby rented workshops, I finally have my own studio with heating. After working as a freelance artist for more years than I care to remember I decided to change and dedicate my creativity to creating things that inspired me and hopefully other people, to care more for our environment. My main source of inspiration comes from the colours and textures present in our natural environment; something that catches my attention repeatedly is the way colours fade away on a misty morning. The light flattens everything so the landscape appears to be a series of cutout layers or stage sets.” All of Lucy’s art pieces are made from ‘rubbish’ or as she prefers to call them ‘salvaged materials’. “I relish the challenge of using discarded materials to represent animals and birds and I try to capture their personality and movement. Sadly, most of the creatures I create are endangered or at risk often due to the miss-use and disposal of the materials I use to create them.” Lucy trained in 3D Design at the Manchester School of Art where she studied materials. She loves experimenting and breaking rules; there is hardly a piece of equipment in her studio that she uses for its intended purpose; “I have a trouser press, which I use to fuse plastic and a soldering iron I use to cut fabric, amongst other things.”
Drew’s inspirations include his love of nature, folk, sacred and ethnographic art and contemporary influences such as Japanese character culture and urban street art. “I describe my style as 'Archaic pop' art because it blends the ancient with the modern.” Some of Drew’s work highlights the plight of several British wild animals; the hare, the stag and the fox; “these animals have a long association with British myths and folklore, three of our native animals that have suffered most and continue to suffer from persecution and habitat loss. They stand as symbols of the wider ecological disaster that is engulfing our planet.” Each of Drew’s animal head forms start with a ball of clay and is pinched out into a cone shaped form. The exact size, shape and proportion determines the final dimensions of the head and what type of animal it will be. Once the basic form is created he gradually refines the shape and sculpts the details either by adding small pellets of clay or pressing into the form with his fingers and tools. For most pieces the final stage is to add the ears or, in the case of the stags, the antlers. Although the heads have an economy of form, it takes him many hours repeatedly smoothing, pressing and sculpting the clay to find the exact form that he wants. "I obsessively work on small details and refine curves until they feel just right. This is especially true of the hares' ears. Each pair is unique, and this helps create the individual character of the animal. People often say my pieces have a pleasing tactile quality which I believe arises naturally through my simple but obsessive making process. It is literally hands on."
Rosemary Craft (Rosie Brown)
Rosie was born in rural Norfolk where growing up in the country fired a love for nature and animals. She remains fascinated by the beauty and harmony of nature that arises from the struggle for survival. Rosie developed her talent for art after completing a 3D diploma in college then went on to complete a three-dimensional honorary diploma at Manchester Metropolitan University. Since completing her diploma she has successfully run her own art studio in Stockport, developing and expanding her creative flair for sculpture and illustration. More recently Rosie has expanded her love of nature by writing a series of children's books. Rosie's aim is for her books to inspire children with a sense of imagination and a love for the earth. She hopes that those who read the books will grow up questioning the world, and that they will be encouraged to make a positive change.
Suzanne has experience working as a model maker for film, set decorator & dresser for TV & working on community film projects. She also has experience as an arts facilitator in primary schools & community workshops. “The inspiration for my work comes from an overwhelming love & fascination with the natural world & all its glorious flora & fauna. My sculptural pieces are constructed from wire, papier mache, pages from books and cotton rag papers. I use various self-taught techniques to describe & build character to my chosen subjects. I hand paint ink on to the cotton rag papers and pages to help bring life & vibrancy to each & every piece.” Suzanne adores paper as a medium & loves the beauty & simplicity of creating her pieces from a medium that is so widely used by so many on a daily basis. “It’s the potential of paper & what it might be able to become which sparks my imagination. I find the delicate yet strong characteristics of paper make it an interesting & versatile material to work with. It is this contradictory nature which fascinates me & its ability to continually reinvent itself never ceases to amaze me & continues to push me forward developing new ideas & techniques.”
Olivia is an artist based in Yorkshire. She graduated from Manchester University in 1999 with a first class honours degree in Contemporary Craft (where she specialised in ceramic sculpture and printed textiles). She has always had a deep love of animals and nature and it has always been a natural choice of subject matter for her in her work. “I started to specialise in dogs after being inspired by a wonderful Doberman I looked after while I was at university, and everything just catapulted from there! The unique characters present in the animal kingdom always have and continue to provide endless fascination for me and with this a rich and unlimited source of inspiration. It was whilst at university and living on a farm that I first started incorporating canines into my work. I became fascinated with their (often absurd) individual personalities and since then on I have become intent on capturing this in my work.” Each sculpture is completely made and finished by hand, no moulds whatsoever are used. Initially a frame is made to support the clay during the making process, Olivia then uses slab building techniques to create the piece using a smooth black clay which contains a fine grog giving a close texture and a fine surface to the finished sculpture. “As my sculptures have grown in popularity, demand has outstripped my capability to keep up, and it became apparent I needed to train someone up to take over the finishing side of the sculptures. Luckily my husband who has a degree in ceramics stepped in and is now my full time assistant.”
Robert has been a full-time toymaker for over thirty years. Starting with dolls’ houses and miniature furniture he has subsequently concentrated on moving toys and simple automata, which have been widely exhibited in Britain, Europe and beyond. His work covers a wide range; moving toys for children and adults, simple automata, kinetic sculpture, exhibition design, mobile decorations for hospitals and restaurants, donation boxes and interactive collections of toys for museums. He tries to make things which move in simple but interesting ways and traditional moving toys have influenced him strongly (travelling to Europe, Indonesia, Mexico, India and Japan in search of them). His moving toys and simple automata incorporate a wide range of natural, re-used and recycled materials. Much recent work is in driftwood, and collecting it gives him a good excuse for going to the seaside. Since 1991 he has been an active member of the British Toymakers Guild and was Chairman from 2003 to 2006. Drawing on his previous experience in teaching science and running a teachers' centre, he still occasionally works with adults and children, using his own work and a collection of moving toys from around the world as a resource for education.
“When I started making pottery at school, I was less inclined to the pots in books of Leach tradition, but more towards the like of Lucie Rie and Mary Rogers. I was obsessed with throwing, honing my skills in the school pottery room.” After a Foundation course, followed by a degree in Glass and Ceramic Design, Gwen trained as a teacher, teaching at both Primary and Secondary level, before becoming Technician/Demonstrator and then lecturer at the then Cumbria College of Art and Design, now University of Cumbria. She was also fascinated with what was going on within the Textiles and Print resource areas. This led her on to developing techniques from textiles and translating them into a ceramic context. “Now, I work in Bone China but predominantly in Porcelain, beginning to create more narrative references to local stories and memories, using a kind of hand-me-down heritage theme. I’m drawing from my past, living on our rural farm in Cumbria, where working on the land was a more harmonious partnership. This has highlighted the reality of the decline of these habitats, their natural inhabitants and the traditional methods of working the land. Even within my lifetime I’ve witnessed many birds, wildlife and flowers that are now sadly much less prevalent. In my work I want to reflect what we still have and to celebrate craft in its multiple guises.”
Christine is a wire sculptor based in Harrogate. She uses a variety of new and recycled metal materials to create sculptures that reflect her interest in the natural world; wild and domestic animals and birds. She creates open wire sculptures which convey form and movement. Other works created using a range of mesh gauges are dense and suggest mass and volume. Each work is an original study of anatomy and behaviour with a sense of life and energy and her subjects range from small birds to life-size dogs and horses. Her work is exhibited across the UK and has included The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
The inspiration for Gin's unique animal sculptures stems from a lifelong love of animals and how they are represented within culture. Gin draws on an imagination which has been shaped by treasured tales and imagery which she has translated into beautifully detailed porcelain and stoneware sculptures. “Clay is such a wonderfully expressive material and lends itself to exploring emotional connections with storytelling and expressing the behaviours of the animal subject.” Her material choice of clay as a medium is an extension of her drawing, painting and illustration practice; one informs the other. The clay is drawn and shaped to represent fluid forms based on anatomically correct studies, though rich creativity enhances and exaggerates detail in the work.
Mathew grew up in a small village in West Yorkshire surround by countryside and farmland which was foundation for his love of animals and the natural world. He spent his early life exploring the countryside and marvelling at the animals he could observe going about their day to day lives. His fascination with wildlife grew further from watching David Attenborough documentaries and reading the books by people such as Jane Goodall. Seeing and reading about animals in far off places was the driving force for Mathew wanting nothing more than to work with animals. This fascination lead Mathew to Leeds University where he studied ecology. He went on to complete a Masters degree in ecology with a focus on animal behaviour at the University of Bangor, followed by a PhD investigating the evolution of animal personality traits at the University of Exeter. Mathew then worked for several years in academia, a career that permitted him to observe a variety of animals in their natural environment and gain deeper insight into their behaviour and motivations. Mathew now works as a self taught ceramic animal sculptor based in Llangeitho, Ceredigion. His work is strongly informed by his varied life experiences with animals and his academic understanding of animal behaviour. “My work seeks to capture everyday moments within an animal’s life and aims to provide insight into animal behaviour and how small, often minute changes in body form or expression can convey not only information, but also give insight into an individual’s intent, motivation and emotional state. During the creation of each piece I also hope to show the beauty of the animal form and hopefully reveal something to the observer they may not have previously noticed.”
Virginia Dowe Edwards
Virginia has been sculpting her ceramic dogs since graduating from Wolverhampton University in 1997. She now works from home in a converted outbuilding in Warwickshire, where she combines family life with her ceramics. “When I was little, I had a big tub of plasticine that I loved modelling into all kinds of creatures great and small, but especially dogs; I loved them! It was my childhood dream to sculpt peoples dogs for them and now I'm lucky enough to do just that.” Virginia has always loved dogs, ever since growing up alongside 'Tolly', a gorgeous Labrador cross Irish Setter. “We had him when I was two, and I was eighteen when he died, he seemed more like a brother than a dog. He was my confidant and always available for a hug. I see a lot of him in the dogs that I make, inspired by his big floppy ears and paws. Tolly was followed by Polly, a bouncy Springer Spaniel cross Labrador, who could jump a six-foot fence in her younger days.” The ceramic dogs start their lives as hollow extruded tubes, which she then cuts and forms. “I start by making the body, which I pack with newspaper to maintain its shape and leave until its leather hard. I then start to construct the rest of the dog, bracing its limbs with props and clay until they are dry enough to support themselves. Where the clay is joined, I leave a torn or cut edge, which I hope, shows how I am using the clay. I tend to let the clay and the extruder direct what the end dog will look like. For example, the clay tube may curl as I extrude it, which I will then use for the neck of a sitting dog, which is looking down. Once dried and fired they are then smoke fired in a small, lidded brick built pit, which is packed with combustibles and left to burn down overnight. The spotty and patchy dogs that I produce are the result of masking areas where I don't want the smoke to go. I enjoy the very natural and often unexpected tones that are achieved using this method. I add glazed noses and eyes to add a bit of life. Each dog is completely unique as a result of this process.”
After studying Ceramics at Art school Jennie worked as Marianne de Trey’s workshop assistant at Shinners bridge Pottery, then set up her first pottery in West Devon. It is here that she started to write and illustrate her diaries, at first to her pottery and then as work in their own right. “My pottery studio is now situated by the side of Colliford Lake on Bodmin moor in Cornwall. It has been purpose built, from a steel frame, is timber lined and clad in locally sourced Larch. It’s light, warm and delightful to work in, and in a beautiful environment. The landscape that surrounds me is full of flora and fauna to find and capture with drawings and words, I try to go out each day and make drawings or notes on nature, this gives me a unique collection of sketchbook diaries that inform my ceramic work.” Jennie has been lucky to travel to wild places in this country and abroad and in each landscape, urban or wild, she sees nature arrive and survive. It is that incredible spirit of survival that has always inspired her work and fuelled her sense of adventure.
Please note the images below may not be works featured in this show. Once the show starts we'll be adding photos and a virtual gallery tour so you can explore what the maker's created for this special exhibition.
Angela studied Textile Design at Leeds University. After her studies she moved to the East Midlands to work in clothing design and then then education. She now works from her garden studio based in South Lincolnshire. She enjoys using a wide range of materials, hues, textures and assembly methods to develop a style of mosaic that encompasses these techniques, bringing shape and relief to create contemporary art pieces. Angela gains inspiration from nature and human form and folk art and style movements. “For me mosaic, as a medium, is an exploration of choice and selection to create an effective and durable solution, through picking, cutting, laying and combining materials. The art form also reacts with its environment through the reflection of light giving an extra fascination.”
Sally has been making jewellery since 1996 after completing a Three-Dimensional Craft degree at Brighton University. Inspired by nature, and in particular birds, Sally’s work is also influenced by a wide range of ephemera. The graphic images from field-guide books and wildlife illustrations,ordinance survey maps, charming old packaging, classic industrial design and many other bits and pieces she sees on her travels. “As for the raw materials used in some of my work, I have a huge collection of old (and some new) tin boxes and advertising items, all of which are religiously compartmentalised into different colour ranges. It’s often hard to ruthlessly dismember a beautiful old piece of industrial design, illustration or typography from the 40’s for example, but I get a great sense of satisfaction when I think about people wearing the jewellery I have made and giving these objects a new lease of life.” Sally grew up surrounded by fantastically beautiful objects and raw materials as her mum was a textile and print designer. “I vividly remember the two weeks I spent off school with the mumps at the age of 9, when my mum decided she would teach me the fundamentals of drawing rather than catching up on the various maths and English work that I was missing. I first started drawing and designing bird jewellery after purchasing some of the RSPB bird Pins; I loved the simple outlines and bright colours that portrayed the birds. I was fascinated by these creatures that can move so quickly it is hard to see there iconic liveries when they are in motion. I started to buy field-guide books and look at other designers like Charlie Harper who had simplified birds into beautiful graphic images. Using the guide books, I would draw one species of bird from many different aspects to find the common quality from each and then strip the design down to show only their recognisable features, such as the shock of yellow on a Blue-Tits breast. Once the images are designed I enjoy finding the right material to fit each piece. From my collection of advertising tins I have a wonderful selection of colour to depict the various birds that I design. Silver and oxidised silver are great for showing the birds silhouetted. I love the connection we have with our feathered friends who visit our garden feeders or birdbaths. I greatly enjoy watching the Sparrows and Great-Tits swooping in and out of the view from my studio window.”
Magnolia is a Colombian jeweller, now based in Yorkshire. Having grown up surrounded by verdant tropical mountains, nature and the people who work closely with nature have been Magnolia’s inspiration for as long as she can remember. Learning first from her eldest brother she started working with silver at the age of fifteen and has developed her jewellery ever since. Magnolia delights in giving life to each piece by fusing and transforming metals, often uniting them with precious and semi-precious stones. Magnolia strives to use Fairtrade gold, silver and ethically sourced gemstones in all of her work.
Anna de Ville
Anna is a self-taught jeweller based in Birmingham. The shape of her jewellery pieces are sawn from a sheet of silver and then built up a layer at a time. The final details are made with fine silver wire and by oxidising the background and polishing the foreground a dramatic effect can be achieved. All of Anna’s inspiration comes from the natural world. Ever since she started showing her work at the British Bird Watching Fair each summer at the RSPB reserve at Rutland Water, she has become obsessed with trying to create the character of native birds and animals. Sometimes they are humorous, sometimes more stylised. These handmade pieces are a real joy to work on and make Anna want to get up in the morning.
Claire designs and makes contemporary jewellery from her workshop on the edge of Dartmoor. Claire produces several ranges; some in sterling silver, some in anodised aluminium and some combining both. Claire’s inspiration comes from many sources; living on the edge of Dartmoor means flora and fauna feature heavily in her designs. Claire feels incredibly fortunate to do what she loves as a job, and appreciates each and every customer for liking her work enough to buy it.
Vikki Lafford Garside
Vikki’s passion and admiration for the British countryside and all its flora and fauna is shown in her stunning embroidered brooches. Each piece depict aspects of the natural world in exquisite detail and rich colours. Inspired by folklore and fairy tales, along with the more extravagant decorative arts and historical costume, each design is diligently worked on from the initial sketches to the final product to make it the most beautiful it can be. With each brooch a unique and wearable piece of art showcasing a wide range of animals and insects, you’ll want to collect one to wear for each day of the week as well as displaying and treasuring them within your home.
Jess graduated from the University of Lincoln with a 1st class honours degree in Jewellery and Object design in 2013 and has since worked as a jeweller and designer for companies such as Earnest Jones and C.W. Sellers, before deciding to set up Jess Withington Jewellery in 2017. Jess is lucky to have her jewellery making business based on a nature reserve on the bank of the river Humber in rural Northern Lincolnshire. Completely surrounded by nature on a daily basis, she takes inspiration from the oyster catchers bobbing along on the Humber to the sheep grazing away in the field next door. Nature and its ever-changing seasons have always been a great love of Jess and she enjoys nothing more than expressing this within her jewellery designs.
Helen is a self-taught jeweller, working in silver and gold, drawing inspiration from the urban textures and leafy details found in her hometown of Nottingham. She uses metal stamps to ‘draw’ on the surface of the silver, creating illustrative pieces of jewellery full of detail and pattern for you to enjoy. A mixture of casting and fabricating is used to create the jewellery. Casting takes place in the historic jewellery quarter in Birmingham and all the designing, finishing, fabricating, posting and packing, photography and admin is undertaken by Helen at her home studio in Nottingham. “Nottingham has that wonderful combination of old buildings with rich history, and tree lined streets bringing much needed greenery into the city suburbs. I love the combination of these two elements providing texture and interest as I wander and explore the city. The repetition of the bricks and the little plants often finding a home in the cracks have provided inspiration for my jewellery.”
Linda had always painted and sketched as a hobby, and through her school years this developed further leading on to studying at the Glasgow School of Art. She began with an interest in drawing, painting and illustration, but also had the opportunity to explore Jewellery as part of her first year. “Making jewellery allowed me to explore telling stories through a wearable piece of art which I loved, hence the journey then changed to studying Jewellery and Silversmithing, graduating in 1996.” Linda set up a workshop almost straight away and began to develop and create her first jewellery collections, taking inspiration from nature and romance. “My father worked for a thread company and my mother was and still is a keen seamstress with a beautiful embroidery hobby. Although my creativity started with fabrics and wool, this quickly turned to sketching our stunning surroundings in Cardross, Scotland where I grew up. Our village is a beautiful place set in the country with plenty of walks, woods and wildlife around - it is an inspiring place to live. I have found that in recent years becoming a mother has helped me to gain fresh inspiration. Seeing the world through the eyes of my children has been wonderful, igniting childhood memories and storytelling. Unravelling and exploring the beauty of wildlife and nature has been key inspiration for recent collections. So, I have my children to thank for paying special attention to the small and magical scenes in nature found all around us.”
Becca makes jewellery and silverware inspired by the natural world. Her work is characterised by a subtle sense of balance where she creates pieces with graceful shapes and sweeping curves in silver, gold, platinum & palladium. Becca graduated in 2008 and after 10 years based in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter she packed up her workshop and moved to the Cornish seaside. A love of the coastline comes from a myriad of childhood holidays in Wales, spent exploring the rivers, fields and beaches around her father’s family home. These translate themselves into shapes and textures which then come together to form work characterised by its bold simplicity and subtle balance.
Please note the images below may not be works featured in this show. Once the show starts we'll be adding photos and a virtual gallery tour so you can explore what the maker's created for this special exhibition.
Check out the photos and Virtual Gallery Tour (coming soon) of our Feather and Fur exhibition below. If there's anything you want to know more about or to check availability of specific pieces please just get in touch, we're always happy to help!