Nov 17, 2011

Designer Feature Series: Meet London Clay Birds

Bluetit birdbox made using reclaimed material with a pyrography detail by Dawn Painter.
About London Clay Birds:
My background is furniture design but I have drawn and created all my life, in some form or another. I spend my time making wooden items, drawing and playing with clay, as well as tending to my allotments in North London. Basically, I build stuff and grow things. I make clay birds, wooden bird boxes, bee hotels, flower presses and brooches. I also collaborate with my sister Claire Scully at craft fairs and the like - illustrator and general all round talent of thequietrevolution, who produces wonderful prints and cards.

Wolf illustration by Claire Scully
I’m inspired by my allotment, everything about it – the vegetables, the sheds, the wildlife. Birds inspire me, obviously. Simple, useful, form and function does too. I make birdboxes that have an individual pyrography bird design burnt into the wood. I really like the idea that I am helping to accommodate the bird population who have provided such inspiration for me over the years.  I also love Victorian style and merchandising and 1940s poster art – especially the dig for victory/home front stuff. Genius.
Bee hotel

Best Sellers:
London clay birds are my signature piece. The clay itself is a marine deposit from an ancient seabed, 50-60 million years old, when a tropical ocean covered London. Fossils from the Palaeogene period have been found in the clay including the skull of a giant early bird type, similar to an albatross. The bird had a 5-metre wingspan and its beak was lined with teeth! The fascinating thing is that it would have glided over the sea that covered London at this time. These days’ small urban garden birds are more familiar to folk so I make representations of these.
Geologically, London clay stretches half way across London and some of the southeast area. It is the reason why the London Underground was so easy to dig and interestingly, supported the brick making industry until the 1960s, so I suppose you could say it what London is made of.  It is sourced near where I live. An old Victorian workhouse once dominated the area and was fairly recently redeveloped. Luckily, I managed to excavate some of the amazing clay before new houses were built. There is a lot of history attached to these little birds.

We Make Christmas Pop Up Shopping Experience:
We will both be selling our wares at the We Make Christmas fair this year. Introducing our bee hotels along with our regular items such as brooches, birdboxes, prints and cards. Oh yes and we will be selling our lovely range of ‘woolsmiths’ crochet baskets and blankets and knitted hot water bottle covers.


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