First, there was my discovery of Mister Finch. What do beetles have to do with a self-described ‘man who sews’ working in Yorkshire? Well, Mister Finch makes embroidered fabric versions. A prime exponent of high process art (for every stitch that forms his extraordinary creatures is his and his alone), he re-cycles all sorts of fabrics — from wedding dress materials, old tapestries and antique carpets to velvet curtains from hotels, bits of feather and fake fur — and then pieces them together, and re-embroiders and stitches them to make the most extraordinary and beautiful beetles, moths, furry bees, toadstools, birds and hares; the sort of woodland creatures that inhabit the world of ancient folklore and fairytale.
In the introduction to his book Living in a Fairytale World (Glitterati Incorporated) Mister Finch credits British folklore as being ‘so beautifully rich in fabulous stories and warnings… it never ceases to be at the heart of what I make: shape-shifting witches, moon-gazing hares… humanizing animals with shoes and clothes is something I’ve always done and I imagine them to come alive at night, getting dressed and helping an elderly shoemaker or a tired housewife.’ Reared as I was on Beatrix Potter’s tales, I can’t help thinking of The Tailor of Gloucester who would surely have been right at home in Mister Finch’s fairytale world.
If you like the look of Mister Finch and his creepy crawlies, go to mister-finch.com to read more. If you would like to own one, he announces where and when he has his magical creatures to sell on his Facebook page. But beware: once posted, you’ll have to be nippy because he has a big and growing fan club (the book sold out before Christmas on Amazon but is now available again).
Now I’m going to turn the clock back, all the way to l505 in fact. This is the date of Albrecht Dürer’s marvellous watercolour of the giant European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus). It now lives in the Getty Museum. I am indebted to The Book of Beetles (Ivy Press) for this information, and for learning about it being the first time an insect featured prominently in a work of European art.
It’s a truly amazing tome, one that bills itself quite correctly as ‘A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems’. The beetles within are, quite frankly, fabulous, especially when you see them close-up. There are those that camouflage themselves as rotting leaves or dirty linoleum and those like the stinking beetle that can clear a village single-pincered, so to speak. Not only a beautiful book, it is also a serious work of reference that quotes Charles Darwin: ‘Whenever I hear of the capture of rare beetles I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of a trumpet’. My sentiments exactly. I am going to become an armchair coleopteris and this book will be my companion.
And finally, credit where credit is due: one of my favourite art (as opposed to art world) blogs is Colossal. It was set up and is mostly written and edited by a man who never seems to sleep. His name is Christopher Jobson. For the insatiably curious among you, as well as those who love beautiful images of every sort of art, not to mention a good read (a rare combo indeed), Colossal is nothing short of a must-visit. It is currently having a major embroidery and needle-felt art moment (felt carrots suspended from an embroidered felt plate, anyone?), and is where I first read about Mister Finch. Thank you so much Christopher!
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