All Posts · Animal tales · Brocantes and reclaimation · Chickens · Thistle Cottage Studio · Writing and Illustrating

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As you probably know by now, I am crazy about poultry. Not only do these guys bring me daily joy and a sense of worth, but they have been the catalyst in finally finding my new vocation in life, illustrating and story writing. They are the source of my inspiration, the bedrock of my day to day life and with that I have added another skill, I can actually run a poultry farm, produce delicious eggs and deal with most medical emergencies.

But it hasn’t stopped there. I have run businesses your years and the daily worry of finding contracts and getting paid is tangible when your a contractor, and that is with a supposedly sensible career path of tax accountant. As an artist its a little more precarious if your not going to push to the heights of true commerciality in the public domain. Crafts people will make a living but it relies on a steady production of goods and no drama involved, hopefully the support of mentors and a few collectors who love your work enough to always place a regular order.

I know exactly how it feels when an invoice isn’t paid or the uptake of sales on your site drops…its hard to keep going. When I moved to France I had another project I had long wished to pursue…supporting charities and artists. I have already help fund pig troughs, fencing, chicken fans and carry cases, and enabled Bonnie and Clyde, two large pigs to be rescued and medically cared for, adopted poultry, including aggressive cockerels and unwanted kittens. The cockerels turned out to be real gentlemen and I learnt a tonne about respect for birds natural instincts to protect themselves and their flocks. My goose Bumble would probably have been rehomed by now, but I get his over enthusiastic territorial moments and I am currently working on his confidence to relax more.

I support three charities accross our globe, Funky Chicken in USA, Contented Pig Inn in OZ and Belle and Fleur in UK run by the lovely chicken mad Haidy. Its grass roots charity I love. You pay your money, they do something meaningful with it straight away. No middlemen, no advertising to dilute contributions, and you can speak directly to the cause. These might be small, but they make a difference. Darcey at Funky Chicken has already shown that with perseverance and new technology, animals can overcome many disabilities and live fulfilling lives. Heading for the plate is not an option. I am all for this and the increase of pet geese, ducks and chickens will only help to reinforce an equal animal and bird relationship.

So how can we support local craft too? I have started looking to create a collection of poultry related art, some from pre-loved sources, brocantes and also commissioning art. In time I want a gallery space and a training room to teach art and fabric design and showcase local artist work.

My recent find. I collect needlepoint. Sadly most are in the free or reduced bins in brocantes. Good for me, but sad given someone put a whole tonne of effort into stitching these. I just can’t leave them behind.
Sarah’s willow friends.

These arrival today from the talented Sarah Hart, a willow artist in France. Obviously I had to get a duck and a chicken. Hopefully next year we can continue to discuss ideas I have as willow is such a lovely natural material and lends itself to adding lights and stitching fabrics using it as a decorative armature.

Go look at her website. She actually grows her own willow in numerous shades and it’s her passion.

And so to my last commission. Pascale Lauwers is a Belgian artist residing in Boussac, a smart provincial town just fifteen minutes from our Farhouse. I was extremely privileged a couple of years ago to be invited to her first exhibition. I bought my first painting and loved it. Then a year later I bought another…herons at our local lake. But I wanted to do something more personal. After a little swapping of images and wrangling over compositions, Pascale agreed to produce a large scale painting of my poultry. It was the largest painting she had ever done and I wanted detail and strong colour. Hoogstraton the Dutch wildlife artist was a starting point for inspiration.

The long hours, skill, traditional use of egg tempera and absolute attention to detail has made this celebration of my poultry tangible. It is beautiful.

Billy is here, sadly no longer with us, Ronnie, Napoleon, Pickle, Bonnie, Bumble, Barley and the goslings, Cashew and Peacan, now proud parents of four siblings. Pascale included my favorite wild weeds and insects.

I am hoping she will paint me a companion one in a couple of years, but this time of my ducks and geese and of course Mr Chicken, my rescued ruler of the roost. Maybe we go for three panels? Painting are investments, they do have collectors out there if the subject works. Poultry is popular and triptych arrangements more so. But for me it’s a reminder of how happy these guys have made me and I wanted to celebrate that moment.

Keep painting, promoting, mentoring and purchasing from your local artists. Upscale pre-loved into new projects, salvage brocante finds that were once the bread and butter of local manufacturers and protect your skills too. It’s the only way to push back from loosing these beautiful objects and skill sets and making a change.