The Devon Guild of Craftsmen’s Summer Show for 2015 had the theme “Celebrations” to mark 60 years of the organisation – a landmark birthday. Members were invited to use the title Celebrate to articulate the notions of festivity and reflection that such milestones bring. I wanted to produce some work specifically for this exhibition while creating something in keeping with my own body of work about Devon ecosystems, hedgerows etc.
A little bit of research brought up the Cirl Bunting. Cirl Bunting is the UK’s rarest resident farmland birds. During the 20th century numbers crashed, to the point that by 1989 there were only 120 pairs left. This was largely a result of habitat loss due to changes in farming practices. The surviving Cirl Bunting are found in an area up to 15 km from the coast between Exeter and Plymouth.
Since 1993 a joint RSPB and English Nature-funded Cirl Bunting Project was launched to help farmers protect the threatened birds on their land by creating suitable habitats. To thrive, Cirl Bunting needs a supply of large insects in summer and a rich source of seeds over winter. Thanks to these efforts, the population has increased dramatically, although their range hasn’t increased. There is now a Reintroduction Project (a partnership project between the RSPB, Natural England (NE), the National Trust and Paignton Zoo) to reintroduce the Cirl Bunting to Cornwall. Cirl Buntings continue to be vulnerable and are reliant on the management of habitat by farmers across Devon and Cornwall.
The piece of work I created for the summer show is “Cirl Bunting – Back from the Brink”. This is created in celebration of this once widespread little songbird being brought back from the brink of extinction in the UK.
This limited edition, complex print brings together everything a Cirl Bunting needs to thrive in the Devon countryside. Arable stubble; rough grassland; thick hedgerow; some of their favourite grasses; chickweed and bush crickets.
The background is a collagraph plate.
The birds and bush crickets are drypoint printed on tissue, hand tinted and used in the prints as cine collè.
The plants were gathered and pressed in my studio.
When these elements were ready I was able to create an edition of just 8 prints in one day. Because of the mono printed plant materials there are all subtly different.
In addition to the Cirl Bunting – Back from the Brink edition I had enough tissue birds and crickets to create a few more prints combining the chine collè with mono print plants, plus printed the drypoint plated on their own to create editioned mini prints.