Various Amusements brings together animals from the Gertrude Jekyll Menagerie and was inspired by Gertrude Jekyll’s book, Children and Gardens, first published in 1908. In the book, Jekyll writes:
Perhaps you will say that the lawn is not the sort of place where you expect to meet with adventures. Well, perhaps it is not, and yet such odd and unexpected things happen on it, things that are so deliciously thrilling
Jeykill (1843- 1932) was a British gardener, artist and author of articles and books on garden design. In 1891, her failing vision forced her to give up painting and embroidery along with other detailed art forms and gardening became her primary focus. She was innovative in her painterly and naturalistic approach to horticulture, cultivating the garden as an art. The Jekyll menagerie would have been found in her garden at Munstead Wood in England. Its creatures’ playful yet sorrowful countenances suggest long, eventful lives and reflect the essence of their owner.
I begin by sewing the animals in fabric and filling the forms with cotton. They are then cast in paper and the fabric and stuffing are removed. The paper animals are painted and sealed, and sometimes fur and/or other materials are added to the surface. The cast paper form is often the finished piece, but there are times when I desire to take the piece one step further by casting it in bronze. Each stage in the process introduces a new material, and adds a richness of surface and character to the small creatures. As the material changes, the previous form is lost forever. The stuffed fabric is pulled out from the cast paper, and the cast paper is burned out of the bronze. The animals become highly individualized through this transformative process.