This summer has been too long, too hot,too humid and too draining. In Australia the current season has been very fierce with weeks of hot and humid days as well as many fierce fires and storms.No doubt many others, like me, are wishing for an Autumn that might bring cooler days and gentle,refreshing rain and fear that climate change has greatly impacted Natures ability to heal and recover.
Pondering about this much desired change of season, reminded me of these little sprites that were made last year ; tiny beings who indicate that each season has its specific character and tasks necessary for nature to create and replenish.
Once again the allure of the sea has inspired a nature mat.This was a work in progress as the weather changed and wild seas battered the coast.This mat depicts a more serene aspect of the sea, a calm rock pool that invites imaginative play and story telling.
After the wildness of the weekend a rosy sunset glowed on a sea that was tame again.
It seems to have become more difficult to post, because of fearing to be repetitious and boring. After a while even new projects seem to take on a similarity, although I can see, sometimes, an improvement or a new way of presenting a former theme.
Here are some newly created characters, miniature needle felted rabbits. They bring back to mind visiting one of Beatrix Potter’s homes “Hilltop” at Sawry in the Lakes District of England. Much to my delight we saw two rabbits ,pictured below,frolicking in a field.
In the main wild rabbits are considered to be a major pest. Here in Australia they were introduced and have multiplied too well endangering native species ( this introduction being a consequence of ignorance and folly of man, not the fault of the rabbit).
As a pet or subject in art or literature rabbits become endearing. In the whole scheme of nature they have a purpose and a reason, for everything is connected and relevant.Sadly the interconnection of all things has been forgotten and abused . The balance of nature is now much compromised and too many creatures,including humans, face extinction.
As happens with rabbits, these little characters are multiplying too! The only danger they represent is a pull at the heartstrings.
A suggestion came recently about including a swan in a project. This has resulted in a small piece, that has become a swan lake.
Our Australian swans are black, frilly and quite magnificent. They fascinated me often, in the days when I resided down south, as they seemed to glide so effortlessly and majestically over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. That memory came back when we visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary earlier this year.
The new swan lake project seemed rather to bring up images of English swans, in this instance a Trumpeter Swan.
This is a spring themed piece, suitable for a seasonal table or as a teaching aid or story prop. The log is hollow so that it can be used as a home or a hiding spot for tiny creatures or fairy folk. On its branch a tiny brown bird, well camouflaged in the first picture of the scene, and one of those little brown birds that has so many different species. This one sings sweetly and perpetually of the joys of spring.
Although this is a tiny project it is designed as a piece to stimulate curiosity and imagination as well as appreciation of the world around us. It is also very tactile so most of the senses will be stimulated and inspire many tales and adventures to unfold.
Recently we visited a wildlife carer and had a personal encounter with orphaned possums. When larger and taught to fend for themselves they will be reintroduced to the wild.
Sadly land clearing and removal of trees, as well giving over country to mining does not augur well for their future. What was heartening was to meet up with people who care and believe they can make a difference.
My hope is that a toy like this will encourage a new generation to care more responsibly.
The wool felt mat pictured below was created from imagination and memory before we visited this setting last week at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Happening upon this scene has boosted confidence and given confirmation and validity to the representation .
It was also a little spooky seeing a scene that had been created in the imagination and created from years of observation of many different locations so closely resemble a “real” situation.This play mat also features a turtle which was inspired by those seen in the Coomera river last year.
The characters are very small, so are attached by a thread but they still can be freely moved around the river. This small scene also included a platypus.
Handstitched from wool felt this mat was designed to stimulate curiosity and imagination, as well to create an interest and love for nature through play.
D.W Winnicott, a British pediatrician commented that “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self”. This quote has also been featured by The Strong, a Museum in New York that is devoted to the history, importance and research of play.
Sadly the value and necessity of play is being compromised as focus shifts to an education that looks to standardised learning and testing and restriction of play time and creativity.This policy focuses on preparing children for exams and career paths thus tending to underestimate the importance of allowing children time to play, dream and imagine so that they can understand better themselves and the world that they inhabit.
To add weight to the value and necessity for play, on January 26th this year, Amy McNeilage, in The Sydney Morning Herald National, reported on the disadvantage of children beginning school at too early and age. She noted that “A Cambridge University expert in the cognitive development of young children, David Whitebread, said ”overwhelming evidence suggests that five is just too young to start formal learning.
The empirical evidence is that children who have a longer period of play-based early childhood education, that goes on to age six or seven, finish up with a whole range of clear advantages in the long term,” he said. ”Academically they do better and they experience more emotional wellbeing”.
Some time ago, when new to felting, this tiny needle felted Amanita child emerged. Lately this larger figure was created and had me pondering again about the fly agaric, toadstool houses and tales of yore.
It is now that time of year when these red and white fungi appear on the forest floor, in the main where pines grow. They have started to become a feature in our landscape, especially down south and are making their way up along the coast, acclimatising and now beginning to appear in native forest.
It seems that globalisation has not only overtaken culture and finance but also ecology. As Amantia spreads they could pose a threat to native species. The pine forests that host them, are an introduced species, so there seems to be a situation that we all to often disregard till it is too late. The long term consequences are yet to be fully understood but if our history with cane toads, carp and lantana is considered then perhaps some alarm bells might start to ring.
As an artist the crisp red and white colouring and the long association with myth and fantasy, as well as the ancestral belief that they are a good luck charm, has made it an interesting and often inspiring subject. However this mushroom, or toadstool, is poisonous and has been used as a trance inducing drug over many centuriesas well as having many layers of complex symbolism connecting it to virtually every religion and culture.
For me it has served primarily as a pretty symbol of the forest, that calls attention to the cycle of decomposition, transformation and regeneration, which is what fungi have been created to do when mankind does not interfere.
As an icon that I use frequently its colours speak to me of creativity and life, as well it serves as a wish for luck and happiness.
In actuality I was trying to persuade a gnome to emerge from the fleece . It seems the season has permeated and has let it be known that summer has departed and now the Autumn maiden has stepped in to replace the Summer Queen.
Autumn glows with the rich and earthy colours of the season, the red tones being colours of fire and passion, of awe and wonder that the season offers. This little Autumn maiden holds a changing leaf to remind us that that the leaf has undergone the cycle of birth to maturity and now is in the process of dying. Although the leaf will turn brown, shrivel and decay it will rest in the earth, enrich the soil and contribute to the new growth and life that flourishes in Spring.
Brings to mind this quote from John Donne:
“No Spring nor Summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one Autumnal face.”
Again sharing a felt nature scene, a hollow tree stump that has been hand stitched, appliquéd and embroidered as well as needle felted. This hollow stump tells a story of protection and renewal.
The log hosts various life forms within and without.
Here you can see different types of fungi, and some vines,grass and moss.The little thread keeps the tiny mouse attached but also if gently pulled moves the mouse along, under and around the hollow branch.
The mouse is taking a risk but it allows an understanding of how nature has a chain of consequences and that nature is, in essence, a chain of who eats who.
Such a piece would also make a good story prop as well as being useful for the nature table and for nature study . Depicted are fungi, and other life forms that use the log in its decaying process to recreate life and to give shelter. Other animals could be incorporated such as snake or possum. It is a piece designed to begin an exploration and to inspire stories and to stimulate curiosity.