Creative in the Countryside: The Whispering Wild
Today's Creative in the Countryside is Lucy from The Whispering Wild, a needle sculptor creating creatures with a tale to tell and a song in their heart.
Nicola: I’d love for you to start by telling us about yourself, your business and what drew you to the work you do?
Lucy: I must admit I find this question quite difficult to answer. My unconfident self always shies away at any question involving me. Over the past few years I have learnt that it’s much easier to tell you about myself via a story, so here we go.
‘I was a child that dreamt amongst the leaves and ached to feed my bare warm toes in cool mud. Nature was my ever-generous treasure chest. Gifting me sweet finds of nibbled nuts and pearlescent shells. I would store them for quiet admiration in used matchboxes and discarded film cases.
My struggles through my young life were always softened by the blackbirds’ song. Nature ran deep in my veins and I loved it whole-heartedly. As I grew up my confidence retreated, hiding itself beneath a fortress of brambles in my soul. I was constantly wandering my place, never fitting in. I daydreamed about frosty morning fields for most of my teenage years.
After applying myself to jobs that never felt right, I realised my release was to come home and create the wonders I had seen. Could I turn this passion into something that feeds me, as nature had done for my soul for all those years? I worried that, with no formal training, I would dissolve into the background. But once more Nature was there to reassure me she is my college of wild. So I began, and with it the brambles that for so long encased my confidence began to flower. So that is how I find myself sat here, in a shed under the willow tree with needle, wool and a shelf full of treasures.
Tell us about the process of your work and where you draw your inspiration?
It is hard to pinpoint where my creations begin. The idea is hazy at first. Almost like a remembered dream. Or those sudden moments of realisation and déjà vu. I adore this part. It is the excitement and joining up of dots. That will be why I keep seeing herons. Or it's the ‘I knew this object would want to become something’. There is some part of me that knows, before my brain, what I’m going to create.
I tend to scribble or sketch ideas that come to me at all times of the day and night. It means my overused and well-thumbed journal is never far from my side. I would say ninety percent of my ideas stay as just hat, and remain as a note in the margins. But ten percent stick and start evolving.
I used to find this frustrating, especially when I felt I had a brilliant idea. But this is one of many lessons I have learnt about myself. Never push it! Allow the flow and trust what comes, and what goes. Where the idea travels next is rarely within my control.
For many years I tried to be strict and stick to one medium. But I discovered that, like everything in this glorious world, individuality is a gift. My sculptures are a mix of wools, embroidery, silk, naturally dyed materials and found objects. It can take anything from one day to six weeks to complete a piece. Which gives them plenty of time to tell me their story.
As you can see I don’t have much say in what appears, which is why I feel like an imposter. Creating a beautiful sculpture from an unknown origin of my brain or soul is a contract of trust I made long ago.
My inspiration, muse, my all and everything is nature. It is safe to say I am in love with it. From the cuteness of a cub, to the rich bones of a decaying creature. There is hardly any part of a day I’m not thinking about nature, and no night passes without me dreaming of it. I am overwhelmed by the magnificence of nature and how she shows herself.
What does your workspace look like and what do you love most about it?
I live in a very unassuming, very ordinary ex council home in Somerset. When we moved here I realised I needed my own dedicated space. Money and space are tight so I needed to think outside of the box.
One day my husband and I were erecting a small shed we had moved from our previous home. A light bulb moment happened. Within 24 hours the 8x10 shed was insulated, painted, heated and had electricity.
I have been in this DIY studio under the twisted willow for two years now. Part of me would love a specially built space, but I do love how close I feel to the elements. In summer the doors are wide open and the blackbird nearly comes inside to find cake crumbs. The bees have no issue inviting themselves in. Winter arrives and gloves are a must. I get a childlike joy when the rain hits the roof. Although it does disturb my Siamese cat from his peaceful sleep.
I know you love to tell the story behind each of your creations through your writing as well. What is the best part of sharing these stories with others?
Telling the story is the most important part for me. I feel that without a story there is no life. We all have a story and our creatures too. So why would artwork be any different?
I would say it surprised me to know there were stories behind the pieces. But since a child I have looked for meaning in everything. At a very young age I was reading books about astrology and earth magic. I loved feeling connected to something I felt I understood.
There are countless depths and meanings in each sculpture. That all tangle together like the wool itself. I do have a crippling lack of self-confidence. Which sometimes makes it hard to share these tales that are often raw and close to my heart.
The only way I have found the ability share is through the support and kindness of my followers (aka friends!) on social media. Their understanding is a great comfort to me. And the real treasure is that some feel, in turn, they can share their own tales with me. It helps me more than they will ever know. And I truly love them for it.
You donate some of your profits to the Butterfly Conservation Trust. Can you tell us a little more about this?
Recently I have put into action a plan to donate money to charities through the sale of others and my artwork. It has always been a dream of mine to give something back to the natural world that gifts me so much. Sadly many artists find it difficult to make a living through their work. And I am no exception.
I had been waiting for those magical numbers that meant I had the ability to donate. But after hearing shocking statistics about the decline of one of our most precious habitats, the meadow, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.
Nature cannot wait until next month or even tomorrow, it needs us now! The statistic that took my breath away was this. Since WW2 we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows. So I am creating four watercolour images of butterflies to be turned into prints and cards.
I’m also running an online auction of butterfly, bee and moth inspired art. Kindly donated by some of my favourite artists from around the world. The auction will take place on the 6th of August 2017 on Instagram, on the page @giftthemwings. Profits will be split between The Somerset Wildlife Trusts meadows project, and The Butterfly Conservation Trust. I also hope to hold an exhibition next year inspired by the winged works of art that pollinate our planet.
What message do you want to share with others through the work you do and the life that you live?
Good question! My life can be pretty complicated at times so I don’t claim to have much advice. If my creations make people think about the environment, that's the greatest gift I could ask for.
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