The charming bird sculptures of Guildford artist Naomi Beevers
- Credit: Naomi Beevers
There’s something irresistible about the charming bird sculptures of Naomi Beevers, which often spring to life from reclaimed kitchen items. Janet Donin visits her Guildford studio
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2015
Tell us a bit about your designs…
I work largely with reclaimed items, such as fabrics and traditional kitchenware, transforming them into beautiful objects, from 3D birds to pictures. However, as I value their original workmanship, many of the items used look familiar, which I hope will spark memories of the past.
What is it that fascinates you about kitchenalia?
I love the memories these items spark; of happy times spent with my granny and my mum in the kitchen as a child. I’ll acquire pieces from the family or pick things up at car boot sales. Then I will turn a whisk into a birdcage, sugar tongs into bird’s legs or cover teacups with vintage fabric to become decorative items.
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So did you train as an artist?
I have a degree in textiles but it’s only lately, as my children have grown up, that I have had the time to create. I did a City and Guilds course at Guildford College and from there went on to study at Windsor College. This year, I was awarded a distinction as a New Licentiate at the Society of Designer Craftsmen.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
Much of my inspiration is in my subconscious – memories of childhood – but also the beautiful birds that inhabit my garden and the lovely countryside around Guildford. As well as textiles, I also love cooking, so acquiring an old kitchen gadget will often spark a new piece of work.
What is your preferred medium to work with?
I love natural fabrics and haberdashery, particularly vintage items with a history. For instance, I acquired some World War Two uniform fabric, which was perfect for my needle-felted swallows (incidentally, ‘Swallow’ was also the name of a training glider used in the war). And old towels or blankets when dyed make marvellous rag-rug wall art.
So talk us through the creative process; how does it start?
I’m creating a collection of birds at the moment and recently saw some starlings in the garden – a bird we’ve never seen before here – so that set me off making a line of starlings sitting on a vintage garden fork. So I’ll start off by drawing the bird, before creating a pattern and then choosing the fabric and materials I’m going to make it from. And I love finishing off with hand-stitched details to give character.
Most of your pieces seem to have a fun element, don’t they?
Yes, that’s all part of the creative enjoyment. I’m so pleased when I see people laughing and chatting about my work – like the blue tits, which often peck at milk bottles, so I’ve perched them on Milk of Magnesia bottles.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I have one particular piece, which holds so many memories for me. It’s made from a sardine tin that I bought while on holiday in Paris. I transformed it into a picture with a collage of old Paris maps as a background and 3D sardines made from silk, which I then patterned with silk- screen images resting inside.
And the silk-screen printing is a relatively new development?
Yes, it’s my latest thing actually, as I recently took a course at the Ochre Print Studio in Guildford, which was fantastic. I wanted a way of transferring images to a variety of fabrics with precision.
Is there anything else new on the horizon?
My latest work comes from some 1950s fabric, from which I am creating a series of pictures with hand and machine-stitched details. The To Kill a Mockingbird book cover inspires one.
Finally, what is your favourite thing about living in Surrey?
I love living in Guildford, with its beautiful abundance of green spaces and stunning countryside with pretty villages surrounding us. I think we’re really lucky to have some fantastic local galleries too.
• Naomi Beevers can be contacted on 07947 073524 or e-mail email@example.com. You can also see her work on show at the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, from Friday October 9 to Saturday November 14. See newashgate.org.uk