I am most certainly not the first glass artist to immortalise the beauty of butterflies and magnificence of moths in glass; these are creatures that have captivated the imagination and fascination of artists from all disciplines for centuries. Deeply motivated by the risk of extinction many species face as a direct result of human activity, my Lepidoptera sculptures are intended as a celebration of their beauty and a physical embodiment of threatened fragility, culminating in an artistic, yet accurate likeness of living creatures. I make only one of each species or sub-species; accentuating the vulnerability of their existence in the medium of glass.
I set myself a tidy task in the pursuit of creating larger than life scale sculptures; on average around 2 – 3 times larger than the living counterpart depending on the species. The logistical issues of weight, balance and faithful detailing demand a variety of creation techniques. The wings need to replicate wafer thin fragility and in many cases the photonic properties of butterfly wings. All Lepidoptera have different body and thorax sizes, shapes and textures; moth bodies are particularly ‘hairy’, so I model several body shapes in clay and make silicone moulds for waxes. Placing the pate de verre (crushed glass) inside the tiny plaster moulds to recreate the specific colouring of the bodies is, to say the least, a fiddly job, particularly with the moths as their bodies are very often as colourfully complex as their wings. I learned very quickly that the expected failure rate associated with glass casting was going to be much higher than normal – especially as I am being so picky about accuracy – so I make three bodies up for each specimen to get one I am happy with. There is much refining of sculptural detail needed after the sprues (glass feeds) are ground off, given that they have to be the integral length of the bodies so I can place the glass.
The all important finishing point is the legs, antennae and proboscis. Given the weight and wingspan of my scaled up creatures, I needed a suitably aesthetic material strong enough to cope, so I chose to use sterling silver sheet and wire to create the supporting thorax plate and extremities. The cast bodies need corresponding locating holes for the legs and antennae, so it is always with bated breath that I drill the fragile glass in eight places to accommodate.
The bright silver finish of the legs and antennae gave the overall appearance of ‘Robo-butterfly’, so I use liver sulphur patina to create a more natural colouring, then the completed metalwork goes off to be assayed – weighing in at over an ounce for the butterflies and nearly two ounces for the heavier legged moths.
Finally, the application of a specially formulated glass to metal adhesive with shock absorbing properties fits the components together.
All in all, from initial drawing to completion, a series of six butterflies takes up to twelve weeks to complete.
View the collections HERE.
To purchase one of the available species or commission a butterfly or moth as yet not made, email or telephone with your enquiry.