17 September 2017

Hay Bale Challenge, York Festival 2017

I entered and won the York Festival's Hay Bale Challenge this year. I thought it would be fun to do and push me creatively. I am thrilled and surprised to win, I have never won anything before and feeling very lucky to have been selected by the judges amongst all the amazing entries this year.

In July I attended a York Festival workshop hosted by Natalie Tonkin at her farm studio in Moora to learn more about sculpting and stitching with hay. I had a fabulous day there, Natalie was so warm, welcoming and generous with her sharing of ideas and knowledge about working with hay.  Natalie had machine stitched hay which amazed me! Her studio and home was filled with her creations. Natalie's passion for recycling, her craftmanship in everything that she does was incredible. She is my new artist's crush! The other participants were lovely to work alongside and it was great to learn more about their farm and country lives. My husband drove up with me and explored the town of Moora for the morning and Natalie insisted that he return for lunch. I am glad that he shared in this day too. Natalie's home made soup and apple pie served on her handmade ceramic plates were to die for! It was a special day, a soulful day. I was invigorated and inspired and keen to get home and work more on my ideas and sculpture.

I must admit to procrastinating quite a bit and thought about not entering at all and was struggling with the fear of failure and trying to find time to work on it. I new I wanted to create an avian inspired piece and thought a nest of baby birds would be a great option to mark the start of spring.  I managed to get my entry in with a work in progress shot and slowly Spring Nest took form and shape. The nest has a chicken wire armature, the birds are a wire armature then damp hay was placed over the wire and built up by hand stitching with thread over and over to form the shapes. As I was working on this it brought wonderful memories of all the birds that I cared for over four years volunteering at Native Animal Rescue. I cared for literally hundreds of orphan and kidnapped baby birds (well meaning people think many babies on the ground have been abandoned but they are not, many native birds are out of the nest on the ground with their parents watching over them). The crows and magpie babies were the messiest and had the most character.  It was a wonderful sight when you opened a warming box and the babies would wake up and squawk with their mouths wide open begging for food. Baby birds needed hand fed every hour, their parents have a lot of work to do in spring to find food for themselves and also for their babies. It doesn't make it any easier for them as we are plowing down more and more bushland, altering ecosystems, reducing habitat and food sources.

I miss volunteering and working with wildlife but had to take a break since mid last year to support my wonderful teenage daughter who has chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression. I have also just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my feet and my lower back so it looks like long standing shifts volunteering are not feasible to return to. I hope that I can return and help in some capacity in the future. It has been a difficult year and working on the hay bale challenge sculpture, stitching over and over into hay was active meditation for me, which really helped with the worry and stress of being a carer.

I am so glad that I completed it and entered! I wouldn't have guessed that I would be the winner of this sculpture challenge, it is awesome news and has lifted my spirits! Here are a couple of work in progress shots (apologies one with not the best lighting).

The finished work of course I neglected to photograph it in the studio with good lighting. I took some shots at the Tourist Information stop just before York. The beautiful Town of York is in the far background in this photo. The drive to York in Spring is picturesque, bushland alive with wildflowers,  rolling hills and yellow canola fields. I think participating in any of the York Festival events every year is a fantastic way to celebrate and enjoy spring in Western Australia.