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 Juliet Mootz at work, testing forms and shapes at her home on the Malvern Hills.          Photo credit: Sarah Maggie Jones.

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Swift Drift

Bringing the story of our swifts to the banks of the River Severn

Intro

Staring at spring skies

As a multidisciplinary artist, working to open conversations and raise awareness of stories in our natural environment I am thrilled to be involved in working with the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and the Worcester Plinth to highlight one of my favourite birds, the swifts.  Practicing Reparative Land Art and echoing the Arte Povera Art Movement by utilising natural and salvaged materials wherever possible, simple construction techniques are being used to build and make willow sculptures of swifts.  Willow wands have been salvaged and harvested, using goat willow saved from a firewood fate and Flanders Red Dicky Meadows and Black Maul willows.   Natural twines of jute and hemp have been incorporated to help secure the weaves against the wind, deliberately left visible as symbolism of the swifts need for us to be responsible for the environmental 'repair' required for their survival.

The installation is designed against a natural canvas backdrop, which acts as a buffer to the wind and will capture the shadows of the sculptures at different points of the day and night.    

Flowers, foliage and seed heads are also represented in willow, designed and made with the help of Sarah Maggie Jones, and Fine Art and Psychology Students Sarah Thorp and Abigail Green from the University of Worcester.

Solar lights, will come to life as darkness falls, charge by the sun and flickering between the foliage at night, representing the insect life, the essential food source for our swifts.

After their time on The Plinth, the swifts sculptures will move to sites around Worcester.  Communities will be invited to help pack cut wildflower meadow grass between the woven willows at the end of the summer. The sculptures will gradually be reclaimed into the earth and wildflowers will grow, providing new habitat and food sources for the insects, which can feed the returning swifts.  

Swift connections

Drawn to swifts, exploring through art

Banish the winters solitude

and open summers gates,

Imprint the sky with laughter,

skim the roof top slates.

Extract from The Folly, Juliet Mootz

How you can help Swifts

Along with the security of existing and new nesting sites, built in swift bricks and boxes in durable materials (lasting longer than wood wherever possible), swifts urgently need us to manage our land so that their insect food is plentiful, to ensure there is a source of food to nourish them and their broods of swiftlets.  Habitat protection, native wildflower areas and managing our land without the use of pesticides and chemicals are essential to give this aerial acrobats a chance of survival.   

What you can do!

Help log, follow and record swifts with the RSPB Swift Mapper – Natural Apptitude (natural-apptitude.co.uk)

Respect their nesting sites and alert others to their protected status and the laws for Swifts and other nesting birds, especially during breeding season.

Plant wildflowers, allow them to grow and use organic methods.

Further research ideas:

The RSPB Swift Bird Facts | Apus Apus (rspb.org.uk)

Apodidae - Swifts | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

Swift Conservation Homepage (swift-conservation.org)

What to do if you find a grounded or injured swift:

Swifts require specialist help from experienced rehabilitators, if you think or find a swift is in trouble please ring a swift carer for help :

Swift First Aid & Carers (swift-conservation.org)

Recommended reading:

Writing and papers by Edward Mayer

 

The Screaming Sky, Charles Foster

One Midsummers Day: Mark Cocker

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: Chris Packham

 

 

The Worcester Plinth – Big Art Space at the Heart of Worcester

Swifts and me

Swifts have long featured in my work as an artist, appearing between clouds in landscape skies, sculpted in wire, and sewn onto quilts.   I have been fascinated by their swirling sky dances against blue late spring skies from before I knew their name.

Working with the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and the Worcester Plinth, both organisations I have great respect for, within my University City is a unique opportunity.  Bringing together conservation and creative passions and working together, we can raise awareness of the swifts story and help these incredible birds.

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Images left to right
Sarah Maggie Jones, Sarah Thorp & Abigail Green willow weaving

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