Capturing the essence of nature and encasing it in metal and fabric, artist Abigail Brown plays God as she dreams up fantabulous creatures and breathes a breath just short of life into them.
Abigail Brown is an artist and illustrator based in London, England. Following a BA in Surface Decoration and Printed Textiles, she has since developed her own techniques and individual style for textile and paper sculptures. Abigail’s enchanted world is a result of her innate love for nature. Inspired by it she blends whimsy and a blessing of a crafting talent to create birds and animals that look as if they will come alive any moment now.
In the 9 years that Abigail has been sculpting and crafting, she has managed to freeze time to depict a moment in the life of a bird through her sculptures. Besides her fascination with the anatomy of existing bird species, Abigail has even dreamt up and created birds of her own fancy; with these she provides a probable glimpse into the evolution of birds. What fascinates Abigail the most is the vast array of colours that birds have to offer; bright colours that don’t necessarily exist as abundantly in others from the animal kingdom.
“From a very young age, I was drawn to fabrics,” says Abigail. Her fascination began as a child as she watched her seamstress grandmother work with thread and fabric. Now, fabrics of every colour, shade, texture and weight form a rainbow on the wall of her studio. She hunts out new pieces wherever she travels and even picks them up from secondhand shops.
Many are just passed on to her by family and friends who also work with them and have a surplus of it. She finds equal beauty in the bold, strong colours of newly dyed fabrics and in the fading colours and texture of old cloth; signs of a past life long forgotten fills her with intrigue.
“As far as durability is concerned, the sculptures are all fabric with a wire skeleton within them to keep them standing,” she says. These are very solid forms and the sturdy wire legs make them stable and hardy. Having said this, as the fabric edges are left free, they can fray if handled excessively.
Abigail states that the decision to stick to small birds for the time being has been intentional. The peacock and pheasant are the largest birds she has ever sculpted. This is largely due to the time and cost involved in creating the feathers the way that she does. All of her sculptures are filled up with a polyester filling commonly used to stuff toys. The time taken to create each bird depends on the size, the colours and the different patterns of the feathers. Since everything is made from scratch, for Abigail the devil is in the detail.
She generally works with natural fabrics like cotton, silk and wool, as she prefers their texture in comparison to that of synthetic fabrics – which actually fray more easily. Though Abigail takes pleasure in selling the birds and then creating more of the same, she feels that, “It’s always a delight to create a new bird, one that I have never worked with or even heard of before.”
So far Abigail’s art has been showcased in multiple locations across the globe and featured in magazines such as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle Decoration and the beautiful textile magazine Selvedge. She is also proud to name Liberty and Paul Smith among the stockists of her work.
For Abigail Brown, her art is her reason to be. She encapsulates moments in time, through her unique collection; like a cache of what was, in a world threatened by apocalypse. Pablo Picasso once said, “Sculpture is the art of the intelligence.” Each sculpture that Abigail makes is an absolute; why it is and to what purpose is unknown; yet it is there, perfect and unique. They speak to her in her dreams like a child to his parent and tell her how they need to be sculpted.
Abigail’s craft is laced with perseverance, tolerance and patience, as all these are fundamental to the process towards perfection. Abigail works more with her heart than her mind; she shares, “I am excited by the opportunity to create life from flat pieces of cloth, working with their weave to mould shapes, fraying their edges to form feathered breasts, creating stiffened tail feathers from something that was limp; that final placing of the eye and seeing a new life being born!”
In a world where extinctions of bird and animal species are but a day to day affair, thank God for people like Abigail Brown.
Text By Priti Kalra
Photographs Courtesy Abigail Brown