Ladybird in Focus: Creating a Making display!

An image of an owl and a cat, made using crafts in the Ladybird making series
  • 12 cotton reels
  • 4 corks
  • a jar of clear Vaseline
  • a blue feather
  • an empty washing up liquid tube or paint tube
  • an assortment of coloured felt.

These were just some of the items that made up a list emailed around to colleagues at the beginning of January 2018. The ‘Ladybird in Focus’ case in the Ladybird Gallery would be changing in two months, but sourcing materials for the display inspired by the ‘How to make’ series had become increasingly difficult. We had resorted to begging.

The development of an exhibition on the theme of Making and Craft had been in progress since the previous August. Unusually, this time the exhibition was being created by a volunteer, under careful supervision by staff. As with any project there had already been a few hiccups; we had to revise the first carefully planned proposal when we discovered that several key artworks were not held in the Ladybird Archive.

The cover of the Ladybird book for Knitting
A lack of knitting artworks ended the first plan

However, the exhibition now seemed to be back on track. We next had to  follow instructions in various Ladybird books included in the new display to make some homemade crafts. Ladybird were always very careful when engaging with their readers, and they had deliberately chosen objects which would use materials typically found around the home.

A thorough search resulted in some of the materials required, along with the slow sinking feeling that some of the items were going to be more difficult to find. Obviously, times have changed from when the books were first published. Things that would once have been a common sight around the house are now much less common.

Having sent out our email, we were able to cross out several more items on the original list. However, it looked like there were going to be some things we would just have to buy. Wooden cotton reels, once a staple in every home, were only found after a difficult internet search. Promptly ordered, it became obvious that there was a problem when they arrived:

An image of a penny as scale
Just a bit too small…

Thankfully a further search found a set of larger coloured plastic cotton reels, which were then sanded and primed ready for painting.

An image of cotton reels.
Ready to be transformed into a cotton-reel snake

Unsurprisingly, blue feathers had also been added to the shopping list. An internet search had located several feathers, but these were much larger than needed. A debate ensued. Should we buy one of these feathers and attempt to trim it down or accept one of the various offers we had received from colleagues? These included stealing the cat’s toy feathers and an offer to look for duck feathers by Whiteknights Lake which they could attempt to dyed with hair or food dye.

An image of a lake surrounded by trees
The ducks are hiding at Whiteknights Lake ©Iona Goodlet

Thankfully for both the cat and ducks neither of these suggestions had to be used. Another colleague with children had raided their craft supplies and appeared in the office with three pre-dyed blue feathers! We were finally we ready to start creating.

Materials in paper bags
Finally ready

This would require additional help. Extra volunteers were co-opted from other projects and we spent a day at the beginning of February carefully following instructions from the Ladybird books…with a few minor deviations.

A table in a room with three windows. The table is covered in craft materials
Work in progress

While a couple of additional sessions were needed, the majority of our crafting was complete. These then had a short wait in a box until the rest of the exhibition was ready to be installed at the end of February.

An owl and mouse made from craft materials
The end result

Come check out the rest of the items that were created at the Ladybird Gallery until 26th August 2018!

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