Sometimes it takes a simple addition to lift an item into being a great artefact. If you read my last post I was happier with the hummingbird drinking nectar from a wooden flower on a thin bent willow stick, which was totally impracticable. The other set up was functional and long lasting, but lacked something. At the workshop I had an idea of putting leaves onto the base of the flower. Needing something that was quick and simple I picked up some ash shavings from the shaving horse and fashioned them into petals.
Traditional Russian toy
I have been selling and showing my work in Birdwood House gallery, a fantastic space right next to the market, in Totnes. I have been there for seven days. Shame I blew my van up on the setting up day, I spiked the ECU or in other words fried the computer that controls the engine. This is either going to be expensive or I may have to buy a new van.
Anthea who takes all the bookings for Birdwood, saw my fan birds and bought in this toy which was made for her by Austrian POWs in the second world war. I have seen many versions of this toy over the years but this is the first one I have seen with fan tails.
I have it in my workshop for repair as one of the chickens has lost most of its tail. I am really taken with this toy, especially as it was made by a young country man who was caught up in a war not of his making. It shows great skill, and is probably made with only a penknife. Anthea said that these young POWs were worked hard all day and only had time off in the evening. This is a fantastic example of folk art and I hope to make a copy soon.
Fan Carving and Fan Birds
Fan Carving is thought to have originated in Russia, east of Finland. Within Europe the fan bird dove is also known as Holy Spirit, dove of peace, ceiling bird, Christmas bird, spirit bird, whittled bird, shaving bird, among many others.
The bird was hung from the ceiling in the home so that it can moved with any breezes, It represents or symbolizes the Holy spirit , protection, health, and happiness for the family. Customs in Europe vary, some are more religious but all are about happiness, protection and good health
Fan carving is not just about birds, all sorts of artefacts have been whittled from a single block of wood, including Fans, flowers, birds, and dancers.
All fan carving is made from a single block of wood, the feathers are rived or split from the wood with a small hinge still attaching them to the rest of the wood. The solid part is carved into a bird and then the feathers are twisted and interlocked together to form the wings and tail.
If any of you would like to learn how to make these wonderful birds, get in touch as I will be running workshops in how to make them in 2009
Top fan bird made from mountain ash and the smaller from recyled pine
The legend of the fan bird
This is from Sally and David Nye who wrote the exellent book” more fan carving”
During the Medieval Era, families lived in one-room log houses that were covered with clay inside and out. There was just one window covered with a dried animal stomach during the winter and a small smoky stone fireplace.
One family in northern Russia lived in such a house with a young boy who was very ill. He lay on his bed where he was covered with furs. People came from neighboring villages to try to help him regain his health, but all efforts were in vain.
It was the end of winter, and his father was sitting by the fireplace making baskets.
Tired of lying in a stuffy house, the ill boy asked, “Dad, is summer coming soon” His father replied, “soon son, very soon. Just a little more and summer will be here”. Then his father got an idea. He thought, “I will make a bird-from this piece of wood. I will make it to look like a real bird with it? Wings and a tail. Maybe my son will think summer has come and thy birds have returned. That would make him very happy”. The father said, “I will make summer for you”
He made a bird and hung it from the ceiling near the fireplace where his son could see it. The draft of the hot air streams from the fire caused the bird to spin. Its wings began to move and suddenly it became alive. Thus, the bird assumed magical powers and became known as the Holy Ghost, safe keeper of children and symbol of family happiness The son was filled with joy and his health improved. The people from the neighboring villages returned to ask how the boy was healed. When they heard the story about the bird, they asked the father to make a bird for their home to safeguard and protect their family.
Small bird from mountain ash
These fan birds are now for sale, the standard size is about a 16cm wingspan, 12cm from beak to tail tip and 8cm high.