Sunday, 8 April 2012

Magical Thinking: An Artist's Best Friend

Every once in a while we need a little supernatural assistance.

I'm part of a wonderful group show at the  Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design called "Home to Roost". It's about birds. The show had it's "soft" opening last week. It's a terrific show. However, in the middle of the gallery is a stark empty plinth with my name on it. It should contain an installation I'm calling "Eat and/or be Eaten". It's essentially a showcase of the strange bones and avian artifacts I've collected over the years from the beach. Stuff like this: 

Unfortunately, I discovered last week that I may have pitched most of my best pieces in the last house move. Or it crawled away. Anyway, last week I found myself with a pretty sparse and motley collection of ossuaria:

I needed more...and I needed it...last week.

So I summoned my most effective beachcombing skill - magical thinking. Magical thinking is defined as "a causal reasoning that looks for correlations between acts and certain events". More simply put - conjuring. I felt (desperately) that if I brought all my powers to bear on the idea of finding bird bones I would. Magical thinking is described as "pre-logical". Right up my alley.

Scoff you may, but it's worked for me in the past. I've conjured red beach glass (rare). I've caused hundreds of tiny starfish to wash up so I could glue them on stuff (things sell quicker with starfish stuck on them). By far my best magical thinking was the summer that "face wood" magically appeared to me, like Jesus on a Tim Horton's wall.

Not familiar with face wood?

Can you guess what this is? Seems pretty obvious to me.

It was such a great summer for face wood I soon had an enviable collection for my wall. My friends were jealous. I had so many I invested in glass eyes for them.

Clockwise from left: Ostrich, duck, dog, woodpecker, seagull.

I found so many that I'd begun to think that I was causing them to appear just for me. I WAS.THEY WERE.

 So, I set out on Saturday to the really big beach, the one we call "The Really Big Beach", with my trusty bone-sniffing dog and a Sobey's bag. I was goin' a-conjurin'.

The Really Big Beach.

And this is what myself and Jook the Blog Dog found:

Vertebra. Many of them. A spooky amount of them. All seal (let's hope).

A scapula from a seal. Or a part of a flipper. I decided to settle on "flapula".
Still not avian.

Something that looked like a tiny Henry Moore sculpture

....and a really promising bone that Jook the Blog Dog got to before I did. This is the problem with using dogs as bone co-hunters.

I also found a fox jawbone. Believe it or not, I have a surplus of these, suggesting that Gabarus might not be the best place to relocate to if you are a fox.

And that was it.
My magical thinking skills need some fine tuning.

All is not lost. I did find my marsh hawk skull. It still had a bit of mushy marsh hawk in the brain pan so it's soaking in the kitchen.

You have to be really careful what you pick up to eat in my house. It might be dinner. It might be art.

I do have my best ever bone find that I might have to use if things get desperate. It is doubtlessly the largest bird skull ever found in modern times.

So. Do stop by and see our exhibit if you're in Sydney in the next month. You'll find wonderful work by potter Sarah Beck, multi-media painting by Teena Marie Fancey, intricate wire wrapped pieces by Gayle Bird (she had to be in the show on account of her name), fantastic and fanciful fibre art by Joan Mackenzie, paper and book and bone art by yours truly, and basketry and felting by our exhibit curator Shari MacLeod. Imagination takes flight!

Oh, and, that last one ain't a bird. If you can guess what it is you'll win a prize.
Face wood if you're lucky.


  1. Is it the bottom view of a deer skull?
    Also, how many guesses do I get? I want to win some face wood!!!!

  2. Guess number one. Wrong!

    Keep on trying. Hint: It's a mammal but it doesn't fly and it doesn't have legs....

    Collector quality face wood for the winner!

  3. Hi katherine, I'm wondering if there's a porpoise to this guessing game, and if can spell. Lovely blog, and good dog Jook!

  4. Love this post Katherine, great fun to read! Very excited to see what you've concocted. :)