Wednesday 6 September 2023

Bat Art Trail at Mayow Park

Hello there, I'm Elena Howard, a ceramic artist based in Beckenham (south east London). I'd love to take you on a journey into my world where art, community, and the beauty of nature unite.

Art in Unexpected Places

I'm a firm believer in art that's accessible to everyone, every day. That's why I've been on a mission to weave my art into the tapestry of our local communities. My canvas? The green spaces of London, brimming with the wonders of wildlife and the spirit of our neighbourhoods.

A Trail of Inspiration

Over the past few years, I've embarked on a creative odyssey, crafting art trails for our beloved local parks. These trails represent a blend of my passions: our remarkable London green spaces and the enchanting wildlife that calls them home.

  • In Cator Park, I conjured an Owl trail, a whimsical homage to the tawny owls that grace the park with their presence. You can often hear them during the dark autumn evenings!
  • Betts Park saw the birth of a kingfisher trail, inspired by the delightful kingfishers spotted in the park's canal. These ceramic kingfisher figures brought an extra touch of magic to the park, celebrating the sense of community in Annerley and Penge.

Bats in the Limelight

When the Friends of Mayow Park and Sydenham Arts approached me to create something special for their upcoming anniversary and Artist Trail, the spotlight turned to the park's thriving bat population. I was immediately captivated by the idea and set to work crafting ceramic bats that would beckon park-goers on a captivating hunt.

Mayow Park has a deep love for its bats, evident in their popular bat walks. These guided adventures let people marvel at these remarkable creatures, armed with bat detectors, a thirst for knowledge, and the chance to meet fellow park enthusiasts. Of course, you don't need to join a walk to catch a glimpse of these pipistrelles. As the sun dips below the horizon, they gracefully glide overhead, undisturbed by our presence, as they snatch up their evening meals. And now you can see some bats in daylight too – in a form of my ceramic creations!

Bat Hunt Unleashed

For the park, I meticulously crafted over forty ceramic bat tiles. Each possesses a unique charm, with its own distinct colouring and glazing. I had a blast experimenting with various glaze combinations, as ceramics often hold the promise of delightful surprises. We placed these charming bat tiles throughout the park, always ensuring they found their place on posts, fences, and even the stumps of fallen trees (never on living trees) – a nod to the circle of life.

We introduced the Bat Hunt to the local park-goers through eye-catching posters and launched an engaging competition. People were encouraged to unleash their creativity and design bat-themed art for a chance to win a ceramic bat of their own, forever guarding their space. I also created a free colouring book, brimming with bat-themed adventures, to keep the young ones entertained while fostering a budding interest in bats (the colouring book is available here).

I wanted to infuse even more personality into these ceramic wonders. Some bats were christened with the names of famous folks who had "Bat" or "Batt" in their surnames (a surprisingly rare occurrence, it turns out!). Members of public are invited to vote for other bats’ names (or suggest their own versions), and read about their personalities on my Instagram.

Wings of Social Engagement

The response on social media has been heartwarming. People have been sharing their tales of bat discoveries, showcasing the bat-themed art their kids have been crafting, and giving me creative name suggestions.

And now, as Sydenham Arts Artists Trail begins, I'm ready to introduce another batch of bats, eagerly awaiting their chance to charm and captivate. My hope is that these cute creatures will spark curiosity in the hearts of children and adults alike, igniting a passion for the preservation of our local wildlife.


Instagram: @ElenaHowardClay


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