Thursday, 11 December 2014

The making of Dildrum King of the Cats


Maquette for actual piece.
head no.1
This post is to give a little bit of background into the making of Dildrum, the King of the Cats. 
I have never made a cat before and to be honest I am not sure I want to make one again. It was a hard one with at least 3 or 4 different heads. Working on the body first so it was firm enough to hold its shape before adding the head/s. The body is a flat slab of clay 12-15mm thick rolled around a small roll of bubble wrap to help it keeps its form, left to dry for 2-3 days to harden off before attempting to stand it upright.  The slabs are pushed and pinched from underneath creating textures of stretched clay on the surface, with the head moulding around my clenched fist to start the process.  The 3 or 4th head looked more regal (see below)

head no.4 with Patricia Ramsden working on her boggart heads in the background
Attaching a regal ruff to the neck added to the snooty stance of a very splendid majestical pose but then what is important to a cat? How can I make a crown that reflects the important things in a cats life? a cushion to sit on, food in their bowl? having never owned a cat or do they own you? I really didn't know so I asked the other artists in the studios.....fishy treats maybe


The fish have been made and decorated separately so choices could be made when creating the crown once fired and also stains and underglazes have been used to recreate Dildrums blue eyes and plum coloured ears. I have used gold as that is quite a recognisable symbol for wealth and royalty and also adding a velvet cushion for Dildrum to sit on  in a rich sumptuous red to reflect his regal status. 



So here he is Dildrum the King of the Cats and here is his story below. You can go and visit him at Bury Art Gallery, Moss St, Bury, Lancashire BL9 0DR
opening times 
10am - 5pm Tues-Fri Sat 10am-4.30pm  
til March 7th

Go say hello to Dildrum in the exhibition he likes to be talked to and you can also follow him in Twitter at KingDildrum



Dildrum, King of the Cats
From Lancashire Folktales

Frederick Grice 1953

One evening an old gentleman who lived in the middle of Lancashire sat reading in his parlour. Outside the wind was beginning to growl like a dog that smells strangers and every now and again the rain was dashed against the windows like a handful of gravel; but the curtains were drawn, the wet inclement night was shut out, and inside all was cosy. Spectacles on his nose, the old man sat back in his winged chair, and rested his slippered feet on a little footstool. He was reading, and the room round him was quiet. A big grandfather clock ticked away in the parlour, swinging its pendulum backwards and forwards with great solemnity; the stiff paper of the book rustled as the man turned over the pages; and from time to time the ashes in the grate fell with a soft crash and sent a few sparks up the chimney. the room was warm and still, and the flames of the candles burnt brightly and steadily.
Suddenly upon the wide hearth there began to fall a little rain of soot drops, and as they pattered down, the old gentleman put down his book and adjusted his spectacles.
'Ah,' he said to himself, 'that's the worst of these old-fashioned chimneys. They let the smoke out but they let the rain in too. It must be beginning to splash down outside.'
Thereupon he put up his spectacles again, and turned back to his book, but before he had read two sentences there was a fresh fall and the fire began to hiss.
'Umph!' he said. 'We must have a starling in the chimney after all. Drat those birds! the house is never quiet when they're about.'
Back at his book he turned again, but this time before he could even find his place there was a fresh fall of soot. The fire dimmed strangely and went down, the candle flames began to flicker and to shake-and then from out of the mouth of the chimney there sprang a great grey cat. He was wild outlandish cat, with fur matted with the rain, a long lean body, one green eye and one brown one, and a quick eager look on his face. Resting his paws on the footstool, he looked up searching into the old man's face, opened his mouth and the, in a perfectly clear and intelligible voice said, 'Tell Dildrum that Doldrum's dead!' - and then leaping back into the chimney, he kicked down more soot, and vanished.
The old man could scarce believe his eyes. Surely the cat had been real. there could be little doubt of that for there on the hearth were the patched of fallen soot, and there on the footstool were the marks of two sooty paws! But had the cat really spoken? had he really uttered those strange words about Dildrum and Doldrum? The old man blinked with confusion and wondered if he could trust his senses.
Just then the door opened. In came the old man's wife and after her, Julius their own cat. Julius was no ragamuffin of a cat. He was handsome from top to toe. His fur was a lovely quaker
'Here's your tea, Matthew,' said the old woman.
'I've brought you a dish of your favourite china tea, and two little.....Why Matthew, I declare that you aren't listening to a word that I'm saying.'
'I beg your pardon, my dear. I wasn't listening, I must confess.'
'What has happened to you? You look as if you'd had a shock.'
'Not a shock, my dear-but something has happened tonight that has made me wonder if I can trust my senses anymore.'
'Then first take your tea,' said his wife, 'and tell me all about it as quietly as you can.'
'Well, my dear,' began the old gentleman,'I don't know that I can expect you to believe me, but this-I take my oath on it-this is what happened tonight i this very room. I was sitting here in this seat, with my legs crossed on this footstool, reading my favourite old book, "Robinson Crusoe". I remember I had just got to the point where....'
'Yes, Dear, you can omit that detail. Go on.'
'Well just as i was reading, down that chimney, believe it or not, came a cat, a great grey creature, with one green eye and one brown eye, and a body as lean as a rake....'
The old man paused in his narrative for as he came to the description of the grey cat, Julius pricked up his ears, got up, and turned so that he sat facing the old man. Then he fixed upon his master's face so intent and human a look that the old gentleman could not go on with his tale.
'Just look at old Julius! What's the matter, old pussy? Do you want to hear, eh? Well, I'll tell you.'
So half forgetting his wife, the old man began to talk to the cat.
'Yes, down the chimney came this great grey messenger. He leapt out on the hearth, put his two feet upon my footstool, opened his mouth and said.....'
'Said, Matthew?' interrupted the old woman. 'Do you mean to say that this cat spoke?'
'Yes, he spoke as clearly as you or I. "Tell Dildrum," he said...'
At this Julius opened his wide blue eyes and he looked more intently than ever.
'"Tell Dildrum," he said, ' went on the old man, '"that Doldrum is dead." well I never heard anything so funny in all my life! Dildrum and Doldrum! Tweedledum and Tweedledee! "Tell Dildrum," he said-why, what's the matter, Julius?'
Julius had leapt with all four feet now on to the footstool. In his eyes there was a queer look, half of sorrow, half of excitement and triumph. then suddenly, he too opened his mouth, and in a rich and princely voice, he said 'Alas! is Doldrum dead? why that makes me the King of the Cats!'
thereupon the flames of the candles began to flicker again. The fire sank and dimmed. Julius-or Dildrum-leapt on to the hearth, and with one prodigious spring vanished up the chimney.
when they had recovered from their shock, the two old people ran out and looked up; but there was nothing to be seen. The great sagging clouds were passing over the sky. The fringes of the trees were scratching at the roof of the house; but no Julius was to be seen. He had gone to his kingdom and was already sitting in state with a golden crown on his princely head.




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