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Birds and Animals Rule! "Our metalwork artist Jill Stewart wanted to tell..."

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Our metalwork artist wanted to tell you a bit more about her animal and bird clock designs and some of the stories behind them.

When designing a new clock I start by thinking about the animal or bird, and how I can show their shape, and then I gather some photos or other references, do some drawings, and then imagine what shapes and colours I see working together. I really like the look and the feel of having text and images together. I see the design in my mind’s eye, knowing what shapes I want to use to look harmonious. Then I have the challenge of making these ideas in metal, with all the limitations and technical issues that involves.

My two fish clocks were some of my earliest designs.

I am the first to point out that illogically the fish are flying through the sky, out of the water above the waves. I loved the idea of having creatures on wires at the top of the design, so you can really see their shapes. And I wanted to have the curly wave shapes, it’s just how I saw it. I searched for a suitable quote, then just wrote “Waves rustle and fish fly” cos that’s what’s happening!

The turquoise blue colour I create on the metal makes me think of the sea and sky, summer and freedom. I found I wanted to use that colour more and more.

The Bees clock uses the same idea of creatures flying over the clock on wires. I don’t know why the main red copper part is shaped like a cloud, it just looked right, as the rounded shapes echo the shapes of the bees. These are bumble bees hovering about.

My Fox clock is one of my favourites, as he is rather jaunty and adventurous looking, and the design looks really balanced. The text is a song many of us know. All my rural childhood I saw the hunt often, but never saw one fox. I think I had to go to Peckham as an adult to see them properly! But they are out there, our secret neighbours, in the gardens and fields we think of as our territory. At night our garden belongs to other creatures.

Then there’s my Cat clocks. A few years ago my lovely little cat Kitten died. She was nearly 23! She had been with me through so much of my life, and in her last year I designed two clocks for her. This one has the text “Time to stand and stare,” and was inspired by seeing her in the garden, never going far away, and whenever I looked up she seemed to be staring at me. Perhaps she was just thinking about dinner but I felt very bonded with her. When making it I cut out the cat shape in copper and heat it in a way that changes the colour and adds stripes, then paint on the stern little cat face.

Most of my other designs involve birds! They have such great shapes, you can play around with them and still keep them recognisably avian.

It’s important to me that all of these animals have not only some humour but also a sense of freedom when I represent them. They are all just doing their own thing. I have refused requests for birds in cages or any reference to circus animals on clocks. My Fox is nosing through the night entirely on his own terms, and the Hummingbird embodies freedom in its speed and lightness of being. Even the new sheep looks a pretty independent type.

I have always donated to the RSPCA and nature charities so I guess nature and animals are pretty important to me, and as I have used the word freedom several times in writing this so you can see I am conjuring a colourful world where birds and animals rule!



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