The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly and an art/fashion collaboration•
Posted on September 29 2022
Late 2021 my friend and talented artist Les Kendall was the artist in residence for the Tiny Giants project at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny. She was asked to apply her creative lens to the field of entomology and arachnology while the researchers from the QLD Museum & UQ spent the week surveying the rainforest. The result of this was an exhibition in April 2022 called ‘Tiny Giants’ in which she created incredible paper sculptures of many of the invertebrates studied that week. I loved seeing science and art combined because it’s such a different way of looking at things and familiar to me as my husband Jay has a PhD in chemical Engineering and I know that he views things from a totally different angle than my artists brain. I love seeing both brains working together.
People who visited the exhibition couldn’t believe they were all made of paper and not actual specimens. There were many specimens in the collection but a couple in particular stood out to me.
Below is the female Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, top and underside, made in paper.
Les and I had been discussing for a year or so about a collaborative collection again after our Grevillea collaboration back in 2017, shown in the image below. We digitally printed on cotton fabric Les's watercolour painting of grevillea flowers and foliage. Note, these garments are no longer available, they sold out quickly as they were limited edition.
As I watched these sculptures emerge I was drawn to the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly ones, beautiful creatures and a butterfly I hoped to one day have in our garden because we had been growing the vines for many years hoping to attract some. So the basis for a future collection was born… why not create a collection around this beautiful butterfly and bring some awareness to its plight as it’s a threatened species classified as vulnerable.
Below are the paper sculptures of the male Richmond Birdwing butterfly which is 13cm diameter in life and the female which is a whopping 16cm in diameter.
I did some reading about the butterfly which used to be common in the streets of Brisbane around 1870. However today the rainforest habitat has been extensively cleared and less than one percent of the original forest still exists. Another issue for this butterfly is the introduction of Aristolochia elegans - the Dutchman’s Pipe vine which looks similar to the Richmond Birdwing Vine. This vine is common in gardens and as a weed in the bush which creates a problem for egg-laying adult females looking for a host plant to lay their eggs on. If any larvae are laid on the Dutchman’s Pipe vine they will be poisoned when they hatch and eat the leaves.
The good news is that there are hard working individuals and groups breeding these butterflies and reintroducing them to suitable sites as well as removing the Dutchman’s Pipe Vine. If you live in the right area you too can plant the Richmond Birdwing Vine and remove any Dutchman's Pipe vine, together we can help this butterfly survive.
Now back to the story…
For this collaboration Les (pictured above) and I decided to use the 3D sculptures and not paintings to print onto fabric. Les also came around to collect some pieces of our vine to take back to her studio to reproduce in paper. Looking at these sculptures it’s hard to believe that they’re not real and that they are made of paper then painted. She gets such beautiful textures and they are simply divine.
These delicate paper sculptures were then photographed so we could play around with the placement and create a fabric print that would work when worn on a body. Not all 'art' works as a print on garments, so we played around to get it exactly how we wanted. Also to ensure that each garment had a selection of butterflies, so we were unable to make the butterflies life size 13-16cm.
Below is Lyndal Carmichael photographing the sculptures.
The vine looks perfect on fabric as it falls down the body looking great in garments. We have done a very limited edition of this print only digitally printing one roll in each of the two colourways, dark green background and a lighter green background. The base fabric is a cotton sateen, light but not sheer. We also printed on some natural coloured silk satin which we will use to make a few scarves.
This collection will be very limited quantities so we have decided to try something totally different to launch it, combining the art and fashion in a 2 day event. On Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th October you will be able to visit Les and I to see the collaboration and purchase garments and sculptures. As Les and I both live locally at The Gap in Brisbane we have decided to keep it local and our Pop Up will be at The Gap too.
More details to come, but these dates are the ones to save, Saturday 29th October 12-7pm & Sunday 30th October 9-2pm.
We understand that many of our customers live a distance away and will not be able to attend this event, so we will be putting the remaining garments online after and will be taking people's 'wish list' requests. We have reserved some of the fabric to make a few extra garments but want to ensure we only make the sizes etc that are needed. They will be cut and sewn during November.
The photo shoot is next week, so the next Journal entry will be the behind the scenes look,
Above is the underside of the male Richmond Birdwing butterfly, paper sculpture.