A few months ago I was visiting a friend when I saw a lovely paper mache’ bird on her table. She told me she had taken a class with Nancy Overton and she was having a lot of fun exploring a new medium. I contacted Nancy and I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her method with my readers.
I graduated in painting with a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California in 1965.
I worked as a New Product Development Manager for Sunset Designs, an art-needlework manufacturer in San Ramon, California overseeing the development of needlepoint and stitchery kits.
I worked for Peking Handicraft in San Francisco, California, designing new products in needlepoint and quilting, and traveling to China to oversee their development.
I have developed craft patterns for stuffed animals and dolls, for decorative birdhouses and photo albums, working for companies in the craft industry.
I have developed craft booklets, and I have been a contributing writer to “Crafts Illustrated”.
Currently, I run a small greeting card company featuring my torn paper collages, and I make paper mache‘ birds which I sell through local galleries.
My paper mache’ birds are three-dimensional likenesses of a little bit of life and nature that can live indoors on a shelf or a desk. Inspired by the birds at my feeder I made a little Junco. I shaped him out of floral wire and I covered that shape in feather colored papers. That first little bird felt at home on the drawing board and in my house. He inspired me to make many more birds: learning species, investigating sizes, shapes, colors, attitudes and food inclinations.
By crafting a bird I hope I inspire a smile and an awareness of birds in the natural world: a memory of a walk in the woods with bird songs, the amazement of seeing a flock of birds turn in unison, the fascination of watching a hawk circling in a blue summer sky. I think birds inspire in us an unconscious envy of flight.
My birds are somewhat abstract as their feathers are often covered in the notes of sheet music, their tail feathers in a fleur-de-lis print. My work is a combination of reality and my interpretation of it, as dictated by my choices of the papers in my studio collection.
The materials and tools I employ are easy to come by and easy to use. To establish the species and size of the bird, I use floral wire of various weights to ‘weave’ the armature with my fingers and a pair of needle-nose pliers. I use narrow strips of newspaper with diluted Elmer’s School Glue to cover the wire bird, giving him a ‘skin’ on which to glue the ‘fancy’ papers: colored papers from the art store, sheet music, stamps, hand-written letters or recipes, and pages of old dictionaries.
The most difficult materials to find are the driftwood stands that need to be artistically matched to the size, shape, and posture of each bird. Drought years often leave the beaches empty of wooden flotsam and leave many birds standing on their own.
Watching birds inspires me to make more birds; to make different species and to lengthen legs, turn heads, and exaggerate bellies. I learn to make them bigger, make them better, make them fly. Birds keep me in touch with my backyard, my neighborhood, the park, the beach, and nature in general. Having birds in the feeder inspires me; having birds in my house makes me happy.
I hope you enjoyed Nancy’s art. I’ll be back again with another guest artist next month.
You can contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 531-7334