Early Birds

Earlier this year the American Museum in Britain sent out a call for artists to design an outdoor installation with an ‘early birds’ theme, to promote the earlier opening time of their gardens and cafe.

Our very own David Gordon heard the call and flew into action. Coo! he thought. This will be a lark. Or at least, that’s how we like to think the conversation went, despite David’s denials.

Crushingly poor puns aside, David and his friends Carl Godfrey and Emily Hunter, decided to rise to the challenge and submitted their design, which went on to win. Their design “Early Birds”, was based on the migration of the North American Harlequin Duck, their inspiration being the favoured Harlequin decoy ducks found in the museum’s folk art collection.

The trio’s modern take on the decoy duck featured fifty stylised Harlequin’s (to reflect the fifty stars on the American flag), mounted on poles of varying heights, echoing the shape of a migratory flock. As David put it: “The idea was: bird; pole; spike. Then we had to work out how to make it happen.”

After various attempts with cardboard, chicken wire and MDF, the chosen material was lightweight plywood. The bodies and wings were cut out in different thicknesses, using a CNC machine. Each wing was then soaked in the bath, before being bent into shape between an ironing board and the lounge wall, and left to dry. The birds were individually stained and then mounted on poles of varying height to create the illusion of a flock taking off from the ground.

The low point was the day before installation, when the metal pole supplier sent poles of the wrong diameter and recalled them in transit. The team had to create 50 placeholder divots in the ground using bamboo and hope the correct poles would arrive that afternoon. They did, and the museum was so impressed with the finished installation that the exhibition was extended for a further three weeks.

“The positive feedback from everyone was definitely the highlight for us. We knew it was a good concept, but you’re never sure the finished thing will do justice to your vision.”

But, it’s not just about making people happy. David said: “It’s good to be creative away from the computer. We all work really well together; it’s fun.” The trio are already on the lookout for their next project.


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