Tuesday 31 October 2023

The 'Secateur Eared Bat'

Harriet Mead is a sculptor and current president of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWA). She is exhibiting a bat sculpture called the 'Secateur Eared Bat' for the SWA's annual exhibition The Natural Eye at the Mall Galleries in London (1-11 November). In this blog she shares how her passion for bats and making things started.

Well before I ever went near a welder, I wanted to make things. Like many small girls I loved soft toys but 40 years ago any realistic looking animal soft toys were expensive and beyond my reach. My mother let me use the sewing machine and encouraged me to design my own simple toys. At nine years old I managed to put the needle through my finger, complete with thread, but it didn’t put me off! Fur fabric and felt was purchased with pocket money and before long I was designing my own animals using newspaper to draw out patterns-an early training for thinking in three dimensions. 

One of my little toys was a flying bat with outstretched felt wings and a furry body with felt ears and bead eyes, the bat mascot was strung on elastic and very cute. Before I knew it, a friend of my father’s, Phil Richardson who ran a bat group, started stocking it in their ‘Batalogue’ a photocopied leaflet of bat themed wares, bat detectors and bat books. At 15 I found myself making 50 every couple of months. By sixth form I had two friends helping to make the wings and bodies. Over the years we must have made several thousand little bats that winged their way all over the country.  

I’ve always had a soft spot for bats. Dad had a bat detector which converted their ultrasonic calls which they use for echolocation into audio, from which you could identify the species. Modern bat detecting is very sophisticated by comparison. As part of a survey of bats in Norfolk, my neighbour and late mother borrowed recording equipment and set up surveys around the village for the study organised by the BTO. The recordings were then analysed by a computer programme which identified an impressive eight of a possible 14 species that could be found in the garden, including brown long-eared bats on which this sculpture is based (the species confirmed were Natterer’s bat, serotine, noctule, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, barbastelle and brown long-eared bat. The three low confidence were: whiskered, Daubenton's bat and Leisler’s bat).

Secateur Eared Bat

As ever, when I make a sculpture, I must look very closely at the subject. Bats are amazing creatures and extraordinarily delicate looking. To make one form scrap metal was rather a challenge. I have used sickles for the wings and a fine-toothed band saw blade for the fur. Secateur blades for the ears with tiny tin snip blades as well. It was fiddly but fun. I am especially pleased with the feet. Although my bat is at least double life sized, the feet are still tiny. I took a while to work out how to make them but I had a brainwave and cut a little section out of an ancient coach bolt. The thread describes the tiny toes beautifully.


 For more information about The Natural Eye 2023 exhibition visit the website here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment