What better excuse to visit your local library this summer than to see all 40 Suffolk Libraries PAWS-itivity Labradors? The dog sculptures, each one lovingly reimagined by an artist, will be on display at libraries across Suffolk from late July 2023. Later in the Autumn, they will be auctioned to raise funds for Suffolk Libraries - your chance to own an original and unique piece of art.
Ipswich-born artist Loïs Cordelia was delighted to be one of the artists commissioned for the trail. She tells the behind-the-scenes story of her Ed Sheeran themed Labrador in a short film (below).
Castle on the Dog will be on display at Ipswich County Library from 24th July.
When I was six years old, I broke my leg
I was runnin' from my brother and his friends
And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down
I was younger then, take me back to when I
Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I've not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I've grown
But I can't wait to go home
I'm on my way
Drivin' at ninety down those country lanes
Singin' to "Tiny Dancer"
And I miss the way you make me feel it's real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Excerpt from the lyrics of Ed Sheeran's Castle on the Hill
As an artist, I specialise in unusual requests.
I was given the challenge of reimagining a lifesize model Labrador with a theme of Ed Sheeran, for Suffolk Libraries' PAWS-itivity art trail.
The figurine of Ed starts out as a wire skeleton, just the right scale to sit on the dog's front leg.
The guitar body and many of the other details are sculpted out of Apoxie Sculpt clay. I constantly look back at reference photos of Ed, his guitar and the castle. Gradually the hands and face of the figurine take shape, with the aid of various sculpting tools and fingers. Wetting the clay or allowing it to dry a bit helps achieve the correct consistency for carving the most intricate details. I've been sculpting miniature figurines out of wire and clay since I was seven. The sculpture often looks quite bizarre at this early stage, but eventually it begins to look more human. The addition of hair, beard and glasses are all particularly important to make it recogniseably Ed Sheeran.
The castle in question is Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, which Ed fondly remembers in his nostalgic lyrics.
I base my model of the castle on a map to make it as accurate as possible, and use stainless steel angle and flexible mounting brackets bent into shape to give it structural rigidity. The whole thing is then threaded together with wire, very much as you would sew a garment from pieces of fabric.
Back to the guitar, which is a complex three dimensional form. It took a fair bit of experimenting, trial and error, to find objects that were just the right shape to make the neck and finger board: a silver spoon and a plastic fork not only look about right but also add a lot of strength to the sculpture, especially when bent or trimmed into shape.
I use Apoxie Sculpt to secure the neck and fingerboard in place, plus flattened paper fasteners for the pegs.
Back to Ed, who now has to have his glasses fitted, more hair added, and more beard too.
I can now paint the guitar body, using acrylic paints, to make it look more like polished wood.
I bulk out the figurine with aluminium foil, ready for adding clothing.
Six pieces of very thin wire will make the guitar strings, wrapped around a tiny piece of serrated plastic knife to space them equally apart. They are attached to the guitar with more Apoxie Sculpt.
Ed's albums and guitars are distinguished by mathematical symbols, so the divide sign is very important for Castle on the Hill.
Once the finger board markers have been added, I can finally finish stringing the guitar, and add finishing touches of paint.
Now to secure Ed to the dog's forelimb. Apologies, this looks like a painful operation for both Ed and the Labrador!
Back to stitching the castle together, which I'm pleased to see now holds together well, so I can begin positioning it on the dog's back, but it still needs a lot more structure adding to make the flat castle grounds, and the Poor House, which is made of layers of foamboard stuck together with PVA, and fine wire mesh for the tiled roof.
At last, the castle is ready to be attached to the dog, making it as level as possible. I use air drying silk clay to bulk out the hill, and pipe cleaners to make the tiny trees that grow inside the castle grounds. Foam clay creates a textured surface for the lawn and pathways. It looks like Framlingham Castle in the snow as I begin to cover the framework with Apoxie Sculpt clay, and carve details of the architecture.
I sculpt Ed's shoes out of Apoxie Sculpt, too, and then add his clothes using plaster bandage and paint.
I add a bit more colour, and suddenly it begins to look like Ed.
More detail on the castle, and more paint to change the season. Soon it looks like full summer.
Now that the castle on the dog was just about finished, I google 'does Ed Sheeran have dogs'? It turns out that Ed is a serious cat lover, so of course I had to add a little cat curled up beside him, so that you might not even notice it if you don't know it's there. The cat is made out of Apoxie Sculpt and painted with acrylics. I think it's enjoying Ed's strumming on his guitar.
As a finishing touch I darkened the dog's coat, to make Ed and his castle stand out more.
So now I can create my own sunset over the castle on the hill, or more precisely the castle on the dog.
I hope you've enjoyed this behind the scenes view of miniature sculpting in progress.
My partner Jason Curtis and our friend and fellow artist Anne-Marie Byrne have also created designs for the PAWS-itivity trail. You can see all 40 Labradors gathered at the Suffolk Show on 31st May and 1st of June 2023 at Stand 462. After that they will be on display at many of the Libraries across Suffolk, before being auctioned to raise funds for Suffolk Libraries in the autumn.
Many thanks for watching.