Imagine you’re a bird, flying 8,000 kilometres, only to find when you get there, that your home no longer exists, built on by humans. As a keen ‘greenie’, and proud of it, I am increasingly frustrated by human doings that threaten our wildlife and their habitats. I also love birds and envy their ability to fly. Australia shares some of its birds with other continents. The Latham’s Snipe (the Japanese Snipe), a migratory shorebird is one of the species that travels from Japan to southern Australia along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. They spend their non-breeding season on our shores. Being a medium-sized predominantly brown bird, they don’t often attract a lot of attention.
In both Japan and here, they are vulnerable because of loss of habitat (particularly wetlands). Loss of swamps and paddocks for feeding, meadowlands for breeding (in Japan), particularly on private land, and development in rural and urban areas which deplete habitat or where human encroachment makes their habitats unusable.
A call for printmakers to contribute to The Overwintering Project, to ‘map’ the migratory shorebirds that fly so far to rest, gather strength, and return to distant places piqued my interest. Port Fairy, here in Victoria, is the part-time home of the Latham’s Snipe. Four years ago, a legal battle ensured the birds’ habitat at the Powling Street Wetlands was maintained, with permission for new housing reduced to an ‘acceptable’ amount. Homes for humans and home for the Snipes – a beneficial result, all round.
If not for that decision, would there have been a new interactive centre erected to honour these brown birds, their strength and endurance? Somewhere for children to view specimens and pictures? How much better, for all, if balance is maintained and the birds can be seen alive and free in their habitat. This was the theme for my print.
Development of the Print
I was aiming for a juxtaposition to depict the alternate futures for the birds. This in mind, I ended up with a two-block print. The main block containing the birds, and representing the housing development that was arrested due to caring intervention, is a reduction print of twelve layers. The second block, depicting the alternate future, fortunately prevented, used only one colour. The logistics took a bit to work out for registration and colour order. It was a long process!
After completing the ‘birds’ block, I then inked up and printed the ‘blank’ lower section of the block with a fawn colour, and overprinted with the ‘kids’ block in black.
As always, I can now see what’s lacking. In this case, more contrast in the grass colours. But, hey, once the lino is cut away, there is no going back.