Two Ipswich artists, Anne-Marie Byrne and Lois Cordelia, have each transformed and delivered a trio of Ducks for the sixth annual Grand Norwich Duck Race (Sunday 27th August 2017).
Both Anne-Marie and Lois previously painted a pig for the Ipswich Pigs Gone Wild 2016 trail, through which they met and became friends. Between them, they have since gone on to secure a number of further Wild in Art commissions, including a BookBench, a Lion, and three SunBears. The Norwich Duck Race is not part of Wild in Art, but works in a similar way: each duck is painted or otherwise decorated and transformed by an artist (#ducktransformation), sponsored by a company to take part in the race, and then sold after the race, all to raise vital funds and awareness for Break children's charity while benefiting local community groups, companies and individuals. The race is an exciting visual spectacle, as no two ducks are alike, floating from St George's Bridge to St Fye's Bridge, Norwich.
Anne-Marie Byrne and Lois Cordelia each offered to transform three giant ducks for Break.
Duck Tape and Cable-ties
All the ducks were generously delivered to the artists by Prospect Handling Ltd in large boxes sealed with Duck Tape (the high quality Duck brand of duct tape, available in a wide range of colours and patterns).
This inspired Lois to set herself the challenge of sculpting with duct tape onto the three ducks. In addition to duct tape, she used other utilitarian materials including cable-ties, galavanised steel wire, aluminium foil, kitchen scourers and engineering bricks (attached underneath each duck, purely for ballast) - all round, an unlikely choice of artist's materials.
Did you know...?
Duct tape is widely known for its superhero ability to fix, create or seal almost anything. Technically, it is an adhesive tape made using rubber-based glue and durable duck cloth, a heavy duty, tightly woven cotton or linen fabric, also known as duck canvas. It is also intriguing etymologically: duct tape was originally called duck tape, the name being derived from the Dutch term doek, "linen canvas", though it became better known as duct tape, as it was used extensively in ductwork.
Lois's first duct tape sculpture experiment (December 2016) was a bunch of roses, crafted using standard silver-grey tape and gardening wire. But as her sculpting method evolved to incorporate galvanised steel wire, aluminium foil and cable ties, her sculptures soon took on a more dramatic stance and she began re-imagining the three ducks as vehicles for miniature figures.
Each duck presented a number of structural challenges, including how to attach anything to the smooth surface, and how to make the sculptures lightweight, durable and - importantly - waterproof. Luckily, duct tape meets all of these criteria. After some trial and error, cable ties proved invaluable for attaching the sculptures to the ducks, and adding ballast preserved the ducks' stability, even when afloat.
Beware Assassin Duck!
Lois's interest in archery (reinforced by her partner Jason's expertise in this field) suggested the theme for the first duck, inspired also by the competitive spirit of the Duck Race itself: an archer-assassin who rides the duck while turning and shooting at the same time in the traditional style of Mongolian horse-back archery. It was a fun challenge to juxtapose such a war-like figure with a child's bath toy. Lois combined gold metallic and cosmic patterned Duck Tape to create the assassin's clothes, playfully adding a few other colours in the arrow fletchings. The pair of swords in his sash are made of chopped up cable ties, wrapped in more Duck Tape. Beware: this duck is determined to shoot down every other duck in the race!
Lois was so impressed by the range of colours and patterns of duct tape manufactured by the Duck brand that these began to inspire sculpting ideas in themselves. Using brightly coloured rainbow, tie-dye and flowery patterns, Lois created a pair of chilled out bohemian figures, playing a guitar, in refreshing contrast to the martial imagery of the assassin. One or two additional sculpting materials were employed, including kitchen scourers and small metal charms and items of jewellery. All you need is Peace, Love and Duck Tape ;-)
Duck Lake Pas de Deux
Lois's third duck proved the most ambitious of the three in practical terms of counterbalancing the top-heavy sculpture with sufficient ballast underneath the duck. The pair of ballet dancers was a challenge in themselves, one being held aloft by the other in a precarious balancing act. Yellow Duck Tape turned Swan Lake into Duck Lake. Lois incorporated the silver-grey roses that were her first venture into duct tape sculpture as part of the same duck design, to reinforce the romantic theme.
Video evidence that my ducks really do float - even with engineering bricks as ballast strapped underneath! :-)
Ducktor Who, Captain Duck Rogers and Mandarin Duck
Anne-Marie Byrne's trio of ducks took on a very different set of characters. Using mostly acrylic paint (over several layers of primer, to help the paint adhere to the smooth surface of the ducks), plus some ingeniously improvised additions, and even a vintage Letraset. Anne-Marie also created her own handmade stencils of Chinese pictograms and symbols of good fortune for the bright gold adornments on Mandarin Duck.
3 Ducks on a Doorstep. From left to right: Captain Duck Rogers, Mandarin Duck, Ducktor Who, by Anne-Marie Byrne
Mandarin Duck, by Anne-Marie Byrne. (The caption on the cardboard box seems most appropriate!)
DuckShoot, Christchurch Park, Ipswich, 20th February 2017
Anne-Marie and Lois kept each other posted on their Duck progress, and eventually each completed their trio of ducks in March 2017. They met at the beautiful Sri Chinmoy pool in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, for a "DuckShoot" in late February, featuring three of their already completed ducks (below):
Duck Delivery: Norfolk Tweet-up, 16th March 2017
On Thursday 16th March 2017, Anne-Marie Byrne and Lois Cordelia carefully packed their ducks into carrier bags and travelled to Norwich by train to deliver their unusual cargo to Break as part of the Norfolk Tweet-up (@NorfolkTweetup).
Below: 6 Ducks and a Hare... on their way to Norwich!
Hare in Leather Armour, by Jason Curtis
Also accompanying the six ducks on their journey to Norwich was a proud Hare in Leather Armour, created by expert leatherworker Jason Curtis (Lois Cordelia's partner). The Hare was much admired at the Tweet-up, especially as he looks forward to the Norwich GoGoHares 2018 trail.
Here are some more photos from the Norfolk Tweet-up (@NorfolkTweetup) Duck Display.
Ducktor Who, by Anne-Marie Byrne
Captain Duck Rogers, by Anne-Marie Byrne
Mandarin Duck, by Anne-Marie Byrne
Stay tuned for news of the Grand Norwich Duck Race on Sunday 27th August 2017...!
Did you know...?
There is a multitude of collective nouns for ducks, depending on whether the birds are on water, on land, or in flight. A group of ducks on the water (as in the Grand Norwich Duck Race) may be correctly termed a "raft", "team", or "paddling" of ducks. If they are on land, they are known as a "brace", or "badling" (or "badelynge"), and in the air they are called a "flock". Other words include a "flush", "bunch", "dopping", "plump", "safe", "skein", "sord" and "string". It would appear that ducks have acquired one of the richest arrays of colective nouns in the English language. The Duck brand certainly lives up to this colourful array!