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A Treasury of Birds

Inspirations for a bird shrine.

“I have always loved Natural History Collections and Museums, and my work often explores the boundaries between what is an artefact and what is an artwork, creating on the edge of what might be real and what might be imagined. I often make collections of objects and use the idea of variation in natural history to illuminate the uniqueness and fleetingness of each living thing, including ourselves.

It is not by accident that this work - an installation of birds at the Museum of Barnstaple should end up here amongst its collections. Over the last ten years visiting and working on projects in North Devon, I have been able to explore the collections here. It all began with WW1 projects and installations in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and discovering in the marvellous rich archives here, information on eggs collected from across the region and sent packed in moss to the Western Front to feed the soldiers. It inspired pieces of work for me. And inspired engagement projects as I worked with schools in the area exploring and illuminating the collections through art.

The egg became a symbol of the fragility of mankind against machines of war, of survival and extinction and hope. Left over from these projects were some plastic eggs that had not been used, they found their way into my travels. And one day in Venice inspired by the colours, glass beads, handmade papers, plaster and gold leaf and the treasures in museums there... I made a bird using one of those eggs as the basic structure for a sculpture.

Since then, I haven’t been able to stop making birds. 3 years and hundreds of birds later a circle is complete as I, and they, return to Barnstaple to the Natural History collections of birds and eggs and the natural world around us in North Devon that first inspired their creation.

Over the last couple of years of restriction, these birds became a symbol for me, of creativity and imagination, how we can find freedom within to fly as free as a bird. This treasury of birds is a shrine to the symbol of freedom and creativity. A reminder that birds in Natural History collections are a treasure of inspiration and birds flying freely are a treasure in our natural world. I hope you enjoy spotting them throughout the Museum as much as I have loved making them.”

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