My Fascination with Birds of Paradise

Here I have written a short history of how the public fell in love with these mysterious birds and how John Gould’s beautiful books have been an inspiration to me.

I have started to sketch and water colour designs for two large vessels using the King of Saxony bird of paradise and King bird of paradise as a starting point. I have already created a Raggiana wall art piece and would love to place these designs onto a very large full bellied form which I’m very excited to get started on.

Birds of Paradise

I have been fascinated for as long as I can remember with birds, in particular Birds of Paradise. These truly exotic and magnificent birds for me have represented an almost ethereal presence in the modern world. The early explorers and pioneers who first discovered these amazing birds felt the same and were in awe and wonder at their almost unbelievable plumage and colours.

Our history with these birds is long with the first skins arriving in Europe during the 1500’s and the first known water colour of a Greater Bird of Paradise appearing in a prayer book in 1540.

Since their discovery and arrival of just the skins artists have endeavoured to try to capture the magnificence of these creatures on paper. Some of the early engravings and lithographs used in such books as John Gould’s Birds of New Guinea 1875 – 88 and D G Elliot’s Monograph of Paradiseidae 1873 were created without ever having seen a real bird and the artists gave their interpretation of what the courtship dances may have looked like.

Within my work I am very interested in movement and the interaction that goes on between animals and their habitats. All my pieces are researched fully before starting using only the correct plants and flowers with the right animals. Capturing a fleeting moment in time fascinates me and I hope my decoration my look as if the birds are chattering away totally unaware of your presence.

Creating these new pieces will allow me to explore deeper the interaction between these beautiful birds and their habitat. Using real images and accurate information about their courtship trees and native Orchids I plan to take the history of the documentation of these birds to a three dimensional level. I hope these will be the first of many and plan to create a full documentation of this species.

I view these works as an extension of the early Lithographs by those dedicated artists and I will endeavour to give as true a representation as possible within the limits of my ceramics in both colours, plumage and courtship dances. I am always trying to push the boundaries of both myself and what’s possible in my ceramic sgarffito decoration.

I have already collaborated with Joseph Tano a guide with Trans Niginui Tours who organise bird watching in New Guinea. They have been exceptionally helpful in giving me accurate information on which orchids and trees would be in the right regions and altitudes for each of these birds. I have visited Kew Gardens to study their Orchids and hope to plan an arranged visit to the British Library to have a look at the John Gould books they have in their reference collection.