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Project 1: ‘We Are This Thing’

Our first project brief divided us into small groups and required us to produce a wearable sculpture on the theme ‘We Are This Thing’ to be exhibited through a parade performance. I was initially unnerved by the prospect of creating a wearable sculpture as costume/3D design is something which I have very little experience with. However I felt inspired by the work of exemplary artists, particularly Monster Chetwynd’s sculptures influenced by popular culture (below) and thus drew ideas from their constructions.

Meet Monster Chetwynd, The Artist Behind The Tate’s Giant Christmas ...

After playing around with various ideas, our group decided to create a larger-than-life bee which would be held above our heads, with each member carrying one of three body parts- the head, the thorax and the abdomen. We were inspired by the vast and diverse wildlife in Edinburgh, including a bee which I had happened to walk past and photograph on my way to my first lecture at the Edinburgh College of Art. The University of Edinburgh is involved in numerous bee conservation projects in response to current threats towards bee populations and habitats, including the Apiary Project as part of the World Hive Network. This inspired us to produce work which conveys the relationship between humans and nature- in both damaging and supporting it.

Photographed by Ellena Dallas

We began by drawing a sketch plan of the bee sculpture, then used willow and masking tape to make a frame for the three pieces. This was wrapped in cling film and sculpted with paper-mache and cotton wool before being covered with black and yellow fabric using a hot glue gun. The legs were created in a similar fashion (layering paper-mache over cardboard structures) but were painted black to maintain the shape and vary the textures within the work. The wings were also shaped with willow, masking tape and hot glue before being painted white and held in place by thread. We contemplated different ways of achieving the eyes, but settled on shaping layered black mesh stuffed with scrap material, then used a white charcoal pencil to add highlights, suggesting depth and making them more visible. Finally, handles were attached to the body parts so that we could hold them comfortably in the air.

Progress photos (above)

In terms of movement during the parade, we replicated the freestyle, ever-moving nature of bees, moving between other groups in a zig-zagging motion. This was aided by the separate pieces, enabling us to shift in all directions.

The finished product:

Overall, we are very pleased with what we accomplished in two weeks, resulting in a visually effective outcome. By using our hands to support the bee, we communicated the impact which humans have on the environment as well as how the future of Earth’s creatures rests in our hands. Despite the fact that this piece took a lot of head-scratching and countless glue sticks, I enjoyed the process of making and parading our work along with all the other groups’ inspiring creations.

This project has given me greater confidence in problem solving, working collaboratively and experimenting with unfamiliar techniques for future projects to come.

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