Some while ago I put myself forward to be involved in the Flight of Fancy section of the Grassington Festival. The idea is to involve artists in decorating a fibre glass curlew.
I was chuffed to get the email telling me I’d been chosen by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to produce its curlew. The Park chose me because it liked my idea to use moorland to shore (the curlew’s natural habitat) as the base for the decoration. This year is the 60th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) is organising celebrations, some of which are to take place at Grimwith, a reservoir surrounded by moorland in North Yorkshire.
It’s a reservoir I’ve walked around on numerous occasions and that I can strongly identify with. The YDNPA asked that I include some Swaledale wool fibre in the felt on the curlew, as Swaledale is the predominant local sheep breed. By the end of the first conversation on 30th April I was so excited and my mind was buzzing with ideas, I couldn’t wait to start.
My original idea was to appliqué flowers across the background so I asked Karen (my YDNPA contact) what flora was to be found at Grimwith. Plants there now include heather, cotton grass, bilberry and cowberry but with the help of the farmers tit’s hoping to increase the biodiversity and encourage bog asphodel, sundew, buttwerwort, sphagnum moss, hair moss, cuckoo flower and lesser celandine. There are also rowan, downy birch, hawthorn, oak and ash trees being planted in the gills. Grimwith is also home to curlews.
It’s amazing how fast the ideas came once we’d talked. My next request of Karen was to see if she could identify a local farmer with Swaledale fleece he’d be prepared to part with. If this happens it means the curlew design will be influenced by Grimwith and be produced from very local materials. If not, I’ll buy Swaledale tops from Adelaide Walker (which come from this general locality).
Obviously, once I’ve got the wool I’ll need to dye some of it. So my next bright idea was to use natural dyes. Why I’m thinking of this I don’t know, as I’ve never used them and know little about them, but how hard can it be? We’ll soon find out! I’ve sent emails to friends Rosie and Yvonne to pick their brains and a couple more to suppliers to see what assistance they can offer. My next task is to go search the internet and see what help I can find there.
I’ve started jotting down design ideas, questions for Karen, practicalities to consider and lots of action points of things I need to do. It’s just as well I’m cracking on with it as I need to have the curlew completed by June 1st.
My idea for a habitat inspired background appliquéd with flowers, is still what I’m working to but it’s surprising to me how quickly ideas related to the specific environment have occured to me. Next Wednesday, Karen and I are to meet at Grimwith Reservoir for a walk and to seek further inspiration. I wonder what I’ll be thinking after that?
P.S. My husband’s response was “So, what next then? We’ve had felt badgers, felt curlews. How about rag-rugging a polar bear? Or crocheting a hamster?” Hmmm – I wonder.