Entry for the National Sculpture Prize has now closed so here is my proposal…
I wanted to create a sculpture that was of Global significance but that was also specific to Devon and linked into my previous work – Boundaries, the Human Condition and Cloning.
About a month ago, I had a little flash of inspiration. Honey.
I did some research and here is a brief summary of the things that I found out mixed with some things that I already knew:
I’d seen news reports about bees pretty regularly because they are in Global decline but during my research, some things really stood out: scientists in Australia have been attaching little radio tags to honey bees to study pollination patterns; then there is the “Keep Britain Buzzing” campaign; and even Häagen-Dazs® have a page on their website about the plight of the honey
Whilst I knew of the cultural tradition of Devon honey and mead, I was really surprised when I found out that honey bees were so important to the people of Devon that there is folklore about honey bees – people used to even tap the hive and tell the bees of important family events such as: “master is dead”.
We introduced honey bees to the whole world and they are thought to be responsible for 80% of insect pollination. I knew that the decline in bee numbers could have a significant impact on food supplies for all of us but I had no idea that humans were responsible for spreading them around the world.
Then I looked at reproduction and did you know that the Queen honey bee chooses the sex of her offspring? She lays the her eggs and if she wants them to be female, she fertilizes them with stored sperm and if she wants them to be male, she leaves them unfertilized. The males only inherit HER genes so they are, basically, clones.
My little moment of inspiration was bang on. My sculpture had to be about the decline of the honey bee, to bring the observer into the hive so that they would feel the loss as something tangible long before starvation becomes an issue.
So it was time to work out what the sculpture was going to actually look like. It had to be the hive, empty.
The sculpture had to be a hexagonal cellular structure. I love the clean geometry and it fits in with a previous sculpture that I made. I had considered a sculpture based on the structure of a honey bee’s wing which would indeed be beautiful but I dismissed it with only a tiny bit of exploration because of my fascination with the hexagonal structure of a honeycomb, I can get lost in the pattern. I worked through a few sketches and tried – unsuccessfully) to make a couple of maquettes.
A study of a real honeycomb
A sketch of what I wanted it to look like internally
The first maquette made from dyed sugar glass with chicken wire embedded in it
The second, made from cardboard & tissue paper covered in tinted PVA
That last maquette was based on an idea by my tutor for one of the faces that I did for my Diploma so thank you ❤
I knew from the start that I wanted to make the sculpture from glass and I contacted a great glass artist for some advice as to how to get the honeycomb effect because I remembered both intentional and accidental hexagons in her work. I toyed with the idea of a bigger sculpture made from different transparent materials that would stand up to being outdoors but I much prefer glass and I’ve chosen the accidental kind of honeycomb because I really like the effect ( as seen below).
The name was easier than I was expecting. I only name my work when I have to unless the name just comes to me. The working title of the project was “The Hive” but in the end, I decided on “Swarm”. The lack of bees in the sculpture will be made all the more poignant because of the name.
I wasn’t entirely sure of how the sculpture should be presented but I finally decided that it would look best mounted on a plinth. It needs to look like it is on display in a museum, as if the bees are gone and we are looking at something that has become extinct. I made the final sketch using modelling wire to do a rubbing for the texture and mounted everything onto black card and then white mounting board. Part of the reason for mounting it was to make it look lovely but practically. it would also prevent it from being damaged in the mailbag and sent it via recorded delivery on 10 Feb. I’ll find out whether or not I’ve made the shortlist in March!