Common Crane – Grus Grus

Living in South Somerset near the Somerset Levels I am very aware of the The Great Crane Project.  This project aims to re-introduce European cranes to the south west of England, helping to restore a healthy population throughout the UK.  This piece has been a very long time in the research and making!

I blogged about a trip to Slimbridge in 2017 when we were told about the project and viewed the birds with Scott Petrek.

Until the 1600’s Cranes were a widespread breeding bird in the UK , but they were driven to extinction through hunting and wetland drainage.
On flesh days at Henry VIII’s court, a staggering and to the modern diner, some unusual birds would be enjoyed, including  peacocks, cygnet,  teal, woodcock, ousels, thrush, robins, cranes, bitterns and buzzards. 
You may remember news reports of the project where wild-laid eggs were brought to the UK under licence from nests in Germany and the crane chicks were raised by people dressed in Crane suits at Slimbridge Wildlife centre in Gloucestershire.
The Project found ‘Initial feasibility work looked at a number of UK wetlands for crane re-introduction and the Somerset Levels and Moors emerged as having the greatest potential.  The Levels are relatively undisturbed with few major hazards, and the climate is relatively mild’.
Gary Faulkner captured the birds at Slimbridge here you can see the birds have coloured rings on their legs allowing the birds to be identified.
There are some pieces where you get so involved with the research and story that progress on the actual bird is slow.  Experimenting with creating such a large piece started in 2017, the bird (without legs) being completed late 2019 and legs and backing were finally finished in early Covid lockdown!
Below left – the initial selection of possible fabrics, below right head and body pieced and on backing ready for stitching.

Above left – Cottons ready for feather details, above right – planning the feathers out with iron removable pen and early stitching of individual feathers.

Jumping from the images above to the finished piece below, I seem to have neglected to take many WIP images.

Below left, scaling out on the tracing paper the length of the legs compared to the finished body.  Below right experimenting with fabric and paint to achieve the ‘scaly’ appearance of the birds legs.  Stitching of the legs can be seen beneath.

I have spent months trying to decide on the backing for this bird, finally deciding, after discussion at one of our peer review meetings at CQW.

 I cannot overstate the importance of being involved in a creative group, they can see things you can no longer notice and offer helpful advice to help you move a piece of work or idea forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed painting the birds in flight on the background and trying to give the landscape some perspective with the layered fabrics.  The image below is poor quality and the colours are not at all accurate.  The piece is now ready to be scanned and framed as part of the exhibition next September at Ace Arts in Somerton.  The exhibition is about the Somerset Levels and its a huge relief to have finished one of the two large planned pieces now….