Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Specimens

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I think this is the year of the butterflies.  Have you seen the new Design*Sponge book?  Mark Montano’s Big Ass Book of Home Decor?  Even Anna has one in her new banner (which also makes me want to needlepoint so bad!)  And after I wrote about Luna Moth, I wanted some, too.  I love all different kinds of weird things, and old glass cabinets of curiosities is way at the top of the list.  I once saw a museum display of “exotic” specimens collected in New Guinea by the Captain Cook expedition—just the tiniest birds you ever saw, frozen in time.   (I did have to feel a bit sorry for the birds, I admit.)  I also have a bizarre admiration for taxidermy, especially when it’s silly, like mice sitting around a table having tea, which may surface unexpectedly in these pages someday, who knows.  Anyway.  Ever since my failed high school biology project, I’ve wanted a beautiful butterfly collection, so when I saw this, I decided it was time.  Originally, I was going to use fake butterflies, made of feathers, but they just didn’t look, I don’t know, real enough. 

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I thought to just wait for summer and collect them myself, but I am such an impatient little magpie, and besides, unless I wanted a whole display of just monarchs (which are plentiful in our part of the world and which, come to think of it, would be awesome) I had to turn to a professional.   Goodness me, there’s some great stuff out there in internetland.  In the end, I bought four unmounted butterfly specimens from this etsy seller, and I’m not really sure what a “mounted” specimen would be like, but these four had their wings already spread and looked ready to stick somewhere.  They showed up so beautifully packaged, with little labels telling me the Latin name for each, and careful instructions detailing how to open the package without wrecking any delicate wings. 

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We assembled our tools:  x-acto knife, tweezers, glue (I used E6000) toothpicks, paper towels and a plastic stick, normally used for who knows what, that looked like a dental instrument.  The glass dome is a light fixture cover, found at the thrift store, and the wood base was custom crafted by my husband to fit it.  The twig is from the ground in my backyard.  I found I needed an extra pair of hands for this, and it ended up being a little like building a ship in a bottle, since the opening of the glass dome is so much smaller than the interior of it.  We planned our strategy carefully, but there was a lot of me saying, “Is it in the glue?  Wait, be careful!  Ahhhh!  I can’t even seeeee!”  and a lot of him calmly saying, “Here, let me do that.”

In the end, we broke off three antennae, but the bugs sustained no major damage, and I am pretty happy with the results.  Apart from heading off to Costa Rica with a net and probably also a handful of government permits, this seemed like the best way for me to do it.  I’ll admit, I had a moment of feeling a little uncomfortable about using something that used to be alive to decorate my home.  Elton John singing “Butterflies are free to fly” came into my head, and I felt a pang of remorse. 

In fact, real-life reaction to this project has been mixed, ranging from “That is amazing!!!” to “Er,…they’re dead.”  Dean said this:  “They’re pretty, but it’s not very cozy, is it?  Dead bugs?”  Wherever I go, he just goes along, bless him.  I should also point out that none of these particular butterflies are members of a protected or endangered species.

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They’re not playing poker or riding motorcycles or anything, but I like them anyway.  What do you think?

12 comments:

  1. Now that is a clever idea!!! I think it's time you wrote a book hon - the inspiration coming from your blog is astounding!

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  2. Sorry, you lose me on this. Killing pretty creatures for ornaments holds no appeal. Watching free butterflies living out their natural life does. Death isn't pretty even when colourful. Horrible. I say what I feel because it isn't a matter of taste, it is literally life or death. I choose life. I didn't realise people still did such things, it shows a lack of respect for nature. What a terrible shame to see this on your beautiful blog. I am shocked actually.

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  3. Oh Kirsten I'm so sorry but this has made me so sad. Butterflies are beautiful creatures and in the UK we are very concerned that many butterfly varieties are in decline and at risk of extinction. They bring such joy in the summertime fluttering freely in the garden.

    Melanie

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  4. @Cassie and honeycat--thank you very much for your comments, I always appreciate fairly stated opinions. What if it were a display of roaches? Would you feel the same way?

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  5. Kirsten I'm sorry if I've caused any offence. I find your blog a joy and inspirational place to be and always look forward to your posts. I feel very strongly about the conservation of Invertebrates as without them our eco systems would collapse. In the UK more than three quarters of our butterfly varieties are in decline. Not only do they indicate the general health of the environment but are major agents for pollination and key indicators of climate change. I'm sorry to harp on and I appreciate that nowadays environmental factors are probably more to blame for decreasing numbers rather than the netting of a beautiful
    creature.

    Melanie

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  6. Melanie, you're absolutely right about this--conservation of declining species is critical to the health of our planet. I have taken no offense at all; in fact, I mostly agree with you. When I was inspired to make this project, I looked for a seller who would use part of his proceeds to fund conservation efforts in the areas where the butterflies live, and even so, when they arrived, I felt sad, looking at them all dead in the package. None of these butterflies is protected or endangered, but I still had mixed feelings about the whole thing. As they were, however, already dead, in my house, and on my charge card, I went ahead, but I knew there’d be some negative response. I thought it would be hypocritical not to blog about it, so I did. I do appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments.

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  7. I've always been fascinated with displays of nature in museums, in Nepal I visited a small but amazing natural history museum and the collection of butterflies was staggering. I loved it.

    I think the butterflies are beautiful...although honestly I prefer to see them displayed flat and neatly aligned with their little latin labels underneath. I once saw an exhibition of work by a textile artist who had made an embroidered moth collection displayed in box frames with little labels, oh my, the detail was incredible, but it was the way she has displayed them that I loved....oooo look I found a link for ya!
    http://www.clairemoynihan.co.uk/gallery.htm
    go look, they are incredible xxxxxx

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  8. I do not want to be judgemental either but by holding an opposite view I cannot fail to be so.

    You ask about cockroaches. I don't think I am being a hypocrite when I say I would think the same, in a general way as I am not lookist when it comes to killing things. In a more particular way, I realise that at times one species can threaten another and action can/should be taken. For instance flies, cockroaches and rats. This is so when they encroach upon your space and not when they are out and about leading their own little lives harming no one. I would not want roaches in my kitchen or flies swarming around my children and despite my beliefs I am sure I would act if necessary. (I had mice in my loft which never bothered me, who came every winter and left every spring. They really didn't bother me.)


    I am a vegetarian with strong vegan leanings (and no I don't wear or use leather), so it was obvious I was going to feel strongly about this. I always ask the question of myself 'do I need to' if the answer is no then I won't do it if it questions my beliefs. I don't use certain types of wool (merino) because of cruelty issues and I pick and choose very carefully (I am still compromising here because unfortunately I believe there is quite a lot of cruelty in wool production). It is very difficult because wool is gorgeous! There are hidden aspects to most crafts that get in the way of what I would like to do but I try. Even embroidery has issues for me with carcinogenic dyes and exploitation of cotton growers etc.

    I don't like to use silk because the silkworm are killed in the process. I have been gifted some before now, which I have used as the giver didn't know otherwise and I could not hurt their feelings. I know other people would point this out but it always seems inappropriate and rude after the purchase has been made. So I use it and wear it. I never buy it. I have realised I have to live in the world as it is, so I do compromise a little. Most people do not know as much as I have written here as it is not my job (contrary to what you are probably now thinking!) to preach to people or get them to be like me.

    There are many worse things that people do than kill butterflies, yes there are but it's not something I like. Nonetheless, I do admire your integrity and your honesty and you don't deserve to be punished for it! Everyone has their own thought processes and emotional responses. It is not for me to act as some kind of police. I apologise for my original post being a bit on the terse and aggressive side.

    Now that they are here, it is good that they be enjoyed. In a way I feel like that about leather even though I don't wear it - the cow died so lets not waste any of it. It wasn't killed for its skin. (I would rather it had lived though).

    You are entitled to your own thoughts and I thank you for giving us dissenters a space here without calling us trolls etc because we think differently to you. It is what many bloggers do at the first sign of disagreement and it is a sense of frustration to me. It's nice to be treated respectfully. It is always interesting to me to hear difference of opinion, unless it is abusive which is of course different.

    I love your blog and feel sure I will continue to do so. We are not all the same are we?

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    Replies
    1. (Three follow up comments on my own post is a new record for me, I think...)

      @Cassie--thank you, dear, I certainly see how you feel so strongly. I'm sorry to have offended, and I thank you for your generous responses. Craft bloggers are such lovely peeps. :) I'm glad to hear you're not too mad to come back. Next week, more crochet, I promise!

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  9. Cripes!
    I think they look fab.
    What a can of worms you've opened! (hmmm has anyone ever stuffed worms and displayed them in a can, I'm now wondering?)

    Xx

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  10. Gosh, I turn my back for one day and I miss all the excitement. They look beautiful Kristen! How do you come up with these ideas? You have truly created a "conversation piece". :)

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  11. Pretty cool! Butterflies don't live very long anyway. Why is it okay to kill cockroaches or flies but people freak out if it's something pretty? We kill mice and rats but cry over a dead dog or deer because they are cute and familiar.
    I think it's beautiful.

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