Project Description

Sometimes [When our Eyes Meet]

Birds modelled in clay and hand cast in Jesmonite, brushed stainless steel, mirror (75 x 15mm),  stainless steel door handles, 2017.

An installation on two adjacent interior doors, co-opting door handles and inverting their use into ‘perches’ for birds.

With mirrors for heads/faces/eyes, the birds ‘see’ at each other only when the two doors are closed at 90 degrees to each other.

Read further down for more information on the development of this work.

  • pair of cast plaster bird sculptures installed on doors
  • close up view of single bird sculpture on door

Sometimes [I think I’ve always loved you]

Birds modelled in clay and cast in Jesmonite, brushed stainless steel, mirror (75 x 15mm), stained oak, stainless steel door handles, 2017.

w35 x h50 x d10cm

A piece developed after experimenting with various combinations and installations of these birds. Although referencing Magritte in this composition, I was particularly interested in exploring the met/unmet gaze between the two near-identical birds – the moment these ‘sculptural objects’ seeming to see and be aware of being seen.

The birds were originally modelled in clay after the form of the average garden bird – the Garden Warbler or Chiff Chaff – and then taken through a process of mould-making and casting in Jesmonite (see further below for details).

To abstract and focus the work onto the subject of sense/perception, the bird heads heads were given mirrors backed with brushed stainless steel. The birds mounted on stainless steel door handles as substitute perches. The frame and plinth block was assembled from one piece of oak, sliced to provide a matching frame surround.

  • bird sculpture as mirror
  • another view of birds looking in the mirror
  • Side view of mirror heads of birds
  • Close up detail of birds heads with mirror
  • Sculpture of a pair of white birds on an oak base.
  • Two birds kissing in white plaster by artist Karen Karen

Sometimes [Forever]

Cast Jesmonite, waxed oak, brushed stainless steel, mirror, stainless steel door handles, 2017.

w35 x h35 x d25cm.

Another exploration of the physicality of objects seemingly seeing and being seen. This matching cast pair of birds appear to kiss or contact the other through the mirror, which when studied as the piece is walked around, alternates between reflection returned and invisible window passed through.

One bird was given a head/face of mirror backed with brushed stainless steel, another smoothed flush to match when aligned to the surface of the other’s mirror.

The supporting base block was formed from one piece of oak, with a section sliced and inserted to provide a matching upper support for the handle mounts.



 Bird modelling

The bird forms are based on Garden Warblers or Spotted Flycatchers, modelled in oil based clay, studied and drawn from a range of photographs. A process I have been wanting to undertake as a more hands-on direct engagement with work. The intent was to build up a range of bird postures, make moulds, then cast in plaster referencing the sculptural material often used to make copies of classical statuary for study.

The door handles

The use of contemporary stainless steel door handles, inverted as perches or branches, was thought of to add in a dialogue around natural vs man-made objects. The handle also literally references the ‘hand of man’, a basic tool that we have designed to allow the passing through from one space to another, a transitioning device.

The mirror heads

The rectangles of mirrors substituted as both face and eyes on the birds are a key element carried through from my work over several years that allows the birds to interact with the environment and/or ourselves. Here, they are intended to act as a device for enquiry; a call and answer, a watching and waiting to see or be seen.

  • bird model in clay
  • clay bird model in hand of artist
  • Sculptures by the artist 'Karen Karen' in progress in the studio
  • Karen Karen bird sculpture in clay in the studio
  • bird sketches for sculptures
  • Bird sculpture being moulded in pink
  • Silicone rubber mould case finished
  • mould making using box shuttering
  • cast bird sculptures in studio

Mould making

Using 2 part silicone rubber with a catlyst. The first stage is a ‘gel’ coat to capture fine detail. Subsequently thicker amounts are built up to support the mould being flexed around any undercuts. A plaster case in two parts is made to hold the rubber firmly in place. Two moulds for birds have been made up this way, and a further two moulds using a more efficient sblock mould with partial cut split, bringing a total to 4 completed ready for use.

Casting and assembly

Several casts were made of each bird using Jesmonite AC100, strong Alpha plaster, with the internal addition of reinforcement. After de-moulding and finishing the surface details by hand, the mirror heads were added and the birds mounted to handles.