My fascination with colorful birds and the habitats where they reside became an interest of mine circa 2016ish when I started placing various types of suet bird feeders outdoors around my yard. Reading books and doing research on birds I saw while travelling also further fueled my obsession with these magnificent species. Discussions with close family and friends who’ve seen some of my favorite avian beauties while living in Hawai’i, Washington state and Australia moved me to begin this particular piece using only upcycled materials.
Using the same tools and methods of production for creating small jewelry-scale objects, I start by sawing out the diamond-shaped frame from the fibrous material I upcycle. I pierce the holes that hold the objects’ parts together using a standard flex shaft drill by first prepping the mark to start drilling holes with an awl. The plexiglass that encases the drawing of the bird is hand-cut using a jeweler’s saw and like the fibrous frame, filed smooth with needle files.
Once the frame and plexiglass are smoothly filed, I place my Illustrator vector drawing on archival paper behind the plexi/frame and assemble the entire object together using red cotton sewing thread. In other recent pieces, I’ve used sterling silver or bronze rivets reclaimed from prior metals’ projects to hold these upcycled brooches / miniature works together. The entire piece is topped by a lovely grayish twisted rope thread and brass safety pin, both reclaimed from the “extra button tags” attached to new store clothing that is generally discarded.
To share a bit of background information on this bird species: the Hawai’i ‘Akepa bird is federally and state listed as endangered and endemic to the Island of Hawai’i. The male bird one sees depicted in my drawing reaches full red-orange color plumage around the age of 4 years, and feeds almost exclusively on the nectar of ‘ohi’a tree flowers, also found natively in Hawai’i. Hawai’i ‘akepas were at one time found on the Hawaiian islands of Hawai’i, Maui and Oahu, however, in current times the Maui and Oahu sub-species of ‘akepa are believed to be extinct; this may be due to logging and ranching removing suitable habitat while ‘akepas are also susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases. I hope to bring attention to this lesser-known bird species as more conservation efforts move into place. I’m happy to note that this piece will be travelling to Seattle, Washington later this summer for a wonderfully curated group exhibition entitled Pollination Syndrome envisioned by Ghost Gallery’s founder, Laurie Kearney.