“Birds more than any other animals, may serve as bonds between man and nature.” ~ Frank Chapman , Handbook of Birds, Eastern N. America, 1896
As I prepare for my upcoming exhibition, the Art & Craft of Nests at the City Library, as part of Craft Contemporary 2022 and National Bird Week, I am seeking to explore this bond, how might a bridge be suspended between our species?
‘It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.” ~Aesop
Although Aesop’s fable teaches us that to be useful is of much more importance and value than to be ornamental, avian science plays devil’s advocate to reveal otherwise. Akin to the rise of fashions on the field at the Spring Racing Carnival, birds have become brighter and more colourful over time too. From fashion to feathers, the aim is the same, all efforts are in the name of sexual success.
“The Buffalo was part of us…. It was hard to say where the animals ended and the human began.”
John (Fire) Lame Deer, Oglala-Lame Deer Seeker of Visions, With Richard Erdoes, 1972
Vital to the Native American textile traditions, the mighty buffalo, or bison were roaming deluxe haberdasheries, providing for every textile need, from bones as needles, sinews as thread, hides as tent sides to cloaks to cover back sides, and soft luxurious linings for moccasins or a baby’s papoose.
Delving into billowing clouds of cotton and thought, where do the textile traditions of birds and humankind intersect? Birds revere cotton for the same reasons we do and with beak and breast they felt the soft, durable fibres into their nests. Avian or Homo sapiens, we both swoon to swaddle our young in the comforts of cotton.
Threads do bind all human cultures, for we have all shared the art of making string.
As I thread my needle as a bird would his beak, I reflect on the binding thread choices of birds echoing those used by humans spanning cultures and centuries. From plant fibre filaments to horse hair, we both orchestrate a symphony of strings together to resonate into the textiles that serve us.