Animated Nature

I have always ben fascinated by flight, and the movement of birds in general. There’s something rather otherworldly about it (to me) for some reason.

One of the things I would truly love to see in this life is a huge murmuration of starlings. I have seen smaller ‘swarms’ of them once or twice, but nothing even close to this:

I don’t actually know if I’d be overwhelmed by being present for something of this scale – perhaps it would be a little terrifying, actually (cue the Hitchcock moment!) … but I’d love to see it in person nonetheless.

Murmurations, indeed.

For more of this, go to Jan via IJken’s website (he’s got some really amazing work!)


I’ve been thinking a great deal about drawing lately (perhaps because I haven’t had much time to do any, and I miss it!)

But more’s to the point: I have always been captivated by the connection between drawing and sculpture, the direct way in which the hand works to inscribe volume, line, and edge in both.

In my practice, I understand drawing and sculpture not as separate ‘disciplines’ at all … they are much more fluid, intermingled for me.

So. I thought I’d pass this on: a beautiful video of birds in flight, that to my mind, at least, captures some of the essence of what I understand (and love) about both drawing and sculpture … and some video work for that matter!

I hope you enjoy it … it rewards a FULL viewing. What happens at about the 7 minute mark is glorious.
Kudos to Dennis Hlynsky for sharing this!

Birds, Sunshine, Sunday

Had a lovely opportunity to take a break and go for a long walk this past Sunday. So good to carve out that down time, and breathe in the first small glimmerings of Spring and sunshine. Left me feeling a little punch-drunk from the sudden renewal all around me.

One of my favourite places in the river valley is a little spot I have christened ‘Chickadee Lane’ … for obvious reasons (my thanks to John for shooting these):

photo copyright 2014 John Waldron
photo copyright 2014 John Waldron
photo copyright 2014 John Waldron


photo copyright 2014 John Waldron

I am really quite smitten with these little creatures. I’d have no problem spending an entire day watching them, and enticing them to closer contact with seeds.

I have another love of the avian persuasion as well … and these beautiful animals were in no short supply on the afternoon of our walk either, much to my delight.

Crows fascinate me. Such intelligent creatures, and I find them really elegant and beautiful as well.

Why, yes, I AM beautiful … now that you mention it …
Telling the world who’s boss …
The start of a nest – this is going to be quite the structure once it’s done!
What ARE you looking at?

This particular afternoon, there were so many crows in the valley, it was quite raucous at times. It was all about pairing off, and new nests, and who was hanging out too close to someone else’s turf.  And many of them were keenly aware of the camera, and of being watched. There was one group of about 7 crows on a single tree – likely unmated juveniles – that categorically refused to let me get one shot of them all together.  Quite coy, that lot … but others were more than content to be photographed, and seemed on occasion to be posing for me.  The bird in the last image of the set above was very interested in everything I was doing – and became quite preoccupied with watching me – so much so that I as able to get that shot of him sizing me up.

Every thing seemed to hum that afternoon – a flurry of movement and noise from all sorts of animals, warm sun, blue sky. The start of Spring and  activity, after a long. cold hiatus. Buds starting to pop on poplar and willow, fuzzy heads insisting that it’s really time, NOW.  As though the land itself heaved a great sigh of relief, and began a slow catlike stretch in the warm afternoon sun.

A welcoming.

Nesting and building nests

Poet Louise Gluck sums up the the complex simplicity of  birds’  nest building activities so well.
In her poem ‘Nests”, she writes:

It took what there was:
the available material.

I am discovering just how much that particular approach informs my practice overall – and for this body of work, particularly so. Part of what I want to do with NEST is to apply the methods of birds’ natural nest-building habits to the work that I create – both literally and metaphorically. On a literal level, I have always works with recycled and reclaimed materials – the detritus of city living and the remaindered artifacts of the manufactured world. This is an essential aspect of what I do: to make work that treads lightly, but also speaks to those complexities of living in this world and out relationship to the materials we make and use to do that living. The parallels to the wiliness of birds as architects and engineers is obvious, and not a little fun:

Bowerbird Nests … the male creates installations of objects to attract the female, which may include bright blue bottle caps!

I received a fabulous book this past Yule season, that is contributing enormously to my research for the NEST project, and to my understanding of some of the engineering and architectural challenges I am facing in constructing work.

Have a peek at Avian Architecture, by Peter Goodfellow – it’s a goldmine of terrific research on –  and images of – various forms of bird’s nests, and has grab listing of resources for further research as well. (click on the “google preview” button on the page I’ve linked here to have a peek inside!)

In human terms, crafting a ‘nest’ is both process and product. Effort and thought goes into the selection of physical objects and materials that we use to build our homes, the ‘nesting’ we do over time to create comfortable spaces for ourselves. But these material artifacts are also invested with meaning of an altogether different sort: the weight of memory, of connection and attachment that is assigned to some (if not all) of the things we choose.
There is an architecture of the spirit here, a using of the ‘available materials’ to create meaning far beyond the things themselves.

A small nest made of copper mesh, beeswax, human hair, and a crow feather I created in 2011.
Birds nests then, be come markers of sorts – signifiers and pointers directing our thoughts and responses back to the spiritual/emotional ‘nests’ we create as individuals … or to those that we wish we had, or have lost in one way or another. Perhaps it is simply the precariousness and fragility of those exposed havens – made of everything imaginable, in seemingly random collections – that make that connection between the animal-made object and human desire so enduring.