There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

home to birds

BIRDS ARE FREE  to fly about. They make their homes in trees. They navigate thin air. They eat, well, like a bird. They sing songs whenever they like. Direct ascendants from the dinosaur, they hold the wisdom of the ages. They are gifts of hope and happiness.

MY FASCINATION with birds continues to grow. Aside from the real ones, I see birds in art everywhere I look—Twitter's logo (follow me here), the symbol of the country where I live and even the name of one of my favorite local places to eat, Ria's Bluebird.

FITTINGLY, I met my friend David Schump at Ria's for a delicious brunch this weekend and he graciously brought along a piece from his folk art collection for me to photograph. I had long admired his bird tree—a natural limb decorated with a flock of nine unique birds. Hand-carved and painted (circa 2004) by American folk artist John Carlton (in Delaware), this celebration of birds is quite a beautiful work of art.

ARTISTS CELEBRATE birds in their artwork in every discipline it seems. Two other artist's works I'm picturing here are an illustrated book by Australian artist Jeffrey Fisher and hand-turned birdhouse ornaments by local Georgia woodworker Betty Fugate.

ACKNOWLEDGED as having influenced a generation of designers and illustrators world wide, with birds being his preferred muses, Jeffrey Fisher's book offers up 46 different bird species in illustrated portraits. Each bird is painted in his unique style—unexpected, colorful and beautiful—and paired with quirky musings by his wife, Christine Fisher on each species' history and lore. Jeffrey states in the preface of Birds: "This book is nothing but an enthusiasm for birds. There being a bevy of collective terms for our winged friends—a murmuration of starlings, a ubiquity of sparrows, an unkindness of ravens, an exultation of larks, a pandemonium of parrots—here be an enthusiasm for birds."

WOODWORKER, Betty Fugate of Whirlingwood Studio in Georgia made the birdhouse ornaments pictured alongside the book. A crafter with a myriad of materials from embroidery to pyrography since childhood, Betty hand-turned these ornaments out of exotic woods. They will be beautiful and fun additions to a decorated tree. I've long thought of designing a tree with nothing but birds, and since trees are homes to many types of birds, it only makes sense. What better way to celebrate nature than to celebrate a home in nature?

FOLK ART FLOCK | (Above, top) This tree of birds was crafted by American folk artist John Carlton in 2004. The bird vase is from Target several seasons ago. The cast iron basket (filled with moss) was purchased in the Garden Gift Shop at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

FOR THE BIRDS | (Above, bottom) The illustrated book simply titled Birds is by Australian artist/illustrator Jeffrey Fisher (Chronicle Books) contains some of the most unique celebrations of birds in art I've seen. The hand-turned wooden birdhouse ornaments were made by woodworker Betty Fugate who resides locally in Georgia.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland, 
folk art bird tree by John Carlton, 
birdhouse ornaments by Betty Fugate

BEYOND WORDS | A heartbreaking scenario played out all-too-often because of Big Oil's unbridled greed, corruption and self-regulation: An oil-soaked bird against the side of the HOS, an Iron Horse supply vessel, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 9.

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