I first came across the Welsh legend of ‘Blodeuwedd’ in Alan Garner’s young adult novel The Owl Service. In Garner’s story the powerful magic of an ancient myth of transformation is unleashed. Blodeuwedd which means ‘flower-face’ in Welsh is created out of flowers, meadowsweet, oak and broom, to become a human woman. Blodeuwedd has a difficult journey, an unhappy marriage, betrayal and a lover’s death. At the end of these dramatic events she is transformed into an owl.
Despite the tragic elements I have always been drawn to Blodeuwedd. She is created out of the natural world and strives to establish herself in a world where men’s ideas about who she is and how she should behave trap her but she never succumbs to their controlling impulses, in the end she returns to nature as an owl. Depending on who is retelling the story, influences our interpretation of her actions and of the nature of her final transformation.
In 2011 in my third year at Sydney College of the Arts with Into the Woods, my first animation and glass combination, one of the glass pieces shows the stone of Gronw and the animated character rises out of flowers to form into a woman's silhouette. That was the first time Blodeuwedd appeared in my art.
In 2017 in a group show called Animal Tales at Tuggeranong Arts Centre with Peter Nilsson and Mark Eliott I created a work simply titled Blodeuwedd. I obviously had no creative energy left after completing the cast glass sculptures, papering and stenciling the plinth and printing lots of feathers.
In 2019 in a group show called Long-Held Customs at the Canberra Glassworks with Luna Ryan and Peter Nilsson, I returned to Blodeuedd's story with Born of Flowers, a cast-glass and stop-motion animation piece that spanned a wall. The build-up to both projects included lots of sketches, maquettes, carving, stencil cutting and more as you can see in the image gallery after the Born of Flowers video.
You can see all my Blodeuwedd and owl based posts here
Born of Flowers
Images by Adam McGrath courtesy of the Canberra Glassworks