Great Crested Grebes – Podiceps cristatus

Walking around the reserves of the Somerset Levels it is a reasonably common site to see a Great Crested Grebe on the water.  They are currently not under threat (classified as Green in the UK conservation status listing).

Chris Hooper took these beautiful photographs and gave me permission to base a piece on the first image.

The RSPB describe the bird as follows; ‘The great crested grebe is a delightfully elegant waterbird with ornate head plumes which led to its being hunted for its feathers, almost leading to its extermination from the UK. They dive to feed and also to escape, preferring this to flying. On land they are clumsy because their feet are placed so far back on their bodies. They have an elaborate courtship display in which they rise out of the water and shake their heads. Very young grebes often ride on their parents’ backs’.

You can hear the call of the Great Crested Grebe on the RSPB site here

This is the first time I have made a piece with more than one bird, however the iconic image of two courting grebes seemed too good an opportunity to miss on this occasion!

I decided to start constructing and layering  the images side by side. This allowed me to check the scale and compare how the birds interacted with each.

The birds were not both side on in the image and there was a sense of them constantly moving in the flow of the water.

The head of the bird on the left was more tricky throughout the process than the bird on the right.  Both birds were foreshortened but in opposite directions.

Now the fabrics are all in place its time to remove the individual birds and place them in  their own hoops ready for stitching.

The reflection played an important part in the strength of the image so I experimented with different techniques. I tried painting the shadows but decided the image was stronger when  piecing fabrics onto the backing.  This involved lots of tiny details being cut with some very small sharp scissors.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of these two birds and, despite twice the amount of work I think there is a life to the piece that a single Grebe wouldn’t have had.  The final piece is now ready to be taken for scanning, printing and framing.