Once upon a time before there was a lockdown and we could gather without a thought of masks, hand sanitisers or even be conscious of what 2m actually looked like, I was making figures in my studio. Not just those that would become Queue but 2 others as well, Daedalus and Icarus.
As with Queue these 2 were to remain unfired until lockdown measures were relaxed and Conway Mill where my studio and the kiln I used then reopened at the end of June.
However, they were never far from my thoughts as I went for my daily exercise around Victoria Park, I would gather any feathers I came across that were in good nick as I had decided that their wings would not be made of clay but of feathers and wax as the myth told.
To make the wings I knew I was going to have to make a skeletal structure onto which I could attach the feathers and give the wings some strength. So, once I manage to get them both fired, I went about considering the size of the wings and what was required to secure them to the figures.
I have been wanting to have a go at soldering and this was my chance and what a trial by error it was to prove being, also a lot of fun.
Very quickly I learned that I have a lot to learn about soldering but eventually I manage to make 2 wire wing shaped frames, and then it occurred to me that these were in of themselves not sufficient to attach the feathers with wax. Muslin was the answer.
Now began the messy bit.
I had hoarded some candles, so I chopped a few up and with the help of a heat gun managed to melt the wax in a bowl which I quickly and rather clumsily poured over the muslin draped wire frames. So far so kind of good.
Next was organising the feathers. I was making 4 wings and putting feathers on both sides of the wing, I needed a fair few feathers, and my collection was quite mixed. However, as it turned out I had enough mainly light to white feathers to do one set of wings and the other set would be a little more of a mix.
It went a bit like this…
· Melt wax in bowl
· Heat area of the wing to soften existing wax on the muslin
· Dip feather into the freshly melted wax – try not to burn yourself
· Position feather pressing it down into the wax as wax cools
· Be careful at every stage not the damage the feather with the heat gun
Took a bit of playing around but got there in the end.
While deciding how to arrange the feathers I also had handles to make and position on each wing and as Icarus would be holding his this needed to be precise-ish (I’m never really that precise, I do wing it quite often – no pun intended).
One of my main habits or vices – depending on how you look at it – is that I hoard materials and interesting object, including wire. So, I rummaged through my box of found and salvaged wire and found the perfect brass like thickish wire, which once cut and bent I was able to attach through a hole in the waxed muslin and waxed them in place.
All four wings finished I used various glues to secure the wire frames in the pre-made holes in the backs of the figures. Icarus was the easiest of the 2 as the wings were also secured by the handles.
Whereas poor old dad (Daedalus) was a little trickier to make sure the wings stayed in the position I wanted them to be in, his hands being occupied with holding binoculars.
Even though I don’t always know how I will mount a piece (if at all), I always make sure I have prepared it for a number of possibilities. This time I was inspired by the left over bits of fence from when we got one put up in our garden during lockdown, this also made me feel good as I was, in effect, recycling (halo emoji).
I was lucky that I had 2 pieces that were pretty much perfect in size, so I went about sanding them down taking off the roughness as much as possible, then using wood stain to a lovely dark tone. Then marking the position of the feet, drilling a hole big enough for the dowel, them putting them all together with a bit of grip fill – and there we were, done.
Time to do fancy photos, but even then, it seemed to take me ages to get them out there. Eventually I submitted them as a pair to the Royal Ulster Annual Open Exhibition 2021 and they got in! I was also asked to give a talk which I did – probably more of a rambling string of words but I think I made sense.
Right now they are boxed up in my attic waiting for our trip in June to Scone Palace, Perth for Potfest Scotland. I’m very proud of these pieces and yes it would be great to sell them but I would find it hard to say goodbye.