Friday, 31 January 2014

The Dead Box

I take most of my inspiration from nature, and I've always been happiest surrounded by wildlife and countryside - even just watching the leopard slugs that sneak into the kitchen pleases me immensely. When I was little I loved to collect all the intriguing little things that nature seemed to have discarded - snail and sea shells, delicate leaf skeletons, patterned feathers and iridescent butterfly wings, the fuzzy bodies of dead bumble bees... I kept it all in a shoe box, which became known to my family as the Dead Box. I can't remember who christened it, but at one point it even contained a fox's skull, stripped entirely of flesh except for the perfect black nose. I wish I still had it; I think my mum might have seized her opportunity when I left for college and 'lost' it.

My mum told her friends all about my Dead Box over tea and cake while I sat in the garden and recited The Tale of Peter Rabbit to snails. This led to a sort of Dead Box Chinese whispers - a few years ago I saw a guy who had lived down the road from me growing up, and he asked if I'd still got "that box with the dead pigeon in it..."

I promise you, there was no pigeon. I stopped well short of anything fleshy or rotting (aside from anything else, I HATE maggots), but I still have a tendency to photograph dead things when we're out walking. I've built up quite the collection, here are some faves:

                                                                                                                                          Hare's Head, Swithland (c) Becca Thorne

                                                                                                          Sheep's Skeleton, Pembrokeshire (c) Becca Thorne

                                                                                                                             Seal Carcass, Newport Sands (c) Becca Thorne

                                                                                                                                       Dead Gannet, Pwllgwaelod (c) Becca Thorne

I'm particularly fond of the gannet, it's like a Renaissance crucifixion painting. But it's not all dead stuff, here's a nice picture of a garden spider and her beautiful web to prove I'm not a total weirdo (she kept me amused for weeks):

                                                                                                                                                                                       (c) Becca Thorne

But why am I sharing all this? Because I've decided to start a new Dead Box. I doubt I'll ever get anything as good as the fox's skull again, but I love to be able to hold something, to turn it round and round to draw from all perspectives, and get up close with a magnifying glass. You can't be so intrusive with a live animal, and I find all these wonderful creatures hugely inspirational. For ages I've had the body of a gorgeous banded demoiselle damselfly, who died before it's wings could fully unfold, sitting on my shelf, as well as a large yellow underwing moth that fell out of a bag full of old camping stuff from the shed. The other day I added a jet black ichneumon wasp, with perfectly curled antenna, that I found in the kitchen (I think he came in with the Seville oranges). I drew the moth yesterday for a birthday card. Just look at that fuzzy little body!

                                                                                                                                                                    (c) Becca Thorne 2014

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