Bringing Norman Back to Life
I’m going to go back in time a little bit to explain the story and process behind “Norman”, my crow sculpture.
Some of you may may remember seeing the sculpture and reading about Norman on my Facebook page, but this is for those of you who missed out on those posts. It was one of my very first sculptures, a pretty cool experience for me and one that I won’t soon forget!
Back in 2016 I became a little obsessed (as I tend to do) with crows. I had been seeing them more often than usual and they just seemed to be EVERYWHERE. It just so happened that these birds had began to take on significance in my life during a time when I was working hard to shed old beliefs and patterns, and adapt new, more beneficial ones in my life.
Some people find crows to be a bit creepy….maybe a harbinger of evil or even death, but to me the crow represents a force of transformation. When attempting to interpret the significance of specific wildlife sightings during certain times of my life, I look to Nature and the habits and tendencies of the creatures that are crossing my path to understand what message they might have for me. In the case of the crow, being scavengers and “bone pickers”, I like to say that they come into our lives to “take away the dead things”….read: things/behaviours/situations/people that no longer serve us in our lives.
I realize this might sound a bit “woo-woo” if you are not into this sort of thing. But meaning exists wherever we choose to see it and as far as I’m concerned, whether or not I was really seeing more crows at this time of my life or was just noticing them more, doesn’t matter a bit. I got what I needed out of the situation and that was no accident. I do sometimes wonder, though, if they were studying me as I was studying them.
One morning, early in Oct. of 2015, I ditched my car waaaaay down a back country road on my way to a hiking trail. It was about 7:00 am. I didn’t have a phone or any way to contact someone to come help me, so I started to walk in the direction of the next town. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before a car came along for me to flag down. The guy driving the car was kind enough to let me use his phone and offered me a ride back to my car….to which I declined, saying that I would prefer to walk (going for a walk was my original intention anyway). As I was walking back I came around a corner and noticed something up ahead on the road that wasn’t there earlier. As I got closer I realized it was an injured crow. Maybe it was hit by a car? Flew into a car? I’ll never know, but I took off my raincoat, wrapped up the bird and waited by my car for help to arrive.
As I stood there on the road, crows in nearby trees were calling back and forth to each other. The forest was alive with what sounded like a large group of crows…..it was wild! Literally!
I was devising a plan for my new friend, intending to take him to a wildlife centre for treatment and rehab. just as soon I could get my car back on the road. I had hoped that eventually I would be able to return the bird to the place where I found him, so he could once again join his crow family and friends.
A few hours later on our way to the wildlife sanctuary, very sadly, the crow died in my arms.
Strangely enough, a few days before the incident I had been talking to a friend about crows as spirit animals. I mentioned that I had been seeing a lot of them and had decided that they were coming to “take the dead things away”. I mentioned that I would love to wear a symbol to honour the message (that’s what jewelry is all about for me, and why I started ReLOVED) and that it would be amazing to have a crow skull. But, “Where does one find a crow skull?!” I wondered.
A couple of nights after the bird died I had a really strange and lucid dream. I won’t be specific about the details (they are incredibly strange and very personal to me) but I will say that I met past incarnations of the crow and some of the life situations that preceded his (just) past life. An incredible dream, really, that will most definitely haunt me forever. This soul, it seems, came to me for good reason….and his name is “Norman”.
I am grateful to have this pendant I made, but I felt that I wanted to honour Norman and the whole experience by creating a sculpture. So after pondering and incubating the idea for several months I began on Jan 4’th, 2016.
I studied crows for a few months…watched them outside during my hikes, collected photos and sketched them trying to figure out what form I wanted the sculpture to take. I decided to have Norman either taking off or coming in for a landing.
This photo above is of the finished front wing (pie lifter, knife blades, spoon handles). I felt optimistic about how this turned out! Knives make great feathers! I had no idea what I would be attaching this to…..but I would figure it out as I went.
I had serious doubt after I finished the second wing. It just didn’t feel right at all. Perspective is a difficult thing and my intention was for this wing to be moving away from us. Plus, most of the longer, flight feathers would be folded behind the structure of the wing itself, so it would be difficult to convey that in 2D. I ended up finishing this day on a bit of a low note. Hard as I tried (maybe I tried too hard) I just couldn’t ditch the negative self talk.
On another note, have I mentioned that I love rivets? This sculpture is mostly soldered, but there are certain parts and places that needed a little extra reinforcement…so rivets were (and are) definitely my friends! Most of them are hidden in the finished piece, but you can see them if you look hard enough.
Holding the wings together in this way restored my vision and gave me some hope that it might just turn out all right. I could see it now. But how would the body come together? That was the next problem to solve.
Two spoons….one very large serving spoon for the body and a smaller soup spoon for the head. That’s how!
I was starting to contemplate colour and whether or not I might oxidize the metals. Crows are black, so I thought it might be a good idea. Silver naturally develops a patina over time, but because I also used stainless steel, there was more to consider. Could I treat the steel without it negatively effecting the silver? Could I get the tones to match? I opted to polish him up and let him shine. Time will tell how the colours will change, but at least I know he will always be handsome after a good polishing.
I always have to stay several steps ahead of myself logistically. I wanted to attach the body and head spoons together as soon as I decided to use them, but looking ahead I realized it might be difficult to do some of the detailing on the head once the pieces were attached. I love to jump ahead to aesthetics, because sometimes that feels more satisfying to me than doing the important (but unseen) structure underneath……not usually such a good idea. It was key that I had the foresight of how things would come together structurally before I got caught up in details, but in this case I got to indulge myself a little. It was a nice little boost to my spirit.
I was really happy how Norman’s head turned out.
Head and body and wing unite! This was satisfying! I decided it would be best to wait to attach the front wing until after I added feathers. I didn’t want the wing to be sitting on top of them, but rather buried in and natural looking. What would I use for feathers? Forks, that’s what!
I’m pretty sure I got so involved in adding feathers that I forgot to take any photos of that process. But it’s easy to see what I did layering forks to get the effect. I had some more moments of doubt as I was adding forks because as I layered them, the body kept getting bigger and bigger. I was building outwards so the whole thing was getting thick, and I was also having difficulty transitioning to the head from the body in a natural looking way. Really, this part of the process was a lot of trial and error, but also the most satisfying because it was starting to actually look like a crow, rather than some random bird. Adding pieces…taking pieces off and trying something else….two steps forward, three steps back…..three steps forward, two steps back….you get the picture. I was feeling so close to done at the time this photo was taken, but that back wing still didn’t look right. I KNEW it! Right from the start I felt it was “off”. I decided I would have to build on to it as there was no way to disassemble it or take pieces off at this point. I lengthened and added more feathers and changed some angles until I could get it feeling right.
Fabulous, future feet!
Back wing fixed, legs and feet on…..Norman’s FLYING!
I found these antique pince-nez glasses in a piano cabinet in the old house that we restored and now live in. Wasn’t sure what I’d do with them then, but now it is clear. A symbol of perspective and clarity for Norman to deliver. Because he has and still does.
From start to finish it took me two weeks to build Norman, but as with most art, a lot more is involved in a project than building alone.
I briefly put the sculpture up for sale before deciding this was one I needed to keep. An old friend of mine asked me one day while I was struggling over the price of the piece, “Well, what would you need to sell him for in order for you to feel good about letting him go?”
I couldn’t put a number on him.
Some creations are meant to be kept.
Thanks for the journey, Norman.