Drawings of found objects- an autumn seed ball hanging by its sinuous thread, and an old wooden reel of black thread which I found has a thousand ends having been chewed by a dog. Different types of thread drawn together.
This weekend I visited the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Having grown up in Cardiff I have been there countless times; tearing around the permanent natural history collections, wondering the maze of fibreglass rocks and dinosaurs, trekking through primordial forests and searching for the illusive leatherback turtle, in a room I could never find.
Blaschka glass model, national Museum of Wales
In recent years I have looked with more awe than ever at the incredible beauty and complexity of the natural exhibits, but I had never given much thought to the models and replicas which set the scene.There can be no comparison between nature and the hard, hollow imitations of life which jog the imagination. In my own work, I have struggled with the notion that nothing can be more perfect than nature, and that to imitate it is invariably to fail. However the replicas in the museum serve a different purpose.They exist to tell us objectively about the world around us.
In the 1860s, highly skilled glass-worker Leopold Blaschka was commissioned to replicate soft bodied marine animals because it was difficult to preserve their colour, form and texture. Upon finding Blaschka's glass models I fond that I could not look upon them as planktonic organism, only as incredibly beautiful hand crafted objects- perfect scupltures. There is a different sense of wonder as I find myself saying, "how did they do it?", "Look at those tiny joins and little metal stitches". In their design they seem too modern for the time they were made, until I remember the blueprint came from the ocean. Among the collections of pinned butterflies and beetles this is another kind of treasure.