I am very pleased to be selected for the West Midlands Open 2019 with ‘Extinct’.
This artwork consists of 17 Lachromatories, more commonly known as tear bottles. These vessels were used during the Roman Period (from 43 to 410 AD) to collect the tears of mourners. They were then buried along with the embalmed body and discovered by Victorian explorers during tomb excavations.
In this work the tear bottles have been used as a metaphor for the wildflowers lost within the County of Warwickshire. The 17 wildflowers chosen for this piece have been taken from the Red Data List, ” Chettings & Farrell” 2005, and listed as extinct. Further information about their habitat has been taken from the book “Warwickshire’s Wildflowers” which was researched and compiled by Pam Copson, Keeper of Biology at the Warwick Museum. Pam died in 2006 and it was her wish that Steven Falk, Keeper of Natural history and City Ecologist at Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, should finish the research and publish the book, which he did in 2009.
You will see hybrids of some of the extinct wildflowers in Warwickshire, they have populated its ancient woodlands and planned countryside, but the 17 seen in this work are species and can no longer been found. There have been attempts to reintroduce some extinct species back into the area. However, further habitat loss due to property development, dwindling bee and other pollinator populations along with the various effects of climate change means that the plants will have little chance to thrive.
The tear bottles are made of porcelain and have been hand formed by Wendy, then carved into and decorated with representations of the chosen 17 plants. Porcelain flowers have long been made by British Potteries to decorate their wares. Many companies like Wedgewood and Spode would have employed many local women just to make their porcelain and bone china flowers. One hundred years ago there were still around eighty women making 35 to 40 dozen each per day. Today, only a handful remain.
The tear bottles have been fired once to 1150C degrees and are displayed on a white American Oak shelf.
The accompanying book was compiled by Corinna Spencer. It contains findings about the 17 extinct plant species and their particular features which have been used to decorate the tear bottles. Also noted are their date of extinction, their Latin names and some interesting facts about the plants.